Is the State Minimum Car Insurance Coverage Enough?
What You Don’t Know About Auto Insurance in South Carolina Can Hurt You
Often, many drivers only get the minimum car insurance coverage required by the state because they do not want to pay for more coverage. They tend to think car insurance is expensive enough, and if it covers their vehicle, they should be fine, right? Wrong. Many times, the state’s required minimum car insurance coverage is not nearly enough coverage to keep you from financial troubles after an accident, even if the accident is not your fault. This is particularly true if you have an accident with a driver who has no insurance coverage at all or insufficient coverage.
In South Carolina, drivers are required to be insured for:
- Property Damage- $25,000 per accident
- Bodily Injury-$25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury-$25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist property damage-$25,000 per accident
Although these are the minimum coverage requirements, it still may not be enough coverage if you get in an accident. Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) is something that most people are not aware of, but something they should have, although it is not required in South Carolina. UIM coverage is important because UIM covers the difference when the at fault driver’s insurance coverage is not enough to pay for all the injuries and damages. Oftentimes, insurance companies will not educate you on UIM to avoid the additional exposure.
Attorney Benjamin Akery, partner at the Steinberg Law Firm, says, “Sadly, we often see injury victims with medical bills over $100,00 but the coverage is only the minimum $25,000.” Akery recommends having enough insurance or as much as you can afford. In addition, if you have several vehicles and purchase underinsured motorist coverage on each, you can stack the coverage in South Carolina. For example, if you own four vehicles and have $100,000 of UIM coverage on each, and you get in an accident, you actually have $400,000 in UIM coverage if one of your insured vehicles is involved in the collision.
Another reason you should not go cheap on insurance coverage is if you are at fault for an accident involving multiple people. If you are found at fault in an accident and you have the minimum insurance coverage required, your insurance company would be responsible for paying only $50,000 in medical bills spread across each person involved in the accident. What if there are five people in the accident? The cost of these medical bills for each injured person can easily add up and exceed the $50,000 coverage. After the $50,000 coverage is expended, your personal assets could be at risk if the injured parties sue you and obtain a verdict or judgment in excess of your insurance policy limits.
Having a reputable insurance company is important. In South Carolina, there is a doctrine called the Tyger River Doctrine that is often used by injury attorneys. If you are in an accident and it is ruled your fault, yet your insurance company is dragging their feet and slowing down the process of paying out the claims against you, then the insurance company is putting your personal assets at risk. Under this doctrine, the insurance company must settle the claims against the policyholder within a reasonable amount of time and failure to do so may make the insurance company liable for bad faith. It is best to have an insurance company that is reliable and honorable in providing the coverage stated in the terms and conditions of the policy.
Lastly, check your health insurance coverage, as some health insurance plans refuse to cover accident injuries. There are some circumstances where health insurance companies will file a subrogation claim. A subrogation claim is when your insurance company will seek reimbursement for the damages they paid on your behalf. For example, if you received money in a car accident settlement and your insurance company files a subrogation claim, they are trying to get a portion of your settlement money to pay them back for the damages they paid on your behalf. If you have health insurance, use it for all accident-related medical treatment. An injury attorney can negotiate with your health insurance company to resolve the subrogation claims in a way that is more beneficial than dealing with the outstanding bills directly from the independent treatment providers.
It is important to have more car insurance coverage than the state’s required minimum, as well as underinsured motorist coverage, because you do not want to be in a position where your coverage is not enough, your personal assets are at risk, or you are relying on an at fault driver to have enough insurance to cover your injuries. The proper amount of car insurance coverage depends on your personal financial situation as well as how much risk you want to take. Attorney Benjamin Akery says, “We routinely see individuals who are severely injured without enough insurance coverage. Oftentimes, it is not just the initial injury, but long-term medical conditions that require future care and surgical intervention, often years down the road.”
To learn more about car accident injuries, contact the Steinberg Law Firm. We have three offices in Charleston, Goose Creek, and Summerville, offer free consultations and do not collect a fee unless we secure compensation for you. For more information call (843) 720-2800 or visit www.steinberglawfirm.com.