South Carolina is a fault-based car insurance state. This means that at-fault parties are liable for any damages sustained by the victim as a result of a car crash. In some cases, victims are able to recover the amount from the at-fault driver’s insurer, but in other situations victims are required to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party to obtain compensation. Understanding insurance laws and how they can impact a personal injury case can be difficult, so if you or a loved one were injured in a crash, it is important to speak to an experienced car accident attorney who can help explain your legal options.
Car insurance offers protection to consumers by providing coverage for any financial losses caused by crashes. In South Carolina, the law requires that car owners buy liability coverage as well as uninsured motorist insurance in order to lawfully drive in the state. There are two main types of automobile insurance, including liability coverage and property damage coverage.
In states that adhere to a no-fault theory of liability, injured parties are required to use up their own coverage or sustain a certain amount of damages before bringing a suit. However, in South Carolina, the state requires car owners to carry a certain amount of liability insurance, which ensures that injured parties will be able to obtain compensation for hospital bills.
There are three types of liability car insurance:
Liability insurance for bodily injury;
Liability insurance for property damage; and
Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
Bodily injury liability insurance protects at-fault drivers from the claims of others who were injured in a crash. In South Carolina, car owners are required to carry at least $25,000 in coverage per person for any injuries sustained in a crash. Coverage must also include $50,000 total for all individuals injured in one accident. These types of claims may include compensation for medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the cost of a victim’s injuries exceed the policy’s limits, he or she may have to seek compensation directly from the at-fault party.
Property damage liability insurance policies cover damage inflicted by the at-fault party. The most common type of property damage in car crashes is to the cars themselves, but liability insurance also covers damaged buildings, walls, fences, and equipment. In South Carolina, drivers must carry a policy with a minimum of $25,000 worth of coverage for property damage.
In addition to the state-mandated damage liability policies, most insurers also offer collision coverage and comprehensive coverage. Although not required by law, these two types of coverage can play an important role in compensating victims of car crashes.
Collision policies cover the cost of repairs for all physical damage to the driver’s car that was sustained as a result of striking another car, tree, or other object. When the crash involved an older vehicle, the cost of repair may quickly surpass the actual value of the car. In these types of cases, insurers label the car as “totaled,” in which case, the insurer will pay an amount equal to the value of the car. Comprehensive policies cover damage inflicted on a vehicle from a variety of other causes, including fire, vandalism, theft, collision with animals, flooding, and falling objects.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
South Carolina also requires that all car insurance policies include uninsured motorist coverage in an amount that matches the state’s minimum liability requirements. This means that even if a driver is injured in a car crash caused by someone without liability insurance, he or she can still be compensated through uninsured motorist coverage. The driver’s uninsured policy might even cover any property damage sustained in the crash. If the policy does not cover it, then victims may be required to pay out of pocket and then seek compensation from the at-fault party in court.
Registered uninsured drivers who were the cause of an accident must also compensate victims for damage and medical expenses out of pocket because these individuals are not covered by uninsured motorist policies. Generally, South Carolina requires car owners to have the following minimum insured motorist coverage:
$25,000 for property damage;
$25,000 for injury or death per person; and
$50,000 for injury or death per accident.
Insurance carriers must also offer optional underinsured coverage, although drivers are not required to purchase it.
Here, South Carolina drivers should also note that this coverage acts as protection against those who possess insurance, yet whose insurance limits do not cover the extent of the damage; this is often referred to as “underinsured motorist insurance.” In this case, if a driver is injured in a crash, his or her own policy will cover him or her even if the other driver does not possess an adequate amount of coverage by him or herself.
Filing a Lawsuit
In South Carolina, car crash victims can obtain compensation in one of three ways, including by filing:
A claim with their own insurers;
A third party insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer; or
A lawsuit against the at-fault party in civil court.
While going through the parties’ insurers may be simpler and less time-consuming, in many cases settling is just not an option and victims must resort to filing a personal injury lawsuit in order to obtain compensation for their losses. The costs of being in an accident can quickly overwhelm a person’s finances as they include everything from medical expenses, such as surgeries, therapy, and medication to lost wages. To potentially recover these costs, victims must file a legal claim within three years of the accident or the court will bar the case.
Contact a South Carolina Car Accident Attorney Today
Car crashes can have lifelong physical, emotional, and financial repercussions on victims and their families. Many victims struggle with their injuries for years and as a result are unable to sustain steady employment or pay their ever-mounting medical bills. Others tragically lose their lives, leaving loved ones behind to pick up the pieces. If you or a loved one were injured in a car crash caused by another driver, please contact the The Law Office of H. Chase Harbin by filling out one of our standard contact forms, including your name, phone number, email address, and a brief description of your case and a dedicated member of our car accident legal team in Greenville will help you set-up a free initial consultation.
Chase Harbin is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who practices in Pickens and Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 17 years now. Chase Harbin believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.