In South Carolina, the minimum limit for liability insurance coverage is $25,000. If you were in a car wreck with someone who has only $25,000 in coverage, yet your damages are anything but “minimum,” you are not without options.
1. You can pursue compensation from your own car insurance company if you have underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage.
UIM coverage is designed to protect you when a driver with an insufficient amount of insurance causes serious harm. Under some circumstances you can actually “stack” the UIM policies from all your vehicles. To find out whether you have UIM coverage, request a copy of your "declaration pages" from your insurance carrier. If your auto insurer claims you do not have a UIM policy, ask them to provide "proof of rejection." If you have questions about stacking, proof of rejection, or policy reformation, I am glad to provide you with answers at no charge.
2. Research whether the at-fault driver has any assets or excess liability policies that may apply.
Most drivers with minimum limits coverage have few, if any assets. There are, however, exceptions to that rule. You can research property ownership online or hire a law firm to find out whether the negligent driver could provide compensation on top of what his insurance carrier pays you. In addition, if the defendant was driving someone else's car at the time of the wreck, he may own a different vehicle that has applicable liability coverage you can recover.
3. Identify whether there are any other potential defendants.
In some instances, the at-fault driver is not the only negligent party. For example, she may have been "overserved" at a bar before getting on the roadway. Likewise, the driver may have been "on the clock" for a company at the time of the accident. In this latter case, you may be able to reach the company's insurance policy.
4. Request that your medical bills and health insurance liens be reduced.
If you have health insurance, make sure your medical providers file your bills with your health insurer. At the end of the case, you can then contact your health insurer, explain that the at-fault driver only had minimum limits, and request that the “health insurance lien” be reduced in light of the limited coverage. Similarly, you may contact any medical provider with whom you have an outstanding balance and make the same request. Most health insurers and hospitals will provide a substantial reduction when they learn there is a limited amount of auto insurance money available.
Car accidents with underinsured drivers do not always lead to injustice and small payouts in South Carolina. There are a number of avenues to pursue, and I would be honored to help you pursue them. Allow me to take the burden off your shoulders by calling 803-790-2800.