Almost all automobile accident claims involve complex issues surrounding insurance, in more ways that one. One of the first things any attorney who has experience representing victims of car accidents will do when investigating a claim is to determine what insurance policies are in place. This includes anything from liability insurance, any secondary insurance policies and even the existence of health and disability insurance.
First and foremost, all liability insurance should be identified when there is someone else responsible for the accident. This can take many different forms depending on the type of accident and the vehicles involved. For example, in South Carolina, all residence are required to carry a minimum of $25,000.00 in liability insurance on each vehicle. An attorney should always request proof of the liability policy amount in writing to the insurance carrier pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-250.
During certain types of accidents there may be more than one type of liability policy in place. For example, in accidents involving tractor-trailers, there may be one liability policy in place for the driver’s company as an independent contractor, one for the truck company and one for the owner of the trailer. It is important for an attorney to investigate and identify all policies that may be available.
Beyond liability insurance, there are additional types of insurance policies that may be available depending on the type of accident and the extent of the injuries. The most common types would be your own uninsured or underinsured coverage from your own automobile policy.
Uninsured insurance is insurance you carry on your own vehicle that would cover any injuries where the at-fault driver does not have liability insurance. Even though all South Carolina residents are required to carry liability insurance, there are many times when the at-fault driver does not have insurance in place for whatever reason. As an attorney, I always recommend people carry large amounts of uninsured insurance because someone driving without liability insurance, in my opinion as an attorney, behaving recklessly and may be subject to punitive damages.
Underinsured insurance is insurance you carry on your own vehicle that can kick in after the at-fault driver’s liability insurance has been paid out the amount is not enough to cover your injuries. For example, if your medical expenses following an accident are $100,000.00 and the at-fault driver only has $25,000.00 in liability insurance, your underinsured policy would kick in to provide additional coverage. Underinsured coverage is unique because South Carolina law allows you to stack multiple policies from several vehicles under certain situations.
It is also important that accident victims use their own health insurance after an automobile accident. Although that may not sound fair, in the long run, using your own health insurance puts you in a much better place when you go to settle your claim. This is because South Carolina law allows you to recover your “total, unadjusted” cost of medical treatment after an accident. For example, if your medical expenses cost $100,000 but your health insurance company only paid $50,000 and your co-pay was $10,000, you would still be basing the value of your claim on the full $100,000 in medical expenses.
Both short-term and long-term disability can be very helpful after an automobile accident. Although the law allows you to recover for lost wages due to your accident, it can take time for you claim to settle. Even though you may be required to pay back a certain amount of disability insurance, it can provide you with a means of income in the event you are unable to work for an extended period of time
If you have been involved in an automobile accident in South Carolina and have any specific questions about insurance issues, please feel free to contact our Charleston law office and we will be more than happy to assist you with your questions. You can fill out the quick contact form or you can simply call us at 843-991-6528. We look forward to answering any questions you may have.