What To Do If You’re In a Car Accident Without Insurance But Not At Fault In South Carolina

If you’re involved in an accident without insurance in South Carolina, you’ll have to pay some big fines—even if you weren’t at fault.
Written by Macy Fouse
Reviewed by Christelle Agustin
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If you’re an uninsured driver in South Carolina and you’re involved in a car accident, you’ll be facing legal penalties even if you aren’t at fault. However, you may still be able to collect damages by filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance.
Car accidents are expensive and stressful at the best of times, but if you throw being uninsured into the mix, the stakes get even higher. Luckily, we’re here to walk you through all the scenarios of car accidents without insurance in South Carolina.  
We’ll go over the different options for collecting damages or filing claims, the penalties you could face, and how to avoid extra-expensive
car insurance
premiums. Let’s get going. 

What to do if you’re in a car accident without insurance in South Carolina and not at fault

Driving without minimum insurance coverage is against the law in South Carolina, so getting into a car accident without it can get dicey, to say the least. 
If you’re involved in a collision without insurance, you’ll need to make sure to do the following:
1. Remain at the scene. If you don’t have insurance, you may be tempted to flee the scene before you get caught…but this will land you in even hotter water. Leaving the scene would be considered a
hit-and-run in South Carolina
, which could leave you with:
  • A misdemeanor charge, a fine up to $100, and imprisonment for up to 30 days if the accident resulted in property damage and the vehicle was unattended
  • A misdemeanor charge, a fine up to $5,000, and up to one year in jail if the vehicle was occupied or the accident caused minor injuries
  • A felony charge, a fine of $10,000 to $25,000, and imprisonment for 10 to 25 years if the accident led to serious injury or death
These consequences are no joke, so it’s absolutely critical that you remain at the scene of the accident no matter what
2. Pull over and assess the situation. If your vehicle is able, pull over after a collision to a safe location and check everyone for injuries. If anyone is seriously injured, call 9-1-1 immediately. Otherwise, you can call the local non-emergency police number.
3. Exchange key information with other parties. Even if you don’t have insurance information to provide, you’ll still need to provide the other driver with your contact information and driver’s license number—and get theirs, too. 
4. Document the scene. Take as many photos and record as many details from the scene as you can. With more evidence, it’ll be easier to prove your innocence and avoid more serious consequences—more on that later.
After you’ve done your due diligence at the scene, the next step is to figure out insurance. If the at-fault driver has insurance, all you have to do is file a car accident claim report with their insurance company to cover your
car repairs
and medical expenses. 
If the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you’ll have to file a personal injury lawsuit if you want your repairs and bills to be covered…but there’s certainly no guarantee that this will be successful. In fact, if you don’t have insurance, the defense attorney could use that against you to negotiate a lower settlement.
MORE: The penalties for using fake proof of insurance
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Who decides fault in a car accident in South Carolina?

Determining fault in a collision may not always be clear-cut. A police report of your accident will help provide some clarity to the situation, but ultimately, it’s the insurance company that decides who’s at fault. 
If you weren’t at fault for the accident and you’re uninsured, you must include evidence of the other driver’s fault when filing a claim with their provider. Photos can go a long way in supporting your innocence, which can help protect you from expensive consequences.

Do you need to report a car accident in South Carolina? 

Most of the time. According to South Carolina laws, you only have to report an accident that results in at least $1,000 of property damage, injuries, or death. 
It’s always best to call law enforcement to the scene of the accident to investigate, but if that isn’t possible, drivers should
fill out a collision report
and mail it to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) within 15 days of the accident—but the sooner, the better. With more time between the collision and the report, the less reliable it becomes. 
Even if you estimate the collision damage to be less than $1,000 of damage, it’s not always straightforward. Some damage looks minor, but it could cost thousands to repair. Additionally, some types of common car accident injuries don’t show up until after the accident, so having a police report may secure your right to damages down the line.
MORE: Hit and run insurance claims: Everything you need to know

What if you’re at fault?

