What does uninsured motorist coverage do?
There are several types of uninsured motorist coverage that step in when you are hit by a driver without liability insurance or with bare-bones coverage that is too skimpy to cover the damages. About one driver in seven isn’t insured for liability, says the Insurance Research Council.
Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UM or UMBI) coverage mostly pays for medical bills, and those of your passengers, if you are hit by a driver who is uninsured. UMBI may also cover pain and suffering and lost income. In cases where the other driver has insurance, but isn’t enough to cover the bills, underinsured motorist bodily injury (UNDUM) makes up the difference between his policy limits and yours.
Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) will pay your deductible in some states if you also carry collision coverage; otherwise, it will pay a predetermined amount, usually around $3,500, toward your repairs. Underinsured motorist property damage (UNDPD) does the same when the other driver’s policy is insufficient.
Uninsured motorist property damage does not cover hit-and-run or miss-and-run incidents. Bodily injury coverage typically will pay for injuries.
In states where the coverage is available, it can be sold separately or bundled together as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Is uninsured motorist coverage mandatory?
You must buy uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage in these states: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. New Hampshire does not require auto insurance, but if you buy a policy, as most residents do, it must include uninsured motorist coverage. In Rhode Island, UMBI is not required if you only carry state-minimum limits for bodily injury liability. If you choose higher liability limits, then you must also carry uninsured motorist bodily injury.
Uninsured motorist property damage coverage is required in the following states: District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
In other states, uninsured motorist may be required to be offered (typically as part of uninsured/underinsured coverage), but you can reject, in writing, the coverage. Some states don’t even offer underinsured motorist property damage coverage at all.
What are the recommended limits?
Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage typically mirrors that of your own liability policy. That is, if you carry 100/300 on your own car, you would buy that amount as your uninsured motorist coverage. You can usually buy amounts smaller than your own policy’s, but not larger.
Uninsured motorist property damage limits vary by state, and it will sometimes come with a deductible.
What if I don’t buy uninsured motorist coverage?
If you are injured by an uninsured driver and don’t have your own medical insurance, medical payments coverage or personal injury protection, you would be responsible for your own hospital bills. If you’re hit by one of them and don’t carry collision coverage, you would have to pay your own repair bills or go after the at-fault driver in court.