What Is Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage and Do You Need It?
Uninsured motorist coverage is additional auto insurance coverage that protects you if you’re ever in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver.
Some states require all drivers to have uninsured motorist coverage, so you might not have a choice. However, it’s essential to understand the different coverage types and how they can protect you and your family.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage?
Uninsured motorist insurance coverage (UM) protects you if you are ever in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, a driver whose coverage cannot cover your costs or a driver whose insurance company denies their claim. Ultimately, the purpose of UM is to pay for various fees, including medical bills, lost wages and car damage if the accident is not your fault.
There are two types of uninsured motorist insurance coverage. It’s important to know the difference, as they are not always bundled together (although they are in some states, so check with your insurance provider).
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage is protection related to injuries or property damage sustained in an auto accident as a result of the actions of an uninsured driver. An “uninsured driver” is a motorist who does not have insurance, has insurance that does not meet state-mandated liability requirements or whose insurance company denies the claim. Uninsured motorist coverage is broken into two separate categories: uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) and uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD).
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured motorist coverage protects you in the event of an accident caused by a driver whose insurance does not cover the expenses from the accident. Many drivers opt for the minimum liability coverage required by law, which is often not enough to cover costs.
What Does Uninsured Motorist Cover?
UM covers standard expenses as a result of an accident. UM typically covers costs for you and your passengers. These costs can include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages if you cannot work while recovering from the accident
- Pain and suffering compensation
- Funeral expenses
- Car damage in some states
Remember, every UM package is different. The best way to find out what your insurance provider’s uninsured motorist insurance covers is to ask. You should also research a few different providers to understand what other insurance providers cover under their uninsured motorist policies and how this compared to your current insurance companies.
What Does Uninsured Motorist Insurance Not Cover?
UM will not cover every expense caused by an accident, even if you are not at fault, so it's crucial to discuss full coverage car insurance details with your provider to understand what your coverage protects. It's a smart idea that you understand your coverage fully before having to file a claim. UM typically does not cover:
- Damages to items inside your car
- Legal fees related to the accident
- Expenses over your policy amount
How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work in a Claim?
In the event of an accident, it's essential to contact your insurance provider right away to let them know you will be filing a claim. Some providers have deadlines for how long you can delay filing a claim, so don't wait. Once you have notified your insurance company, you will file a claim as you would a regular car insurance claim, except that the claim is essentially against your own insurance company.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage Example
Kevin rear-ends Jeff at a stoplight. Jeff sustains injuries and goes to the hospital, where he receives treatment for a few broken bones. Jeff’s medical bills amount to $45,000 for the treatment he received from the accident. Kevin’s insurance company offers to pay his total policy amount insured: $30,000, which falls short of total expenses accrued. In this example, Jeff still needs $15,000 to cover his bills. Jeff files an uninsured motorist coverage claim to cover the rest of his medical expenses. Without uninsured motorist insurance, Jeff would have to pay that $15,000 out of pocket.
Which Companies Are Best for Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Most auto insurance companies offer UM insurance, but you might have to compare quotes from a few different providers before selecting the right plan.
Do You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Unless you live in a state where it is required to have UM, you do not need to pay for uninsured motorist insurance. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider this extra coverage. When asking yourself, “Do I need uninsured motorist coverage ?” consider your personal circumstances. Are you able to cover unexpected medical bills, can you pay for car repairs out-of-pocket and will you be able to work if injured? When confronted with these questions, most drivers would answer “no.” Speak to your insurance provider to discuss your options.
States Where Uninsured Motorist Coverage Is Required
Not all states require UM insurance, but it could already be included in your auto insurance coverage, so check with your provider. The following states require UM insurance:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Remember that minimum liability limits vary by state, so be sure to discuss your required limits with each insurance provider when shopping for auto insurance quotes.
Should I Get Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
The amount of uninsured motorists varies by state. Still, if you live in an area with a high percentage of uninsured drivers, it is probably a good idea to get UM coverage to protect yourself in the event of an accident. The table below ranks each state by percentage of uninsured drivers.
Percentage of Uninsured Motorists by State
Percentage of Uninsured Drivers
Source: Insurance Research Council.
Consider the cost of uninsured motorist coverage when weighing your options. If the minimum liability coverage is low in your state, it might ultimately benefit you to consider uninsured motorist coverage.
Key Facts About Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage isn’t a necessity for absolutely every driver. However, adding UM to your car insurance coverage could save you a lot of money — and frustration — if you are ever in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. When looking for the best auto insurance to protect yourself and your family, consider these key points:
UM is additional insurance coverage that covers expenses related to an accident caused by a driver who either does not have auto insurance or whose policy will not cover the total amount of expenses.
UM covers medical bills, lost wages if you cannot work while recovering from the accident, pain and suffering compensation, funeral expenses and in some states, car damage.
UM is not required by law in all 50 states; however, many car insurance providers will include UM in their car insurance policies.
If you live in an area with a high uninsured driver rate or aren't confident that you can afford to cover any accident expenses (such as hospital bills or car repairs) in the event of an accident, you should consider adding UM to your policy.
About the Author
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- The Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld, P.A. "Does Underinsured Insurance Cover Pain and Suffering." Accessed July 15, 2020.
- Insurance Information Institute. "Estimated Percentage Of Uninsured Motorists By State, 2015." Accessed July 31, 2020.