Staying Insured

Non-Renewal, Inadequate Notice, and South Carolina Auto Insurance Policies

It is a well-known fact that in order to drive a car, the law requires you to have car insurance. Because this insurance is required, it is generally assumed that a person will continue to be insured as long as they continue making payments. This, however, isn’t always the case.

Many people are unaware that the insurance company can make the decision to not renew your policy for any reason they choose. This can be surprising and upsetting and can lead to some legal issues. At minimum, the person must deal with the inconvenience of finding new insurance coverage. At worst, a person may realize that they didn’t have insurance coverage when they needed it most.

Gruenloh Law recently was able to help a client who faced a unique non-renewal situation. Our client was in a car accident and when she attempted to make a claim on her insurance, was shocked to discover that her insurance company had non-renewed her insurance policy three months prior. Our client had no prior knowledge of this non-renewal and thought that she was still covered at the time of the accident. After trying unsuccessfully to deal with her insurance company and figure out exactly why her coverage was being denied, she contacted us for help.

In South Carolina, an insurance company must give an insured written notice of their intent to non-renew their policy at least thirty days prior to the end of the policy term. See Bannister v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 314 S.C. 388, 389, 444 S.E.2d 528, 529 (Ct. App. 1994). Additionally, in order for that notice to be considered adequate, the insured must actually receive the notice and be aware of the fact that their policy will not be renewed. See Edens v. S. Carolina Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 288 S.C. 435, 343 S.E.2d 49 (Ct. App. 1986). Once an insured receives notice of non-renewal, the insured has fifteen days to request that the South Carolina Department of Insurance review the non-renewal and make sure that the insurance company complied with South Carolina law. S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-120.

Through our investigations, we were able to determine that the insurance company had not complied with South Carolina law as they sent the notice to an incorrect mailing address. This error occurred when the insurance company incorrectly entered her mailing address into their system, even though they knew her correct address as they insured her home. After numerous conversations with the company informing them of their error and lack of compliance with the law, the insurance company still denied that coverage existed.

Because our client contacted us immediately, our attorneys were able to contest the non-renewal of coverage. Our attorneys lodged a formal complaint with the South Carolina Insurance Director on behalf of our client, and shortly thereafter the insurance company reviewed the situation and renewed her policy retroactively. After her policy was renewed, she was able to avoid having her license suspended for failing to have insurance on her vehicle at the time of the accident.

In order to protect your rights, it is important to contact an attorney immediately. If you or anyone you know has had their insurance coverage non-renewed or feels they have been treated unfairly by their insurance company, contact Gruenloh Law at (843) 577-0027 and set up your free consultation.


About the Author:

Brian R. Holmes is an associate attorney with the Gruenloh Law Firm and a Charleston native. He a graduated from the University of South Carolina where he obtained his Bachelors Degree in History, the College of Charleston where he obtained his Masters in Business Administration, and the Charleston School of Law where he obtained his Juris Doctorate. When he is not in the office, he is actively rooting for the New Orlean Saints and Carolina Gamecocks.

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