Hit By An Uninsured Driver? Your Options

Posted by & filed under Auto Accidents.

Under law, automobile insurance is required for every driver on South Carolina roads. However, recent data indicates that as many as 7.7% of drivers in the state do not have insurance, or are underinsured. If you are in an accident and are hit by someone who does not have sufficient coverage, you may be stuck with a larger portion of the bills than you had ever thought possible.

South Carolina Insurance Requirements

How much auto insurance is required will vary between states. South Carolina’s requirements are actually on the higher end of the spectrum, mandating 25/50/25 minimums. In other words, South Carolina drivers must carry insurance valued at least at $25,000 for bodily injury (per person), $50,000 per accident and $25,000 for property damage. While this may sound like a lot, in reality, many accidents will burn through those limits long before the expenses are paid. This can be extremely problematic.

If a driver who hits you is uninsured, the outcome will be best if you have previously purchased uninsured and/or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage from your own insurance company. UM coverage is an addendum to your standard auto insurance policy, and it will pay out up to the limits of your auto policy, minus any amount recovered from the other driver’s insurance company. While not all states require UM coverage, South Carolina does. Underinsured motorist coverage is not required, however.

Sue or File?

If you have UM coverage, as you are required to, you will have two options after an accident with an uninsured driver. You can either bring suit against the driver for personal injuries, or you can file a claim with your insurance company to try and collect on your UM coverage.

Bringing suit is frankly a difficult option, most of the time. Most often, the reason a motorist is uninsured is because they lack the assets to be able to afford coverage. Thus, there would be little to no money to take in a lawsuit. The only way that it would likely be worth it to sue a motorist with no insurance would be if there is reason to believe they have hidden assets – for example, a share of a property that cannot be converted into liquid cash, but still has some equity. If a credit check shows that the driver has any assets, then you may be able to move forward.

The other choice is to try to collect on your uninsured motorist coverage, which is what most people in this situation do. Most of the time, a UM claim will proceed along similar lines to a standard auto insurance claim, except that you are applying to your own insurance company instead of the other driver’s. The only thing you should be aware of is that if you and the insurer cannot agree on an appropriate settlement sum – which can be anywhere from nothing to the limit of your coverage – you are not permitted to bring suit against the insurer. Instead, you will likely have to go to binding arbitration, which is less transparent and usually slanted more in favor of the insurer.

Get Help From An Experienced Attorney

Car accidents are traumatic enough; trying to negotiate with insurers or get money from an uninsured driver is even worse. If you are in a situation like this, the best thing you can do is engage a good car accident attorney. Callihan & Syracuse in North Charleston handles exclusively personal injury matters, with most of them being auto accidents, so we are experienced and knowledgeable about what you are dealing with. Contact our office for a free consultation today.