As an avid Florida Gator and South Eastern Conference football fan, I was excited to see South Carolina facing off against Vanderbilt to open the college football season last week. For those of you who did not watch, South Carolina’s quarterback injured his shoulder during the game. The Gamecocks nearly lost, which would have severely damaged their hopes of reaching the SEC championship this year and perhaps rendered their season – wait for it – a total loss. Of course, this inspired me to turn to South Carolina in my weekly breakdown of the total loss standards across the union.
South Carolina does not have a set rule on what constitutes a total loss, presumably leaving it open to a fact question for the jury to determine. However, the statutes and ensuing case law make it clear that if one is able to show their home suffered a total loss by fire, then the insurance company is required to pay the policy limits. Specifically,
[I]n a case of total loss by fire, recovery equals the full amount of insurance under the policy and not the actual value of the insured property.1
Interestingly though, South Carolina courts will not extend this language to total losses by disasters other than fire. In fact, South Carolina courts have held that,
It is patently clear to me that the Legislature stated and intended in clear and unambiguous terms that “in the case of total loss-“ and described the manner by using the words “by fire.”
There is nothing contained within the policy, or that I can find in the South Carolina Statutes or case law, which affect the coverage to the extent of the actual cash value as to wind damage.2
Therefore, total losses due to wind damage or other perils will not automatically afford a policyholder the opportunity to recover the full policy limits. The policyholder will still have to establish damages.
1 Averill v. Preferred Mut. Ins. Co., 441 S.E. 2d 632, 633 (S.C. 1994).
2 McNeely v. SC Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 190 SE 2d 499 (SC 1972).