After a car accident, the at-fault driver’s liability car insurance typically pays out any claims for damages or medical costs.
But what if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance?
Almost every state requires drivers to carry liability insurance to cover any property damage or bodily injury if they cause an accident. Despite these laws, some people are driving without it.
That’s where uninsured motorist coverage (UM) comes in. This coverage is designed to protect you from financial loss if you’re in an accident where the at-fault driver is uninsured.
Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, nearly 13% of drivers went uninsured. And according to a study by the Financial Responsibility and Insurance Committee of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, “among the uninsured driver group, 82% indicated they either can’t afford insurance or the vehicle is inoperable or not in use.”
Since then, record-high jobless claims swept the country. Therefore, it’s a pretty good guess that the percentage of uninsured motorists will increase.
If you currently don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, now’s a good time to consider it.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) is a type of car insurance coverage that protects drivers if they’re in a car accident and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance. Because the other driver doesn’t have insurance to cover your expenses, your own insurance company will compensate you instead. This type of insurance also covers hit-and-run accidents since you don’t know who to make a claim against in that situation.
UM coverage generally covers both bodily injury and property damage and can help to reduce or eliminate any out-of-pocket costs on your part. In many states, uninsured motorist coverage is also bundled with underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), which protects you if an at-fault driver doesn’t have enough liability coverage to pay for the entire cost of the damage.
“Every state has its minimums for liability,” said Benjamin Guttman, an insurance specialist at North Central Insurance Agency. “For example, in Maryland, it’s $30k per person, $60k per accident, and $15k for property damage. If you’re driving a new SUV that’s $65k and someone hits you who has the minimum coverage, you’re only going to get $15k from them.” After that, the UIM coverage will make up the difference, says Guttman.
While states require that drivers carry property damage liability insurance, some states’ limits are relatively low. Drivers in a handful of states only have to carry as much as $10k, and the highest minimum requirement is $25k. If you’re driving a new car, there’s a good chance that their policy isn’t enough to cover the cost of your vehicle if it’s totaled.
“New cars have all these safety features,” Guttman said. “What used to be a simple fender bender now cost a ton of money because it’s not just replacing a piece of metal. You’re essentially replacing a computer behind it.”
There are four types of UM and UIM coverage:
- (UMBI) Uninsured motorist bodily injury. Covers medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
- (UIMBI) Underinsured motorist bodily injury. The at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover all damages. Then the UIMBI policy kicks in to cover the rest.
- (UMPD) Uninsured motorist property damage. Covers car or property damages with an at-fault driver with no car insurance after deductible (if applicable).
- (UIMPD) Underinsured motorist property damage. The at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover all car or property damages. Then the UIMPD policy kicks in to cover the rest. Deductible may apply.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage Vs. Collision Coverage
Keep in mind that collision coverage will also cover damage to your vehicle when someone else is at fault. Both collision and UM pay for damages from an accident with an uninsured driver. The main difference is UM typically has a lower deductible. UM may also cover property damage to your home if damaged due an uninsured driver where collision does not. Collision pays out regardless of who is at fault but only covers your car.
Check with your provider to see what the limits are for both collision and UM coverage. It may be worth the additional UM coverage if your collision limits are low or the deductible is high. If you feel you have substantial collision coverage, you might feel comfortable skipping the uninsured motorist coverage.
Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
“Uninsured motorist coverage is meant to protect you from others,” said David Adler, president of the Colorado-based Adler Insurance Group. It’s another layer of protection added to your existing insurance policy.
The only con is that it costs more. If you’re looking for a higher protection level you will pay for it in the form of a higher premium. You pay more upfront to reduce potential costs later.
Uninsured motorist coverage costs vary greatly by state and provider. On average, UM coverage can cost anywhere from $18 in Massachusetts to $267 in Florida.
If you are willing to pay out-of-pocket for expenses caused by an uninsured driver, then you can certainly take that risk.
Collision coverage will cover damage to your vehicle when someone else is at fault. Check with your insurance provider on your collision limits before deciding on adding UM coverage.
When making this decision, consider where you live. Each state’s percentage of uninsured motorists varies. For example, 26.7% of Florida’s drivers are uninsured. That’s about a one-in-four chance and accident was involved with an uninsured driver. Yet, if you live in Massachusetts, where it’s not required coverage and the third lowest state with uninsured drivers, you could weigh the cost against the risk.
Here’s a look at the top ten highest and lowest states with uninsured drivers on the road.
|States With Highest Uninsured Driver Percentage||States With Lowest Uninsured Driver Percentage|
State Laws for Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Car insurance laws vary from one state to the next. And while most states require that drivers carry liability insurance, that’s not the case with uninsured motorist coverage.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, 19 states and the District of Columbia require drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage.
Even in those states that don’t require this coverage, it’s not as simple as just not adding that coverage to your policy. You may need to proactively opt out of it if you don’t want it.
For example, Adler states that all Colorado insurers are required to offer uninsured motorist coverage, and drivers who don’t want to purchase it have to provide a written statement that says as much.
|States That Require Uninsured Motorist Coverage|
|District of Columbia||North Carolina|
|States That Do Not Require Uninsured Motorist Coverage|
How to Get Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In states where you’re required to carry uninsured motorist coverage, it’ll be automatically included in your auto insurance policy when you get it. If uninsured motorist coverage isn’t mandatory in your state, you’ll need to add it separately if you want it on your policy.
Some insurers let you add uninsured motorist coverage online through a login portal, while some may require you to get on the phone with an insurance representative. During the process, it may be helpful to speak to an expert who can tell you your state’s regulations and if this coverage is right for you.
If you live in a state where this coverage is optional and want to add it to your policy, go to your insurer’s website to figure out the best way to do it.