If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident that resulted from the negligence or reckless actions of another party, you have a right to compensation. Normally, you would recover compensation from the insurer for the responsible party. There are times, however, when the party at-fault is uninsured or does not have adequate insurance to cover the damages.
Liability insurance is required for all motorists in South Carolina. Despite this requirement, the Insurance Information Institute estimates that almost 10% of drivers in the Palmetto State are uninsured. This gives you about a one in 10 chance of having an accident with an uninsured motorist in this state.
What to Do If you are Hit by an Uninsured Driver
Whenever you are involved in an auto accident, there are certain steps you should take right away, regardless of whether or not the other driver has insurance:
- Call 911: The first priority is to ensure that anyone who is hurt receives immediate medical attention. Some injuries are not discovered until after some time has passed, so if you or anyone else feels like they may be injured after a crash, call for medical help right away. When you call 911, have them send the police to the scene as well to file a report.
- Retain Extensive Documentation of the Incident: Provided you are not severely injured, take detailed notes, multiple photos, and speak with witnesses who saw what happened. Write down what the witnesses say and obtain their contact information in case you need to call on them later. After an accident, it is best to document the event in as much detail as possible while everything is still fresh in your mind.
- Exchange Information with the Other Driver: Politely exchange necessary information with the other driver, such as their name, address, phone number, and the name of their insurer. This is the point at which you will likely find out that the other driver is uninsured. If this turns out to be the case, remain calm and move on to the next step.
- Report the Accident to your Insurance Company: South Carolina drivers are required to carry uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverage with liability minimums of $25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 for property damage. The liability limits in your policy may be higher than the state minimums. When you have an accident with an uninsured motorist, you will need to recover damages under this portion of your auto policy. Most insurers have strict deadlines in which to file uninsured motorist claims, usually 30 days. For this reason, be sure to contact your insurance company as soon as it is convenient.
Dealing with your Own Insurance Company after an Auto Accident
It is important to keep in mind that, although you deal with your own insurer when you have an accident with an uninsured motorist, the insurance adjuster is not necessarily looking out for your best interests. At the end of the day, their main concern is the company’s bottom line, not your well-being. When you speak with the adjuster, do NOT admit any fault, and do not speculate on the injuries you may have suffered until you have a full medical report.
At this point, it is strongly advisable that you retain skilled legal counsel. Insurance adjusters are trained negotiators who deal with attorneys virtually every day. And since their best interests do not line up with yours, you are at a disadvantage if you choose to deal with them on your own. A skilled personal injury lawyer will thoroughly review your case and go over all your legal options, so you can make the most informed decision on how you want to proceed.
Depending on the extent of your injuries and other specific circumstances of the case, there are a few possible outcomes, including:
- Settlement: The most preferable result would be a reasonable settlement with your insurer that fully compensates you for your injuries. This saves the cost and time involved with going to trial.
- Lawsuit: If your insurance company does not agree to a reasonable settlement, you have the option to sue those responsible and your insurance company will pay any verdict the jury awards but only up to the maximum liability limits within the uninsured motorist portion of your policy.
- Pursuing the Responsible Party: If damages exceed the limits of your uninsured motorist policy, you may attempt to collect from the other driver. However, an individual who does not have car insurance most likely will not have much in the way of assets to recover.
Speak with an Experienced South Carolina Automobile Accidents Lawyer
Having an accident with an uninsured motorist means you will most likely be dealing with your own insurance company to pursue compensation for any injuries you sustained. If this has happened to you, get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible, so your rights and interests are fully protected. At Peake & Fowler, we have successfully represented car accident injury victims in South Carolina since 2000. Call our office today at 803-998-2412 for a free consultation, or you may send us a secure and confidential message using our web contact form.