What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you're hit by a driver who has no auto insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage, which is usually offered alongside uninsured motorist coverage, protects you if you're hit by a driver who doesn't have enough coverage to pay for the damages or injuries they caused. Both coverages are mandatory in many states and highly recommended for all drivers. If you're a victim of a hit-and-run accident, you can file a claim against your uninsured motorist coverage.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage?
Not all states mandate uninsured motorist coverage, also known as UM coverage. However, even if UM coverage isn't required in your state, you take a serious risk if you drive without it. According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 13% of drivers countrywide don't have auto insurance. In some states, the number of uninsured drivers is over 20%.
Without uninsured motorist coverage, if you're injured or your vehicle is damaged in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you could end up paying for medical bills or vehicle repairs out of your own pocket. Even if you file a claim against your own policy, you may have a large collision deductible or not have enough medical payments/personal injury protection to cover injuries caused to you or your passengers.
In which states is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage required?
While not all states mandate uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), around half require at least one of these coverages and some may only require you to purchase coverage for bodily injury. States that don't require uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage may still offer the option to purchase it if it's available.
For example, Illinois requires both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. In New Hampshire, car insurance is one of several ways to demonstrate financial responsibility, but if it's purchased, the state requires both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to be included on every policy. Other states, like Massachusetts and South Carolina, only require uninsured motorist coverage.
Learn about the car insurance requirements in your state.
What does uninsured motorist insurance cover?
Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance covers your injuries, your passengers' injuries, and damage to your vehicle if you're hit by a driver who doesn't have enough or has no auto insurance coverage. Depending on your state, uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance may be separate, combined, or consist of up to four coverages:
If you're hit by a driver with no insurance…
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) may pay medical bills for both you and your passengers
- Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) may pay for damage to your vehicle
If you're hit by a driver with not enough insurance…
- Underinsured motorist bodily injury (UIMBI) may pay medical bills for both you and your passengers
- Underinsured motorist property damage (UIMPD) may pay for damage to your vehicle
Note that some states may require a deductible for UMPD/UIMPD, but UMBI/UIMBI generally doesn't include a deductible.
Does uninsured motorist insurance cover hit-and-run accidents?
Yes. If a driver hits your vehicle and flees, you can file a claim against your policy's uninsured motorist coverage. However, in some states, uninsured motorist coverage for property damage (UMPD) will not cover hit-and-run incidents. In this case, you would need collision coverage for your insurance to cover the damage to your vehicle from a hit-and-run driver.
Uninsured motorist property damage vs. collision coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage for property damage (UMPD) and collision coverage both pay for damage by a driver with no — or not enough — insurance. However, collision coverage will only pay for damages to your car, regardless of who is at fault, while UMPD – depending on your state – may cover damages to both your car and other property caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Do I really need uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage if I have health insurance?
Your health insurance may overlap with UMBI and UIMBI coverage. In states where UMBI and UIMBI are optional, there are a few things to consider before passing on the coverages:
- Will your health insurance cover injuries sustained in an auto accident? Medicare and Medicaid may not pay out until other sources of insurance have been exhausted. If you have private health insurance, check with your health insurer to find out how medical expenses resulting from a car accident are covered.
- Does your health insurance have a deductible? Generally, there's no deductible with UMBI and UIMBI. If you have a deductible with your health insurance, and it's high, it may be beneficial to carry UMBI and UIMBI.
- Will there be passengers in your car that don't have their own health insurance? Your UMBI and UIMBI coverage will protect those passengers.
- Does your health insurance cover lost wages? Your UMBI and UIMBI sometimes will, as well as other types of damages not protected under some health insurance plans.
How much uninsured motorist coverage do I need?
You usually have the option of choosing the insurance limits of your coverage. For the bodily injury portion that covers your injuries, consider matching the amount of your liability coverage. Some states give you no other option but to choose identical limits.
Example:If your limits of liability are $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident, consider choosing the same limits for UMBI and UIMBI. If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, each injured passenger (including the driver) can collect up to $50,000. If two passengers collect the full $50,000, then you reached your $100,000 maximum per accident.
Your UMPD limit is a different (and much easier) story. You can select a limit that closely mirrors the value of your vehicle. If your car is worth $20,000, and you don't carry collision coverage, then you should consider that much in UMPD coverage.