South Carolina’s car insurance system is based on tort liability laws which require all vehicle owners to provide proof that they are able to be financially responsible if they are involved in a car accident in which they are at-fault. For most residents the easiest way to establish proof of financial responsibility is to purchase a liability insurance policy that meets South Carolina minimum state requirements. Since 2007 the minimum requirements for a liability insurance policy in South Carolina have stood at $25,000 in per person and $50,000 in per accident bodily injury coverage as well as $25,000 in property damage liability coverage. Due to the fact that liability insurance only covers injuries and damage to other parties and not the policy holder the state of South Carolina recommends that residents purchase other types of coverage not legally required in order to fill in the gaps left by liability insurance. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is one of the types of coverage that the state of South Carolina recommends for all vehicles on the road. This type of coverage will protect the policy holder in the event that they are involved in an accident and the at-fault driver either has no insurance or doesn’t have enough coverage to cover all of the expenses faced by the policy holder. Collision and comprehensive coverage is one of the most common types of voluntary coverage purchased by South Carolina vehicle owners due to the fact that it affords protection to the most common incident in the world of car insurance, which is physical damage to the insured vehicle. Not all accidents result in injuries but almost all accidents result in some type of damage to the vehicle. Unlike liability coverage, which is dependent on the placement of fault and only reimburses other drivers, comprehensive and collision coverage will pay out directly to the policy holder no matter who is at fault. Medical expense benefits function in the same way as comprehensive and collision coverage except for the fact that they cover injuries to the policy holder and passengers in the insured vehicle instead of physical damage to the vehicle. Many lenders require drivers to maintain these types of coverage on a vehicle when purchased with financing in order to protect both themselves and the borrower.
South Carolina is one of the few states that actually allow drivers that are eligible to operate a vehicle uninsured. For a driver to register as an uninsured motorist with the state of South Carolina they will have to pay a fee of $550 every year as well as meet all the criteria set by the state. South Carolina residents are only eligible to register as an uninsured motorist if they have held a drivers license for three or more years though there are many differ things that can disqualify a resident from eligibility. For instance, if a resident is required by the state to file an SR-22 to prove future proof of insurance they are not eligible to register as an uninsured motorist in South Carolina. A resident is also considered ineligible to register as an uninsured driver if they have been convicted of a wide range of traffic and driving related violations, including driving under the influence, reckless driving, falsifying registration or insurance information and a slew of other less serious violations. If a driver cannot register with the state as an uninsured driver they will be required by South Carolina car insurance law to maintain liability coverage on any vehicle registered in their name.
South Carolina law allows the DMV and the courts to come down harshly on any driver that is found to be on the road without the required insurance or uninsured driver certificate. Uninsured drivers that are pulled over by a police officer or are involved in a car accident will be issued a ticket on the spot for driving without insurance and could even be arrested depending on the situation and the driver’s history. After a South Carolina motorist receives a ticket for driving without insurance they have a 15 day grace period to provide proof that they did have auto insurance at the time the ticket was given. If such proof cannot be provided within the 15 day window the driver’s license will suspended and possibly the registration as well. South Carolina law also requires drivers to return a vehicle’s license plates and registration to the DMV if the vehicle’s insurance policy is cancelled or not renewed. If the license plates and registration are not returned on time the driver will be forced to pay a $200 reinstatement fee as well as $5 for every additional day that the vehicle remains without insurance. Every time an auto insurance policy is cancelled in South Carolina the insurance company is required by low to immediately notify the DMV of the change in status.