A car accident is always a stressful situation. Injuries sustained in the accident can range from inconvenient to catastrophic, and the damage to a vehicle can be expensive to repair. Car insurance helps victims claim compensation for injuries and damages, but what happens when an accident involves an uninsured or underinsured driver? Can the parties involved in the wreck still claim compensation? In most cases, the answer is yes, but there are many considerations.
Getting Into An Accident With An Uninsured Driver
When you are involved in an accident with a driver that is uninsured, your own insurance coverage may include uninsured motorist coverage. In this case, you can use your own policy to cover the damages to your vehicle and your medical expenses, but with certain restrictions. Most insurance companies impose a strict deadline for filing an uninsured motorist claim of 30 days. It is imperative that you or your lawyer contact your insurance company as soon as you find out that the other driver was uninsured. You must alert your insurance company that the other driver was uninsured.
If you are the driver that is uninsured, you can still process a claim against the driver at fault, but you will most likely face penalties from the state for violating insurance laws. Most states have laws requiring all drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. Penalties for not carrying the insurance can significantly complicate your claim process and result in the loss of your license for up to a year. Financial penalties may also result.
Accidents Involving Underinsured Motorists
An accident involving an underinsured motorist is more complicated in determining the amount of coverage you are entitled to receive. Since you won’t know if the responsible party in the accident has enough coverage until after your medical issues are resolved and the damage to your vehicle has been assessed, the 30-day deadline does not apply. Once the damages from your crash are assessed, you can file a claim against the responsible party, but you will be entitled to the maximum amount of coverage that you carry on your own policy. This is intended to deter people from carrying limited amounts of liability insurance and claiming a greater amount from another’s insurance company when an accident occurs.
In a claim against an underinsured motorist, you will only be able to claim the difference between your primary policy’s threshold and the underinsured driver’s policy. For example, if your accident results in $100,000 worth of damages, and the underinsured driver carries $50,000 in coverage, you can submit a claim with your own insurer for $50,000, but only if you have $100,000 or more in coverage on your own policy. You would not be able to carry $50,000 in liability insurance and then claim $100,000 from the underinsured and your own policy.
It is important to note that in uninsured and underinsured motorist claims, you cannot file a legal claim against your primary insurance carrier when you cannot agree on a settlement amount. Instead, you are subject to binding arbitration, which is a legal process that takes place outside of the courtroom. The arbitrator will make the final decision on a settlement, and you will have limited opportunity for appeal. In any case where you are making a claim against an uninsured or underinsured driver, or if you are in an accident without insurance or have a low liability threshold yourself, it is wise to contact an experienced car accident lawyer. Car accident victims can make personal claims against drivers in most cases. These lawsuits can result in significant penalties. An experienced and competent car accident lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected.
What Is Your Recourse After An Accident With An Uninsured Driver?
Auto insurance covers medical expenses and property damage resulting from a crash, but what happens if the other driver involved in your collision does not have insurance? How will you pay these costs, which can often be significant depending on the severity of your accident injuries? Fortunately, you do have some recourse to recover the cost of your damages, even if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver. There are several different options for collecting damages in this scenario. Some involve choosing certain types of auto insurance to protect you in the event you are involved in a wreck with driver who has no car insurance.
- Collision coverage: Collision insurance coverage is available, in addition to your required liability coverage. It covers damage to your vehicle after an accident with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run driver. South Carolina does not require drivers to purchase collision insurance.
- Uninsured motorist coverage: Uninsured motorist coverage (UIM) is additional coverage available for purchase from your auto insurance provider. It protects you if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver when they are at fault for the crash. Car insurance companies are required to offer it to consumers, but it is only mandatory in a few states. UIM is mandatory in South Carolina.
- Lawsuit: Some drivers believe their insurance company should not have to pay for damage caused by an uninsured driver. They may instead choose to file a personal injury lawsuit. In some states, this is not permitted under the law. No-fault car insurance states make residents responsible for paying for their own damages. However, South Carolina is a tort-liability state, where the driver who was not at-fault for a car accident can sue the driver who was at-fault for damages.
If you are considering filing a claim against an uninsured driver, it is important to consider the likelihood of recovering all the compensation you deserve. More than likely, the driver does not carry insurance because they cannot afford it and thus, will not be able to pay you. Before you decide to sue the other driver, your Columbia car accident lawyer may choose to conduct a thorough discovery looking for any hidden assets they may possess. Another option may be to file a claim with your own insurance company. Because every accident is unique, it is important to consult an experienced car accident lawyer before making any important decisions regarding your accident.
11% of South Carolina Drivers Are Uninsured
More than 1 in 10 motorists in South Carolina is uninsured, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). While this is a bit below the national average (of nearly 14 percent of drivers being uninsured), it is still a troubling statistic.
And what may be more distressing are the facts that:
- Far more motorists in South Carolina may be underinsured.
- When uninsured or underinsured motorists cause traffic accidents, crash victims can be left with serious injuries, a pile of bills and limited options for financial recovery.
Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) Coverage Can Be Key to Future Financial Recoveries
South Carolina laws require all drivers to carry UM coverage, but they do not have any requirements when it comes to UIM coverage.
While this may make it tempting to forego UIM coverage (to try to save money), it’s important for motorists to understand that this type of coverage can provide some important protections in the future if an underinsured driver hits them and the resulting damages won’t be covered by the negligent motorist’s existing policy/insurance provider.
Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) Coverage: More Important Info
- UM/UIM coverage can be used following hit-and-runs – Many drivers are unaware of this, but the fact is that damage claims can be filed under UM/UIM policies after hit-and-runs happen (and when the negligent drivers cannot be tracked down). This can be another important reason to have this coverage.
- UM/UIM coverage can have loopholes that benefit insurers – Despite the protections that UM/UIM coverage can offer, these policies can be written to contain some loopholes, and knowing what these loopholes are can be important to understanding when you are (or aren’t) covered. For instance, UM/UIM policies may allow insurers to only pay the remainder of what another insurer doesn’t pay (rather than paying the full value of the policy).
- Just because you have UM/UIM coverage doesn’t mean insurers will honor your policy – Another important issue to be aware of with these policies (or any auto insurance policy, for that matter) is that insurance companies may not always be forthcoming about honoring claims following crashes. In fact, insurers can (and commonly do) try to find ways to reduce claims or deny them entirely. So, the real takeaway here is that insurers are not necessarily on drivers’ sides after crashes happen and it’s time to file claims.
- Pursuing recoveries via UM/UIM claims will work out best with the help of a lawyer – And this is the good news victims need to be aware of, as they can count on a lawyer to help them stand up to insurers, protect their claims to compensation and help them succeed in their financial recoveries.
South Carolina Car Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Help Victims of Car Accidents Claim Compensation
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you may still be able to collect compensation. Call the experienced South Carolina car accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. at 803-929-3600, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our six office locations serve clients throughout South Carolina, including clients in Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County, as well as the towns of Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, Chapin, Rock Hill, Aiken, Sumter, Newberry, Florence, and Spartanburg.