Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you're hit by an uninsured driver. This is important considering that about 1 in 8 drivers isn't insured, according to the Insurance Research Council.
Uninsured motorist coverage, often termed "UM coverage" is broken into two categories:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage: pays the cost of your hospital bills if you're injured in an accident. If you are injured by an uninsured driver and don't have UM coverage, medical payments coverage, personal injury protection, or your own medical insurance, you would be responsible for your own hospital bills.
- Uninsured motorist property damage coverage: pays for repairs to your car if it's damaged in an accident. If your car is damaged by an uninsured driver and you don't have UM coverage or collision coverage, you would have to pay for repairs yourself or go after the at-fault driver in court.
There is also related coverage, called underinsured motorist coverage, which protects you from other drivers who have insurance, but not enough to pay for your injuries or car repairs. It is also broken into two categories:
- Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage: helps pay for your hospital bills if you're hit by a driver who doesn't have enough insurance coverage to fully cover the cost of hospital bills.
- Underinsured motorist property damage coverage: helps pay for repairs to your car if you're hit by a driver who doesn't have enough insurance coverage to fully cover the repairs.
Some states require drivers to buy uninsured motorist coverage, and in others, it isn't available. In states where the coverage is available, uninsured motorist bodily injury protection and uninsured motorist property damage protection can be sold separately or bundled together. It also can be bundled with underinsured motorist coverage.
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?
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 is usually sold in amounts that mirror the liability insurance 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 minimum liability requirements.
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.
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.
- 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 coverage 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 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 uninsured motorist property damage, 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 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 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. 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.
Estimated percentage of uninsured drivers
To underscore the importance of having uninsured motorist coverage, consider that about one in eight drivers on the road in 2015 was uninsured, according to the latest data from the Insurance Research Council (IRC). The nationwide uninsured motorist (UM) rate increased from 12.3 percent in 2010 to 13 percent in 2015. Uninsured motorist rates varied substantially among individual states, ranging from 4.5 percent in Maine to 26.7 percent in Florida.
*Percentage of uninsured drivers, as measured by the ratio of uninsured motorists (UM) claims to bodily injury (BI) claim frequencies.
Rank calculated from unrounded data.
In Florida, compulsory auto laws apply to personal injury protection (PIP) and physical damage, but not to third-party bodily injury coverage.
Source: Insurance Research Council.