Is my Fiancée Covered by My Underinsured (UIM) Auto Coverage in South Carolina?

Unless your fiancee is a "named insured" in your policy the answer may be, no. 

In Bell v. Progressive Direct Insurance Company, the South Carolina Supreme Court recently held that the Plaintiff being listed as a “driver” and “household resident” on his fiancée’s policy wasn’t enough to be covered by his fiancée’s underinsured motorist coverage.  While this outcome may seem harsh, it is not out of sync with South Carolina law regarding underinsured motorist coverage, or more specifically the law regarding “stacking” of underinsured motorist coverage.

The Facts:

In this case Bell was involved in a car accident, and presumably his injuries were covered by a liability policy, the liability policy insuring the at-fault driver.  Presumably, all of Bell’s damages were not covered by the liability policy, and he sought coverage under his fiancée’s underinsured (UIM) policy for the excess damages.  Under this scenario, we would look to South Carolina law defined in Jackson v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 342 S.E.2d 603 (S.C. 1986), “stacking.”

The Rule:

“Stacking” is an insured’s recovery of damages under more than one policy in succession until all damages are satisfied or until the total limits of all policies have been exhausted. Id.  Only Class One insureds may stack.  Class One insureds are the named insured, resident spouse and relatives.  Relatives in most policies of insurance are defined as “a person residing in the same household as you, and related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption.” S.C. Code Ann. 38-77-140 (2007). For more regarding stacking you may follow this link to read a recent Supreme Court decision. 

The Outcome:

Under the rule governing stacking, it becomes apparent that a fiancée does not qualify as a resident relative, nor a person related by blood or marriage.  Unfortunately, in this case, Bell was not able to reach out to his fiancée’s UIM policy to recover damages that exceeded the negligent driver’s liability policy. 

If we are to take away anything from this ruling it may be that perhaps in a unique scenario such as above that we should consider including loved ones that do not qualify as Class One Insureds as “named insured” in our own policies of insurance.  

If you or your loved one would like to discuss under insured insurance in South Carolina, you are welcome to contact a South Carolina car accident lawyer at Stratos Law with greater than 25 years of experience handling car accident claims and law suits.   

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