Do you know what the policy limits are under your auto insurance policy? Many drivers opt for the lowest available limits in exchange for the lowest premiums without fully understanding how much protection these insurance limits actually afford them in the event of an auto accident. Before you decide on what policy limits are right for you it is essential that you contact a personal injury attorney to discuss the repercussions if you find yourself involved in a car accident from which either you or another driver suffer injuries or damages that exceeds the available coverage under your insurance policy.
If you are looking for an experienced attorney in the Greenville area, Attorney David R. Price, Jr. comes highly recommended and can help you select an insurance plan that will provide adequate protection for you and your family in the event of an auto accident.
As a threshold matter, South Carolina law mandates that that all drivers maintain policy limits that meet or exceed a certain baseline requirement. Namely, the law requires the following minimum policy limits for liability and uninsured motorist policies:
- Property Damage – $25,000
- Bodily Injury – $25,000 per person or a total of $50,000 per accident.
Property damage is fairly easy to calculate when it comes to placing a value upon damages. Following a car accident that results in damages to a vehicle, insurance companies will calculate the amount of damages that the person who is not responsible for the accident is entitled to by making the following determination:
- Is the vehicle “repairable” or is it a “total loss”?
As a general matter, if the cost of repairing the vehicle is less than 75% of the car’s value as determined by the fair market value of the vehicle immediately prior to the crash, than the non-responsible owner will receive the amount of money that is required to repair the vehicle.
However, if the cost of repairing the vehicle exceeds 75% of the car’s pre-accident value, you will be entitled to the full fair market value of the vehicle.
Bodily Injury and All Associated Damages
Damages for bodily injury are much trickier to calculate. How do you determine the “dollar value” of someone’s injuries? A good starting place is the cost of associated medical expenses. However, other categories of damages that must be considered are reimbursement for time off work, as well as the subjective and often unpredictable value of one’s “mental and emotional distress” or “pain and suffering”.
Medical Bills and Loss of Income/Earning Capacity
The cost of medical treatment and loss of income stemming from a motor vehicle accident can vary greatly depending on the severity of the injury. For instance, it goes without saying that the medical bills and required time off work to recover are going to be far greater for someone that has suffered a brain injury as opposed to your typical case of whiplash. Depending on the severity of the injuries, the value of these damages can range anywhere from four to six figures and sometimes even into the 7 figures.
Emotional Distress/Pain and Suffering
Calculating the value of something subjective like the dollar value of “pain and suffering” is not as straightforward as calculating other objective, tangible damages such as medical bills. However, there are guidelines that many insurance companies use that can help you get a general idea what you may be on the hook for as far as general damages go. Namely, the amount of associated medical bills is often multiplied by a specific multiplier (typically 1.5-5) depending on the severity of the injury. For instance, consider the following:
- Minor Injury – Total Medical Expenses x 1.5
- Moderate Injury – Total Medical Expenses x 3
- Serious Injury – Total Medical Expenses x 5 or greater
These general damages would then be added to the value of loss of income or earning capacity to determine a ballpark figure that injured parties will be looking to collect from the at-fault driver.
Average Settlement Amounts for Different Possible Accident Related Injuries:
As an important preface, it is important to point out that the following estimates are merely examples of general ballpark figures that can be expected in connection with injuries commonly attributed to auto accidents. The facts and circumstances of each individual case will always determine the settlement value of an individual case.
1. Minor Injuries
For minor injuries that do not require long term treatment and which typically are not associated with any complications including “whiplash” or other soft tissue injuries, an average settlement will likely be between $8,000 to $20,000.
2. Moderate Orthopedic Injuries
Should the injuries sustained in a car accident require orthopedic treatment and/or ongoing care, physical therapy, or surgery, the likely settlement may jump to $40,000 – $75,000, assuming there is sufficient insurance coverage to pay it.
3. Brain Injuries
A head injury that results in brain damage and/or cognitive impairment can easily reach three figures anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000, assuming there is sufficient insurance coverage to pay it.
4. Spinal Injuries
If a spinal injury is involved settlement will likely be around $100,000. Should the spinal injury result in paralysis, this number can jump as high as seven figures, again assuming that there is sufficient insurance to pay it. Otherwise, the injured party may seek to recover from the at-fault driver’s personal assets.
So What Does This All Mean as Far as Auto Insurance Goes?
The key takeaway here is simple. If the injury is more than minor in nature, then the legally mandated minimum policy limits may not be enough to cover the injuries and damages that may result from an auto accident. If you find yourself seriously injured in an auto accident, it is possible that the at-fault driver may not have sufficient policy limits to cover your medical bills and associated damages, which is why you should always purchase underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage and uninsured motorist (UM) coverage in the highest amounts you are able.
Alternatively, if you find yourself in a situation where you are the at-fault driver in an auto accident, it is very possible that your limits of liability insurance may be insufficient to cover the costs associated with the other involved driver’s accident related injuries. In a scenario such as this, in most cases, you may be held personally liable for all damages that exceed the limits under your policy, and the injured party may seek to recover the balance from your personal assets.
If you want to ensure that you are adequately protected in the event of an auto accident, or should you require guidance and legal representation following an auto accident where policy limits may become or have become an issue, the experienced attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., are ready to help.