By John Roxon

It is no secret that the cost of medical care rises significantly every year. In the 25 years I have been practicing law, I have seen “average” emergency room bills rise from about $500 to $800 to several thousand dollars. A single MRI scan may now cost over $2,500. Recently, we had a couple of auto wreck cases with E.R. bills where the client was seen and released of over $25,000. That’s right—$25,000.

The minimum amount of liability car insurance necessary to legally drive in South Carolina is $25,000. We have all seen the T.V. ads for the cut rate insurance companies that advertise cheap rates for minimum coverage. Apparently, these ads work because many of the at-fault drivers we see in auto wreck cases have the $25,000 minimum limits coverage. In these cases, the most an injured person can get from the at-fault driver’s insurance company for any damages arising from the wreck is $25,000.

Because of this situation, I usually encourage our clients to purchase additional car insurance coverage on their own policies to protect themselves and their families in the event of serious injuries in a car wreck. This additional coverage is called “underinsured” motorist coverage, and it is relatively cheap. This coverage is optional so you have to choose to buy it when talking to your agent or insurer. If the damages from a car wreck are more than the maximum limits of any available insurance from the at fault driver, and the at fault driver’s insurance limits are paid out, under insurance coverage kicks in, up to the limits on the the under insurance policy.

For example, assume an injured person’s damages from a wreck are valued at $50,000. The at fault driver’s insurance limits are $25,000. After the $25,000 is obtained from the defendant’s company, the under insurance becomes available to cover the remaining $25,000 of damages. Of course, even though this coverage is “your” own insurance, your insurance company will fight just as hard to avoid payment, just like the at fault driver’s company. So it is always a good idea to get an experienced lawyer if you are seriously injured in a car wreck.

Clients often ask “why do I need to pay for damages when they are caused by someone else?” In many situations, life is simply not fair. People sometimes talk about “going after” the other driver. It is an extremely rare situation when the at fault party has any assets to pay a personal judgment. A lawsuit must be filed, the case must be tried and a judgment must be entered, and even if the case is not appeals, substantial costs and time are involved to execute on those assets after the judgment is received. As a practical matter, everyone should take any steps available to protect themselves and their family, even if it is not “fair.”

If you are injured in a wreck or at work, call the Joye Law Firm, 24/7 at (877) 941-2615. We are always available to discuss your claim.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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