There is a traffic accident in South Carolina every 3.6 minutes, on average.
There are more than 140,000 traffic collisions in the state each year.
Most people have car insurance. According to the Insurance Research Council, 87.4% of vehicles on the roads are insured. But with South Carolina requiring low insurance minimums – only $25,000 each for injury liability and property damage, damages can quickly exceed policy maximums.
When the at-fault driver has insurance, but they don’t have enough insurance to pay full damages, they are underinsured.
What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Underinsured motorist coverage is a type of insurance that is meant to solve this problem. It is insurance that applies when the party at fault for the accident has insurance, but they don’t have enough coverage to fully pay for the victim’s damages.
If you have underinsured motorist coverage in South Carolina, it can be a welcome relief if you’re in an accident.
The Louthian Law Firm helps families with car accident compensation claims.
Columbia car accident attorney Bert Louthian discusses underinsured motorist coverage in South Carolina – what it is, how it works, and what you need to know.
Underinsured motorist coverage defined
S.C. Code § 38-77-30(15) defines an underinsured motor vehicle as a motor vehicle that has at least the bodily injury coverage required by law at the time of the accident, but less than the amount of the insured’s damages.
The minimum insurance amounts are stated in S.C. Code § 38-77-140. Each car insurance policy must cover:
- $25,000 injury liability per person
- $50,000 total injury per accident
- $25,000 property damage
An underinsured vehicle is a vehicle that has at least these minimums, but not enough to cover the full damages from an accident. By contrast, an uninsured motor vehicle does not have bodily injury liability insurance meeting required minimums.
You may also hear underinsured motorist coverage referred to as UIM coverage.
What does underinsured motorist insurance cover?
Underinsured motorist insurance provides coverage if damages are sustained beyond the liability limits carried by the at-fault driver. It may also pay amounts above a damages cap or statutory limitation.
Is underinsured motorist coverage required in South Carolina?
No. Underinsured motorist coverage is not required for car insurance in South Carolina. A driver may choose whether to carry underinsured motorist insurance.
How Does Underinsured Motorist Coverage Work?
A person is in an accident. They sustained $60,000 in total damages. The insured party has a total of $50,000 in insurance coverage.
Their insurance agrees to pay the full $50,000 amount, leaving $10,000 in unpaid damages.
The person has underinsured motorist coverage, up to a $100,000 limit. Their underinsured motorist policy covers the remaining $10,000.
A person is in an accident. They sustained $100,000 in damages. The insured party has $25,000 in total insurance. Their insurance pays the policy maximum. This leaves the victim with $75,000 in remaining damages. Their underinsured policy covers up to $50,000. Their insurance pays an additional $50,000. In total, the victim has recovered $75,000 of their total damages, leaving $25,000 unpaid.
A person is in an accident. They sustained $40,000 in damages. The insured party has $25,000 in total insurance. They agree to pay the total amount. The victim doesn’t have underinsured coverage. The remaining $15,000 in damages is unpaid.
As you can see, having underinsured motorist coverage is very important.
Your Underinsured Motorist Policy and Claims
Does the insurance company have to offer underinsured motorist coverage?
Yes. South Carolina Code § 38-77-160 requires the insurance company to offer underinsured motorist coverage. They must offer it up to the same amounts that the driver chooses to have in liability coverage. The insurer must offer to match liability coverage with underinsured coverage in the same amounts.
S.C. Code § 38-77-350 requires the insurer to use an approved form for new applicants. The form explains optional coverages including underinsured coverage. If the insured fails to return the offer form denying coverage within 30 days, the insurer must add underinsured motorist coverage in the same amounts as liability limits.
Can I stack underinsured motorist coverage in South Carolina?
Yes, and we would highly recommend it. South Carolina is one of the better states for victims that allows someone to stack multiple auto insurance policies. Underinsured motorist coverage is relatively inexpensive. While you can control how much insurance coverage you have, you can’t control the amount the other driver has.
Stacking your underinsured motorist coverage, such as having your name on two separate underinsurance policies for the cars you and your spouse happen to drive, lets you claim from both. Ultimately, if you collide with a driver with not enough liability insurance coverage to cover your whole expenses, you can claim the limits of the multiple policies you have under your name.
What do I need to know about a legal claim involving underinsured motorist coverage?
For a legal claim involving underinsured motorist coverage, the insurer must be served as required by law. If the insurance company for the at-fault driver settles at their applicable policy limits, the underinsured motorist insurer may take over defending the case. (S.C. § 38-77-160).
Does my insurance have to approve a settlement with the at-fault party?
No. Your insurance can’t require you to have their consent to settle with the at-fault party to make a claim for your underinsurance coverage. (S.C. § 38-77-160).
How an Attorney Can Help
Car accidents involving underinsurance can quickly become complicated.
Here are some ways The Louthian Law Firm and attorney Bert Louthian can help:
- Evaluating and pursuing a claim when multiple insurance policies are involved
- Reviewing whether you were properly offered underinsurance coverage
- Determining the full extent of your damages
- Taking action if the at-fault party insurance refuses to pay fair damages
- Determining if you have underinsurance coverage and what amount should be paid
- Exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against the uninsured motorist
- Taking legal action and complying with statutory requirements for an underinsured claim
- Exploring whether stacking multiple vehicle coverage or policies is an option
Contact an Auto Accident Attorney Now
If you have been in an accident, you may have questions or need help with underinsured coverage. We invite you to contact The Louthian Law Firm for a consultation about your case.