What most people call "car accidents" may be more accurately described as "the consequence of one driver violating our safety rules and causing harm to another person." For instance, no one "accidentally" drives drunk, looks down to send a text message, or speeds through a busy school zone. These are all choices a driver makes - choices that endanger families across South Carolina. When these reckless choices cause a wreck, the victim may seek punitive damages not only for bodily injuries they suffer, but also for property damage.
For example, let's say you are sitting at a red light, and a drunk driver crashes into you from behind. Your injuries could range from temporary whiplash to permanent back damage. Either way, you have the right to seek punitive damages against the drunk driver due to their reckless act. Likewise, South Carolina auto accident law allows you to pursue punitive damages for the costs associated with fixing or replacing your vehicle.
Why is this distinction important? Simply put, the at-fault driver might not have enough insurance coverage under their bodily injury policy to fully compensate you for your harm. Let's say the drunk or distracted driver who caused your accident has only a minimum limits policy of $25,000.00 for bodily injury and $25,000.00 for property damage, yet your medical bills alone are $30,000.00. In this scenario, the at-fault driver's insurance company is going to tell you that they will pay the bodily injury limits of $25,000.00. They will also offer to pay fair market value to fix or replace your car. What they are not going to volunteer is that you should probably be paid the entire property damage limits ($25,000.00) regardless of how much it costs to fix your car. Why are they going to leave out this information? Easy, insurance companies want to save money. Why should you receive money for property damage beyond the costs of your vehicle? Because punitive damages are not intended to compensate you for losses alone, but also to punish the reckless driver for endangering our entire community.
South Carolina auto accident law is clear: victims of reckless, drunk, or distracted drivers can receive punitive damages from both the bodily injury and property damage portions of the at fault driver's insurance policy. Don't trust an insurance adjuster to share this type of critical information with you or deal with you fairly. Instead, contact me today and learn what you can do to make sure your rights are fully protected. For free copies of my books as well as a free consultation, call 803-790-2800.