Uninsured Motorist Accident

14% of Drivers are Uninsured

More frequently we are hearing that motorist are being struck by vehicles that do not have insurance. Uninsured drivers are a danger to us and our families on the roads. Without insurance, victims of automobile collision are often left without any ability to be compensated. In South Carolina, it is illegal to drive without proper insurance coverage. South Carolina law requires that you purchase liability and uninsured motorist coverage to drive in the state, which is divided into two coverages: bodily injury liability and physical damage liability.

Many uninsured motorist collisions involve hit and runs, drivers who are not authorized to operate a vehicle, or even driving a vehicle that was stolen.  The most recent study, performed by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) in 2017, shows that approximately 13.0 percent of motorists, or about one in eight drivers, are uninsured.  Stated differently, approximately 29.7 million drivers who are uninsured. Usually, in a car accident, the insurance of the driver who is at fault covers initially the injuries and damages. But, with 13% of drivers uninsured, victims of auto accidents have many questions about what to do when involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage Will Allow Compensation

The law in South Carolina allows a victim of an uninsured motorist to receive compensation.  South Carolina motor vehicle insurance laws are intended to protect citizens against uninsured drivers. In fact, the law requires that every auto insurance policy sold in our state includes “uninsured (UM) motorist coverage.”  Uninsured Motorist Coverage can provide you protection, but successfully bring an uninsured motorist coverage claim often requires an attorney to get you the best recovery.

Uninsured motorists coverage protects the policyholder directly, along with any person in the vehicle. This coverage pays if you are injured or your property is damaged by a hit-and-run driver or an uninsured driver. South Carolina law requires you to carry uninsured motorists coverage equal to the minimum amounts of liability coverage.  The minimum mandatory coverage in South Carolina is $25,000 per person for bodily injury, $50,000 per collision for bodily injury, and $25,000 in property damage, also referred to as (“25/50/25”).  We strongly encourage everyone to purchase auto insurance with coverage limits greater than just minimum coverage.  In our experience, just one trip to the hospital following a collision can far exceed the this limits.  If your vehicle is totaled, this is often not enough to replace the vehicle, or cover the vehicle loan, and to provide a temporary vehicle

We have found that it does not cost much more money to have double or triple this amount, and often times drivers need in excess of $100,000 or $300,000 for each vehicle.   After you read this article, please check your insurance policy to see how much uninsured motorist coverage you have listed, and call your insurance agent today to get increased coverage.

The compensation that you are entitled to receive with uninsured motorist coverage would cover all legal damages that you are entitled to recover under the law including medical bills, chiropractic treatment, future medical expenses, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish, property damage, and in certain cases, even punitive damages.  Don’t worry, your insurance premiums should not increase for having to file a uninsured motorist claim because this is mandatory coverage and it is not your fault that the at-fault driver was negligent and failed to get insurance.

It can be difficult for victims of an uninsured driver to successfully navigate the laws of an uninsured motorist claim on their own.  It is easy to be mislead by the insurance companies in giving recorded statement, not understanding the forms they want you to sign, or being uninformed about how much compensation you should receive for your injuries.  If you say or do the wrong thing in communicating with the insurance company, you may lose important benefits allowed under the law.  The auto insurance company will have a team of attorneys that will attempt to defend the interests of the insurance company over your own best interests.

Tips After a Collision with a Uninsured Driver

Unless it is a hit and run, many accident victims do not learn at the scene about a driver being uninsured.  We have found that drivers at the scene will provide proof of insurance that has expired or is otherwise fraudulent.  Proof of valid coverage is typically not performed until after a formal claim is made with that insurance company.   Because you may not learn until after the fact that the negligent driver was also uninsured, its important to always take this steps following a car accident:

1. Gather as Much Information At the Scene

As with any collision, try to get as much information as possible about the driver.   Ask the driver for his name, contact information, driver’s license number, and a copy of his insurance card. Take pictures of all the damage to your car, the other cars, and the license plate on any vehicle involved in the collision.  Ask anyone at the scene if they saw or heard the collision, as it is important to get the names and all contact information of any witnesses.  Now these days, the chances that the collision was caught on camera is greater.  Look around to see if there is a traffic camera that could have captured the incident, or any surveillance camera at a neighboring businesses.   Never rely solely on the police officer to get any of this information.  We have seen that police do not take the time to do a thorough investigation, so make it a priority for you to gather as much information on the scene.

