In South Carolina, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle without insurance. Unfortunately, many people ignore this law. Despite penalties including fines, losing their license, and a possible jail term, one in eight motorists in the U.S. drive without insurance.
Why does this matter?
If you’re in a road accident, the driver’s insurance covers the cost of damages — including damage to your vehicle and your medical bills. But if you’re in a car accident with an uninsured motorist in South Carolina, you can’t claim from insurance that doesn’t exist.
So what are your options? We explain whether it’s worth suing an uninsured driver for damages.
Check Your Insurance Policy
If you’re in a car accident with an uninsured driver, the first thing you should do — after making sure you’re safe, seeking medical attention, and notifying the police of your accident — is to check your insurance policy.
Does South Carolina Have No-Fault Insurance Laws?
Auto insurance claims are handled differently, with states split into two categories: fault and no-fault.
In fault states, the driver who caused an accident is responsible for paying the damages (such as medical bills, lost wages, and property repairs) of the other injured driver.
In no-fault states, drivers must carry Personal Injury Protection insurance (PIP) to cover their own damages, regardless of whether another party is at fault. However, individuals in no-fault states can still bring a personal injury claim against the person or party responsible and recover damages.
South Carolina does not follow the no-fault insurance law, which means if you’re injured in a car accident caused by someone else, you can recover the costs from them.
However, what good is this if your driver doesn’t have insurance?
Fortunately, you have several options for recovering your costs from an uninsured motorist in South Carolina.
Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage in South Carolina
Many insurance companies allow you to add uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage to your policy, which covers damages when an uninsured driver has caused a car accident by acting recklessly or negligently.
UIM may also be bundled with underinsured motorist coverage, which covers you when a driver has insurance. Still, it’s not enough to cover your damages — such as if you’re in a particularly severe crash that totals your car. In this case, your insurer will “top up” your payout to cover your total losses.
Remember that UIM coverage applies from the date you add it to your policy and is not retroactive, so you must already have this insurance when your accident happens. Insurance companies may also limit how long you have to claim. This will vary by insurer, with some only honoring claims made within 30 days. This means checking your policy and taking action as soon as possible after your car accident is vital.
If you’re just now learning about UIM coverage and you’ve already been in a car accident, consult our car accident lawyers in Greenville, SC, to see if you can still claim compensation from an uninsured driver. If UIM is included in your policy, contacting an attorney can still be beneficial, as we can help you secure a payout from your insurer.
Personal Injury Protection and MedPay
As we’ve already touched on, Personal Injury Protection is a type of liability insurance required in no-fault states to cover expenses after an accident. It’s available as an optional add-on in some fault states — but not in South Carolina.
However, a similar type of insurance called MedPay (Medical Payments Coverage) is offered in its place. There is a slight difference between PIP and MedPay — both types of insurance cover medical costs resulting from an accident, regardless of who is at fault, but PIP also covers a percentage of lost wages — but the terms are often used interchangeably.
MedPay payouts are typically low, especially compared to other types of insurance, and as it’s an optional policy, it will raise your car insurance premium. However, there are benefits to having MedPay — even if you already have health insurance or you’re entitled to file a personal injury claim.
This insurance may cover gaps in your health insurance, especially if you sustain injuries not covered in your policy. MedPay is also available immediately after your accident, which means you can pay your medical bills without settling for a fast payout that may be less than what you deserve.
While you have other options for recovering damages after a car accident with an uninsured driver, they take time. Because MedPay is a no-fault insurance policy — meaning you don’t have to prove another party was at fault before you can secure a payout — it can be useful for quickly recovering a portion of your damages after an accident with an uninsured motorist in South Carolina.
Suing an Uninsured Driver for Damages
Is it worth filing a personal injury claim if you’re in an accident with an uninsured motorist in South Carolina? The answer to that question largely depends on what your car insurance policy covers.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage and you’ve confirmed that the driver responsible for your accident doesn’t have insurance, your first step should be to get in touch with your insurance company.
If the other driver is underinsured, must settle with their insurance carrier first. You can then recover the difference from your insurance company to make up your total losses. Because you must deal with both the driver’s insurance carrier and your own, underinsured motorist coverage claims typically take longer than a standard claim. If you need assistance, a South Carolina car wreck attorney can help you get the compensation you’re entitled to.
If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, you can sue the driver responsible for your accident. A successful car accident claim means you can recover not just your financial damages but also additional compensation for the long-term impact of your injuries, such as your pain, suffering, and mental anguish.
However, you should weigh up whether it’s the right step for you.
The Uninsured Motorist Can’t Afford my Losses: Should I Still Sue?
Rarely, a driver might not have insurance because they forgot to renew. More often, though, drivers are uninsured because they can’t afford it.
If this is the case, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to afford to pay a settlement, so is it even worth hiring a personal injury lawyer?
It could be.
Every personal injury claim involves negotiation, where your lawyer will work to arrange a settlement that fairly compensates you for your accident.
But if the uninsured motorist can’t afford their insurance, they likely won’t be able to cover your losses, so negotiations will likely fail.
You have an option though: to file a lawsuit and take the at-fault driver to trial.
If the case is found in your favor, a judge can authorize a payment plan so you can get the compensation you’re entitled to. This can involve placing a lien on assets such as owned property or seizing a percentage of the defendant’s wages if they have a job.
This situation is far from ideal, as you may have to wait years before you can fully pay the bills you’ve incurred due to your accident.
Claiming Compensation from a Third Party
Depending on the facts of your accident, though, you may be able to claim compensation from another person or party.
For example, if the uninsured driver who caused your car accident was acting in the course of their employment, you may be able to claim compensation from their employer.
In some accidents, such as multi-vehicle crashes, the driver who directly crashes into you isn’t necessarily the party you should seek compensation from.
Let’s say an uninsured driver rear-ends you, but the accident only happened because the uninsured driver was rear-ended by the driver behind them, who was speeding.
While the uninsured driver caused damage to your vehicle, which led you to sustain injuries, you may be able to claim compensation from the driver who instigated the entire accident. This can lead to a much better outcome for you, as the other driver will likely have insurance.
You may also be able to claim compensation from a third party. If your car accident with an uninsured driver happened because the other driver’s brakes failed or tires were faulty, you could claim from the manufacturer responsible for the auto defect. This type of claim is difficult to prove, but it may be an alternative route to suing the uninsured driver for damages.
When you are abiding by the law and are in an accident that wasn’t your fault, it can be devastating to learn that the driver who caused your car accident is uninsured. But you shouldn’t have to suffer and struggle financially when you’ve done nothing wrong.
Car insurance and personal injury can be complex, and you may still be able to recover compensation after your accident. Our car accident lawyers in South Carolina can help you weigh your options and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.