If you’re hurt in a Horry County car accident caused by another driver, you’re entitled to file a third-party claim against that negligent driver’s insurance company for your economic and non-economic damages. Your compensation can include:
- All medical expenses to treat injuries suffered in the crash
- Wages lost since the wreck, as well as wages you’ll lose in the future
- Long-term care if you’re left disabled
- Lost future earning capacity
- Repair of vehicle damage
- Funeral-related expenses if you’ve lost a loved one in an accident
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional/psychological distress
- Loss of ability to participate in normal activities
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Although the law requires every motorist to carry liability insurance, nearly 10% of South Carolina drivers are completely uninsured, and many more are underinsured. Some accidents are also caused by hit-and-run drivers who are never caught. In such a case, you don’t know who’s responsible for your damages.
Filing a Lawsuit Following A Horry County Car Accident
If an uninsured driver or an unknown hit-and-run driver is at fault in your wreck, there’s no liability coverage to compensate you for potentially crippling medical bills, property damage, or anything else. Even if the at-fault driver is known and does have liability insurance that meets the minimum legal coverage limits, that might not be enough to pay your damages. In such a case, you could file a lawsuit against the negligent driver, personally, to cover all your unpaid bills.
This means you could get a judgment for an amount large enough to cover all your expenses, but getting a judgment does not guarantee that you’ll collect any money. Unlike an insurance company, an uninsured or underinsured driver might not have the money or assets to pay you. Such a defendant is called “judgment proof” because, even if you win a judgment in court, you can’t collect what the defendant doesn’t have. You do have other options, however.
Insurance Policy Stacking Helps Find Additional Sources of Compensation
A South Carolina motorist is required to carry the following liability insurance:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury, up to $50,000 for all victims injured in one accident
- $250,000 for property damage
Your damages could easily exceed the bodily injury limits if:
- Your injuries are severe.
- You’ve been disabled by the accident.
- There are multiple injured people who must be compensated from the same policy.
The good news in such a case is that South Carolina allows you to “stack” insurance policies to get full compensation after an accident. This means there are other sources of compensation for you if you’re hurt by an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver:
Your health insurance.
It’s possible that your own health insurance policy will pay some or all of your medical expenses if the at-fault driver’s car insurance will not.
The auto manufacturer or repair service.
If it can be proven that your wreck was caused to any degree by defective/improperly repaired systems or components, you could have a claim against the insurance company of either (or both) for part of your damages.
Governmental agencies or departments.
If you can prove your accident resulted from improperly constructed or maintained roadways, you might have a claim against federal, state, or local agencies responsible for the roads.
If either you or the negligent driver was driving for work purposes and/or in a company-owned car, either employer’s insurance company might be held accountable for your damages.
Stacking insurance is a complex procedure. If you’re undergoing medical treatment and trying to recover from your accident, it would be essentially impossible for you to:
- Identify multiple liable parties
- File multiple claims
- Negotiate with multiple insurance companies that want to devalue or deny your claims
- Possibly take one or more of them to court
The services of an experienced lawyer are highly recommended if you hope to recover fair compensation by stacking multiple insurance policies and coverages.
Receiving Compensation From Your Own Auto Insurance
As a South Carolina driver, you’re required to purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UM) equal to your own liability coverage. You also have the option of adding underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) to your policy. Either UM or UIM might cover some or all of your damages if the negligent driver’s insurance does not.
In Horry County, UM and UIM “follow” the driver, not the car. If you have minimum UM/UIM coverage of $25,000 on more than one vehicle, you might be able to stack that coverage to pay some or all of your damages if they exceed $25,000. You may not, however, stack both UM and UIM coverage since the at-fault driver obviously cannot be both uninsured and underinsured.
Depending on the details of your policy, you might have other options, as well:
- If you have collision coverage, it could pay for your car repairs up to the market value of the car.
- Comprehensive coverage, normally intended for non-collision damage, might also pay for repairs.
- Some policies have provisions for rental fees and towing charges.
- Some policies might provide coverage for some medical expenses if they’re more than the at-fault driver’s insurance will cover.
In any of these circumstances, you could be required to pay a deductible amount, and/or your premium rates could increase. It’s also important to remember that your own insurance company becomes your adversary when you file a first-party claim. If its adjusters try to dispute that claim, the services of an experienced attorney are vital to your success. Your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf or file a lawsuit against your insurance company and take your case to court. If you win your case, you will collect since no insurance company is judgment proof.
How Comparative Fault Affects Your Claim
To make things even more complicated, South Carolina is a comparative fault state. This means that you could be found partially responsible for your own accident.
As long as you’re less than 50% at fault, you may still collect damages. However, your award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. An experienced car accident attorney can help you maximize your compensation by negotiating a lower percentage of fault.