As an attorney that handles personal injury cases, I am frequently asked by clients that have been injured in a motor vehicle accident what kind of automobile insurance they should purchase and how much. Most of the time they are prompted to ask because the other driver that injured them has minimum limits that are insufficient to cover their injuries.
The first issue that should be addressed is what kinds of automobile insurance exist in our state. In South Carolina, we have four basic types of insurance. Our state requires that every driver have liability insurance and unisured motorist coverage. Liability insurance is the coverage which pays for injury or property damage which the insured caused as a result of his/her own negligence.
Uninsured coverage (often referred to as “UM”) is coverage which covers the insured when he or she is injured or has property damage as a result of an uninsured driver. This coverage, like liability coverage, is mandatory in our state.
The third kind of coverage in South Carolina is underinsured coverage (often referred to as “UIM”). This coverage is not mandatory and is optional coverage that can be purchased in increments up to your liability limits. While it is not mandatory for the driver to have, the insurance company must offer it to the insured. This coverage is intended to pay for injuries and property damage that may exceed the at fault driver’s liability limits.
Often times we see drivers who have injured our clients and those drivers have the minimum coverage which is insufficient to pay for the injuries and damages of our clients. If our clients do not have underinsured coverage, then they are stuck with whatever the liability limits are of the at fault driver and are often times left in an undesirable financial situation since there is insufficient coverage for their injuries and damages. I advise my clients to always purchase UIM coverage for themselves on all their vehicles. Most who have been stuck with an at fault driver who has insufficient coverage to pay for their injuries immediately go out and buy it for future protection. While UIM coverage does increase your premiums, it is often very cheap for the benefits and protections offered.
South Carolina required minimum liability limits of $15,000 for a long time. Our legislature has recently passed laws increasing the minimum liability limits to $25,000. However, this is often not enough to pay for a person’s injuries with the ever-increasing cost of medical care and lost wages. A serious collision often with serious personal injury often leaves people in financial difficulty since they have high medical bills and are unable to work.
The fourth kind of coverage which is optional for an insured to purchase in South Carolina is what is commonly referred to as Med-Pay or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. This coverage may be purchased by the insured to pay in increments up to $5000 (depending on the limits) for medical bills regardless of who is at fault in the wreck.
While many people search for the minimum limits for the lowest premiums, they often regret that decision when either they are being sued because their coverage is too low to cover the person’s medical bills that they harmed or when the person who hit them has insufficient coverage for their injuries and losses. Purchasing car insurance should be given careful thought.