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South Carolina Car Accident Fatality Statistics

South Carolina Car Accident Fatality Statistics

By: Robert F. Goings

The number of fatal car accident dropped in South Carolina by approximately 15 percent in 2013 based on statistics from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety Traffic.  The South Carolina Highway Patrol campaigned strongly for people to be aware of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycles during the year.  The number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths decreased, however, the number of motorcycle deaths increased in 2013.  The decline in fatalities on South Carolina roadways is a 41 percent decrease compared to the number of fatal car accidents in 2011.  However, several studies rank South Carolina drivers as among the worst in the nation for causing motor vehicle accidents.  South Carolina drivers received low scores on failure to obey traffic signals, drunk driving, and reckless driving.  South Carolina also has a high number of truck accidents caused by logging trucks and long haul tractor trailers operating on South Carolina highways.

To compare the number of 2013 v. 2014 South Carolina traffic related fatalities, click here.

If a family member or loved one has suffered a fatality from a car accident or truck accident in South Carolina, contact the Goings Law Firm today at (803) 350-9230 to find out about your legal rights.  We handle wrongful death lawsuits in Columbia, South Carolina and throughout the state caused by the negligence and reckless driving of others.


Is a trucking company required to give a driver a drug test?


By: Robert F. Goings

The Goings Law Firm, LLC is a Columbia, South Carolina truck accident law firm. Many trucking accident injuries happen because the driver is impaired or driving under the influence of drugs. A trucking company or motor carrier is required to perform a drug test on a driver or other employees in the certain situation to promote driver safety. Drug tests are mandated by Federal law in the following situations:

  1. Before Hiring: The driver must always be tested unless he or she has been in a federally-approved drug testing program in the past 30 days and meets other strict requirements.
  2. Randomly: All motor carriers must have random drug testing of 50% of its drivers annually.
  3. After a Collision: The driver must be tested in all instances when there has been a death and in some cases when there have been injuries or a towed vehicle.
  4. Reasonable Suspicion: All trucking and motor carriers must drug test drivers based on reasonable suspicion to violate drug regulations.
  5. Follow-up: Follow up tests must meet federal requirements.
  6. Return-to-Duty: All drivers must receive a return-to-duty drug test.

These drug tests are all mandated by Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, Part 382, Subpart C. If a truck driver is impaired or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the trucking company may be liable for gross negligence, recklessness, and may be held responsible for based on actual and punitive damages. Punitive damages in South Carolina is designed to punish, deter, and to hold a guilty driver and trucking company responsible for wrongful conduct.


COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE (UIM) IN SOUTH CAROLINA


By: Robert F. Goings

1.  What is Underinsured Motorist Coverage, or UIM?

Answer: Underinsured motorist coverage is referred to as UIM. UIM compensates you, or other persons insured under your automobile insurance policy, for amounts which you legally may be entitled to collect as damages from an owner or operator of an at-fault underinsured motor vehicle. Stated differently, UIM insurance helps make up the difference when an at-fault motorist had insurance, but the policy limits were too low to compensate you for all of your damages or injuries.

2. Do I automatically have Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)? Is it mandatory in South Carolina?

Answer: No, your automobile insurance policy does not automatically provide underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage is optional automobile insurance, typically provided as an endorsement to your auto policy. Under South Carolina law, you have the right to be offered underinsured motorist coverage in limits up to the limits of liability coverage which you will carry under your automobile insurance policy.

3. What if I am not offered UIM coverage from an insurance company?

Answer: South Carolina law requires insurance companies to make a “meaningful offer” of UIM coverage when you apply for a policy. The purpose of requiring automobile insurers to make a meaningful offer of additional UM or UIM coverage is for you to know your options and to make an informed decision as to which amount of coverage will best suit your needs. If the company failed to make a meaningful offer, you can, under certain circumstances, force the insurance company to “reform” the policy to include the optional coverage.

