When you drive your car in South Carolina, you must at least carry liability insurance and uninsured motorist coverage of $25k/$50k for bodily injury, and $25k for property damage. The South Carolina Financial Responsibility Act requires this so that motorists always have a means to pay for the damage and injuries they cause or sustain themselves in an accident.
Make sure that your insurer has entered your information into SC's Automobile Liability Insurance Reporting (ALIR) System. When you are registering your car at the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV), they will verify your insurance status and coverage amount through the ALIR. South Carolina law enforcement officers can ask for your proof of insurance when they pull you over; show them your insurance ID card. Otherwise, if you have one of the alternative proof of financial responsibility (covered in the end of article), a certificate of bond or deposit may be used as proof.
|South Carolina Required Car Insurance Coverage||SC Required Min. Limits|
|Bodily Injury (BI)||$25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident|
|Property Damage (PD)||$25,000 per accident|
|Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI)||$25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident|
South Carolina Car Insurance Minimum Requirements
A car insurance policy that meets the SC requirements includes three types of coverage: bodily injury, property damage – together referred to as the liability insurance – and uninsured motorist. These coverages, with their respective required amounts (limits), protect you these ways:
Bodily Injury (BI): whenever you accidentally cause a crash in South Carolina that results in someone’s injuries, you are responsible for the other party’s medical bills. BI pays for that portion of your responsibility, up to $25,000 per injured person and a total of $50,000 per accident (when more than one person is injured). Your insurer will also pay for a lawyer in case the other driver sues you.
Property Damage (PD): when the accident you cause results in someone else’s property damage, such as damage to the other driver’s car, your PD kicks in to pay for you up to $25,000 per accident. Your own car would either be your own responsibility, or something that you'd have covered under collision and comprehensive insurance (two optional additions).
Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI): this coverage is meant to protect you during an accident caused by an uninsured driver - up to $25,000 per person on your car and total of $50,000 per accident, UMBI pays for your medical bills in place of the uninsured driver’s insurer, if he or she had any. Note that in South Carolina, you will need to pay $200 of the cost (deductible) before your UMBI coverage kicks in.
South Carolina Uninsured Motorist Registration
The only exception to the minimum coverage requirements in South Carolina is when you apply to and are approved by the Uninsured Motorist Registration. By paying a $550 annual fee, the DMV will approve your vehicle registration even without a policy, provided that you meet all of the following qualifications:
- Both you and any other driver in your household have been licensed to drive for at least 3 years.
- You are not carrying an SR-22 at the time of application.
- You have not been involved in any accident nor had any traffic violations in the past 3 years.
However, note that the $550 annual fee is not a refundable deposit, and in the event of an accident, you will be completely on your own to bear the financial burden. As soon as you get ticketed or cause an accident, your SC registration will be canceled, and you must get a liability policy.
Alternative Proof of Financial Responsibility
When you are involved in an accident, failure to provide proof of insurance in time may result in license and registration suspension, as well as a mandatory Proof of Financial Responsibility (SR22) filing. SR22 is a document filed by your insurer that proves you have a liability policy meeting the state mandated coverage. If for some reason, you do not want to purchase an auto insurance policy or register as an uninsured driver, here are several alternatives that the DMV may accept as your proof:
- Surety Bond: a surety bond issued by a surety company licensed in South Carolina and good for payments in the event of an accident you cause. Specifically, it is a promise that in case you cannot fully satisfy all the judgments against you, the SC surety company will pay in your place up to at least the same amount as an insurer would under a minimum liability policy (for both bodily injuries and property damage). The surety company will ask you for to reimburse its payments. File a copy of the bond with the DMV to get a certificate of insurance.
- Real Estate Bond: a bond signed by two other individuals, both real estate owners in South Carolina with a combined value in equities of $150,000 or more, and approved by a county judge where the properties are located. The bond is a surety that in case you fail to satisfy all judgments against you, including payments for any bodily injuries or property damage you cause in an accident, the two individuals will take up the responsibility. Any property listed on the bond may be taken as debt to satisfy a judgment, so you will need to specify on the bond how much liability each property will account for. When the court clerk officially files a record of the bond with the DMV, you will get a certificate as proof.
- Cash/Security Deposit: a cash or security – such as government notes or bonds – deposited in the amount of $35,000 with the South Carolina State Treasurer. This deposit will be used to satisfy your dues to the other party in an accident you're at fault for. You may only use this a means of proof if there were no prior unsatisfied judgments against you.