Underinsured (UIM) Car Insurance 

Coverage for Multiple Accidents Caused by One Act of Negligence

How much coverage is available under your underinsured policy when one act of negligence causes more than one accident?  Under Johnson v. Hunter, in South Carolina if your UIM policy contained a “each accident” provision, it may be that you will only be entitled to one UIM policy limit, even where you have multiple UIM policies to cover your losses.   

This scenario was scrutinized for the first time in South Carolina by the Court of Appeals in 2010.  Johnson v. Hunter, 2010 WL 98703 (S.C. Ct. App. 2010).  The facts of the case involved the Plaintiff being involved in two different accidents, each causing seemingly independent damages.  The accident occurred after a negligent driver crossed the center line and struck the Plaintiff’s car.  The Plaintiff’s airbags deployed, and when he came to a stop he removed his seatbelt and exited his vehicle.  At that moment he was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle.  The defendant testified that he witnessed the accident, but that he did not have enough time to stop before hitting the plaintiff. 

The Plaintiff’s insurance policy had a limit for “each accident.”  Thus, the issue before the court was what constitutes a single accident.  In fleshing out this issue the trial court applied the cause approach.  This approach is used in many other states. Under the causation theory the court looks to the cause of the negligence, not the result.  A single accident occurred if the there was a sole negligent cause and the results are closely linked in time and space.  After applying the causation approach to the facts the court found that the second crash was a foreseeable result of the first act of negligence, and that it was not a second accident for purposes of construing the “each accident” provision contained in Plaintiff’s UIM policy.  As a result, even though the Plaintiff owned multiple UIM policies and his damages exceeded the first UIM policy, the Plaintiff was only entitled to pursue one UIM policy limit.

Please feel free to contact us if you’ve experienced a loss and you have questions regarding your insurance policy and available coverage.

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