4. What is considered a “meaningful offer” for UIM coverage?

Answer: Under South Carolina law, the insurance company enjoys a presumption that a meaningful offer of UIM coverage has been made when a form offering UIM coverage complies with the requirements set forth in S.C. Section 38-77-350(A) and is signed by the named insured. S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-350(A)-(B). Section 38-77-350(A) provides:

The director or his designee shall approve a form that automobile insurers shall use in offering optional coverages required to be offered pursuant to law to applicants for automobile insurance policies. This form must be used by insurers for all new applicants. The form, at a minimum, must provide for each optional coverage required to be offered:

  1. a brief and concise explanation of the coverage;
  2. a list of available limits and the range of premiums for the limits;
  3. a space to mark whether the insured chooses to accept or reject the coverage and a space to state the limits of coverage the insured desires;
  4. a space for the insured to sign the form that acknowledges that the insured has been offered the optional coverages;
  5. the mailing address and telephone number of the insurance department that the applicant may contact if the applicant has questions that the insurance agent is unable to answer.

Even in situations where the insurance company is not entitled to the statutory presumption that a meaningful offer of UIM coverage was made, it can still demonstrate that a meaningful offer of UIM coverage was made to the insured under a four-factor test set forth in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Wannamaker, 291 S.C. 518, 354 S.E.2d 555 (S.C. 1987)(“Wannamaker” test). In order for an insurer to make a meaningful offer of UIM coverage under the Wannamaker test, the following must be shown:

  1. the insurer’s notification process must be commercially reasonable, whether oral or in writing;
  2. the insurer must specify the limits of optional coverage and not merely offer additional coverage in general terms;
  3. the insurer must intelligibly advise the insured of the nature of the optional coverage; and
  4. the insured must be told that optional coverages are available for an additional premium.

5. Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) necessary?

Answer: Yes, the Goings Law Firm, LLC believes that UIM insurance is absolutely necessary even though UIM insurance is not legally required to operate a motor vehicle in South Carolina. UIM insurance is very important to purchase because many, many drivers in South Carolina are woefully underinsured. Under South Carolina law, drivers are only legally required to have liability bodily injury insurance in the amounts of $25,000 per person and $50,000 maximum per accident (if multiple people are injured). To ensure you receive the compensation you deserve in an accident, you should invest in this additional coverage. The Goings Law Firm, LLC has found that the premium amounts for this additional insurance is relatively affordable.

6. How does Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) work?

Answer: The real question is “How does Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) protect me for injuries sustained in a car accident?” The answer is simple. In most car accidents, the need for UIM coverage is present due to the significant nature of injuries that can be sustained. Many South Carolina drivers only maintain minimum limits automobile insurance coverage. This provide benefits of only $25,000 per person. Often times the medical expenses alone to treat the injuries will far exceed the minimum limit amount. Underinsured motorist coverage allows you to turn to your own insurance for compensation for damages and injuries that you sustain in excess of the at-fault’s liability coverage. For example, what if you incur over $75,000 in total injuries due to a careless driver but that driver only has only $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage? Let’s hope that you have underinsured motorist coverage of at least $50,000, because you will need it. To ensure you receive the compensation you deserve in an accident, you should invest in this additional coverage.

7.  How much does Underinsured Motorist Coverage cost?

Answer: The Goings Law Firm, LLC has found that the premium amounts for this additional insurance are relatively affordable. For example, we recently obtained quotes for a single male, living in Columbia, South Carolina, with no tickets or accidents in the last three years. A six-month premium for 25/50 limits cost only $20.00. A 100/300 was $42.00, a 250/500 was $59.00, and a 500/1 million was $97.00. These premiums are minimal compared to the benefits that UIM insurance could afford you. For yourself and your loved ones, purchase underinsured motorist coverage. But like all insurance, let’s hope you never have to use it.

>8. How much Underinsured Motorist Coverage insurance should I buy?

Answer: Generally speaking, you can purchase underinsured coverage up to the amount of your liability amounts or limits. With that being said, buy as much liability and underinsured motorist coverage as you can possibly afford. It’s the responsible thing to do! Our strong advice is to check your policy and contact your insurer or insurance agent or broker today to obtain as much coverage as possible to protect you and your family.

