South Carolina Car Insurance Requirements

South Carolina's minimum car insurance coverage requirements, penalties for driving without insurance in the state, and more.

By , J.D. University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated 8/18/2022

In every state, car insurance is sure to play a big part in any claim brought after a traffic accident, and South Carolina is no exception. Here's what to know at the outset:

  • The at-fault driver is on the financial hook (usually through their liability car insurance provider) for car accident injuries and other losses after a crash in South Carolina.
  • South Carolina requires vehicle owners to carry certain types and amounts of car insurance coverage.
  • Driving without insurance can lead to strict penalties in South Carolina, and if you cause a car accident as an uninsured driver, you could find yourself in serious financial jeopardy.

South Carolina Is a "Fault" Car Accident State

South Carolina follows a traditional "fault" system when it comes to financial responsibility for losses stemming from a car accident: injuries, lost income, vehicle damage, and so on. This means that the person who was at fault for causing the car accident is also responsible for any resulting harm (from a practical standpoint, the at-fault driver's insurance carrier will absorb these losses, up to liability policy limits).

Do I Have Options for Making a Car Accident Claim In South Carolina?

After a car accident in South Carolina, depending on the kind of car insurance coverage you have and the clarity of the fault issue, you might be able to get compensation for your accident-related losses in one of three ways:

  • by filing a claim with your own insurance company, regardless of who caused the accident, if you have personal injury protection or medical payments coverage (for your injuries) or collision coverage (for your vehicle damage); in this situation, if the other driver ends up being at fault, your own insurance company will likely turn around and pursue a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver's insurer
  • by filing a third-party claim directly with the other driver's insurance carrier (if it's pretty clear that the other driver was at fault) and negotiating a fair settlement, and
  • by filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver (whose liability insurance would cover any court award you receive if your case is successful); remember that your lawsuit could settle out of court at any point before trial.

Note: In no-fault car insurance states, a claimant doesn't usually have this same range of options, but South Carolina drivers don't need to worry about no-fault car insurance restrictions after an in-state accident.

Car Insurance Requirements in South Carolina

In South Carolina, when you apply for or renew a driver's license, you must certify you are insured by an automobile liability policy, or certify that you do not own a vehicle.

South Carolina requires vehicle owners to carry liability auto insurance that meets at least the following minimums:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle
  • $50,000 for total bodily injury or death liability in an accident caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle, and
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle.

So, what is liability coverage? It pays the medical bills, property damage bills, and other costs of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are injured or have their vehicle damaged in a car accident you cause, up to coverage limits. You can (and in some situations should) carry more coverage to protect you in case a serious crash results in significant car accident injuries and vehicle damage. Once policy limits are exhausted, you are personally on the financial hook, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.

Your liability coverage will kick in if any family member is driving your vehicle, or if you've given someone else permission to use it. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car.

Remember that liability coverage doesn't apply to your own injuries or vehicle damage after a South Carolina car accident. You'll need different (additional) coverage for that if you're involved in a car accident and no one else's coverage applies to your losses.

For example, collision coverage (optional in South Carolina, though might be required under the terms of a vehicle lease or financing agreement) can pay for repairs to (or replacement of) your damaged vehicle after a car accident.

Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage Required in South Carolina?

Yes. In addition to liability insurance, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is required in South Carolina, in an amount equal to the minimum required liability coverage laid out above (25/50/25). UM coverage can protect you and your passengers if the at-fault driver has no insurance, or if you're the victim of a hit and run.

Can I Show Digital Proof of Car Insurance In South Carolina?

Yes. If you're asked to provide proof of car insurance (during a traffic stop, for example), you can pull up official policy documentation from your insurance company on your phone or other device. Of course, you can still carry a physical copy of your company-issued insurance card and hand that over as well.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in South Carolina

According to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, when you cancel the car insurance policy on a vehicle you're still driving, you'll probably receive a letter requiring your insurance company to electronically verify that you've got new coverage, and then let the SCDMV know. If the SCDMV does not receive this verification within 20 days:

  • your driving privileges and vehicle plates and registration will be suspended, and
  • you may be ordered to pay up to $400 to reinstate your driving privileges and registration.

If you're pulled over and cited for driving without insurance, and it's a vehicle you don't own, your license will probably be suspended for 30 days, and you'll likely need to pay a $100 reinstatement fee.

If you're pulled over and cited for driving without insurance, and you're the vehicle owner, your license and registration will almost certainly be suspended until the SCDMV receives a $550 "uninsured motorist fee," and you'll probably need to make sure your car insurance company verifies your insured status with SCDMV for the next three years.

Get more facts on driving uninsured in South Carolina, from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Keep in mind that fines and other administrative penalties will likely pale in comparison to the financial hit you could take if you're in a car accident and you don't have car insurance.

Getting Help After a South Carolina Car Accident

Get more details on South Carolina's car insurance rules and requirements with this Auto Insurance FAQs collection from the state's Department of Insurance.

Of course, if you've been injured in a car accident, you might be looking for more than just the basic car insurance rules in South Carolina. It might make sense to discussion your situation, and your options, with an experienced legal professional. Get more details on when you might need a car accident lawyer, and what to expect from your first meeting with a car accident attorney. If you're ready to connect with a South Carolina car accident attorney now, you can use the features right on this page to find one in your area.

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