However, South Carolina offers an unusual exception to that requirement. Drivers in the state can -if they meet certain qualifications- register as uninsured motorists. They have to pay an annual fee, which is $600 in 2023. In addition, some drivers simply ignore the law, neither purchasing automobile insurance or registering. Though South Carolina has a relatively low rate of uninsured motorists compared with some states, more than 10% of the state's drivers are believed to be uninsured. Here's what you need to know about your rights and options if you've been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
In South Carolina, drivers are required to carry uninsured motorist coverage as part of their automobile insurance. This insurance covers the driver's own losses if they are injured or their vehicle is damaged by an uninsured motorist. You can choose the amount of uninsured motorist coverage you want to purchase, but the mandatory minimum coverage is the same as for liability insurance.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are often mentioned together, but in South Carolina they are separate coverages. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you and your passengers when you are injured or suffer property damage due to the negligence of a driver with no auto insurance, or a hit and run driver. Underinsured motorist coverage steps in if your losses are greater than the responsible driver's insurance coverage. Unlike uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage is not mandatory in South Carolina. However, your insurance carrier must give you the option of purchasing it.
If you've been injured in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, or a driver who left the scene and hasn't been identified, you can make a claim with your own auto insurance carrier under your uninsured motorist coverage. The amount of compensation available is limited by your policy limits.
You may expect this process to be simpler than if you were pursuing compensation from the responsible driver's insurance company, but that isn't always true. You'll be required to demonstrate that the uninsured driver was responsible, and document your damages, just as you would have if you were making a claim with the other driver's insurer. The same is true when you've been hit by a hit and run driver. You will have to prove that the accident occurred as described, and was the fault of the hit and run driver. The process can be especially sticky if your losses are extensive.
When it comes to paying out large sums of money, an insurance carrier typically doesn't care whether you're their customer or not. Every payout reduces the insurer's bottom line, so you may have to fight your own insurance company just as hard as you would have the other driver's insurer. In other words, even if you are making a claim under your own uninsured motorist coverage, you may find that you need the help of an experienced Charleston car accident lawyer.
When a negligent driver injures you or damages your property, the driver themself is responsible for the damages you suffer. Their insurance company has a contractual obligation to defend them if they're sued, and to pay for damages covered under their liability policy. But, that doesn't let the driver off the hook.
If the responsible driver's insurance coverage isn't sufficient to pay for all of your damages, you can try to collect the excess damages directly from the driver. Similarly, if the driver has no insurance at all, you can sue them for damages. In fact, when a South Carolina driver registers as uninsured, they are agreeing to be personally responsible for any damages they cause. Note, though, that you can't collect the same damages twice. In other words, you cannot get reimbursed for your $50,000 in medical bills through a lawsuit against the responsible driver and collect the same $50,000 from your uninsured motorist carrier.
Often, an uninsured driver won't have any assets, which means that you likely won't be able to collect damages from them even if you prove that they were responsible for your injuries. But, that isn't always the case. It's worth investigating whether the responsible driver has assets to pay damages from, or whether a third party like the driver's employer may be legally responsible.
Your South Carolina auto accident attorney can help you determine the best approach to pursuing damages from the responsible driver or through your uninsured motorist coverage.
If you've been injured in a car accident that was someone else's fault, Frank Hartman is here to help. Frank has devoted his legal career to helping people who have been injured pursue the compensation they need to move forward. Whether you were hit by an uninsured motorist who lacks the necessary assets to fully compensate you, were in a collision with a hit and run driver, or were hit by an uninsured motorist who has the means to pay damages, the Hartman Law Firm is here for you.
Frank understands not only the economic hardships a serious car accident or other injury can cause, but also the emotional, psychological, and family stresses associated with such a traumatic event. He will put his years of experience with a wide variety of motor vehicle accident cases to work for you to secure a favorable settlement or fight for you in court.
To learn more, call 843-300-7600 right now, or fill out the contact form on this site.
Uninsured motorist insurance is one of the types of coverage that is mandatory for South Carolina drivers (unless they have registered as uninsured motorists). Like liability insurance, uninsured motorist coverage has a mandatory minimum amount of coverage. However, you are free to purchase more. Underinsured motorist coverage isn't required, but you have a right to buy it along with your auto insurance policy.
When you're hit by an uninsured driver, you can file a claim directly with your own insurance carrier. However, you'll still have to prove your damages, and that the uninsured motorist was at fault. In other words, the evidence required is similar to what would be required to prove a claim against the responsible driver. So, it is usually in your best interests to work with an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer,