For motor vehicle accidents involving only minor injuries, typically the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage will be sufficient to cover the injured person’s damages. However, if you are seriously injured and incur thousands of dollars in medical bills, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage may quickly be exhausted.

This is especially true for South Carolina residents, as South Carolina law only requires drivers to maintain liability insurance coverage in the amount of $25,000.00. As such, it is important that you obtain underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) for each vehicle that you own. This will allow you to recover through your own insurance provider should your damages exceed the limits of the at-fault driver’s liability coverage.

By purchasing UIM coverage for each vehicle that you own, you are allowed to “stack” UIM coverage as long as one of your vehicles was involved in the accident. Stacking allows you to combine the UIM coverage that you have under all of your vehicles and puts you in a better position to be fully compensated for your damages should you be seriously injured in an automobile accident resulting from the negligence of another.

As a basic example, assume that John Doe is rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. John Doe is seriously injured and incurs over $50,000 in medical expenses alone. Unfortunately, the at-fault driver only had the minimum liability insurance limits, $25,000. If John did not purchase UIM for any of his vehicles, $25,000 is the extent of the insurance available for John to recover. If John owns three vehicles, but only obtained UIM coverage in the amount of $25,000 for one of them, then John would have $50,000 in insurance coverage from which to collect ($25,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance and $25,000 from his own car’s UIM coverage). In this scenario, John still will not be fully compensated for his injuries.

However, if John obtained UIM coverage in the amount of $25,000 for all three of his vehicles, then John would be allowed to “stack” UIM coverage from all three of his vehicles. This gives John the opportunity to recover up to $100,000 in insurance proceeds ($25,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance and $25,000 in UIM from each of John’s vehicles). As you can see, the latter scenario provides John with the best opportunity to be made whole and fully compensated for his injuries.

Knowing the amount of insurance coverage to purchase is something that can only be made on an individual basis. However, purchasing underinsured motorist coverage for each of your vehicles is a smart decision that you can make to better protect yourself from the risk of being seriously injured by a negligent driver with insufficient liability insurance coverage. Luckily, it is a rather affordable add-on.

The laws regarding automobile insurance coverage are complex, and determining what insurance is available for recovery after an automobile accident can be challenging. Therefore, if you are seriously injured in an automobile accident due to the negligence of another driver, it is important that you seek the assistance of an experienced.

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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