If you have been in an auto accident, you may be wondering, “Who is going to pay my medical bills or pay to fix my car?” In many cases, your accident expenses will be covered by various sources of insurance. The way insurance policies are written, many people are confused by exactly what is covered. Each state sets its own minimum levels of required coverage for injury and property damage; states may also require that drivers carry other coverage. For example, the current South Carolina auto insurance requirements do not require you to purchase Underinsured Motorist coverage; North Carolina does require that you purchase this coverage. We strongly suggest you take advantage of Underinsured Motorist coverage and medical payment protection (MedPay). While liability protects anyone you may hit, these types of coverage can protect you, you family members that live with you and your passengers. For a better understanding of different types of insurance, please read our Auto Insurance Primer.
The question of who will pay your bills often depends on several factors:
- How many vehicles were involved in the crash?
- If more than one vehicle was involved, who was at fault?
- Were the circumstances such that a third party might have liability for the crash?
- Is your state a comparative negligence state or contributory negligence state?
Single Car Crash
If yours was the only car involved—perhaps you swerved to avoid hitting debris in the road and crashed into a fence—then your insurance company will typically pay your claim based on the types of coverage levels you have purchased. You will probably have to pay the deductible, and, if the insurance limits are too low, you may have to pay the difference out of pocket. If the crash resulted in property damage to other people’s property (in this case, the fence and grounds), your Property Damage Liability coverage would pay.
Two (or more) Cars Involved in the Crash
When more than one vehicle is involved in the crash, the question of fault can become the focus as the responsibility for the accident will determine which party’s insurance will pay the claims (see below). The at-fault party’s insurance will typically cover bodily injury up to the limits they have purchased; their insurance should also cover property damage to the not-at-fault party’s vehicle up to the value of the property or the coverage limits. If the at-fault party does not have insurance, then the not-at-fault party would have to file a claim under his or her own Uninsured Motorist coverage. If the at-fault party does not have enough coverage to pay your medical expenses, your own Underinsured Motorist coverage would kick in. You may also take advantage of MedPay coverage, if you have it on your policy.
Tort laws in each state govern the injured party’s right to pursue a claim against the at-fault party. These laws can vary significantly. North Carolina is a pure contributory negligence state. This means that if the injured party was even 1% at fault for the crash, he or she cannot recover from the other party. Note that there may be exceptions, depending on the circumstances. Adrina G. Bass, Esquire of our office handles all North Carolina cases and is available to answer your questions. Both South Carolina and Georgia are modified comparative fault states and both employ the 50% Bar Rule. This means that the injured party may only recover from the at-fault party if the injured party was 49% or less at fault for the crash; even then, the recovery amount is reduced by the percentage by which the party contributed to the crash. Natalie R. Armstrong, Esquire of our office handles all Georgia cases and is available to answer your questions. All of our attorneys are able to answer any questions you have regarding a case in South Carolina.
In certain cases, there may be a third-party that is responsible for the crash and resulting injuries and property damage. Examples of this may include a road construction company that left debris in the road which resulted in the crash; a bar which continued to serve alcohol to an obviously intoxicated (drunk) person who then caused the wreck (dram shop claim); or a car manufacturer that produced a vehicle with faulty parts that caused the accident. Third party involvement always requires investigation to determine if fault can be proven and, if so, what recovery options are available. We recommend you speak with an attorney if there was possible third-party involvement in your crash.
If you have been seriously injured in a crash that was the fault of another in South Carolina, North Carolina or Georgia and want to learn more about your rights, Solomon Law Group offers a free consultation.