Insurance Law and Automobile Accidents – UIM Coverage
DO I NEED UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE?
To operate a vehicle in South Carolina, you are required by law to maintain
at least $25,000 in liability insurance coverage and $25,000 in uninsured
motorist (UM) insurance coverage on that vehicle. The liability coverage
protects you and your assets up to the amount of your coverage should
you be at fault in an accident and injuries occur to the other party.
Likewise, if the other party is at fault and you are injured, their liability
coverage is triggered to compensate you for your injuries. If the at-fault
party does not have liability insurance, then injured party’s UM
coverage is triggered. But what happens when the at-fault party has $25,000
in liability coverage, but this is not enough to compensate you for your
injuries? Many times the only additional source of recovery is an optional
coverage known as underinsured motorist coverage (UIM).
UIM is triggered in the event that an at fault party’s liability
coverage is exhausted, but the injured party has not been fully compensated
for their injuries. While South Carolina law does not require that vehicle
owners purchase and maintain UIM coverage, it does require that insurance
providers expressly offer and explain the coverage to a policyholder and
have that policyholder expressly decline to purchase the coverage. In
addition, if you purchase UIM coverage and there are multiple cars with
UIM coverage under the same policy, you may be able to “stack”
the UIM coverage for each car under the policy to provide you with additional
levels of recovery.
You may think that since it is not required by law and because you are
a safe driver, saving a little money by declining this coverage option
is a smart decision. Simply put, it is not. This coverage is designed
to protect you from the negligence of others. It doesn’t matter
how safe of a driver you are, there is little to nothing you can do to
prevent a drunk or distracted driver from running a stop sign, blindsiding
you or a loved one, and costing your family thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Unfortunately, minimum liability and uninsured coverage limits do not adequately
reflect today’s costs of medical treatment. A trip to the emergency
room, x-rays, and rehabilitative care can quickly amount to medical bills
far in excess of the minimum coverage required by law. If injuries are
catastrophic, medical bills can reach into the millions. Without adequate
UIM coverage, there is frequently not enough in insurance coverage proceeds
to compensate you adequately for your injuries. Even worse, lack of adequate
coverage may result in you being engulfed in debt for medical expenses
that were a result of someone else’s negligence. UIM coverage is
critical in providing much needed financial security for you and your
family should you an accident that is not your fault resulting in severe injuries.
If you have questions about your insurance coverage or if you have been
involved in an automobile accident, please contact our firm today at 803-765-2935
to discuss your rights.