Did You Know...Your Insurance Company Will Represent an Uninsured Driver Against You?

In an effort to help you the consumer be more aware of what really happens with your insurance premiums, I want to make sure you understand what happens when the real world collides with the insurance world. 

Hypothetical, or Example:

Suppose you are in South Carolina driving your beautiful wife and young child to church one morning when suddenly and without warning a drunk driver passes out at the wheel behind you and plows into your vehicle causing serious personal injuries. The drunk driver stumbles away from the scene but is later found at the convenient store nearby trying to buy beer. The police come do an investigation as you and your family are taken off by EMS to a nearby hospital and you eventually get to talk to the trooper that investigated the collision. The trooper indicates the driver was arrested for drunk driving (the driver's 4th), driving under suspension and disorderly conduct. He will probably be released from jail soon since no one died and since he doesn't really have any money, the fines will be a moot point. Drunk driver has no insurance on the vehicle because he could not afford it and lives in a van by the river (so no assets). 

Question:

1) Who pays for the medical bills, damaged property, permanent scarring, surgeries, and months on end of an altered lifestyle all because of this idiot?

2) Do you think the EMS transportation, medical services, car dealership, towing company, plastic surgeon, therapist, and rental company all will work for free out of the kindness of their hearts?

 

Answer:

1) In the state of South Carolina the law is that every driver must carry liability insurance and uninsured insurance to drive on the roadways in the state. That is it. Any additional coverage is up to you and what you are savvy enough to get with the right insurance company and agent.

So using the hypothetical above, the family injured would have to file a claim against their own automobile insurance company to try and be reimbursed and brought back to the position they were in before the drunk driver ever struck them.

Do you think that means your own insurance company will bend over backwards to help you OR do you think that means your own insurance company that you pay the premiums on will stand in front of the drunk driver and work against you to minimize what you receive?  Let me answer that for you...the later.

What if you have to file a law suit? Who represents the drunk? Well your insurance company provides an attorney that will look to be representing his interest and would actually sit at the drunk's table in front of the jury at a trial. 

That is why it is important to get a good insurance company focused on its members instead of a poor insurance company focused on their bottom line. In my opinion the top poor insurance companies are Allstate, Esurance, Safeco, and Direct General. It doesn't mean your insurance company is great if I didn't just list it, these are just the worst. 

2) No those services are not free and they will send you to collections if you do not pay them within 90 days regardless of who is at fault. They provide services and they want their money for those services. 

 

Stay tuned for more real life scenarios. To better educate yourself on insurance read these posts. 

 

"Full Coverage" Automobile Insurance

 

How Do Insurance Companies Make Money?

Six People Injured in Anderson County: Minimum Automobile Insurance Review

The minimum limits for automobile insurance in the state of South Carolina are $25,000.00 per person for bodily injury, $50,000.00 for all persons per accident in bodily injury, and $25,000.00 per accident in property damage. (Current through the date of this blog post).  Every driver must carry liability coverage for harm, or injury, they may cause others and uninsured coverage to protect themselves from others not following the rules, ie when harmed, or injured, by drivers without automobile insurance. (For a more in depth analysis feel free to read the actual South Carolina Code on Automobile Insurance, S.C. Code Ann. 38-77-10, et al.)

I have discussed the term "full coverage" on previous blog posts and will only revisit it to say, 90% of clients I assist think they have full coverage and they do not. There is a two inch thick reference book by my desk entitled, "The Law of Automobile Insurance in South Carolina", so understand there are many twists and turns in the world of insurance law. There are two main items everyone should add to the minimum coverage, underinsured coverage and Personal Injury Protection, because these items protect your interest instead of you depending on the general population having enough insurance coverage when you are seriously injured.

Let's make all these facts and figures relevant:

