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Car accidents are never a good thing, but when the at-fault driver leaves the scene without stopping, it can become an even bigger dilemma — especially if there are injuries or extensive damage to your vehicle. Bankrate reviewed South Carolina’s hit-and-run laws and the impact hit-and-runs can have on your auto insurance premiums to help you prepare if you ever find yourself in this situation.
Hit-and-runs in South Carolina
An accident is considered a hit-and-run in South Carolina when the at-fault driver flees the scene. Not only is this illegal, but if caught, the penalties may include steep fines, jail time and a felony conviction. In 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available, South Carolina recorded 3,514 hit-and-run accidents, which amounts to about 1.56 percent of all accidents.
South Carolina hit-and-run laws
Hit-and-run laws in South Carolina mandate that drivers immediately stop when involved in an accident. Not stopping could come with steep penalties. The severity of the consequences largely depends on the bodily injuries involved.
- Minimal bodily injury: The penalty for a hit-and-run may be a misdemeanor conviction, fine of up to $5,000 and 30 days to one year in jail.
- Severe bodily injury: The penalty may be a felony with a fine between $5,000 and $10,000, plus possible jail time of between 30 days and 10 years.
- Death: The penalty may be a felony with imprisonment of between one and 25 years and a fine of up to $25,000.
How hit-and-runs impact car insurance rates in South Carolina
Leaving the scene of an accident in SC is likely to increase your insurance premiums, especially if you are the at-fault driver. The average cost for a full coverage policy in South Carolina is $1,532, but with a hit-and-run on your driving record, you might pay significantly more. You may also be dropped by your current insurance carrier or may be required to file an SR-22 form.
It’s possible your rates could be negatively impacted even if you are the victim of a hit-and-run — or even if you aren’t involved at all. Since hit-and-runs often result in costly claims, and the number of claims in your region impacts the premiums all policyholders pay, hit-and-runs may lead to South Carolina insurers raising their rates across the board.
4 things to do after a hit-and-run in South Carolina
Being involved in a hit-and-run accident is a stressful situation. The priority is to make sure you and your passengers are okay and to seek medical attention if you are not. Here’s what else you may want to do:
- Get medical attention: First, evaluate everyone’s safety and determine if there are any injuries. Call 911 so that police and medical personnel are summoned as needed. Getting medical attention may be a smart idea, even if you feel fine at the moment.
- Quickly gather details: If you are able, try to observe any details about who might have hit your vehicle. Things like a license plate number and the make and model of the vehicle can be helpful. Write down anything you observe, so you have the information available later on. If there are witnesses, ask them to stay to tell the police what they saw.
- Cooperate with police: If you called 911, police officers may arrive on the scene. Cooperate with them, have your insurance card handy and answer any questions as best you can.
- Take photos and videos: Without interfering with the police investigation, try to take as many photos and videos as you can to record the conditions surrounding the accident. They may be useful later on as part of the insurance claim.
Will insurance cover a hit-and-run?
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run in South Carolina, your own auto insurance policy may provide financial relief from some of the expenses related to the accident, depending on the coverage options you have on your policy.
- Collision coverage: Collision insurance helps pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged due to an accident, up to your policy limits. Collision is typically part of a full coverage policy, along with comprehensive insurance. It does have a deductible, which you will likely need to pay before coverage kicks in.
- Uninsured motorist: Uninsured motorist coverage helps pay for your and your passengers’ medical expenses if incurred in an accident where the at-fault driver does not have insurance. South Carolina requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage equal to the mandated liability limits (25/50/25) with a minimum $200 deductible.
Frequently asked questions
The average cost of car insurance in South Carolina is $1,532 per year for full coverage and $524 per year for minimum coverage. This is lower than the national average of $2,014 and $622 per year, respectively. However, rates are based on personal data like your age and gender, as well as the type of car you drive, your driving history and more. This means your exact rate may be higher or lower than average.
South Carolina requires drivers to purchase a minimum of 25/50/25 of liability insurance, which is $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability, $50,000 per accident in bodily injury liability and $25,000 per accident in property damage liability. Additionally, drivers in South Carolina are required to carry uninsured motorist coverage equivalent to their liability coverage limits. Underinsured motorist coverage must be offered but can be declined in writing. Unless you are looking for the cheapest coverage, most insurance experts recommend that you purchase more than the minimum coverage required by law to better protect yourself financially.
In general, an accident will stay on your driving record for three years in South Carolina. This does not mean your insurance rates will go down after three years, however, as your insurer may have its own rules on how long to penalize a driver for an at-fault accident.