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    uninsured motorist accident

    According to the Insurance Information Institute, 10.9% of South Carolina’s drivers are uninsured. That means that almost one of every 10 cars beside you on your commute is likely uninsured. As alarming as that may seem, it pales in comparison to the estimated percentage of uninsured drivers in other states. For example, it’s estimated that 29.4% of the drivers in Michigan are uninsured! Nationwide, it’s estimated that 12.6% of drivers are uninsured, so South Carolina ranks relatively well in this category.

    Many people mistakenly believe that if they are injured by an uninsured driver, they can’t pursue an insurance claim for their personal injuries. I just had a prominent orthopedist text me about a friend of his who was injured by an uninsured driver in Columbia, South Carolina and he quipped, “any point in getting an attorney if the other driver has no insurance?” Answer – yes, indeed – if you are injured by an uninsured driver, you have the same reasons to hire a lawyer to help you as you would if you were injured by an insured driver. It’s still going to be an insurance claim and the adjuster for your insurance company will treat you the same way he’d treat a claimant making a claim against you. (In case you’re wondering, insurance companies hate paying money – to anyone!)

    Uninsured Motorist Coverage vs. Underinsured Motorist Coverage

    • Uninsured motorist coverage pays if you are injured or your property is damaged by an uninsured or a hit-and-run driver.
    • Underinsured motorist insurance pays for a portion of your injuries or damages if the driver who caused the accident does not have adequate insurance to cover your total damages.

    What is Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage in SC?

    Under South Carolina law, when you purchase mandatory liability insurance coverage, you automatically purchase uninsured motorist coverage in the same amount. Therefore, if you bought the minimal limits required in South Carolina ($25,000 per individual, $50,000 for all injured individuals), you would have that same amount of coverage if you and your passengers were hurt by an uninsured driver.

    For example, if a mom and two of her kids were injured when an uninsured driver ran a red light, the most that any person in the car could recover under the coverage on that car would be $25,000, and the most that all three of them combined could recover would be $50,000.

    What is Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage in SC?

    Even if South Carolina drivers carry the minimum required liability insurance — state law requires only $25,000 coverage per injured person up to a total of $50,000 per accident — that coverage often isn’t enough to pay for all of your injuries and damages following a serious car accident.

    However, even if the at-fault driver who injured you had no insurance or too little, you might be able to recover under your own policy for uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits. Read on to learn the difference between these two types of vital coverage.


    In S.C. How Does UM and UIM Stacking Work?

    In a previous example I emphasized “on that car” above because if there are multiple vehicles in the family’s household, South Carolina law allows uninsured motorist coverages to be stacked. Let’s use the same scenario above with the mom and her two children, and the reckless driver who blew through a red light. However, let’s also add the additional fact that the family had three vehicles, each with $100,000/$200,000 of coverage. In that situation, the most that any one individual could recover would be $300,000 (three times $100,000), while the cap on a recovery by all three victims would be $600,000. It is important to note that South Carolina law does not allow you to purchase uninsured motorist coverage in an amount higher than the amount of liability coverage purchased.

    Like UM, UIM coverage can be stacked in South Carolina. There are some nuances when it comes to UIM though. First, if the injured party is in a vehicle at the time of the accident that does not have UIM coverage on it and is not a vehicle owned by them or a resident relative, they are able to reach back to an at-home vehicle with UIM. But, they can only reach back to one of those at-home UIM policies (choose the one with the highest limits!). For example, if the injured party was in a vehicle they did not own, and was not owned by a resident relative, and they have two vehicles at home, one with $50,000/$100,000 and another with $100,000/$200,000, they can reach back to one of those policies (choose the $100,000/$200,000!). Second, if the injured party was in a vehicle of their own with UIM coverage, they may stack that coverage with their additional at-home UIM policies, but only in an amount that does not exceed the amount of coverage on the involved vehicle (known as the “measuring vehicle”). For example, if the involved owned vehicle has $50,000/$100,000 of coverage on it, and the injured party has two other vehicles at home both with $100,000/$200,000 of coverage, they may stack these policies but only in the amount of the “measuring vehicle’s” $50,000/$100,000 for a total of $150,000 per person or $300,000 per accident. Finally, note that if you are in an owned vehicle you chose to not purchase UIM coverage on, you are not able to stack or reach back to at-home vehicles with UIM coverage. So, make sure all your vehicles have UIM coverage!

