Supreme Court Of South Carolina Makes Ruling On Motor Carrier Limits

The Supreme Court of South Carolina has held that a trucker, who was a commercial motor vehicle carrier was required to have at a minimum $750,000 in liability insurance limits. The Court overturned the ruling by a Richland County circuit court judge and found that the driver’s insurance policy had to be reformed to meet the limits of $750,000.

The Charleston trucker’s accident occurred when he was carrying cut trees in 2004 and crashed on Interstate-26 killing another motorist. State law requires that trucks that weight 10,000 pounds or more and carry nonhazardous materials must have at a minimum $750,000 in liability insurance coverage per occurrence.

The tractor trailer operator’s insurance company alleged that the truck driver’s vehicle was only a 10-wheel truck and was not a motor carrier but was a private vehicle transporting his own property without compensation. They argued that given the above, their driver was subject to only having to carry a lesser amount of insurance coverage. But the Supreme Court disagreed and held that the insurer was wrong in not classifying Greene as a motor carrier.

There is also a South Carolina law on the books that requires any corporation or person that operates a motor vehicle or truck for the transportation of persons or property for compensation in our state to comply with all applicable state laws and regulations.

At the time of the accident, the truck driver was picking up logs from a work site near Interstate 26. The insurance company argued that the South Carolina tractor trailer driver was not paid for transporting the wood and therefore not subject to the the $750,000 minimum insurance limit. The South Carolina higher court found that the facts showed otherwise and found the truck driver was subject to the $750,000 minimum. Source: Claims Journal June 15, 2009

Howell and Christmas, attorneys at law legal analysis and comment: It is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer to determine if the insurance company for the at fault driver if accurately telling you how much insurance coverage they have for their driver. In this case the insurer advised they only had $40,000 in coverage when it turned out, with the help of the injured’s lawyer, that there was actually $750,000 in coverage for the victim to recover.

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