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South Carolina Property Damage Arbitration: Your Weapon Against Insurance Adjusters

Insurance companies frustrate people over their property damage from a motor vehicle collision. Clients we see are infuriated by the way the at fault driver's insurance company has treated them on the evaluation and reimbursement of their property damage. As a victim of unsafe conduct or an unscrupulous insurance companies, you have options! Stop believing everything the insurance adjuster tells you to be the gospel truth. Start using the vast information at your finger tips to motivate the insurance companies to treat you fairly.

If you receive property damage from a motor vehicle collision in the State of South Carolina then you should be able to recover several things:

the fair market value of your vehicle if it is a total loss;

the repair of your vehicle to its pre-collision state (if not a total loss);

a rental car or loss of use= $25.00 a day for every day you were unable to use your vehicle or not provided a rental;

depreciation for your vehicle now being worth less than it was before the collision as a result of having after market parts and being labeled as having been in a collision.

The insurance adjuster does not have to pay what Kelley Blue Book or NADA says vehicle is worth. The law requires payment of "fair Market Value". Insurance companies make money denying claims and paying less than the claim is worth.

YOU HAVE TWO CHOICES:

1) Take the value they are trying to force you to accept ; or

2) File a Property Arbitration claim with the Clerk of Court in the county the collision happened or defendant lives. It routinely only costs five ($5.00) dollars.

Insurance companies do not enjoy having to come explain themselves in front of the arbitration panel, which consists of three (3) lawyers in the county you filed. Most times you can get more negotiating done after you forward a copy of the arbitration to the adjuster you were working with. Below are the relevant statutes. Also, go to the Clerk of Court website for the county where the at fault driver resides.

SOUTH CAROLINA CODE OF LAWS

ARTICLE 7.

ARBITRATION OF PROPERTY DAMAGE LIABILITY CLAIMS

SECTION 38-77-710. Appointment of attorneys as arbitrators to hear and determine property damage liability claims; process and procedure.

The court of common pleas, or any inferior courts having concurrent jurisdiction, in and for each county, shall by order of reference appoint an attorney or attorneys to hear and determine, by arbitration, property damage liability claims arising out of motor vehicle collisions or accidents and to award actual and punitive damages. This order must be consistent with the provisions of this chapter and may not be inconsistent with the Rules of the Supreme Court of South Carolina. Process and procedure must be as summary and simple as may be reasonable and may provide for the taking of evidence in the form of reports, statements, or itemized bills or in any other manner without the procedural and evidentiary limitations which pertain in jury trials. The court may provide for the taking of depositions of a witness within or without the State.

SECTION 38-77-720. Number, qualifications, and compensation of arbitrators; fee paid by claimant.

(a) The order of reference shall establish a panel of arbitrators each of whom must be a member of the bar and the members must be selected for service in particular cases on some fair rotation basis. Three arbitrators shall hear and determine each case and the decision of two of the three arbitrators shall determine the issue. However, the parties to the dispute may, by agreement, provide for determination of the disputed claim by one arbitrator.

(b) Each arbitrator assigned to determine the claim may be compensated, not to exceed thirty-five dollars for his services and time, payable out of the funds of the court and which may not be taxable as costs to either party.

(c) The claimant who is the moving party in seeking arbitration shall pay to the clerk of court a fee of ten dollars. Five dollars must be retained by the clerk as the cost of filing the claim and final judgment and five dollars must be used to pay the cost of service on the other party or parties.

SECTION 38-77-730. Request for arbitration; no formal pleading and process; arbitration docket; filing of claim; service of summons to defendant.

(a) Any person who is a party to the disputed property damage liability claim may submit his claim for determination through arbitration. No formal pleading or process is required. The clerk of court of each county shall prepare and keep an arbitration docket and set the cases thereon for arbitration as provided by law for the settling of cases in the court of common pleas.

(b) The claim must be filed with the clerk of court in the county in which the cause of action arose or where the plaintiff or defendant resides. The claim must be filed in triplicate with the clerk of court on forms to be provided by him. The forms shall set forth the names of the parties, the date and place of the accident, and the amount of property damage claimed. The clerk shall file one copy in his office, and one copy must be served upon the defendant as provided by law for service of summons and complaints. The sheriff, or such other person, shall promptly serve the claim upon the defendant and shall receive the sum of five dollars to defray the cost of securing this service. The sheriff, or such other person, serving the process shall promptly file an affidavit of personal service with the clerk of court on forms to be provided by the clerk.

(c) There must be attached to, or made part of, the form a summons to the defendant named notifying him that he should file a response with the clerk of court within thirty days from the date of service and that failure to file a response within thirty days entitles the plaintiff to a default judgment. The form must be signed by the party filing it or his attorney, if any, and shall by order of reference show the address of the person signing it.

SECTION 38-77-740. Hearing; notice to parties; damages to be awarded; securing attendance of witnesses.

(a) The court, or the clerk acting for the court, shall assign the arbitrators to hear the matter at the courthouse, or other designated place in the county where the claim is filed, within sixty days after the date of filing, or as soon thereafter as is feasible. The clerk of court shall, on a form provided by him, advise the parties or their attorneys of record, if any, by mail as to the place, date, and time of hearing and shall advise the parties to bring all records which may pertain to the claim, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) Two estimates of damage to the motor vehicle or its contents signed by the estimator.

(2) Signed receipts for car repairs.

(3) Bills or receipts for other property damages claimed.

The forms shall also contain notice to the parties that, if they cannot attend because of illness or otherwise, the clerk of court must be notified as soon as possible with the request that another date be set for the hearing.

(b) Property damages must be awarded as provided by law, including, but not limited to, actual damages, loss of use, depreciation, and any other property damages which are the direct and proximate result of the accident.

(c) The parties may secure the attendance of witnesses by their voluntary appearance or may secure their attendance by subpoenas prepared and issued in accordance with the laws of this State.

HISTORY: Former 1976 Code Section 56-11-540 [1962 Code Section 46-750.138; 1974 (58) 2718] recodified as Section 38-77-740 by 1987 Act No. 155, Section 1.

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