What Happens If the At-Fault Party Doesn’t Have Car Insurance?
If you’re a South Carolina driver, state law says that you must carry automobile insurance. However, many people ignore this law and take their chances on the road. In fact, 10.9% of drivers in South Carolina were uninsured in 2019. It’s important to understand your rights if you find yourself involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver.
Before discussing how to handle an accident with an uninsured motorist, let’s look at the insurance that is required for every driver in South Carolina.
Every driver must purchase liability coverage, which is coverage that is designed to protect other people. You must carry liability coverage for bodily injury and physical damage. You must also carry uninsured motorist coverage, which is usually included with your liability insurance.
Bodily Injury Liability Coverage
This portion of the required liability coverage is designed to cover the other party’s injury-related expenses. Claims for bodily injury might include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Residents of South Carolina must carry a minimum of $25,000 per person for bodily injury and $50,000 per accident.
Property Damage Liability Coverage
The property damage part of the required liability coverage is designed to pay for damage to another person’s car in the event of an accident. South Carolina law requires you to carry physical damage insurance of $25,000 per accident.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to protect you in the event that you are involved in an accident with a hit-and-run driver or someone who doesn’t have automobile insurance. This coverage is typically included with the required liability insurance.
The minimum amount of uninsured motorist coverage you must carry for bodily injury is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
The minimum amount of uninsured motorist coverage you must carry for property damage is $25,000 per accident.
Underinsued Motorist Coverage
While Underinsured Motorist Coverage is optional and not required, it is highly recommended. This type of coverage protects you if your damages exceed the policy limits from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. If their coverage isn’t enough to cover all costs from injuries to you or damage to your vehicle, without Underinsured Motorist Coverage you may be responsible for the remainder of the costs. Although this coverage is optional, every South Carolina insurance provider is required to offer it to you when you are shopping for a policy.
Protecting Your Own Property
Another option you have as a motorist is to purchase comprehensive and/or collision coverage so that your own property is protected in the event of an accident.
Collision Coverage: This pays for physical damage to your vehicle if you’re in an accident (regardless of who is at fault) or if you collide with another type of object. This can help repair or replace your vehicle up to its actual cash value, minus a deductible. This is optional for drivers who own their cars outright. However, your lender might require you to carry it if you have an auto loan.
Comprehensive coverage: This coverage pays for damage to your vehicle from causes that aren’t due to automobile collisions, such as theft, flooding, vandalism, fire, falling objects, and collisions with animals.
Involved In An Accident Caused By An Uninsured Driver?
If you’re involved in an accident caused by someone without auto insurance, there are a couple of things you can do.
File a Claim With Your Insurance Company
The first option is to file a claim with your insurance company, using your uninsured motorist coverage. This can be a tricky and exhausting process. Insurance companies are geared towards making money, so the less they have to pay you, the more they can keep. A study by the Insurance Research Council showed that injured people who hired an attorney, on average, received three and a half times the settlement as those who chose to go it alone.
Hire a Car Accident Lawyer to Pursue a Claim Against the At-Fault Driver
It’s important to remember that uninsured drivers often do not have the money to pay for their mistakes. In fact, many drivers don’t have insurance because they simply can’t afford it. If this is the case, the at-fault driver probably does have any assets to pull from, and they most likely don’t own property (which means a judge cannot put a lien on their property until payment is made). A personal injury lawyer can research whether the at-fault driver has significant assets and advise you on the best course of action.
What Are The Consequences Of Driving Without Auto Insurance?
South Carolina takes driving without auto insurance very seriously, and you can rest assured that the state knows when a driver does not carry a valid policy. That’s because every insurance company is required by law to notify the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) when an automobile owner, or their insurance company, cancel their policy.
If a driver can’t provide proof of insurance after being involved in an accident or getting pulled over, the following can happen:
First-time offenders may be forced to pay a $600 uninsured motorist fee and be imprisoned for up to 30 days. Their driver’s license, license plate, and vehicle registration may also be suspended, and they may have to pay a reinstatement fee which can cost as much as $400.
Repeat offenders can be issued larger fines and more prison time (jail terms between 45 days and six months for third or subsequent offenses) and receive a $5 fine for each day they went without coverage.
Those caught driving without insurance are considered “high risk drivers” by insurance companies, and they must obtain an SR-22 certificate before having their driving privilege reinstated. The SR-22 is a special form filled out by the driver’s insurance company which proves that a high-risk driver has adequate insurance coverage. It costs more than a standard policy and must be carried for three years after a driver has been caught driving without insurance.
Driving without insurance is illegal no matter who caused the accident, so it’s important to remember that uninsured drivers who are not at-fault will still face tough consequences.
Contact The Accident Attorneys At McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates Today
McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates has been fighting for South Carolina car accident victims for more than four decades.
We know the physical, emotional, and financial burdens that come along with car accidents, and we believe that no one should have to pay for an accident that wasn’t their fault. That’s why we’ve dedicated our careers to helping those who have been injured in accidents caused by uninsured, or underinsured, drivers.
Our South Carolina car injury attorneys are highly skilled at what they do and work with car accident victims every step of the way as they fight to get them the compensation they deserve.
McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates has seven offices across the Midlands of South Carolina, in Aiken, Camden, Columbia, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Sumter.
We offer free case evaluations, so give us a call today at 888-353-5513. It won’t cost you anything to see if we can help.®