Imagine the following scenario:
You are driving through an intersection with your teenager in the front seat. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a driver texting on his cell phone hits you in the driver’s side door. The impact causes you to hit your head and pass out. When you come to, your daughter is screaming and blood is running down the side of her face. You are in excruciating pain. The ambulance takes you and your daughter to the nearest hospital. As a result of the collision, both you and your daughter have head injuries and see a neurologist for nine months for post-concussive syndrome. The headaches from the head injuries are so bad that you miss time from work and your daughter misses school. The collision also caused a herniated disk in your lumbar spine. You’ve undergone physical therapy, MRI, lumbar epidural steroid injections, and finally surgery on your low back. Your daughter’s medical bills total about $27,000. Your medical bills total $120,000.
You have spoken to the at-fault driver’s insurance company and the driver only has liability coverage in the minimum limits of 25/50/25. With that amount of coverage, that means that the highest an injured person in your vehicle can receive is $25,000, the insurance company will pay no more than $50,000 for a single accident regardless of the number of people injured in the accident, and the highest you can receive for your property damage is $25,000. After dragging their feet, the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays you $25,000 and your daughter $25,000 for your bodily injury. Now, the at-fault driver’s liability coverage is exhausted.
This is where things get tricky. You are required to have uninsured motorist coverage in South Carolina. But in a situation where the at-fault driver has liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage doesn’t apply. You have to look to your underinsured motorist coverage from the policy that you have on the car that was involved in the collision. You are not required to carry underinsured motorist coverage, but you should seriously consider purchasing it anyway. If you do not have underinsured motorist coverage, then you are out of luck. You cannot get any more money from any insurance companies for this collision.
Thankfully, you have underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage only applies in situations where the at-fault driver’s liability coverage is not enough to cover all of your damages as in the situation above. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are not the same thing and people often think that as long as they have uninsured motorist coverage they are covered if they are involved in a collision. Not the case at all. As a lawyer, it is an awful feeling to explain to a client that the only compensation available for their injuries is the at-fault driver’s liability coverage because they did not purchase underinsured motorist coverage from their own car insurance company. The lack of underinsured motorist coverage can have a devastating effect on the financial consequences of a collision. You also have to be very careful about the way the liability coverage settlement is handled because you could jeopardize your ability to use the underinsured coverage that you purchased from your own insurance company. It is best to speak with an attorney before you reach this point, preferably at the beginning of your case right after the collision occurs.
The North Charleston lawyers at Callihan Lohr & Syracuse handle car wreck cases all the time and know what it takes to get you the most underinsured motorist coverage that you are entitled to. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car wreck, call the North Charleston attorneys at Callihan Lohr & Syracuse for help.
K.C. Lohr, Attorney