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Uninsured motorist: What you need to know

About one driver in seven isn’t insured for liability, says the Insurance Research Council.

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 have collision coverage, you would have to pay your own repair bills or go after the at-fault driver in court.

Uninsured motorist coverage fills the gaps. It pays the costs of your hospital stay if you’re hit by an uninsured driver, and it helps pay for repairs to your car.

That does not mean it is a good replacement for either health insurance or for collision coverage, both of which cover your injuries and your car in many more situations. But it is typically cheaper, and it is certainly better than no coverage at all.

Some states require drivers to buy uninsured motorist coverage, and in others, it isn’t available.

In states where the coverage is available, it can be sold separately as uninsured motorist bodily injury protection (UM) or uninsured motorist property damage protection (UMPD), or bundled together. It also can be bundled with underinsured motorist coverage, which protects you from other drivers who have insurance, but not enough to pay for your injuries or car repairs.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions.  If you don’t see the answer, search to see if we have already answered your uninsured motorist coverage question. If not, you can ask a new one.  

Top Uninsured Motorist Questions

More Questions    
Which states require uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage?

Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin require coverage. New Hampshire does not require auto insurance, but if you buy a policy, as most residents do, it must include uninsured motorist coverage.

In most other states, the coverage must be offered to all policyholders.

Which states require uninsured motorist property damage coverage?

In some states uninsured motorist property damage coverage is mandatory; in others, it must be offered.

  • Mandatory: District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia
  • Optional: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming

In states with no law on the books, the insurance company may or may not offer coverage.

If I buy uninsured motorist coverage, how much do I need?

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM) is usually sold in amounts that mirror the liability coverage you bought. For example, if you bought a policy with $50,000 per person bodily injury liability coverage, up to $100,000 per accident, then you would buy UM coverage in the same amounts.

If you choose to buy an amount less than what you carry as liability coverage, an insurer typically will require that you sign a waiver noting that you were offered the higher amount.

Liability insurance is mandatory in all states except New Hampshire, and each state sets its own required minimums.

If I have personal injury protection, do I need uninsured motorist?

Probably. In “no-fault” states such as Florida, motorists are required to buy personal injury protection (PIP) to ensure that all drivers have access to emergency treatment, regardless of who is to blame for the accident. But the limits on that personal injury coverage are usually quite low.

If you don’t have health insurance, either privately or through your employer, any bills that exceed your state’s personal injury protection threshold are yours to pay.

If you have health insurance and don’t live in a state with no-fault insurance, you may not need to buy uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM).

I have health insurance. Do I need uninsured motorist?

To determine if you need UM coverage when you already have health insurance coverage, you’ll need to get answers from your health insurer on some issues, such as:

  • Will injuries from an auto accident be covered by my health insurance policy? If yes, are all medical expenses covered or are there exclusions for certain types of medical treatments?
  • If my car insurance policy’s medical coverage has a deductible, will my health insurance policy pay it? You basically want to know if your PIP deductible will be covered by your health policy or if the portion of medical expenses that your PIP doesn’t cover will be covered by your health insurer.  For example, Florida’s regular PIP coverage only pays 80 percent and comes with a deductible so if you lived here you’d want to find out if your health insurer would cover the other 20 percent and the deductible amount.
  • Should my auto medical coverages or health insurance policy be primary after an auto accident? In general, your car insurance medical coverages are primary and your health insurance policy is secondary coverage if you carry both and are injured in a car accident, but this varies by state. For instance, the New Jersey insurance regulator notes their laws allow you to select your health insurance policy to be your primary and your PIP coverage with your auto insurer can be assigned as secondary medical coverage.
  • Can my health insurance company ask for reimbursement for medical bills they covered? If both your auto insurance provider and health insurer pay out claims for medical expenses that resulted from an auto accident, then it’s possible they could ask for reimbursement if there were overlapping payments paid out by both insurers for the same medical treatments. Ask your insurer about their process to determine if reimbursement would be required.
  • Will my health insurance policy provide any coverage for passengers injured in my vehicle? It’s doubtful that your passengers would be covered by your health insurance, unless they are members of your family already on your health policy, but ask to get verification. If you want medical coverages for passengers, you usually need to carry Medical Payments or PIP as part of your auto insurance policy.  

Keep in mind too that if you want the right to claim for lost wages and pain suffering if hit by an uninsured motorist, then you’d need UM coverage since health insurance policies don’t offer such benefits.

Will uninsured motorist property damage coverage replace my totaled car?

You can use uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) to cover damage to or total loss of your insured vehicle, up to the limits that are stated in your policy. That means the whole actual cash value of your vehicle may not be covered.  It doesn’t replace your vehicle. In some states, the limits may be quite low. In California, for example, the current limit is $3,500.

If you have collision insurance, you might not need to buy uninsured motorist property damage coverage. In some states, if you carry both collision coverage and UMPD, the UMPD will pay your collision deductible if you’re hit by an uninsured driver.

Does uninsured motorist cover hit-and-run and miss-and-run accidents?

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM) will pay for the costs of your injuries up to your policy limits in cases of a hit-and-run or miss-and-run (where a driver is forced to swerve and has an accident). But uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) does not pay for damage to your car.

To make a property damage claim under your UMPD coverage, you need an identified at-fault driver so that your insurance company can confirm that he or she does not have liability insurance.

If you have collision insurance, on the other hand, you are covered for property damage from hit-and-run and miss-and-run accidents.

What is ‘stacked’ uninsured motorist coverage?

“Stacked” coverage increases the limits on your uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM) if you have multiple cars. Your UM limits typically cannot be higher than those on your liability coverage, but if you have two cars and stack your limits, your coverage is effectively doubled.

Why would you stack your uninsured motorist coverage? It is a cheaper way to get more protection against uninsured motorists without having to buy higher liability limits for yourself. Stacking will increase your premium, but not by as much as higher liability limits would.

Not all states allow stacked coverage.