If you don’t have auto insurance and you’re found to be at fault for the collision, you’ll be facing some major consequences. Because South Carolina is a modified
comparative negligence
state, you’ll be responsible for your portion of the other driver’s damages if you are deemed less than 51% responsible for the accident. If you don’t have insurance, the not-at-fault driver can file a lawsuit against you to recover these damages. 
Hopefully, the other driver has their own insurance policy they can use to pay for their expenses—but if their expenses cost more than their policy limits, you’ll be on the hook to cover the rest. Plus, you’ll have to deal with legal consequences, like a fine of $550, up to 30 days of imprisonment, and a suspended license

What if you’re hit by an uninsured driver in South Carolina?

So what if you have insurance but the at-fault driver doesn’t? In this case, you’ll have to seek damages from the driver directly, which can get pretty messy.
Before embarking on that journey, take a minute to see if your insurance policy includes
uninsured motorist coverage
or underinsured motorist coverage (UMC/UIM)—because it probably does! South Carolina car insurance laws require drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage, but they are not required to purchase underinsured motorist coverage. 
In general, these types of coverage pay for your medical bills and repairs after collisions with uninsured drivers (up to your policy limit) or motorists lacking enough
bodily injury liability
to cover your expenses.
There are a few other coverages that may take care of your bills, including
personal injury protection
(PIP) or
collision insurance
. PIP is offered in South Carolina, but it’s not required. This coverage pays for your medical expenses after an accident—up to your policy limit—regardless of who is at fault. With collision coverage, your vehicle repairs should be covered by your insurance company when you file the accident claim. 
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), nearly 11% of South Carolina drivers don’t have the required auto insurance as of 2019. That means your chances of a collision with an insured driver are over one in 10—so it’s a wise idea to protect yourself with UIM and collision coverage.
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Penalties for driving without insurance in South Carolina

Even if you weren’t at fault for the collision, if you were uninsured at the time of the accident, you’ll still have to pay the penalties for driving without insurance. If South Carolina drivers choose not to have the minimum insurance, they can pay an annual fee of $550—but you’ll still be on the hook for covering any expenses in an at-fault accident. 
Without insurance or proof of financial responsibility, you could face the following consequence just for a first offense:
  • $550 uninsured motorist fee plus a fine between $100 to $200 (or 30 days imprisonment)
  • $5 per day your insurance coverage has lapsed
  • Suspended license and registration
  • $200 reinstatement fee
  • Misdemeanor charge
  • Required SR-22 certificate
An SR-22 certificate serves as legal proof of financial responsibility, and it’s often required to file after major violations. Not only is it a hassle, but having an SR-22 will also lead to extra-high insurance premiums—adding to your running total. 
Unfortunately, there’s no way to go reverse time and retroactively purchase coverage, and you can’t fight the charges. However, if you can prove that you were covered at the time of the accident but just didn’t have
proof of insurance
with you, the charges may be dismissed if you weren’t at fault for the accident. 
MORE: How to fill out and file an SR-22

Minimum required car insurance in South Carolina

If you want to avoid paying these hefty penalties, you’ll need to carry an insurance policy with these levels of coverage at a minimum:
  • $25,000 of bodily injury liability per person 
  • $50,000 of bodily injury liability per accident 
  • $25,000 of property damage liability per accident 
South Carolina also requires drivers to have uninsured motorists coverage equivalent to the amount of liability coverage. 
Experts suggest carrying more than the minimum requirements to account for major accidents. They recommend upping your coverage limits to $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident for bodily injury liability, and $100,000 for property damage liability. It may surprise you how affordable it is to add those limits to your policy—and you’ll be better protected when it comes to unforeseen circumstances. 
Collision coverage and
comprehensive insurance
aren’t required in South Carolina, but these coverages are the only ways your vehicle will be protected in a collision or other accident. Comprehensive coverage will even cover damage caused by storms or hurricanes, which can be especially helpful in the Palmetto State. 

Driving without insurance can increase premiums

You may need to reorganize your budget or shift some priorities, but it’s imperative that you don’t wait to get minimum liability insurance. Here’s why: getting caught
driving without car insurance
won’t only earn you expensive fines—you’ll also face higher insurance premiums when you do sign up for coverage since you’ll have a violation on your record. 
With that violation, plus other violations like an at-fault car accident, you’ll have to pay sky-high premiums until those violation points fall off your record—which is two years in South Carolina. 
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