    Hit and Run Accidents in South Carolina

    Another situation where your uninsured motorist coverage could be triggered is if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver, commonly referred to by lawyers as a “John Doe” case. There are three things required for a valid John Doe claim in South Carolina.

    1. The accident must have been reported to the police within a reasonable time after it occurred. (Your best bet is to call the police immediately after the accident.)
    2. You must not have been negligent in failing to identify the at-fault driver or car. This is a fairly easy requirement to satisfy.
    3. There must have been some physical contact between your car and the at-fault vehicle, or you must be able to provide an affidavit from an eyewitness to the accident who was not the owner or driver of your car.

    We often stress the importance of obtaining contact information from all witnesses at an accident scene. This is especially important when a hit-and-run accident has occurred. If these three criteria are satisfied, you can pursue a personal injury claim using your uninsured motorist coverage.

    While South Carolina requires drivers to have uninsured motorist (UM) insurance coverage, it does not require underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). However, insurance companies are required to offer underinsured motorist coverage, and it’s a good idea to carry it.


    Will Filing an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Claim Raise My Rates?

    One concern many clients have had over the years is whether pursuing a UM or UIM claim will negatively impact their insurance premiums. If you are at fault and you cause an accident where someone was injured, you can rest assured that your insurance premiums are likely to increase. The same logic does not apply when you prosecute a claim based on an accident that was not your fault. Some states have laws that expressly prohibit insurance companies from increasing their policyholders’ premiums after paying uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits.

    Unfortunately, South Carolina is not one of those states. Based on our experience, most South Carolina insurance carriers do not increase premiums after paying an uninsured motorist claim but there is not a 100% guarantee. What is 100% guaranteed is that your damages from an injury caused by an uninsured driver are likely to far exceed any increase in premiums even when that does occur. Obviously, the more seriously you are injured, the higher your damages, and the more crucial it is that you pursue a claim from compensation.

    What are Some Common Issues with UM & UIM Policies?

    Claims for UM or UIM coverage are special because you, the insured, are seeking benefits from your own insurance company even though you weren’t at fault. Your insurer owes you a duty to handle your claim for UM or UIM benefits fairly. Insurance companies are sometimes reluctant to pay the full benefits you are entitled to under UM or UIM policies.

    Another issue stems from the existence of the coverage itself. South Carolina law requires insurance companies to make a meaningful offer of UIM coverage when you apply for a policy. If the company failed to make a meaningful offer, you can, under certain circumstances, force the insurer to “reform” the policy to include the optional coverage.

    Policy reformation is possible even if your policy provided some level of UM/UIM coverage. If the insurer failed to make a meaningful offer of higher UM/UIM limits, the company could be required to pay out up to the maximum available coverage level.



    Expertise in Handling Car Accident Cases Involving UM/UIM Insurance Policies

    Joye Law Firm’s injury attorneys are highly skilled in handling car accident cases involving uninsured and underinsured insurance policies. Our experience is exemplified by our successful track record in securing settlements for our clients, not only from the at-fault driver’s insurance company but also from the victim’s policies. Many times, insurance companies are reluctant to pay, although they hold a duty to their insured to do so. Here are some notable cases that highlight our expertise:

    These case studies underscore our commitment to obtaining just compensation for our clients, particularly in cases complicated by uninsured and underinsured insurance policies. It’s important to note that every situation is different, and our past results do not guarantee future outcomes. However, they do serve as a strong indication of our firm’s expertise in negotiating with insurance carries and our dedication to our clients’ well-being.


    Get Help After an Accident With an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver

    If you were seriously injured in a South Carolina auto accident and the other driver was either uninsured or underinsured, our personal injury lawyers at Joye Law Firm are ready to help you. We can work to make sure you are able to recover the benefits you deserve from every source. We treat each and every client with courtesy and respect, and it is one of our law firm’s client commitments that we return all phone calls within 24 hours or one business day.

    Call Joye Law Firm. You can reach us at (888) 324-3100 or fill out an online consultation form today.

    Joye Law Firm’s injury attorneys are ready to handle your case anywhere in South Carolina. We have offices in Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Clinton and Summerville, and represent people like you from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.

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