Uninsured motorist insurance protects you from unexpected expenses if another driver causes damage to your vehicle. Most states require all drivers to get liability insurance that would pay for their expenses, but people occasionally let their policies lapse or don’t comply with these laws. Here’s what drivers should know about uninsured motorist coverage.
How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Works
Uninsured motorists don’t have liability car insurance, and uninsured motorist insurance can help pay for repairs and medical expenses when another driver is at fault. Without uninsured motorist insurance, the person at fault might not be able to pay for all your costs after an accident. You could end up paying a large bill, having to rely on your own insurance, or suing the other driver to recover your expenses.
According to the Insurance Research Council, about one in eight or 12.6% of drivers were uninsured in 2019. Uninsured motorist insurance can cover many costs if the other driver can’t pay for them, and it can help you avoid starting a lawsuit if the other person refuses to pay for your damages.
The Difference Between Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist insurance often comes with underinsured motorist coverage. Both types of insurance pay for the same expenses after an accident, but underinsured motorist coverage pays when the other driver’s insurance won’t pay for all your expenses. For example, another driver could hit your vehicle at an intersection, causing $10,500 in damage. The other driver’s insurance company might only authorize a payment of $9,000 because they believe you can get parts from a third-party manufacturer or used parts for repairs instead of original or OEM parts from the manufacturer. Underinsured motorist insurance can help pay for the remaining $1,500.
Types of Uninsured Motorist Insurance
Insurers usually offer two types of uninsured motorist insurance: uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage and uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) coverage. Bodily injury coverage can provide compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering. Property damage coverage can pay for repairs to your vehicle.
Some policies also provide coverage if someone collides with you while you’re walking or riding your bike. In some states, uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance covers people you give permission to drive your car and passengers after an accident. Without it, you might have to rely on your own medical or life insurance after an accident, and you likely won’t get any compensation for pain and suffering.
States That Require Uninsured Motorist Insurance
Many states require a minimum amount of uninsured motorist insurance, and others tell insurance companies they must offer it. The states that require uninsured motorist insurance include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington, D.C.
In Ohio and Michigan, people can decide to buy uninsured motorist insurance, but companies don’t have to offer it. In other states, insurers must offer it, but drivers can choose not to purchase it without worrying about getting ticketed or fined.
How To Use Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Here are steps you should consider to take advantage of your uninsured motorist insurance.
1. Understand Your Coverage
Read your insurance policy’s declarations page carefully to find out exactly what your carrier will cover. If you have both types of coverage, you’ll have a property damage limit and a bodily injury limit. UMPD or property insurance usually has a deductible you must pay before your insurer covers the rest of your expenses. UMBI or bodily injury coverage usually has a per person limit and a per accident limit.
Most insurers don’t let drivers carry uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance with a higher limit than their liability insurance. If you think you might need more coverage, contact your insurance company to increase both types of insurance.
2. Record Everything You Can After an Accident
If you’re involved in an accident, pull over immediately and ask for the other driver’s name, address, and insurance information. Take plenty of pictures of any damage or injuries and write down the other driver’s license plate number. It’s also a good idea to record your account of the incident and how it occurred. Take notes about the date, time, location, weather, and any other potentially important details. That way, you can avoid forgetting anything if you need to discuss the accident later.
3. Contact Your Insurance Company and the Police
If the other driver stays at the accident scene, call the police so you can get a police report with statements from both parties. While you’re waiting for the police, contact your insurance company and give them as many details as possible about the accident. When you receive the police report, provide your insurer with a copy. If the other driver leaves the scene before you can speak to the police, go to the nearest police station and make a report.
4. Get Repairs
If needed, get repairs and medical treatment as soon as possible to minimize the time you and your car are out of commission. You can also keep many problems that seem minor from becoming worse, reducing your costs. You might need to provide estimates, invoices, or bills for repairs or medical treatment before your insurer pays for your claim. If the damage is severe, you might need to buy a new car instead of making repairs.
5. Wait for Your Adjuster To Determine a Payment Amount
Your insurance adjuster will contact the other driver’s insurance if they have coverage. Your adjuster will decide the severity of your vehicle damage or injuries and how much your uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance will pay. Some companies send you a payment, while others pay mechanics and medical professionals directly. If your uninsured motorist insurance doesn’t cover all your damage or injuries, you might be able to use your medical or collision insurance. Some policies pay for a rental car, as well.
Uninsured motorist insurance usually costs around $50 to $100 per year, and it’s an inexpensive way to protect yourself from accidents caused by other drivers. It can keep you from having to use your comprehensive insurance and risk higher rates in the future, and it can give you the funds you need to replace your car or get it fixed and back on the road as soon as possible.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.