S.C. Senate bill would increase mandatory minimum coverage for auto insurance policies

abeam@thestate.comMarch 6, 2013 

S.C. State House file photograph

South Carolina State House

LOU KRASKY — AP

— Some S.C. drivers would pay more for car insurance if a bill before the General Assembly becomes law.

State law requires everyone to have car insurance. If you get into a wreck and it is the other person’s fault, that person’s insurance pays for the damages to your car.

But sometimes the other person does not have insurance. Or they flee the scene of the accident and you don’t know who they are. In those instances, you need uninsured motorists insurance to cover the damage to your car. A bill in the state Senate would increase the mandatory minimum coverage for uninsured motorists policies to $25,000 from $10,000

In 2006, lawmakers increased the minimums across the board for all types of car insurance -- or at least they thought they did. But the mandatory minimum requirement for uninsured motorists insurance was tucked away in a separate section of the law, which remain unchanged.

Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Newberry and the chairman of a Senate Banking and Insurance subcommittee, said most S.C. drivers already have the $25,000 uninsured motorists coverage. So he does not think it will have much of an impact on drivers.

“My insurance agent always recommend that at least, so I always get what he recommends,” Cromer said.

Russ Dubisky, president of the S.C. Insurance News Service, said Cromer is right. The mandatory minimum for liability insurance -- how much your insurance company would pay if a wreck is your fault -- is $25,000.

“Most drivers would want to insure their own damages to levels that are at least equal to those that they would cover for another’s damages,” he said.

And Thom Salane, an insurance attorney the with Turner Padgett law firm representing USAA insurance company, said when lawmakers first changed the law that “60 to 65 percent had more than the minimum limits” in South Carolina. He said that percentage is likely much higher today.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Insurance could not confirm how many S.C. drivers paid at least $25,000 for uninsured motorists coverage.

But if a driver does have a $10,000 uninsured motorist policy, it is unclear how much it would cost him or her to increase that policy to $25,000.

“Average rate changes would likely vary from company to company,” Dubisky said.

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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