Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protect you if a driver who doesn’t have car insurance—or doesn’t have enough of it—hits you and can’t pay your medical or repair bills.
How exactly do uninsured motorist coverage, or UM, and underinsured motorist coverage, or UIM, protect you in these situations? You’ll learn that here plus find answers to these related questions:
- What is the difference between UM and UIM coverage?
- Do I need uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?
- Do any states require drivers to have uninsured or underinsured coverage?
- Where can I buy uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?
- What do UM and UIM coverage cost?
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage is a kind of car insurance that protects you if another driver hits you and doesn’t have liability coverage. It also protects you if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident.
You might be thinking, Don’t most states require drivers to carry at least some liability car insurance coverage? Yes, they do. Still, millions of Americans go without. In fact, one in eight U.S. drivers is uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
What happens if you’re in an accident with an uninsured motorist and you don’t have UM coverage? You’ll probably have to pay your medical and vehicle-repair bills out of your own pocket.
What is underinsured motorist coverage?
Underinsured motorist coverage protects you if you’re hit by a driver who has some liability car insurance but not enough to cover your repair or medical costs.
So, if you decide not to buy UIM coverage and you’re in an accident caused by an underinsured motorist, you’ll likely have to pay at least some of your medical and repair bills with your own money. (The at-fault driver’s insurance will cover those bills up to the policy’s limits, but you’ll need to cover the rest.)
What is the difference between uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?
The main difference between uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is that UM protects you against drivers who don’t have any car insurance while UIM protects you against drivers who have some car insurance but not enough to cover all of your medical or repair costs.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are similar in certain ways, too. One example is that both types of coverage are usually broken into two parts: bodily injury and property damage. Here’s what that means:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, or UMBI, helps pay your medical bills if an uninsured driver causes an accident that injures you. It also helps pay the medical bills of your injured passengers.
- Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage, or UIMBI, does the same. Although in this case, the driver who caused the crash has some liability car insurance but not enough to cover your medical bills.
- Uninsured motorist property damage coverage, or UMPD, helps you repair your car or other property if an uninsured driver hits and damages it.
- Underinsured motorist property damage coverage, or UIMPD, does the same. Like UIMBI, though, it focuses on at-fault drivers who have some liability insurance but not enough to cover your repair bills.
Three more things to keep in mind about UMBI, UMPD, UIMBI and UIMPD coverage:
- UMBI and UIMBI coverage usually don’t come with deductibles.
- UMPD and UIMPD coverage typically do come with deductibles.
- Some states require drivers to have all of these coverage types. In other states, they’re all optional. And several states fall somewhere in the middle.
Why do I need uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?
One reason you might need uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is your state requires it. Many do, as you’ll learn in just a minute.
Another reason you need UM and UIM coverage, or another reason you should consider them, is a lot of U.S. drivers either don’t have liability insurance or don’t have enough of it. If one of them causes an accident that damages your car or injures you, you could be on the hook for some hefty repair or medical bills. Yes, even if you have full coverage car insurance.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage if I have liability car insurance coverage?
Yes, you still need UM or UIM coverage if you want help paying your own medical or vehicle-repair costs after an uninsured or underinsured driver hits you.
This is because auto liability coverage only protects you when you injure someone else or damage their car in an accident. It doesn’t cover your own repair or medical bills in that situation.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage if I have collision car insurance coverage?
You don’t need UM or UIM coverage if you have collision coverage, but you might want to carry both anyway.
A few reasons you might want collision and UM or UIM coverage:
- Most insurance companies will raise your rates after you file a collision claim with them. They likely won’t raise your rates if you file a UM or UIM claim.
- Collision coverage deductibles can be pricey. UM and UIM property damage policies usually have much lower deductibles.
Given the above, if you’re involved in an accident that allows you to file a UM or UIM claim with your insurer rather than a collision claim, doing so should save you money.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage if I have health insurance?
Again, you don’t need UM or UIM coverage if you have health insurance, but you might want it anyway.
If you have health insurance, it should cover any medical bills that are tied to a car accident. How well it covers them depends on how good your health insurance is, though. Also, even if you have good health insurance, your medical expenses after an accident may be higher than the limits of your plan.
If you buy UM or UIM coverage with a high enough limit, it will help you in this situation. Assuming you’re injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver, of course. In particular, it can help:
- Pay your health plan’s deductibles
- Cover costs related to pain and suffering
- Cover lost wages
Which states require uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?
Twenty-one states plus the District of Columbia require drivers to carry some amount of UM coverage, UIM coverage or both.
These states require only UMBI:
These states require both UMBI and UIMBI:
- New York
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
These states require UMBI and UMPD:
- The District of Columbia
- South Carolina
These states require UMBI, UIMBI, UMPD and UIMPD:
- New Hampshire*
- New Jersey**
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
In every other state, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is optional.
*New Hampshire only requires drivers to buy this coverage if they decide to buy car insurance.
**New Jersey only requires drivers to buy this coverage if they buy a standard policy.
Which companies sell uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?
You should be able to buy UM or UIM coverage from most insurance companies.
If you’re having a hard time finding one that sells it, or that sells the amount of coverage you want, start by getting quotes from the biggest and best car insurance companies.
How much do uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage cost?
Buying uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage adds about $20 to your monthly car insurance premium, according to our research. To put it another way, UM and UIM coverage will increase your monthly payments by an average of 13%.
The exact amount depends on a number of factors, including how much UM and UIM coverage you get, where you get them, where you live and more.
For example, here are monthly rate quotes for UM and UIM coverage from three companies in California:
|Company||Monthly Rate Without UM or UIM Coverage||Monthly Rate With UM or UIM Coverage||Percentage Difference|
Are uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage worth it?
You’ll probably think UM and UIM coverage are worth it if you ever get into an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver and have to use your own money to pay the resulting medical expenses or repair costs.
Still, you might decide UM and UIM aren’t worth it if you have:
- Ample collision coverage
- A good health insurance plan
- Enough savings to pay needed repair and medical bills out of pocket
How much uninsured motorist coverage should I get?
Most insurance agents recommend buying as much UM and UIM coverage as liability coverage.
So, if your liability coverage limits are 100/300/50, your UM and UIM bodily injury and property damage coverage limits should be the same.
What is stacked uninsured motorist coverage?
If you have UM and UIM coverage for more than one vehicle, you can “stack” their coverage limits.
Stacked car insurance increases your protection against uninsured or underinsured drivers by letting you borrow UM and UIM coverage from another vehicle when needed after an accident.
We compared rates from three top auto insurance companies for this sample. These rates are for a 40-year-old male with a clean driving record, 100/300/50 coverage, 100/300 UMBI/UIMBI coverage and $1,000 deductibles for comprehensive and collision coverage. Your rates will vary based on several factors, including car model, where you live, your driving record and more.
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