Protect yourself in case you’re hit by an underinsured driver.
It’s not rare to come across an uninsured driver on the road. According to the Insurance Research Council, one in seven drivers doesn’t carry insurance. Unfortunately, getting into an accident with one of those drivers can cost you. To protect yourself, consider buying uninsured motorist coverage.
How does uninsured driver coverage work?
Normally when someone hits your car, they’ll give you their insurance information so that you can file a claim with their provider.
But what if that driver doesn’t have insurance? You’d have to collect money from them, and that can be a maddening process. You may even have to litigate.
This is why uninsured motorist coverage can be valuable. If another driver doesn’t have insurance, you won’t have to liaise with them to receive compensation. Instead, your own insurance will cover your expenses.
There are two types of uninsured motorist coverage.
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage. UMBI covers your medical bills and other costs like lost wages. When buying this insurance, you’ll need to decide if you want split-limit or combined single limit coverage.
- Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) coverage. UMPD covers damage to your car. It may also cover expenses if your personal property is damaged, such as your house.
How does underinsured coverage work?
You’ll often hear underinsured and uninsured coverage mentioned together. They both operate in similar ways, but underinsured coverage is used when the driver has insurance but doesn’t have enough to cover your medical expenses or damage to your car.
Like uninsured coverage, underinsured has two types:
- Underinsured motorist bodily injury (UIMBI) coverage. UIMBI covers your medical bills that exceed the amount the other driver’s insurance policy will cover. For example, if the other driver’s policy limit is $50,000 for medical injuries and your medical bills total $75,000, UIMBI will cover the extra $25,000.
- Underinsured motorist property damage (UIMPD) coverage. UIMPD covers damage to your car beyond the cap on the other driver’s policy, just like UIMBI.
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Does uninsured coverage come with a deductible?
Uninsured motorist coverage may come with a deductible, so ask your insurer. If a deductible applies, you’ll choose how much you want it to be when you’re buying insurance. Weigh how much car repairs would cost against how much you’d want to pay out of your own pocket. The higher you set your deductible, the lower your insurance premiums will be.
Uninsured motorist coverage in action
You’re driving on the freeway, when you’re rear-ended by another car. There’s severe damage at the rear of your car, and you feel a slight pain in your neck. After you and the other driver pull over to exchange information, you learn that he doesn’t have insurance.
Fortunately, you have uninsured motorist coverage. Your UMBI insurance pays for your medical examination, and your UMPD insurance pays for your car repair bill.
Why should I buy uninsured motorist coverage?
If you’re hit by someone without auto insurance, they may not have the means to compensate you. You may have to pay through your own insurance or out of pocket or even sue if your own insurance doesn’t cover you fully. And if the other person can’t afford car insurance, a lawsuit might not result in getting any additional compensation.
If you don’t have uninsured coverage and you’re in an accident with an underinsured driver, your collision or comprehensive coverage might cover you. Collision pays for repairs to your car after an accident regardless of fault, and comprehensive covers a variety of damages. Much like a hit and run, where the at-fault driver can’t be found, you’ll need to make a claim through your own insurance, which could raise your rates.
The biggest reason to buy uninsured or underinsured coverage is to cover expensive repairs. For example, say you buy a brand new car that’s worth $30,000. If another driver totals your car, their car insurance would need to cover the costs of your car’s repairs and medical bills. But if the other driver bought the absolute cheapest car insurance, they might not have enough coverage for your repairs. Their insurance would cap out before they paid for your expenses, leaving you to foot the bill.
More than 20 states require uninsured motorist coverage. Some only require UMBI, some only require UMPD and others require both. Check your state’s car insurance requirements to see if you need to add uninsured coverage to your policy.
Uninsured motorist percentage by state
|State||Uninsured motorist %|
|District of Columbia||15.60%|
How much does uninsured motorist coverage cost?
The cost of uninsured motorist coverage will vary depending on such factors as your age, location and driving experience. As a rule of thumb, expect to pay around 5% of what your auto insurance costs yearly.
Your state may require you to buy uninsured motorist coverage. Even if it doesn’t, buying a policy may make sense: Uninsured drivers are more common than most people think.
Don’t be afraid to shop around for the best price. You can find coverage that works for you by comparing providers.