Glossary of Terms for Auto Accidents

The below information is a set of terms that may come in handy if you or a family member are involved in a auto accident. These set of terms are for educational purposes only.

Liability Insurance:

Liability is a type of insurance you can and will pursue from the at fault party in an automobile accident or in a premise liability injury, such as slip and falls and trip and falls. So that begs the question: how much liability insurance am I entitled to in my case? Every case is different and certainly brings different facts. Any South Carolina driver who owns a vehicle is required to carry a minimum amount of insurance by state law. That amount is a minimum of $25,000/$50,000 liability coverage. The first $25,000 represents the bodily injury liability limits for a single injured person per accident. If the accident results in multiple injured persons, then the total amount of liability coverage available between all injured persons would be $50,000. Of course, an at fault party in an automobile accident could carry more than the minimum limits of coverage. In South Carolina, we generally see “split limit” policies versus “combined single limit policies.” The insurance coverage amounts generally tier in this fashion:

  • $25,000/$50,000
  • $50,000/$100,000
  • $100,000/$300,000
  • $250,000/$500,000
  • $1,000,000/$2,000,00

The rules of construction listed above would apply regardless of the tiered amount the at-fault driver and or premises owner carried in liability insurance. Ok, so that still begs the question, what would my case be worth? Your case value is based on many factors and details that we address under the Auto Accident tab. However, your case can be worth up to the liability limits of the at-fault driver. But, what if the at-fault driver does not have enough liability insurance to cover my damages or worse, no insurance at all? That brings us to the next definition for auto accidents.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage or short, (UM):

South Carolina law requires uninsured motorist coverage, (UM) on every automobile insurance policy issued. Again, like liability coverage limits, the UM limits on the automobile policy must at-least be $25,000/$50,000. Like liability insurance, the first number applies to a single bodily injury per accident and the second number applies to multiple injured persons per accident. UM coverage is on your insurance policy, not the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Again, this is coverage your hard-earned money pays for in case you find yourself in a situation where the defendant did not have insurance. UM insurance also applies to a hit and run car accident. Therefore, if the at-fault driver fled the scene, your UM coverage would potentially pay your medical bills, pain and suffering and/or property damage to your vehicle. Ok, so I am covered if the at-fault party has no insurance or if I am involved in a hit and run, but what if the at-fault party has insurance, just not enough insurance? You would pursue underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) which is optional coverage on your automobile policy.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage or short, (UIM):

Underinsured motorist coverage, UIM is optional coverage in South Carolina. Again, like the liability and UM coverage, the limits are generally split limits in South Carolina and tiered beginning with the minimum limits, $25,000/$50,000. Although it is not required, most people carry UIM on their auto policy in an amount that mirrors their liability coverage limits. Again, like UM coverage, UIM coverage is on YOUR policy and you pay the premium to carry it. However, it is the most valuable and important insurance coverage you can carry in South Carolina, in our attorneys’ opinions of course. Below is a hypothetical scenario of how UIM coverage works:

Jon Doe causes a wreck. Jon doe ran the stop sign and smashed into Jane Doe’s vehicle. Jane Doe suffers damages (medical bills) in excess of $100,000. Jane Doe files a claim against the liability insurance carrier for Jon Doe’s vehicle. When Jane Doe files the claim, she becomes aware that Jon Doe only has $25,000 of liability insurance coverage. What does Jane Doe do? Jon Doe cannot even cover her medical bills. Jane Doe would make a claim against her auto insurance carrier. That claim would be for the optional UIM insurance she purchased. Jane Doe purchased $50,000/$100,000 UIM coverage on her policy. Therefore, she would potentially be able to collect $25,000 from Jon Doe and $50,000 from her UIM coverage for a total recovery of $75,000. In this hypothetical, had Jane Doe not purchased UIM coverage, her recovery would be limited to $25,000 from Jon Doe’s liability insurance.

Damages are a term used under the law for your injuries in a car accident. Damages can range from medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, future medical bills, loss of enjoyment of life, punitive damages (punishment) along with other less commonly seen damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant and deter bad contact from others. Certain conduct by a defendant can entice the judge to charge the jury with a punitive damage instruction. Conduct that rises to this level includes, drinking and driving, fleeing the scene of an accident, texting and driving or violating a South Carolina law causing the accident and of course other actions can rise to punitive damages.

PIP/Med Pay:

Med pay (medical payments coverage) or sometimes called PIP (Personal Injury Protection) is optional insurance on your policy that covers medical bills. You generally see the coverage with limits of the following, $1,000, $5,000 and even up to $10,000. However, most med pay and or PIP policies are for $1,000 in South Carolina.

Subrogation, in laymen terms means paying back a first party who pays for your medical bills and or short term or long-term disability as the result of another’s negligence. Yes, an injured party is generally contractually required to pay back their health insurance company for the medical bills they paid on your behalf at the hands of a negligent driver. The best way to explain subrogation is through a hypothetical scenario. Therefore, we will use Jon and Jane Doe again:

Jon Doe injures Jane Doe in a car accident. Jane Doe has Health Insurance Company A (HI). HI for Jane Doe pays $10,000 in medical bills to her medical providers. Jane Doe’s HI would have a subrogation lien of $10,000 on any settlement she received from Jon Doe’s liability insurance carrier. Now of course, this $10,000 would be negotiable for Jane Doe based on her settlement or verdict amount against Jon Doe.

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