Not only are South Carolina’s auto insurance costs the second lowest in the nation, but eligible drivers in the Palmetto State can actually drive uninsured.
As of February 1, 1999, the requirement to carry liability auto insurance was eliminated by South Carolina law, unless the driver had certain violations on his record or there was a driver in the household who had been licensed for less than three years. This law made South Carolina a very rare state, in which any eligible driver could legally drive uninsured by paying an annual fee of $550 to the Department of Public Safety (DPS).
This holds true today. According to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, a driver can make this annual payment, called an Uninsured Motorist Fee, and drive an uninsured vehicle. In order to this, you need to pay your fee to the South Carolina DPS at the same time as registering your uninsured vehicle. This fee will cover only the fee to register the vehicle uninsured; it is not insurance. For each uninsured vehicle you want to register, you will need to pay a $550 yearly fee.
It is important to note that under South Carolina law:
- If you are stopped by a police office or any member of South Carolina law enforcement, you must show evidence that you are authorized to legally drive an uninsured auto.
- If you cause an accident, you will be personally responsible for any injuries and damages caused and the consequent costs.
- If you have any major violations on your driving record in the past three years, this option may not be available to you.
- If any one in your household has been licensed to drive for under three years, this option may not be available to you.
It is most important to note, that THIS IS NOT INSURANCE.
The costs of being liable in an accident
So while a motorist may indeed drive an uninsured automobile, if the uninsured driver is involved in an accident, they will be personally liable for damages caused to the property, driver and passengers of the other vehicle and any passengers in their own car.
This could cost you thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the accident. In addition to property damage, you could be held liable for the medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering of any injured persons. As South Carolina is a tort liability state, meaning there are no restrictions on lawsuits, you could be sued not only by the driver and passengers of the other vehicle, but you could be sued by the passengers in your own vehicle as well.
So while it may seem appealing at first glance to avoid the costs of South Carolina auto insurance, you are exposing your future earnings and your assets to significant risk.
Unless the South Carolina DPS allows you to pay the annual uninsured motorist fee, South Carolina requires that you purchase liability and uninsured motorist coverage to drive legally in the state.
Required minimum limits
The minimum limits for auto liability insurance in South Carolina are:
- $25,000 – for one person
- $50,000 –for more than one person, one accident
- $25,000 – property damage
In the event of an accident, property damage liability auto insurance pays for damage you cause to the property of others.
If you are unable to find an insurer
If you discover that you cannot obtain auto insurance coverage from a private insurer, the state of South Carolina offers an auto insurance program that is called the South Carolina Associated Automobile Insurers Plan (SCAAIP). This plan provides insurance for purchase to eligible South Carolina consumers in your situation.
Who is liable
The state of South Carolina follows a tort liability system, meaning that the driver who causes a car accident is responsible for paying for the costs of any injuries sustained by others, including medical costs, pain, suffering and loss of wages.
Annual average auto insurance costs
According to Insure.com, the 2011 South Carolina average annual auto insurance premium is $1,095. The only state for car insurance rates in the nation lower than South Carolina is Vermont.
Auto Insurance Facts and Tips: Overview of South Carolina’s Auto Insurance Laws – Link
South Carolina Department of Insurance