This article was written on April 12, 2020, by Dustin Lee, a licensed South Carolina car accident and injury attorney. Dustin is managing partner of Lee Law Firm, LLC, with a primary office on Hilton Head Island. Dustin has been helping clients seriously injured in car accidents in Hilton Head and Bluffton for over a decade, after receiving the highest grade in his law school class in South Carolina Insurance law. This article is not nor is it meant to be construed as legal advice – if you have been seriously injured in a car accident near Hilton Head, Bluffton, or anywhere else in South Carolina, and do not currently have legal representation, please call us at 1-843-474-0614 or 1-800-996-0683 if you would like to get advice specific to your situation.
Potential clients calling me are generally (as in almost always) not experts on South Carolina insurance law, and that is okay – I am not an expert on tax issues, for instance, so if I have a personal tax question I normally call a CPA or tax lawyer. One of the major misconceptions I encounter is a fundamental misunderstanding of how car insurance “works” as to claims. This article is simply addressing one issue among many in South Carolina. Insurance can “work” differently in different states as well – I am only discussing South Carolina, as I only practice law in South Carolina.
Insurance companies “preach” to their clients (the drivers they insure) not to reveal the extent of their insurance coverage. For example, the insurance company would never want an at-fault driver to voluntarily tell me or my client that he or she has $100,000.00 in liability coverage, such as a $100,000/300,000/100,000 policy. Suppose the at-fault driver does in fact have “$100,000.00” in liability coverage for his or her vehicle registered and insured in South Carolina. I could foresee a client asking, as has happened before, when do I get my $100,000.00 now that we know they have that much coverage? While not pleasant to discuss, if this client’s relative had a $100,000.00 life insurance policy, and then passed away, as long as there was no strange exclusion for coverage (one could write a pretty nice sized book about exclusions), $100,000.00 would be paid to the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the life insurance policy. Car insurance in South Carolina is very different – we have to “prove” damages. Suppose my client has $15,000.00 in medical bills after a hospital visit to Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville, follow up chiropractic care and physical therapy, and the like. The client again asks, when do I get my $100,000.00 that they have in coverage? Sample Answer: this may never occur, but if it does, it will be when we either negotiate a settlement of $100,000.00 or greater, if possible, or we get a jury to award you that amount, if possible – the insurance company is not going to write you a check for $100,000.00 based simply on a) an injury occurring and b) their belief that a jury would likely find their insured driver at fault in the accident. Suppose the client only had $500.00 in medical bills due to a visit to the urgent care center on Buckwalter Parkway in Bluffton and some medication being prescribed for pain – the insurance company is again not going to pay out the policy limits based simply on a) an injury occurring and b) their belief that a jury would likely find their insured at fault in the accident – if this were the case, car insurance rates in South Carolina would skyrocket.
This example shows just one additional reason why it is extremely important to have a licensed and experienced South Carolina car accident attorney working for you. Unfortunately the law cannot literally undo the accident – the law relies on money to be paid as “damages” for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, future medical care, and the like that are suffered by our clients. We can evaluate your case to try to figure out what we feel a jury would award you or what a fair settlement would be; however, this is extremely fact specific, meaning every case is different. Sometimes we have to look at our clients and explain the above concept – for example, sometimes we have gotten our clients an amount (via settlement) we feel may be more than a jury would likely award, but less than the available insurance an at-fault driver had – in the eyes of the law, this is actually an excellent result, as we would make the client as close to whole as the law allows (again, understanding we cannot “undo” the accident). On the other hand, and perhaps more frequently, the at-fault driver does not have much insurance (or enough) and we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what other insurance or money there may be to go after to try to make our client financially “whole”. This is when complex legal terms such as “stacking”, “underinsured” coverage, and “uninsured” coverage may come into play – these are again complex legal terms and concepts that are far beyond the scope of this article.
In sum, just because you find out, or we later discover, that the at-fault driver that hit you has a good amount of liability coverage insurance, this does not mean the South Carolina car insurance company that wrote the policy is simply going to write a check in that amount, as a South Carolina life insurance company may (but do not forget this is a simplification and leaves out a lot of possible exclusions).
If you have been seriously injured due to the negligence of another driver on our South Carolina roadways and you would like to find out your legal options, please feel free to contact me at 1-843-474-0614 or 1-800-996-0683. While most car accident matters we handle are in or near Beaufort County and Jasper County due to our location on Hilton Head Island, I have handled car accident and injury matters throughout South Carolina. While we are working remotely at this time, we are still working hard for our injury clients and available for complimentary car accident consultations via telephone and video conferencing. You may visit us online 24/7 at www.leelaw.ws.