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.