Originally created 03/03/98

S.C.'s largest auto insurer wants rate increases



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's largest auto insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., wants an almost 6 percent rate increase for private auto owners, while many customers with commercial policies could see a decrease.

The proposed increase in commercial and private rates would total $17.2 million. State Farm writes nearly one third of the auto insurance in South Carolina.

The insurer wants to reduce commercial auto insurance rates an average of nearly 13 percent, while increasing them an average 5.9 percent for private automobile insurance.

However, private auto insurance increases could average as much as 21 percent in Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster and York counties. Individual driving records and the type of vehicle and coverage also could push the increase as high as 21 percent in some other cases.

Rates in Horry, Lexington and Richland counties could increase as much as 17 percent, and Spartanburg County drivers could pay as much as 15 percent more.

While State Farm proposes an overall decrease in commercial rates, some of those could increase by as much as 25 percent, depending on the type of vehicle and coverage.

People who could be affected by the rates have until March 16 to request a hearing before an administrative law judge, said Lessia Lynch with the state Insurance Department.

The request is the first major change for State Farm since 1993, when it reduced overall rates by 7.5 percent.