- Under the law, is an insurance company required to sell me insurance?
Prior to March 1, 1999, the insurance company you selected was required to sell you a liability policy if you had a valid driver's license and paid the premium for the policy. As of March 1,1999, insurance companies are not required by law to sell you an insurance policy. They are, however, prohibited from refusing to issue a policy for the following reasons: age, sex, location of residence in this State, race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, marital status or income level.
- Can an insurance company refuse to sell an automobile insurance policy based on the lack of driving experience?
An insurance company cannot refuse to renew a policy based only on the lack of driving experience or number of years of driving experience. If you have another factor which indicates high risk characteristics, however, an insurance company may refuse to renew a policy. Also, the law does not prohibit an insurance company from refusing to issue an initial policy based on the lack of driving experience or number of years of driving experience.
- Can an insurance company consider lack of driving experience in determining what rate to charge?
Yes. An insurance company can consider lack of driving experience in determining rates. It is only unlawful to consider the following factors in determining the premium rates to be charged for an automobile insurance policy: race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, location of residence in this State, economic status, income level.
- Can an insurance company consider my age in determining what rate to charge?
Yes. An insurance company can consider age in determining rates. It is only unlawful to consider the following factors in determining the premium rates to be charged for an automobile insurance policy: race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, location of residence in this State, economic status, income level.
- Who determines how I am classified with respect to other drivers?
In the past, the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI) established, by regulation, a classification plan and a territorial plan which insurance companies used to assist in determining the proper rates to charge an insured. The SCDOI established twenty-two broad classifications, such as (1) there is no operator under 25 years of age and the automobile is not used for business, nor driven to or from work, or school or (2) there is an unmarried male/female operator under 21 years of age who is an owner or principal operator of the automobile. Under the old law, the SCDOI also established thirteen territories. Under the law, insurance companies will establish their own classifications. In most states, insurance companies use more than 200 classifications. They will also establish their own territories. The law, however, does not allow any territory to be smaller than a county, but allows a portion of a county to be rated with a neighboring county. The classification and territorial plans must be approved by the SCDOI.
- Will I know if I am not getting the lowest rate available from my insurance company?
If your rate level is higher than the lowest rate level tier for the insurance company or for an insurance company in the group to which that insurance company belongs, your insurance company must tell you in writing the reason you are not getting the lowest rate level tier.
- Are any discounts required to be given under the law?
The only discount required to be offered is the discount for insured persons who take an approved driver training course. The discount does not apply to youthful drivers. Some companies, however, will offer youthful driver discounts. Some may offer discounts for students maintaining a good grade point average. It is helpful to obtain quotes from several companies and to ask if the insurance company offers a youthful driver discount or any other discount which might apply to you.
- What is the South Carolina Reinsurance Facility?
This is the mechanism used to insure the residual market from 1974 until 1999. In 1974, the General Assembly passed a law requiring insurance companies to write anyone who wanted insurance who had a valid driver's license and paid the premiums. The Reinsurance Facility provided a mechanism where insurance companies could place individuals they would not have written had they had a choice. Insurance companies were allowed to put up to 35% of their business in the Reinsurance Facility. There are also some agents who write directly to the Facility. There are approximately 40% of the drivers in the State in the Reinsurance Facility, roughly one million drivers. About 85% of those drivers have their safe driver discount. Some reason other than an accident or violation put those drivers in the Reinsurance Facility. They had some risk characteristic(s) which indicated to the insurance company that they may not be paying enough premiums to cover the risk that they may create a loss for the insurance company.
- What is the recoupment fee included in my insurance premium?
If the premiums paid by the drivers insured through the Reinsurance Facility were not sufficient to cover their losses and expenses, the remaining losses and expenses were collected from all the drivers in the State. The additional charge listed on your premium statement is called the recoupment fee. It might be considered similar to paying an IOU. The recoupment fee repays the losses and expenses of the Reinsurance Facility which insurance companies have already paid.
- Does the law eliminate the recoupment fee?
