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Uninsured motorist coverage

This coverage pays for your medical bills and car repairs, even if you're hit by an uninsured driver.

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According to a 2017 study by the Insurance Research Council, one in eight drivers didn’t carry insurance in 2015. And getting into an accident with one of those drivers can end up costing you big. To protect yourself, consider buying uninsured motorist coverage.

What is uninsured motorist coverage?

Normally when someone hits your car, they’ll give you their insurance information so that you can file a claim with their insurance company. But what if that driver doesn’t have insurance? You’d have to collect money from them, and that can be a time-intensive and stress-inducing 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 go back and forth 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.

Uninsured vs. underinsured motorist coverage

You’ll often hear underinsured and uninsured coverage mentioned together. Some states require you to carry both types of coverage, while others require one or the other. They both operate in similar ways, but underinsured coverage is used when the driver has some 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.

Do I need uninsured motorist coverage?

Buying uninsured motorist coverage is a wise decision for most drivers, and it’s required in some states. Think about whether these reasons make the extra coverage worth your while:

  • An uninsured driver might not have the means to compensate you. You’d have to pay through your own insurance or out of pocket — or sue if your own insurance doesn’t cover you. If the other person can’t afford car insurance, a lawsuit may not lead to much compensation. And if the other driver bought cheap car insurance, they might not have enough coverage, leaving you to foot the bill.
  • Filing under other coverage could raise your rates. If you don’t have uninsured driver coverage, your state might allow your collision coverage to cover you. But these types of claims could raise your rates, depending on your insurance company and your claims record. You can check with your insurance rep to see
  • Your state requires uninsured driver coverage. 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.
  • You’re financing or leasing your car. Many banks and dealerships require buyers to carry uninsured motorist coverage, check with your finance agency to find out if this coverage is required.

How much uninsured motorist coverage do I need?

Consider buying the same amount of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage as you have for liability insurance, or at least match your state’s liability insurance requirements. By buying this protection, you’re replacing the liability coverage that the other driver should have kept on their policy. You want this coverage to pay out enough that you could replace your car and pay for medical bills comfortably if the other driver can’t pay these expenses.

Uninsured motorist coverage in action

Let’s say that 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 they don’t have insurance.

Fortunately, you have uninsured motorist coverage. Your UMBI insurance pays for your trip to the doctor to get your neck checked out, and your UMPD insurance pays for your car repair bill.

How much does uninsured motorist coverage cost?

As a general rule, expect to pay around 5% of what your auto insurance costs yearly. That means if you pay $1,300 a year for your policy, uninsured motorist coverage would cost under $6 a month.

The cost of uninsured motorist coverage will vary depending on such factors as your age, location and driving experience.

Does uninsured coverage come with a deductible?

Uninsured motorist coverage typically may come with a deductible, so ask your insurance company. If a deductible applies, you’ll choose how much you want it to be when you’re buying insurance. You’ll pay this amount before your insurance will pay for car repairs or medical bills.

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 drivers on the road by state

See how much risk you have of getting in an accident with an uninsured driver, based on statistics in your state. You can type in your state to narrow down the list.

StateUninsured motorist %
New Mexico20.80%
District of Columbia15.60%
Rhode Island15.20%
New Jersey14.90%
West Virginia10.10%
New Hampshire9.90%
South Carolina9.40%
South Dakota7.70%
North Dakota6.80%
North Carolina6.50%
New York6.10%

Compare companies with uninsured motorist coverage

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Bottom line

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 car insurance companies.

Common questions about uninsured driver coverage

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