We recently had a client who was badly injured in a motor vehicle collision. South Carolina requires all drivers to carry at least $25,000 in liability insurance for personal injury. It is separate from collision (property) coverage. Liability insurance is used to pay for any medical care for someone the driver hurts.
Plus, South Carolina law requires all drivers to have uninsured coverage of at least $25,000, which is used to pay your own medical bills if you’re hit by a driver without any insurance.
But as we know, a simple hospital visit can eat up $25,000 in a snap. In our case, the client’s truck was struck by another truck, causing broken bones and other injuries. His hospital bills are more than double the amount of the at-fault driver’s liability coverage.
So how can you protect yourself in the event you’re badly injured by someone with only the minimum coverage?
You can ask your insurance agent about underinsured coverage.
Underinsured coverage, or UIM, will help fill in the gap between an at-fault driver’s liability coverage and the costs of your injuries. Under South Carolina law, your insurance carrier must offer UIM whenever you buy or renew your automobile police. It is an additional cost, but it’s relatively small for the amount of coverage you can obtain. And if you need it, it’s priceless.
Here’s how it works:
Assume you are injured when Driver A rams into your car while you are stopped at light. Driver A is deemed at fault. You are taken to the hospital with a broken wrist. The fracture is set, you go back for follow-up visits, and you need a few weeks of physical therapy to maintain range of motion and strength.
Your medical bills amount to $50,000, plus you missed several days of work. But Driver A only has the minimum required $25,000 in liability insurance — not enough to cover your bills, let alone pain and suffering.
If you have UIM, you or your attorney can contact your insurance company and seek coverage under that policy. If your insurer refuses to pay the UIM coverage, or refuses to pay enough of it, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver and get to your UIM.
Talk with your agent, but using your UIM is not supposed to cause your rates to increase.
- Wes B. Allison