Getting into a car accident can be stressful enough. Getting into a car accident while uninsured or underinsured, or getting into an accident with an underinsured motorist, introduces even more causes for alarm. In the state of South Carolina, auto insurance requirements are clearly defined, as are the consequences for driving while uninsured.
Legal Requirements for Auto Insurance in South Carolina
By law, vehicle owners in South Carolina have two options when it comes to car insurance requirements. They can choose to pay a $600 uninsured motorist fee each year or they can buy a car insurance policy that meets a set of minimum requirements.
The minimum coverage requirements for liability insurance are:
- $25,000 for property damage per accident
- $25,000 for bodily injury per person
- $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
In addition to minimum liability insurance, motorists in South Carolina are also required to meet minimum requirements for uninsured motorist coverage, as follows:
- $25,000 for uninsured motorist property damage per accident
- $25,000 for uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
- $50,000 for uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
You must carry proof of car insurance (or proof of the annual uninsured motorist fee) whenever you are driving. Proof is also required when applying for or renewing your driver’s license, and when you are registering your car.
Of course, you can purchase any liability coverage that exceeds these minimum requirements. Auto collision and comprehensive coverage are optional in South Carolina, as well.
Penalties for Not Carrying the Required Insurance
What are the potential consequences if a police officer pulls you over and you fail to present proof of financial responsibility, either in the form of the uninsured motorist fee or minimum car insurance? The penalties for driving uninsured in South Carolina escalate with repeat offenses.
On the first offense, you will be charged with the following:
- Uninsured motorist fee of $600
- A fine of up to $200 or 30 days imprisonment
- Daily fine of $5 for the lapse in required coverage, up to a maximum of $200
- Suspension of vehicle registration and driver’s license
To reinstate your license and registration, you must pay a $200 reinstatement fee and file an SR-22 form for three years. The latter can lead to an increase in your car insurance rates.
On the second offense, you receive both a $200 fine and 30 days imprisonment, plus the same daily lapsed coverage fine, registration and license suspension, and reinstatement requirements as the first offense. On the third and subsequent offenses, imprisonment increases to between 45 days and 6 months.
Even if you are driving a vehicle that you do not own, if it is uninsured, your driver’s license will still be suspended for 30 days, and you will still be required to pay the same reinstatement fee. Driving without insurance could be a misdemeanor on your record as well.
What Happens in an Accident With No Insurance?
Driving while uninsured in South Carolina can already lead to hefty fines and other repercussions. If you get into a car accident without insurance, the problems are further complicated by potential legal and civil consequences. These can prove especially costly, depending on the specifics of the auto accident.
Like most other states, South Carolina has fault-based car insurance. What this means is that the at-fault party in the vehicle collision is potentially liable for any damages suffered by the other party (or parties). Normally, victims seek compensation from the at-fault party’s insurer. This would include both property damage, like repairing the damaged vehicle, as well as bodily injury and other financial losses. The claim would proceed as expected.
If the at-fault party in the car accident is uninsured, the victims can sue them personally to recoup their losses. If the victims win, then the at-fault party would have to pay for all damages out of their own pocket. This is in addition to all the fines, fees and potential imprisonment outlined above.
Possible Actions for Victims of a Car Crash
There are two main scenarios to consider, depending on the severity and extent of damages.
If you are the victim of a car crash with an underinsured or uninsured driver, the uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage from your own insurance policy should take care of you. Your insurance company should cover costs related to property damage and bodily injury up to your policy limits, like medical bills and vehicle repairs. They will then pursue reimbursement from the at-fault driver on your behalf.
However, if the damages incurred exceed the uninsured motorist coverage, then the victim may need to consider the civil claims process to recover these costs. This would then require a personal injury lawsuit involving the courts.