Get the Facts About South Carolina Car Insurance
In this article:
Traffic accidents are an all-too-common occurrence in our daily lives. For people who live in a big city, this is something you have to contend with during most morning and evening commutes.
The cost of car accidents in America totals more than an estimated $150 billion dollars each year, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Another report by the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) states that U.S. crashes cost more than $230 billion dollars.
With more than 7.2 million police-reported crashes in 2016, it’s no wonder the costs are so high. But, the cost of human lives isn’t definable.
Fatalities in traffic accidents are also a growing trend. The tragedy that a sudden death brings is unimaginable. That is, unless you’re the loved one of the millions of people who die every year in auto collisions.
In the same National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report cited above, of the 7.2 million accidents, 34,439 resulted in at least one death. In total, 37,401 people died.
One can’t overstate the importance of auto insurance. No matter the financial costs to the individual motorist, insurance is a necessary evil. Without it, debt ceilings would rise dramatically.
What is Car Insurance?
This may seem like a simple and straightforward question. But, the answer is anything but simple.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) defines insurance as:
“…a contract between you and the insurance company that protects you against financial loss in the event of an accident or theft. In exchange for your paying a premium, the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as outlined in your policy.”
So, as the customer, you agree to pay an insurance company a premium. In exchange, the insurance company provides a defined amount of financial support in case of a collision.
Car insurance premiums vary based on several factors. They cost as little as $40, paid monthly. Or, they run up into the hundreds or thousands of dollars paid out for six or twelve months at a time.
Your insurance carrier is contractually obligated to pay for certain damages associated with an accident you’re involved in. Covered costs vary by the kind of coverage that you purchase, and the amount that you and the carrier agree on.
How Many Kinds of Car Insurance Are There?
There are different categories of insurance that carrier companies provide. In general, there are six types most insurers carry.
1. Collision Coverage
Pays for damages to your car when you’re found “at fault” after a crash
The insurance company determines fault. In South Carolina, carriers compare the circumstances of an accident to the state’s definition of negligence. The legal definition is found under the South Carolina Legislature:
‘Gross negligence’ means an act or course of action, or inaction, which denotes a lack of reasonable care and a conscious disregard or indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others and which does or could result in financial loss, injury, or damage to life or property.
“In any motor vehicle accident, contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in any action by any person or legal representative to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or in injury to person or property, if such contributory negligence was equal to or less than the negligence which must be established in order to recover from the party against whom recovery is sought.”
Essentially, someone who is at fault in an accident, meets the definition for negligence. If the insurance company considers their negligence to be less severe, they can still recover damages. In any case not caused by gross negligence, your collision coverage will help pay for your damages.
2. Property Liability Coverage
Pays for the “at fault” driver costs associated with damages to property outside of their own vehicle
While collision insurance pays for the “at fault” driver’s damages, property liability insurance pays for everyone else’s damages. So, if you’re at fault, this pays for the damages you caused.
It is possible, however, your carrier will decide that the accident was caused by gross negligence. In this case, they can decide to withold payment for damages you caused.
3. Comprehensive Coverage
Pays for damages to your vehicle from non-car accident incidents, such as theft, or vandalism
The term “comprehensive” is a give-away, here. It means that it covers everything, or everything else, in this case.
Examples of comprehensive coverage include:
- If a thief breaks your passenger-side window to steal valuables in the front seat, or your radio.
- A car thief steals your car
- A neighborhood kid accidentally scratches the side of your car with their skateboard
- You parked your car on the street before a riot and rioters set it on fire
Insurance may pay in all of these circumstances. Keep in mind, though, that they only pay after you cover the deductible. Then, they pay only to the limits defined by your policy.
4. Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Pays for the costs associated with injuries to everyone involved in an accident, regardless of fault
With more than 2.4 million injuries in 2015, and even more predicted for 2016, people are hurt in almost all traffic accidents. The medical costs for these injuries are often staggering, going easily into the hundreds of thousands.
PIP helps pay for these medical costs for anyone injured. This isn’t segregated by fault. Rather, it’s comprehensive for anyone hurt in a traffic incident.
5. Medical Coverage
Pays for the medical costs of people injured inside the vehicle, including the driver and passengers
So, PIP pays for everyone’s medical costs. Medical insurance on an auto policy covers medical costs for the occupant’s injuries. This includes the driver, as well as the passengers. It does not include anyone besides those occupants in the vehicle.
6. Bodily Injury Coverage
Pays for injuries to the people outside of the “at fault” parties’ vehicle
This is just like property liability coverage, in that it pays for property damage outside of the “at fault” vehicle. In this case, bodily injury insurance pays for medical costs for anyone injured outside of the car.
What Auto Insurance do I Have to Get in South Carolina?
So, now you know your options when it comes to buying insurance. But, there are optional and required types of insurance.
The answer to that question can be found on the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI) website. Minimum coverages are:
- $25,000 bodily injury per person injured outside of the at fault vehicle
- $50,000 bodily injury per accident
- Note that these are separate coverages. You must carry a minimum of $25,000 for every person hurt by your accident, as well as $50,000 overall bodily injury coverage.
- $25,000 property damage per accident
The minimum coverages listed above are in place to pay for any of the damage the responsible driver’s vehicle crash caused. This doesn’t include coverage for the driver, passengers, or the vehicle.
It’s also important to note that the SCDOI page states that underinsured motorist coverage is not covered. This means that, if another driver causes an accident and they don’t have enough, or any, car insurance, you don’t pay for it. However, it is better to have this insurance for a few dollars more, than to be completely out of luck if it happens.
Should I Hire an Attorney If I’ve Been in an Accident?
Whether you’re at fault for a car crash, or not, you’re going to face some rough times. At a minimum, there are going to be costs for damage to your vehicle, and any other cars involved.
There could be damaged light poles, or nearby buildings hit by a car. A vehicle might veer off and strike a pedestrian after the initial impact.
The possibilities are endless, especially when you consider the number of accidents that happen every year. This means that you’re going to be dealing with insurance companies, and possibly the other driver’s legal representation.
If you didn’t already know it, insurance companies aren’t out to give away money. Their job is to collect premiums and pay for as little as possible. In fact, your insurance company, and others, are going to try to pay little or no money for injuries or damages.
When this happens, you’re going to want to have a lawyer to handle the issues. An accident attorney with experience in civil liability law will provide you with more financial assistance than it costs to pay their fee. That goes for anyone injured, or at fault.
What can a South Carolina Accident Attorney do for Me?
A car accident lawyer will talk to the insurance companies. They protect you from low-ball settlement offers that won’t pay all of your damages. They defend your rights to fair compensation, and they fight for your best interests. And they do all of this with knowledge that you simply don’t have, because you’re not a lawyer.
Another great benefit to auto collision attorney’s is their method of billing. If you hire them to fight for you, you aren’t billed until you’re paid by the responsible party.
On the other hand, if you’re responsible for the damages and injuries resulting in a car accident, an attorney will also help. Their knowledge of the law will allow them to fight against greedy insurance companies and other lawyers who are trying to take your money.
No matter what the circumstances, you should call an auto accident lawyer immediately after an accident.