When buying car insurance or trying to deal with the aftermath of a car accident, you may come across the terms “no-fault” and “at-fault” (or “tort”) to describe insurance systems. South Carolina is not a no-fault state and instead uses an at-fault or tort system for car insurance and car accidents. But what does that mean?
In an at-fault state, drivers carry insurance to cover the accidents that they cause. This is different from a no-fault system where each driver carries coverage for their own injuries regardless of who caused the accident. In at-fault states, drivers file third-party claims for damages against the driver who hit them.
If you need help getting compensated after a car crash, call the Lexington car accident lawyers at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers. Our South Carolina car accident attorneys offer free case reviews. Call (803) 451-4000 today.
At-Fault vs. No-Fault Car Insurance Explained
Without car insurance, the default system would be that everyone who is injured in an accident sues the other driver for vehicle damage and injuries. Since so many car accidents are minor and involve only property damage, it would be a huge burden on the courts if everyone needed to file a lawsuit every time they got into a car accident. Instead, states use one of two car insurance systems so people can get damages covered without going to court.
South Carolina uses an at-fault system, also known as a tort system. When you sue someone for injuries, the civil case you file is a “tort” case, and this system mimics the court system. With an at-fault system, the driver who is at fault for the crash pays for the damages. In the same way that you would sue an at-fault driver, you can file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance after the accident.
In an at-fault system, you essentially pay your insurance premiums so that your insurance will protect you financially if you cause an accident. If you were the one who caused the crash, having better insurance will benefit you. If you were the victim, you are left relying on the other driver to have good insurance to cover your needs.
However, other parts of your insurance policy, such as uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, might also help you if someone else caused the accident.
In an at-fault state, you can usually decide to dispense with insurance and sue instead. It may be better in many cases to go to court instead of relying on insurance claims.
In a no-fault system, everyone carries insurance to cover their own injuries. This means that you file a claim with your own insurance after a crash, and they do not look at who was at fault when deciding whether or not to pay the claim. However, causing more accidents might still cause your premiums to go up, so insurance companies still care about fault to some degree in no-fault states.
In a no-fault state, you essentially pay for your own future protection. In that case, paying high premiums for additional coverage will benefit you in the end, whether you caused the crash or not.
A potential drawback in no-fault states is that you usually cannot decide to sue if you want to. States restrict when drivers can sue, usually with monetary thresholds that allow suits only for expensive cases and “verbal thresholds” that allow suits only for “serious” or “permanent” injuries.
Can I Get No-Fault Car Insurance in South Carolina?
Since South Carolina uses an at-fault system, the default car insurance policy you can take out is an at-fault policy. South Carolina requires drivers to carry minimum policies that cover at least $25,000 per person in injuries, $50,000 per accident for injuries, and $25,000 for property damage. This is sometimes called a “25/50/25” requirement. However, there are some first-party insurance policies that are available in South Carolina that work like no-fault policies.
Required Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Even though every driver is required to carry insurance, there is also a requirement that every insurance policy has uninsured motorist coverage equal to the 25/50/25 coverage requirements. This insurance is like no-fault insurance in that your own insurance will step in and cover you even though someone else caused the crash. This insurance only kicks in if you are the victim of a hit-and-run or if the driver who hit you did not have car insurance. If you were hit by a car that drove off, contact a Columbia, SC car accident lawyer right away.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Other insurance policy add-ons also function like no-fault insurance and provide first-party benefits to the policyholder. One is underinsured motorist coverage, which is similar to uninsured coverage. Instead of kicking in when the other driver doesn’t have insurance, underinsured motorist coverage kicks in when the other driver’s insurance is too low to cover your needs. Insurance companies are required to offer you this policy add-on, but you are not required by law to have underinsured motorist coverage. Talk to your South Carolina personal injury attorney for more information about whether you need underinsured motorist coverage.
Other First-Party Benefits
There may be other first-party benefits you can add to your policy as well, sometimes called PIP or MedPay coverage. This is essentially a no-fault add-on so that you can pay more for insurance to protect yourself if you ever need it. Other policies can cover things like non-collision damage.
Getting Compensation for Car Accidents in South Carolina
Since South Carolina uses an at-fault insurance system, you have to file a claim against the driver who hit you to get compensation. Only if you have additional PIP or MedPay coverage can you get damages from your own insurance after a crash. However, you may be able to sue for injuries instead of relying on insurance.
Talk to a Columbia personal injury lawyer about your car accident injury case. There may be some cases where an attorney can negotiate with the insurance companies and get you the compensation you need without a lawsuit. In other cases, the only way to get the damages you deserve might be to skip the insurance claim and take your case to court.
Call Our South Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Today
For a free case evaluation, call the Lexington personal injury lawyers at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers. Our phone number is (803) 451-4000.