  • Example 1: The Anderson Independent reported that six people were injured on Sunday, August 19, 2012, "Six Hospitalized in Sunday Morning Collision." Let's assume only one driver was responsible for the collision, albeit an accident and not intentional, and was not one of the six injured. If that at fault driver has minimum insurance coverage, the most any one of those six people could receive for their injuries, without pursuing personal assets of the at fault driver, is $25,000.00. The most all six injured parties could receive under the same example, is $50,000.00  aggregate between all six of them.  But what if one party had a broken arm that required surgery? That doesn't change the fact that the only amount of coverage the at fault driver has is $25,000.00 per person per accident in bodily injury and $50,000.00 for all persons per accident. That is why it is important to make sure you have underinsured coverage and PIP coverage. Nobody will watch out for your interest more than you.
  • Example 2: Also reported recently by the Anderson Independent was a fatality when a motorcycle driver lost control of his bike and was killed. "Clemson Motorcyclist Killed in Accident on Liberty Highway." There was apparently no other vehicle involved and was merely an accident with no other party being negligent, or liable. Therefore the only relevant automobile insurance coverage would be PIP, or medpay, and only if the driver incurred medical expenses prior to his untimely death. The only party is the driver and you can not pursue your own liability coverage against yourself in a collision. See also "Single Car Accident Leave Drivers and Passengers with Few Options."

When you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision and been injured, you want to make sure at the very least you have your interests protected within your own insurance coverage. Your right, that is not fair because it was the fault of someone else and they should take care of all your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, permanent disfigurement, and loss of earning capacity. Fill in the blank, "Nobody said life was _____." Plus, if they have minimum coverage they are doing everything required of them by South Carolina law. Good luck trying to get a judgment against personal assets that don't exit, too. I have several outstanding judgments, one against a 19 year old that will most likely never own anything and one against a now defunct corporation. We've all heard the saying, "Can't get blood out of a turnip." Well that's true.

Hit-and-Run Accidents in South Carolina: What You Need to Know

I would imagine lawlessness abounds greatly in every state but lately it seems so many people are driving without any automobile insurance and/or not even stopping after being involved in a collision if they are able to drive away. 

South Carolina law is clear on the requirements a driver involved in a hit-and-run must meet in order to pursue their own "uninsured" insurance coverage.  S.C. Code 38-77-170 copied below states:

 SECTION 38-77-170. Conditions to sue or recover under uninsured motorist provision when owner or operator of motor vehicle causing injury or damage is unknown.

If the owner or operator of any motor vehicle which causes bodily injury or property damage to the insured is unknown, there is no right of action or recovery under the uninsured motorist provision, unless:

(1) the insured or someone in his behalf has reported the accident to some appropriate police authority within a reasonable time, under all the circumstances, after its occurrence;

(2) the injury or damage was caused by physical contact with the unknown vehicle, or the accident must have been witnessed by someone other than the owner or operator of the insured vehicle; provided however, the witness must sign an affidavit attesting to the truth of the facts of the accident contained in the affidavit;

(3) the insured was not negligent in failing to determine the identity of the other vehicle and the driver of the other vehicle at the time of the accident. (emphasis added).

Some people will try and manipulate the system so there have to be checks and balances to ensure some validity to what is being offered. Otherwise in rural areas of South Carolina every accident "avoiding a deer" would be claimed as a hit and run. Too bad the deer don't carry insurance or have assets.

 

 

Bad Economy Leads More Drivers to Drop Insurance

M.P. McQueen of "The Wall Street Journal" reports that:

More drivers are letting their car insurance lapse because of the sour economy, putting themselves and others at risk........

Ms. McQueen quoted Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, as saying:

"A good proportion of people on the road are either uninsured or underinsured, and so you have to protect yourself... "

"Your odds of being in an accident with an uninsured driver are substantial."

As I reported in my "Full Coverage"  article:

Minimum insurance limits in the South Carolina are mandated by S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-140 and at the present time are 25,000/50,000/25,000. Likewise, UM, or uninsured coverage is mandatory but you should carry higher than the minimum limits.

Insurance coverages that protect you when someone is uninsured, underinsured, or is covered with Allstate are below: (insurance companies don't want you to know about them because it costs them money in the long run):

  1. UIM- In accordance with S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-160, this is optional coverage you can purchase in the event that damages are sustained in excess of the liability limits carried by an at-fault insured (driver) or underinsured motorist. Remember minimum coverage is $25,000.00 per one person.
  2. UM-This is uninsured coverage and essentially your insurance company will defend the at fault person against you. HUH? Read it again. That's right! You're own insurance company defends the uninsured person against you. Why? Insurance companies don't make money paying you money, that includes your insurance company. Call and ask them if you think I am being untruthful.
  3. PIP/MEDPAY- This is the greatest insurance ever. If you do not have it, you're an idiot. It's cheap, too.
  4. GAP Coverage-Gap insurance covers the difference between what the insurance company says your car is worth versus what's left on your car loan, or note.