What If You Get in an Accident With an Uninsured Driver?

In South Carolina, an attorney can help you seek compensation through your own policy

No matter how safe and attentive you are when you are behind the wheel, there is always a risk that you could be involved in a serious car accident. Even a minor fender bender can ruin your day. Though, if you were involved a crash that was caused by another driver and you find out that driver does not have car insurance coverage, the frustration can be downright overwhelming.

The good news is that you have legal options available.

Auto Insurance is Required, But Many Still Don’t Have It

Under state law, South Carolina drivers are legally required to obtain sufficient insurance coverage. As explained by the Department of Insurance, drivers in the state are required to carry at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in bodily injury insurance coverage. That being said, it’s not unheard of to encounter an uninsured driver.

In fact, according to data from the Insurance Information Institute, approximately 9.4 percent of drivers in South Carolina are uninsured. Added to that is the number of drivers who are underinsured—meaning they opted for the bare minimum, and it fails to cover all the costs associated with an accident.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

“In South Carolina, there is a provision of insurance coverage that is required called uninsured motorist coverage. That’s the coverage that would come into play if you’re involved in a wreck with a driver who doesn’t have insurance at all,” says Sydney Lynn, an injury attorney at Joye Law Firm in Columbia. In that case, you file the claim under your own insurance, rather than theirs.

The same process would be true for another type of coverage, though this one is not required in South Carolina: underinsured motorist coverage. This comes into play if you’re involved in an accident with someone whose insurance limits aren’t enough to cover your damages or bills. “Let’s say you’re in a bad wreck that involves an ambulance ride to the hospital and you’re admitted. That $25,000 is going to be exhausted quickly. So we encourage people to get the underinsured coverage on their own policy,” Lynn says.

Lynn likewise encourages clients to increase their coverage beyond the minimums required—“bump it up to at least to $50,000 or $100,000,” she says. “That’s usually not too cost-prohibitive.”

Do You Need a Lawyer?

“It’s fair to say that, anytime you are injured, you should talk to a lawyer to find out if they should get involved or not,” Lynn says. “Any good lawyer will tell you if you don’t need us. We only want to get involved in situations where we can create a benefit for you and improve your situation.”

If you navigate it on your own, it is crucial that you remember that an insurance claim is a fundamentally adversarial process. “Keep in mind the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company, so they aren’t necessarily telling you everything you need to know when it comes to negotiating a settlement on a claim. They might not offer fair value because their objective is to save money for their employer,” Lynn adds.

What to Do If You’re in a Wreck

If you are involved in a crash with an uninsured driver, you need to be sure to obtain as much information about the accident as you possibly can. This includes the driver’s name, their vehicle information, photographs, and contact information for any eyewitnesses.

Calling police when an accident occurs—even if it seems minor—is always advisable, but it’s especially true in accidents involving an uninsured driver because the officer can note it in their official report. Lynn also advises clients to seek out a copy of the collision report after the fact.

“Make every decision to the tune of: Better safe than sorry,” Lynn says. “If you say, ‘Oh, my back is a little sore but I’ll be fine in a couple of days,’ you can wait, but if you don’t improve, you need to get into a doctor to get those symptoms documented.” An insurance company could later argue that waiting worsened your condition or, during the wait, something other than the accident occurred.

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