2.  Always Call The Police

Whether the other driver is cooperative or not, call the police immediately.  This is especially true if the damage is extensive or injuries are sustain. The police will document the incident and should provide you with an FR-10 Report, which is an exchange of driver information.  Also, the police should prepare a TR-310 Traffic Collision Report, which is the complete accident report. TR-310 Traffic Collision Report is generally available within 30 days after the collision from the SC Department of Motor Vehicles.  These police reports can become critical to any  insurance claim.  For example, without a police report you are barred for recovering for any hit and run collision under South Carolina statutory laws.

3. Contact Your Insurance Company and get Help from an Experienced Lawyer

The insurance company should be contacted the same day of the collision, or as quickly as possible.   Call your insurance company and follow the necessary steps to inform them of the accident.  The insurance company will want you to send in the FR-10 Report.  Notifying your insurance company will not increase your rates if the other driver is at fault, and is essential if the other driver is uninsured. Your insurance company will be able to determine if your policy covers uninsured drivers and offer directions on what to do next.  If you have substantial injuries, you should not give a statement to the insurance company without first seeking the advice of the best attorney you can find to answer your questions.

Our Attorneys Can Help with your Uninsured Motorist Insurance Claim

The Goings Law Firm has years of experience helping victims of collisions caused by negligent uninsured drivers.  Bringing an uninsured motorist claim in South Carolina can be difficult on your own, and without the best attorney for your case, you may not get the compensation that you are entitled under the law.  Contact us today for a free case evaluation or call us at 803-350-9230.


Uninsured v. Underinsured Motorist Coverage in South Carolina

What is the Difference between Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

This is a common question that you may have when purchasing automobile insurance or after an accident. It is important to understand the differences between uninsured motorists coverage and underinsured motorists coverage. The amount of coverage that you may have could play an important role in determining if you can be fully compensated for the injuries sustained from an automobile accident.

The Goings Law Firm, LLC recommends that you purchase as much UM and UIM insurance as you can afford.  The medical bills, loss wages, and other losses that typically result from serious injuries caused by a car accident can be very high. Make sure that you have enough insurance coverage to help compensate you and your family for these damages.

Uninsured motorist coverage, referred to as “UM,” is a type of auto insurance policy that pays you for your damages for bodily injury and property damage when an at-fault motorist is without any insurance, or insurance is less than the minimum limits. A motor vehicle is considered uninsured if the owner or operator is unknown, such as a hit-and-run. However, recovery under the uninsured motorist provision is subject to the certain narrow conditions set forth under the South Carolina law. Uninsured motorist coverage in South Carolina is mandatory.

Underinsured motorist coverage, referred to as “UIM,” is a type of auto insurance policy that that can be triggered if the at-fault motorist is underinsured. Unlike UM insurance, the at-fault motorist has insurance but the vehicle’s liability policy limits are not enough to compensate you for all of your damages. UIM coverage is optional. You should purchase UIM insurance because very often the medical bills and expenses related to personal injuries from auto accidents will far exceed in at-fault driver’s liability policy.

Additional Sources:
To view the South Carolina statutes related to UM and UIM insurance coverage, go here: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t38c077.php

Contact a Columbia Personal Injury Attorney Today if you Have Insurance Questions Following An Accident.

The Goings Law Firm, LLC is a Columbia based law firm with experience dealing with the insurance company and finding you the right insurance coverage for your injuries after an automobile, motorcycle, or truck accident. If you have any questions about insurance coverage that may apply following a motor vehicle accident, contact the Goings Law Firm, LLC online today or call (803) 350-9230 for a free consultation.


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

Underinsured Motorist Coverage License Plate
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.