South Carolina Car Insurance Laws

South Carolina with blue backgroundBefore February 1, 1999, every registered automobile in the Palmetto State was required to be covered by at least a liability auto insurance policy to pay bodily injury and/or property damage that the driver of the vehicle may cause if found to be at-fault. As of February 1, 1999, this requirement was eliminated and vehicle owners, with certain exceptions, could opt out of purchasing automobile policies by paying an Uninsured Motorist Fee.

Vehicle owners and motorists that wish to purchase auto insurance policies must obtain the minimum coverage levels set by the state. As of January 1, 2007, the following types of protection and limits must be maintained on a policy:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to one person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury to two or more people
  • $25,000 for property damage
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist:
  • $25,000 for bodily injury to one person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury to two or more people
Motorists will need to locate a carrier that is willing to insure them. Prior to March 1, 1999, insurers were required to issue coverage to any licensed driver who paid a premium for a policy. South Carolina car insurance laws now allow insurers the right to refuse to sell policies to certain individuals under their underwriting guidelines as long as it does not due to factors that the state has prohibited as a means to refuse drivers. Factors that cannot be used when refusing to insure a motorist are:
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location of residence
  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Marital status
  • Income level
However, an auto insurance company may choose not to issue initial policies based on a driver's lack of experience or the number of years licensed. Individuals who are already insured with a carrier cannot be denied renewal based solely on these reasons, but can be non-renewed if lack of experience and years licensed are used in conjunction with other factors that may show them to be a high risk to the insurer.

The owner of an automobile may choose to pay an Uninsured Motorist Fee of $550 to the Department of Public Safety. This fee must be paid annually and at time of registration for each vehicle that is to be registered. Choosing this option rather than purchasing a vehicle policy does not provide any type of car insurance coverage and if a motorist causes an accident they may be held personally responsible for compensating third parties for bodily injuries and/or property damage resulting from the incident.

Not all individuals will be eligible to register or drive an uninsured motor vehicle in SC by paying the fee to the Department of Public Safety. Automobile owners who are, or reside with, a driver that has been licensed for less than three years will be required to insure vehicles with the state's minimum requirements. Additionally, motorists who are convicted of the following violations will not be eligible to operate or register an uninsured automobile:
  • Failure to stop when requested by law enforcement
  • Theft of a vehicle
  • Disobeying an officer directing traffic or an official traffic device
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident where an injury or property damage has occurred
  • Committing a felony, homicide or assault with a motor vehicle
  • Failure to stop for a school bus
  • Illegal racing
  • Transporting illegal whiskey or drugs
  • Causing bodily injury exceeding $600 or property damage exceeding $1,000 as a result of driving under the influence or reckless driving
  • Causing two or more accidents resulting in bodily injury exceeding $600 or property damage exceeding $1,000
  • Making false statements when applying for a license or registration application
  • Impersonating a license or registration applicant or procuring a license or registration through impersonation
  • Committing three or more moving violations
South Carolina silhouetteMotorists who have been convicted of any of the violations mentioned above may be eligible to register and operate an uninsured motor vehicle three years after the date of the conviction. For more information on coverage requirements and laws, residents can view an Overview of South Carolina's Auto Insurance Laws which contains facts and tips provided by the state.

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