9. What is “stacking” of Underinsurance Motorist Coverage?

Answer: In South Carolina, stacking is defined “as the insured’s recovery of damages under more than one policy until all of his damages are satisfied or the limits of all available policies are met.” Giles v. Whitaker, 297 S.C. 267, 376 S.E.2d 278 (S.C. 1989). “Stacking refers to an insured’s recovery of damages under more than one insurance policy in succession until all of his damages are satisfied or until the total limits of all policies have been exhausted.” State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Moorer, 330 S.C. 46, 60, 496 S.E.2d 875, 883 (S.C. Ct. App. 1998). So how can this be? The law in South Carolina states that UIM coverage is “personal and portable.” This means that UIM coverage extends over individuals that are covered, rather than simply applying over the insured person only in the insured vehicle.

10.  Can you “stack” Underinsurance Motorist Coverage in South Carolina?

Answer: Yes, in certain circumstances.  The answer is highly specific to your specific case.

11. How do you “stack” Underinsurance Motorist Coverage in South Carolina?

Answer: In some states and under some insurance policies, an injured party may “stack” multiple policies to reach a satisfactory level of compensation. By stacking coverage from more than one auto insurance policy — or coverage for more than one car on a single policy — the injured party increases the likelihood of monetary recovery. Stackable coverage is not allowed in every state; in some cases, the insured must choose to have stackable coverage upon purchasing the policy.

In South Carolina, the critical question in determining whether an insured has the right to stack is whether he or she is a Class I or Class II insured. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co. v. Hill, 323 S.C. 208, 211, 473 S.E.2d 843, 845 (Ct. App. 1996). In South Carolina, a Class I Insured is allowed to stack UIM coverage.

The general rule in South Carolina, prescribed by S.C. Code Ann. Section 38-77-160, provides that when you meet the other requirements for stacking, you can “stack” up to the limits of the vehicle involved in the collision.

Here is an example: if you carried $25,000 in UIM coverage on the vehicle you were driving in the collision, and your spouse had $100,000 on her vehicle (a car that was not involved in the collision), you could recover up to $25,000 from your own UIM coverage and only up to $25,000 from your spouse’s UIM coverage. However, if you had $100,000 in UIM coverage on the vehicle you were driving in the collision, and your spouse had $100,000 on her vehicle, then you could recover up to a combined $200,000 in UIM benefits. Remember that these coverages apply only after the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage has been exhausted.

12. How to recover UIM benefits in South Carolina?

Answer: To recover benefits under anunderinsured motorist policy, the injured party typically will need to show that the other motorist was at fault. The injured party will also need to prove that his or her bodily injuries were significant. To collect benefits under an underinsured motorist policy, the injured party generally must have received the entire amount of insurance coverage available from the at-fault driver’s insurance company before the injured party can make a claim against his or her insurance company under the underinsurance coverage provision. Often times, your insurance company will strongly contest, challenge any benefits, and deny coverage for underinsurance injury claims. This is when you need an experienced lawyer.

13.  Where can I find South Carolina case law discussing Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Answer: We would recommend that you read the following recent cases reported by the South Carolina Supreme Court and the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

Nationwide Mutual v. Rhoden http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27131.pdf
Nakatsu v. Encompass Indemnity Company http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/displayOpinion.cfm?caseNo=4748

Carter v. The Standard Fire Insurance Company and Frank L. Siau Agency, Inc. http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27340.pdf

South Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company v. Kennedy
http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27147.pdf

Burgess v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/displayOpinion.cfm?caseNo=26304

Remember, each and every case is different based on a unique set of facts and the constant changes in the law. Please contact the Goings Law Firm, LLC at (803) 350-9230 if you have any questions about auto insurance.


South Carolina Trucking Accident Lawyers in Columbia

By: Robert F. Goings

If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident it is best that you hire truck accident lawyers who are knowledgeable in the state laws and truck regulations where the accident occurred.  Reckless driving by truckers can lead to serious injuries such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and, sometimes, death.

Many truck accidents occur on interstates in South Carolina, such as I-95, I-26, I-77, and I-85.  Other truck related collision occur on secondary roads and highways.  It is essential if you want to obtain a successful verdict.  You can be sure that the trucking company, sometimes through their insurance company, will have an accident investigation team that will be dispatched immediately to orchestrate a defense against your truck accident injury claims.  The truck accident lawyers at Goings Law Firm, LLC will level the playing field by aggressively pursuing the maximum compensation for you and your family.

