Automobile accidents on South Carolina roads happen too often for most people’s liking. However, if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured motorist, the experience can be even more complex and draining. Understanding South Carolina’s insurance laws can help you avoid being the uninsured motorist one day, and can help educate you on your options if you are hit by one.
Generally, states will mandate how much of each type of insurance must be covered by drivers in their territory. The South Carolina Department of Insurance states clearly what amount of insurance is required for any driver, but one immediately noticeable caveat is that no underinsured motorist coverage is required. In other states, it is mandated that drivers carry insurance above the state limit, designed to shield them and pay their bills if a driver who carries no insurance causes an accident. This is necessary because, as one might imagine, if a motorist is uninsured or underinsured, they will not be able to pay damages for your injuries or your property losses.
A fine distinction to be aware of is that Section 38-77-150 of the South Carolina Code states that no insurance policy may be offered in the state unless it contains an uninsured motorist (UIM) provision. This seems to conflict with the statement that no UIM coverage is required – but it does not, because it speaks of policies, rather than drivers. In other words, it states that no insurance policy may be offered, rather than that no one may drive without one. If someone purchases insurance in another state that lacks a UIM provision, they are still complying with South Carolina law.
One thing many people ask is whether or not it is possible to use more than one auto insurance policy in order to obtain what they deem to be a satisfactory level of coverage. In South Carolina, the answer is a qualified yes. The answer depends on whether or not you are a Class I or Class II insured person, as defined in the case of Ohio Cas. Ins. Co. v. Hill (1996). Class I is a person whose insured vehicle is involved in the accident in question. A Class II insured is one whose vehicles are not involved, but has insurance that the driver in the accident has access to. If you are a Class I insured, you may stack insurance policies up to the amount of the limit on your policy.
For example, if you have $200,000 in uninsured motorist coverage on your car, and your spouse has $100,000 on his or her car (that is not involved in your accident), you can stack policies and potentially receive up to $300,000 in UIM benefits. But if you only have $75,000 in UIM coverage on your car, you could only receive up to $150,000 – $75,000 from your policy, and $75,000 from your spouse’s.
An Attorney Can Answer Your Questions
If you are in a position to change your insurance policy, or if you have been in an accident with an uninsured motorist, it is imperative to understand your rights and your options to ensure your bills are paid. The experienced North Charleston automobile accident attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse understand that these issues are quite complex, and are happy to help you get through the process. Contact our offices today to discuss your options.