Guide to South Carolina Car Insurance Laws
After an auto accident in South Carolina, the law requires the driver that caused the accident to pay for the damages.
Usually, insurance will cover the costs, but it’s critical to understand how South Carolina insurance laws might affect your recovery.
The Peace Law Firm helps injured clients recover from at-fault drivers after a collision. South Carolina auto insurance laws require an at-fault driver to pay for the costs of bodily injury and property damage.
To enforce this rule, South Carolina requires all drivers to carry auto insurance coverage. Insurance will cover most costs, up to policy limits. If damages are higher, the injured party has a right to sue the driver for full reimbursement for their injuries.
How to Prove Fault in a South Carolina Auto Accident
Before the insurance company pays your claim, you’ll need to demonstrate that the insured driver is at fault. Because South Carolina is a tort liability state, you must have proof of all the elements of negligence to prove fault.
The Driver Must Owe a Duty of Care
When you receive your driver’s license in South Carolina, you agree to follow the rules of the road and act as a reasonable driver. Every driver has a “duty of care” to behave reasonably, considering others’ safety and property.
Further, even a car owner has the responsibility for making a reasonable choice when loaning their vehicle to another driver.
You Must Be Able to Show the Driver Breached the Duty of Care
Next, you must show what the driver did that violated their duty of care. Perhaps a witness saw them run a stop sign or you have video of them swerving. Without evidence of fault, the insurance company might try to deny your claim on this element.
The Breach Must Have Caused Your Damages
In addition to showing the amount of your damages, you’ll need to prove that the driver’s negligent behavior caused them.
Insurance companies often argue that the insured’s actions didn’t cause the accident. They’ll try to pressure you by saying you were equally at fault or that there was an external cause.
The Amount of Your Claim Should Match Your Damages
Insurance companies have the bad habit of offering a quick settlement and pressuring you to accept. Unfortunately, these offers are rarely enough to cover your medical bills and other losses.
You have the right to recover damages for your economic and non-economic losses, including things like:
- Past and future medical bills,
- Past and future lost wages,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Lost enjoyment of life.
Your attorney can help you identify and calculate all damages you suffered as a result of the accident.
South Carolina Car Insurance Requirements
In South Carolina, drivers are legally required to have auto insurance to drive. The state mandates two main types of coverage: liability insurance and uninsured motorist coverage. Liability insurance is essential as it covers damages or injuries you may cause to others in an accident where you are at fault.
Before legally operating a vehicle in South Carolina, you must have liability insurance to cover the damages if you cause an accident. In addition to liability coverage, you must have uninsured motorists coverage for collisions where the at-fault driver is unknown or driving illegally.
By law, your insurance policy limit cannot be less than:
- $25,000 in bodily injury costs per person,
- $50,000 in bodily injury costs per accident; and
- $25,000 in property damages per accident.
Under Section 38-77-140, an at-fault driver’s insurance should pay at least $25,000 for one person’s medical bills and costs. While this amount isn’t insignificant, consider how the limits work when the accident involves multiple vehicles and passengers.
When the policy limit is $50,000 for an entire accident, all injured parties must split that amount.
These insurance requirements are a part of South Carolina's commitment to ensuring that all drivers have some level of financial protection in the event of a car accident. It's crucial for drivers to maintain these minimum coverages to comply with state laws and protect themselves financially in case of an accident.
What Happens When Car Accident Claim Exceeds Insurance Limits?
After a crash in South Carolina, you have the right to recover the total value of your damages from the accident. If your claim exceeds the at-fault driver’s insurance limits, you can sue the driver individually for the remaining amount.
Unfortunately, if the driver does not have many assets, it can be difficult to collect the compensation they owe you.
But there may be other options as well. For example, you can file a claim with your own underinsured motorist coverage if the other driver’s insurance is not sufficient to cover your losses.
Alternatively, someone other than the driver may be liable for the accident, such as the driver’s employer if they were on the job when the accident happened.
Physical Damage Coverage: Collision and Comprehensive
In South Carolina, physical damage coverage for automobiles comprises two primary types: collision coverage and comprehensive coverage. Both are optional, but they offer significant protection.
Collision Coverage: This insurance pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another vehicle or object. It's particularly important if you're in an accident and the cost of repairing your vehicle exceeds its actual value. In such cases, the insurer will typically pay the car's actual cash value, less the deductible, rather than repairing it. Collision coverage is crucial for drivers who want to protect their investment in their vehicle, especially newer or more expensive cars.
Comprehensive Coverage: Comprehensive coverage protects against damages to your car from non-collision events, such as fire, theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and collisions with animals. It even covers windshield damage and, in South Carolina, there is no deductible for safety glass repairs. This coverage is especially beneficial for protection against events beyond a driver's control, like severe weather or theft.
While neither collision nor comprehensive coverage is legally required in South Carolina, they provide important financial protection. Without them, you would be responsible for all repair or replacement costs of your vehicle in case of an accident or other damaging events. Additionally, if you are financing or leasing your vehicle, your lender may require both types of coverage as part of your loan or lease agreement.
Rely on an Experienced Attorney to Walk You Through South Carolina Car Insurance Laws
If you’re worried about what happens if medical bills exceed policy limits, let the experienced attorneys at the Peace Law Firm help. We are here to help you hold the person who injured you responsible for the damages they caused.
We’ll work to help you seek fair compensation after a crash. Whether you need help negotiating with an insurance company or taking the negligent driver to court, the Peace Law Firm knows South Carolina car insurance laws.
FAQs For South Carolina Car Insurance Laws:
Is auto insurance mandatory in South Carolina?
Yes, South Carolina requires drivers to have liability and uninsured motorist coverage.
What are the minimum coverage amounts?
The minimums are $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage.
Are collision and comprehensive coverage mandatory?
No, they are optional in South Carolina but recommended, especially if your vehicle is financed or leased.
What happens if I drive without insurance?
Driving uninsured can lead to license suspension, fines, and being personally liable for damages in an accident.
Can I be sued if I cause an accident?
Yes, under South Carolina's tort system, you can be sued for damages if you're at fault in an accident.
What should I do if I'm in an accident with an uninsured driver?
You can file a claim under your uninsured motorist policy, if you have one. Otherwise, you may need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.