Our truck accident attorneys focus on all types of trucking accidents including 18-wheeler, semis, log trucks, and commercial vehicles. We strive to provide the best possible advocacy for every truck accident victim we represent.

Because of a trucks size and weight to a car’s size and weight when you are involved in a crash that involves a tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle, the results can be devastating. In addition, filing a lawsuit for a truck accident is more complex than car crash cases because compliance with truck safety regulations and industry standards is an important part of handling semi-truck crash cases.

Don’t put off your defense. If you are unable, have another family member contact our law firm in Columbia to schedule a free consultation today. You need to hire a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the accident to make sure that evidence is preserved and is not destroyed. Our truck accident lawyers utilize specialists such as an accident reconstructionist who will go to the scene to preserve and document all the evidence. In some cases, physical evidence at the accident scene such as skid marks, yaw marks and scuffs begin to disappear within hours after a truck accident once the police barriers are removed. Weather, and cars and trucks passing along the same stretch of the road will erode evidence. Although there are certain documents relevant to a truck accident case that are mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) to be kept for a specific time period, once that time period has expired the trucking company can dispose of them. The sooner you have a truck accident attorney, the sooner he or she will start to collect, preserve, and examine evidence related to your semi-truck crash. Since any individual such as the truck driver, the trucking company, the owner of the trailer, or even the manufacturer of a defective product such as the truck’s tires or brakes, etc. can be held liable for damages, the more evidence your truck accident injury lawyer can access, the better.


Common Questions after a Car Accident – Dealing with the Auto Insurance Company

By: Robert F. Goings

So you’ve been in a car accident – you’re hurt, injured, and your car has sustained significant property damage.  You’re not sure what you should do?  You will be faced with many challenging questions.  Some of those question are…

What do I say to my insurance company?
Do I talk to the other driver’s insurance company?
What do I say to the at-fault driver?
Who will pay my medical bills?
How do I pay back my health insurance company?
What papers should I sign?
Do I have a case? Should I contact an attorney?

Below are tips of what to do after a car accident. Following these suggestions will give you the best chance of protecting your legal rights.  It is very important to protect your legal rights at the beginning because even the smallest, most innocent mistake when dealing with the auto insurance company could jeopardize the compensation that you are may be entitled to receive.

The First Rule: Do Not talk to the other driver’s insurance company.
The Second Rule:  Do Not Give Any Statements to the Insurance Company

Question: Should you give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company?
Answer: No!  Not before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Question: Should you speak to the other driver’s insurance company?
Answer: No!  Not before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Question: Should you give a medical authorization to the other driver’s insurance company?
Answer: No!  Not before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Question: Should you discuss your medical condition with the other driver’s insurance company?
Answer: No!  Not before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Question: Should you try to settle your case or a loved one’s case with the other driver’s insurance company?
Answer: No!  Not before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Question: Should you meet with the other driver’s insurance company?
Answer: No!  Not before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Question: Is there any benefit to dealing with the other driver’s insurance company when someone has been injured?
Answer: No!  Not before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Question: If the accident was caused by a truck, should you deal with the trucking company?
Answer: No!  Not before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

How to Handle Your Insurance Company

Your insurance company is responsible for paying you some medical benefits, but oftentimes those benefits are limited. In fact, your own insurance company may want you to give a recorded statement about your accident claim to keep from paying you all the benefits you deserve.

Therefore, we recommend that you always speak with an attorney BEFORE you give a recorded statement to any insurance company, including your own. While your policy may require you to give a recorded statement to your insurance company, you always have the right to speak with an attorney before you give the statement.  You may have rights or insurance benefits available to you such as uninsured motorist (UM) coverage or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

Question: Is your own insurance company always on your side?
Answer: No!

Question: Will your insurance company protect you from the other driver’s insurance company?
Answer: No!

If you’ve been hurt in a serious car accident, it’s important to act fast. The sooner you contact our law firm, the sooner we can investigate your claim, preserve evidence, interview witnesses, and help build your case.

Our legal consultations are free and there’s no obligation to use our services. Robert F. Goings of the Goings Law Firm, LLC is available at 803-350-9230 to answer your questions. And remember, there’s never a fee unless we get money for you.


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