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Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)?? Yes! You Need It!!

Far too many times in my practice, I have handled claims for individuals that have sustained severe and permanent injuries caused by an at fault motorist that had little or no insurance coverage. Unfortunately, many of these clients were unaware that they could purchase additional coverage that would serve to protect them if they were injured by someone who carried only the minimum limits of insurance. In many cases, this additional coverage is very affordable and can be obtained in a matter of minutes through the individual’s respective insurer.

There is an insurance coverage for motorists that can be most important in the event that a motorist is involved in a serious motor vehicle accident. Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage is an option that is available to all motorists in South Carolina. Under South Carolina Code Ann. § 38-77-150, every insurance policy must contain uninsured motorist coverage. In South Carolina, automobile insurers are required to offer underinsured motorist coverage under S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-160.

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you cannot assume that the other driver will have sufficient liability insurance coverage to take care of your injuries and damages. When the coverage of the other driver who caused the accident is not adequate to cover your losses and damages, including medical bills and lost income, the uninsured/underinsured coverage under your own automobile insurance policy can be beneficial and may be the only avenue to fully compensate you for your losses.

For example, I recently handled a case for a gentleman in Orangeburg County who was severely injured in an automobile accident that occurred on Thanksgiving day in 2009. My client was a passenger in an automobile that was struck by another vehicle that ran a stop sign. My client sustained permanent injuries, including partial paralysis, nerve damage, decreased strength and neuromuscular impairment. While my client’s medical bills exceeded $200,000, the at fault driver maintained only $25,000 in liability coverage.

Fortunately, the vehicle in which my client was a passenger in was covered under a policy that contained significant underinsured motorist coverage. As a result, the additional UIM coverage allowed this case to be settled satisfactorily for my client. Without the underinsured motorist coverage under the owner’s policy, my client would not have received any financial assistance to take care of himself or to offset the medical bills incurred from the accident.

In a separate case, I represented a lady that was driving a vehicle owned by her employer when she was involved in an accident on an interstate in Richland County, South Carolina. As a result of the accident, my client sustained severe and permanent injuries to her back, neck and shoulder. She had to undergo multiples surgeries and incurred over $100,000 in medical bills and lost wages. As is so often the case, the at fault driver maintained only the minimum liability limits. However, because my client’s employer maintained a sizeable UIM policy on the vehicle she was driving, we were able to settle this case satisfactorily for my client.

Uninsured/underinsured coverage also applies in a “hit and run” accident where the owner or operator of the vehicle who caused the accident is unknown. I would recommend that you check your automobile insurance policy and make sure you have adequate uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. You may also be able to “stack” the coverage if you own multiple vehicles and maintain UM or UIM coverage if your injuries and damages exceed the limits of the responsible party’s liability policy.

For example, let’s suppose that you own a car involved in an accident that is the fault of the other driver. You have over $100,000 in medical bills and have been permanently injured or otherwise damaged. The at fault driver maintained only $25,000 in liability coverage. You were fortunate to have previously opted for UIM coverage of $50,000 for the vehicle you were driving that was involved in the accident. You also own 3 other vehicles and carry UIM coverage on these vehicles under your policy as well. You may be able to stack the coverage on the vehicle involved in the accident in addition to your other 3 cars which would warrant total UIM coverage of $100,000 in addition to the $25,000 maintained by the at fault driver.

The cost of additional uninsured motorist coverage is fairly reasonable. My advice is to check your policy and contact your insurer today to obtain as much coverage as possible to protect you and your family. If you need more information on this issue, please contact Brad Hewett at 803.726.0123 or email me at