One of the problems that we run into time and time again is finding enough insurance coverage to cover the damages associated with our client’s injuries. In South Carolina, car owners are required to carry insurance on their cars in case they cause injury to someone else with their car. By law, these insurance policies must provide at least a certain dollar-amount of coverage – “minimum limits”. When our client has been hurt badly enough to have to spend the night in the hospital or to require surgery, a minimum limits policy may not have enough money available to compensate the client.
This is where underinsured motorist coverage can help – also known as “UIM”. Underinsured motorist coverage is different from uninsured motorist coverage, but those differences are a subject for another day. Underinsured motorist coverage is an optional coverage that our client may have paid for that provides additional available coverage when the client’s damages exceed the insurance funds available under the at-fault driver’s liability policy. It is “optional” because car owners are not required by law to buy this coverage, but I have seen so many occasions where this coverage made the difference in someone’s case and in their life. On the other side, I have seen heartbreaking cases where the at-fault driver did not have enough insurance coverage available and our client did not have any underinsured motorist coverage. Next time you talk to your insurance agent, I recommend asking about “UIM” coverage.
I recently learned something new about underinsured motorist coverage. What happens if you are driving and are hit by another car, you come to a stop, and then are hit by another car – and suffer severe injuries? Once you have exhausted the available liability coverage, can you recover on your underinsured motorist coverage one time because it was one “accident”, or two times because it was two “accidents”? A recent South Carolina case used the “causation theory analysis”, which looks at the timing between the two collisions and whether the negligence of the first driver set all the subsequent events in motion. See Johnson v. Hunter, Op. No. 4644 (S.C. Ct. App. Jan. 11, 2010). If the second collision was only a few moments after the first, and if the second driver had no time to see you or avoid the collision, then it is probably one “accident” for purposes of underinsured motorist coverage.
Most people don’t know what kind of insurance coverage they have until after a car accident in South Carolina . But when you are seriously injured, the types and amounts of coverage that you carry suddenly become very important. If you haven’t had an accident recently, make time to talk to your insurance agent about your coverage. If you have been in an accident, ask someone with experience whether there may be available coverage that the insurance company isn’t telling you about.
The information relayed in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. The cases referenced and explained by the blog’s author(s) are for informational purposes only and are not intended to imply that certain, or similar, results may be achieved in each client’s case.