What does uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage do

There are two types of uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury insurance (UM or UMBI) covers you, the insured members of your household (resident relatives) and your passengers for bodily/personal injuries, damages, or death caused by an at-fault driver who doesn’t have insurance (uninsured) or, in some states, by a hit-and-run or miss-and-run driver.

These coverages also protect you and your insureds when riding in someone else’s vehicle, riding a bicycle or being a pedestrian.

Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) covers your car, up to your chosen limits, if an uninsured driver hits you.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage varies according to the terms of your policy and state laws, but in general, it pays, up to the limit of your policy, for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Pain and suffering

In some states, pain and suffering is not covered or only compensated for if there are extenuating circumstances, such as a permanent injury.

Policy limits for uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage are per person and per accident and coverage is written as such.  For example, $25,000/$50,000 means that the maximum payout per person is $25,000 and the maximum payout for all people injured in one accident is $50,000.  This coverage may also be written as 25/50.

Is uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage mandatory

Depending upon where you live, uninsured motorist bodily injury may be mandatory.  In some states, it’s required coverage, in many others it’s required to be offered, but you can decline the coverage in writing on a state-approved form.

If you carry UMBI, most states require your limits for this coverage to be the same or lower than your bodily injury liability limits.  In all states that offer uninsured motorist bodily injury, you must have bodily injury liability coverage as part of your car insurance policy to purchase UMBI coverage on your policy.

The insurance industry recommends bodily injury liability coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident (referred to as 100/300) if you can afford these higher limits.

What happens if I don’t have uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage

If this coverage is optional in your state and you choose to go without, you may be left to pay personally for medical expenses arising from an accident caused by an uninsured motorist. 

Estimates from the Insurance Research Council (IRC) say that chances are one in seven that a driver is uninsured.  If one of these uninsured drivers hit you, you could try to pursue the at-fault driver for your medical expenses, but it’s doubtful that a person driving without insurance will have the money to pay you.

If you have adequate health insurance, uninsured motorist bodily injury may be unnecessary. 

 — Michelle Megna contributed to this story.

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Contributing Writer

Shivani Gite is a personal finance and insurance writer with a degree in journalism and mass communication. She is passionate about making insurance topics easy to understand for people and helping them make better financial decisions. When not writing, you can find her reading a book or watching anime.