The Driver Who Hit Me Is Underinsured. What Next?

Getting into a car wreck is a difficult time for all involved, and it takes a toll both physically and emotionally. This difficult time even more concerning when insurance coverage is an issue. Oftentimes the most careless of drivers are the least insured and the innocent driver is left wondering how in the world they can pay for the damages.  If the at-fault driver has limited liability coverage, can you still be compensated to the fullest extent of your injuries?

The answer lies in the availability of Underinsured Motorist Coverage (“UIM” coverage). An insurer MUST, under South Carolina law, offer UIM coverage. The insured can, at his or her election, decline that coverage, but the offer must have been made by the insurer, and it must have been in writing. Most of the time the insured has UIM coverage on the vehicle that he is or she is driving, but what if there is no coverage, or what if it is insufficient?

South Carolina case law provides that UIM coverage is both personal and portable, meaning that just because a vehicle at your household is not involved in the accident does not mean that coverage isn’t available for that vehicle. For instance, say you are driving a motorcycle and are involved in a collision with another driver, who is liable. You have elected to have UIM coverage on the motorcycle and you also have your daily sedan in the garage, which also has UIM coverage. South Carolina law permits you “stack” this UIM coverage. Even though the sedan remained garaged, coverage may be available. This covers all vehicles in the household, not just the vehicle you drive on a daily basis.

However, it seems clear per the South Carolina Supreme Court, that if you decline UIM coverage on the vehicle that is involved in the accident, further UIM coverage may be unavailable (see Burgess v. Nationwide, 373 S.C. 37, 644 S.E.2d 40 (2007). In that case, the driver of the motorcycle had declined UIM coverage on his motorcycle but sought coverage under the UIM policies for his other vehicles. The Supreme Court held that personal and portable was still the general rule, but the UIM coverage was unavailable because the vehicle involved in the accident had no UIM coverage.

If you or somebody you know has been involved in an accident, it is wise to seek an attorney to review insurance policies to ensure that all available insurance is exhausted. Please contact one of our personal injury lawyers at Miller|Conway. We are a Charleston car accident lawyers located in Goose Creek handling personal injury cases throughout the Greater South Carolina region, including car accidents in Summerville, North Charleston and Downtown and we are here for you when you need us.

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