Increasing South Carolina auto insurance coverage can increase protection

By J. Richards McCrae

In another article, I explained South Carolina auto insurance coverage requirements and why those minimums are not enough when a person has been involved in a major accident.

I advise my clients to, whenever possible, increase bodily injury and property damage coverage beyond the minimums of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per occurrence/$25,000 property damage. Increasing this coverage will protect you and your assets when you have been deemed to have caused an accident. By that same token, I encourage clients to look into obtaining other types of coverage that offer additional protection when they have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence. Below is a discussion of some of the additional coverages that you can purchase.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

South Carolina underinsured coverage comes into play when the at-fault driver has coverage but not enough to adequately compensate you for your injuries and damages. A person who has this type of coverage can make a claim against his or her own policy after the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier has reached the bodily injury coverage limits. A simple trip to the emergency room can easily cost thousands of dollars, and medical bills can quickly pile up. When this happens, $25,000 is not enough to cover all of your damages. Underinsured coverage helps make you whole.

While underinsured motorist coverage is not required under South Carolina law, I strongly believe it critically important for all drivers to purchase this additional coverage. It is relatively inexpensive and well worth the added costs should you ever find yourself in need of it.

Personal Injury Protection/Medical Payments

Personal injury protection and medical payments coverage, sometimes called PIP and MedPay, are what are commonly referred to as “no-fault” coverage. This means that these types of coverage will pay you and any passenger in your vehicle for medical expenses stemming from an accident, regardless of who was at-fault. PIP and MedPay pay even if a third-party, such as your health insurance carrier or an at-fault driver’s auto insurance carrier, has paid or will eventually pay for those very same medical expenses. Some insurance carriers permit you to recover lost wages through to PIP and MedPay, although this is less common.

These coverages are normally offered in amounts of $1,000 to $5,000, although policies of $10,000 and up also are available. PIP and MedPay benefits are usually inexpensive to purchase and easy to recover following a motor vehicle accident.

Do I have enough auto insurance coverage?

When I ask clients about auto-insurance coverage, they frequently tell me “I’m fully covered.” However, in most cases, “fully covered” simply means that they have collision coverage along with the state-mandated liability and uninsured motorist coverages.

Rarely do these “fully covered” clients carry underinsured, PIP or MedPay coverage. Furthermore, even when clients have underinsured coverage, it is often just the minimal amount ($25,000), which is not much help if there are $100,000 or more in medical bills.

Moreover, if you are at fault in a car wreck that causes catastrophic injuries, having only $25,000 or $50,000 in bodily injury coverage leaves you financially exposed in a lawsuit seeking damages beyond those amounts. Bank deposits, stock portfolios, vehicles and real property, including your home, are subject to court judgments.

Increasing your coverage or purchasing additional coverages obviously translates into higher premiums. However, if you can afford it, the peace of mind in knowing that you and your family are protected is worth the additional costs. The additional coverage not only protects your assets when your found to be at fault in an accident, but it also insulates you from large medical bills and significant wage loss when the wreck isn’t your fault.

The costs might not be as great as you fear either. Adding underinsured, PIP and MedPay coverage usually adds only a few dollars a month to your auto-insurance bill. You can contact your insurance agent to review your policy and discuss your options.

J. Richards McCrae is a partner at Morton & Gettys Law Firm in Rock Hill, South Carolina. His practice includes personal injury and civil litigation. You can reach him at 803.366.3388 or richards.mccrae@mortongettys.com.

Information or interaction on this page should not be construed as establishing a client-attorney relationship or as legal advice. For advice about your specific situation, please consult one of our attorneys.

J. Richards McCrae III

Partner

P 803.366.3388  F 803.366.4044