If you’ve been injured in South Carolina and had to file a personal injury claim against a person or business, one factor that may greatly affect the outcome is the responsible party’s insurance policy limit. In other words, your financial recovery might be impacted by how much insurance coverage the other person/company had at the time of the accident. On the other hand, you never want to simply take the insurance company’s word when it comes to the amount of available coverage. We have been involved in at least one case where the insurance policy limits were 10 times greater than what that other side originally claimed.
Insurance policies cover almost every injury case, including cases involving car accidents, dangerous products, medical malpractice and more. Because insurance coverage can be a confusing topic, we often hear questions from injured people who are unsure about how much insurance is available and what to do if their damages are not covered by the at fault party’s insurer. I’ve written this brief article to provide clarity.
If you have additional questions or would simply like to speak to a member of our legal team about your situation, we are here to help. Our injury lawyers are well-versed in the laws surrounding South Carolina insurance policies and can help determine how best to maximize your recovery. Contact us today for a free consultation by calling (803) 790-2800, filling out the contact form on our site, or starting a live chat below.
Understanding Policy Limits and How They Can Affect the Outcome of Your Case in South Carolina
In an injury case, the insurance policy limits represent the largest amount of money an insurance company will pay toward a claim. These limits are determined by the type of insurance coverage the at fault party had at the time of the accident.
Car Accident Policy Limits
Insurance coverage varies from driver to driver. In South Carolina, the minimum auto insurance policy limit for noncommercial policies is $25,000 per person, but they can go up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, in coverage. If you were hit by a drunk driver, you may also be able to file an additional claim against the commercial insurance policy of the bar or restaurant that overserved the driver.
Truck Accident Policy Limits
If you were hit by an 18-wheeler or another commercial vehicle, the policy limits will be higher than if you were injured by the driver of a passenger car. Federal law requires that commercial trucks and 18-wheelers carry at least $750,000 in liability coverage to protect other drivers. However, the policy limits on commercial vehicle policies often reach into the millions because these large vehicles can cause severe injuries when involved in a wreck and the companies that own them have many assets at stake they want to protect.
Medical Malpractice Policy Limits
While South Carolina law does not require physicians to have medical malpractice insurance, most hospitals do require their physicians to have it before they are able to start practicing. The average requirement in our state is $1,000,000 per claim and $3,000,000 per year. However, there is a cap of $350,000 on non-economic damages in South Carolina, which means that you cannot receive more than $350,000 for damages like pain and suffering, lost enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.
Product Liability Policy Limits
In product liability cases, or a case where a malfunctioning or dangerous product caused you harm, you may be able to file a claim against multiple parties, including the manufacturer and the distributor of the product. The policy limits in these cases vary, but an attorney can help you identify what insurance coverage is available for recovery.
Premises Liability Policy Limits
If you were injured on a private individual’s property, the insurance policy limits will depend on how much homeowners’ insurance the person had. In cases involving commercial property such as a restaurant or hotel, you may be able to file a claim against a comprehensive general liability policy.
How to Find Out Someone’s Insurance Policy Limits
In many cases, whoever caused you harm is not going to simply tell you how much insurance coverage is available for you to recover. However, in South Carolina there is a law (38-77-250) that says the at fault party’s insurance carrier must tell you the insurance policy limits if certain criteria are met. An accident attorney can help you determine if those standards have been met, so you can identify how much coverage is on the table.
At our personal injury firm, we are often forced to send out multiple requests for information concerning the policy limits. In some situations, when the insurance company refuses to divulge this information or insists on ignoring SC law, we are forced to file a lawsuit to identify the full amount of insurance coverage.
What Happens When Damages Exceed Insurance Limits?
In some situations, especially in cases where there was a serious injury with high medical bills or where there are multiple injured people, the insurance policy limits are not great enough to cover all the damages. In South Carolina, if your damages exceed the insurance limits, you have a few options:
1. File a Claim Against Multiple Insurance Policies
Some people and businesses have what is called an “umbrella policy.” Umbrella policies are excess liability policies that provide financial protection in addition to other basic insurance coverage, like car insurance or homeowners insurance. If the person or business that caused your injury has an umbrella policy, you may be able to file an additional claim against it to make a larger financial recovery that covers all your damages.
2. File a Claim Against Multiple Defendants
In some cases, there might be multiple parties that are responsible for the harm you have experienced. Some examples of this include:
If you were hit by a drunk driver, you may be able to file a claim against the driver as well as the bar or restaurant that overserved him.
In a truck wreck case, both the trucking company and the broker might be held accountable.
In medical malpractice cases, the hospital and the doctor may both be defendants for the medical negligence that led to your injury.
3. File an Underinsured Claim With Your Own Insurer
If you were injured in a car accident and the other driver’s insurance doesn’t fully cover your damages, you can file a claim with your own underinsured motorist (UIM) carrier if you have one. UIM policies are a financial safety net that can help ensure you have enough money to cover medical bills and lost wages after a serious car wreck. Learn more about UIM policies here.
4. Collect from the Defendant’s Personal Assets
You may go to court and have a lien placed against the defendant’s property or wages, but if the defendant has little or no assets, it may be impossible to collect. It is typically very difficult to make a substantial recovery using this method.
Can You Get More Compensation Than the Policy Limits After an Injury?
Though it’s uncommon to recover more than the policy limits in an injury case, it is possible if the insurance company acts in bad faith, which means the at fault party’s insurance provider failed to settle the claim for a reasonable amount within the policy limits when you (the plaintiff) were willing to settle.
In this situation, you and your personal injury attorney can take the case to trial and allow a jury to decide how much the insurer should pay. If you win your case, the insurer may be responsible for paying you the full amount of damages through a jury verdict.
How a South Carolina Injury Attorney Can Help You Secure the Insurance Policy Limits
If the damages in your case warrant it, an injury lawyer can take multiple legal steps to help you secure the insurance policy limits – perhaps from multiple insurers or defendants. The lawyer can file a demand for the policy limits with the insurance carrier, file a lawsuit against stubborn insurance providers, and take your case to trial if they refuse to pay.
At our South Carolina injury firm, we put our clients’ needs first. We are here to help you navigate the legal system and ensure you secure a full, fair recovery – whether that is through a settlement or a jury verdict. Contact us today to see how we can help by calling (803) 790-2800 or by starting a live chat below. We look forward to speaking with you.