The recoupment fee will be eliminated gradually. Until 2002, all drivers in this State will pay recoupment. It will not be included as a surcharge on your bill. It will be included in your overall premium and will be charged as a percentage of your liability premium. The law caps recoupment at 10% of your liability premium. After 2002, only drivers with violations will pay recoupment. Recoupment will continue to be paid until the insurance companies are reimbursed for the losses they have already paid.
- What can I do if I cannot find an insurance company which will sell me an automobile insurance policy?
As of March 1,1999, drivers who cannot purchase insurance from an insurance company can be insured by the South Carolina Associated Auto Insurers' Plan (SCAAIP), which will replace the Reinsurance Facility. An insurance agent or broker can apply for coverage for you through SCAAIP. You must show that you have been refused by at least one insurance company, agent or broker and why you were refused. It is anticipated the SCAAIP rates will be higher than any rate you would pay if you were able to purchase insurance through ordinary means; therefore, it is very important to obtain quotes from a number of insurance companies. There may be an insurance company which will write you at lower rates than SCAAIP.
- How can I reduce my automobile insurance costs?
To reduce the overall cost of insurance, we have to reduce the losses by having fewer accidents. It costs a great deal of money to repair bodies and vehicles. If you want to reduce your insurance individually, discuss your situation with your insurance agent or broker. Determine what coverages you need. Purchase only the coverages you need. You may have other ways to cover some risks, such as towing or rental car coverages. Consider paying a larger deductible, but remember, if you have an accident you will be responsible for paying a larger portion of the costs. Shop for insurance as you would other products or services. You may find an insurance company which will sell you a policy cheaper than your current company. You should not only consider price, however. Service is an important factor in purchasing insurance.
- Under the law, will I have to purchase liability insurance?
Prior to February 1, 1999, every private passenger automobile was required to have liability insurance to provide insurance coverage if the driver of the automobile is at fault in the accident and injures another person or damages another person's property. The laws of this State require minimum coverage of $15,000 if one person is injured in an accident; $30,000 if more than one person is injured; and $10,000 for property damage. Higher limits of coverage could be purchased. Beginning February 1, 1999, the requirement to carry liability insurance is eliminated, unless the driver has certain violations on his record or there is a driver in the household who has been licensed for less than three years.
- What must I do if I do not want to purchase automobile insurance?
A driver can make an annual payment of $550 Uninsured Motorist Fee and drive an uninsured vehicle. The fee is paid to the Department of Public Safety at the time you register your uninsured vehicle. The fee will cover only the vehicle registered. You must pay $550 for each vehicle you want to register as an uninsured vehicle. THIS IS NOT INSURANCE. If you cause an accident, you will be personally responsible for any injuries and damages caused.
- What violations will prevent me from registering an uninsured vehicle upon payment of the $550.00 fee?
If you are convicted of any of the following violations, you will not be able to register or drive an uninsured vehicle in this State:
- disobeying an official traffic device,
- failing to stop for a law enforcement when signaled,
- disobeying an officer directing traffic;
- failing to stop for a school bus,
- leaving the scene of an accident involving bodily injury or property damage,
- stealing or unlawfully taking a vehicle,
- racing on public highways,
- driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs where injury to a person in an amount more than $600 or damage to property in an amount more than $1000 results,
- injuring a person (in an amount more than $600) or damaging property (in an amount more than $1000) as a result of reckless driving,
- committing homicide or assault with a motor vehicle,
- committing a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle,
- transporting illegal whiskey or unlawful drugs or other controlled or narcotic substances,
- committing reckless homicide,
- willfully making false statements in application for license or registration,
- impersonating an applicant for license or registration or procuring a license or registration through impersonation,
- any three or more moving violations,
- (any two or more accidents for which the owner is responsible where injury to a person in an amount more than $600 or damage to property in an amount more than $1000 results.
Three years after you have been convicted of any of the above violations, you will be eligible to register an uninsured vehicle. Also, if there is a driver in the household who has been licensed for less than three years, you will not be able to register an uninsured vehicle.