Underinsured vs. uninsured motorist coverage
While there are some differences in the way that states define the coverages, uninsured motorist coverage generally helps protect you if you get hit by a driver who doesn't have auto insurance or doesn't stick around to give you their information after an accident. Underinsured motorist coverage helps protect you if you're in an accident with someone whose policy limits aren't high enough to cover the damage to your vehicle and your medical bills.
What does uninsured/underinsured coverage pay for?
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) generally includes two parts: bodily injury and property damage. This coverage can help pay medical bills for you and your passengers after an accident or pay for damage to your vehicle.
What happens if an uninsured driver hits me?
Normally, when you're in an accident, and another driver is at fault in the accident, the other driver's auto insurance company pays for the damage to your vehicle and medical bills if you're injured. But if the other driver doesn't have insurance, there's no insurer to cover the cost.
That's where uninsured motorist coverage (UM) comes in. If your auto insurance policy includes uninsured motorist coverage, you can file an auto insurance claim with your insurer that may cover the incident — up to your policy's limit. Learn if you need uninsured motorist property damage coverage and collision.
What happens if an underinsured driver hits me?
In this case, the other driver's auto insurer may pay some of your medical expenses and property damage — but only up to the driver's policy limit. If you have underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), you can file a claim with your insurer to cover the rest. Your insurance company may pay the remaining amount, up to your policy limit.
Important note: Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for property damage may include a deductible in some states.
Example:Let's say the at-fault driver has $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, but you have $50,000 in medical bills related to your injuries. The driver's insurance company would pay for the first $15,000 in medical expenses, and your insurer may pay for the remaining $35,000, assuming your UIM bodily injury limit per person is $35,000 or higher.
What if I don't have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage?
Depending on where you live, you may be required to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. But if you live in a state where coverage is optional and choose not to purchase it, you may be putting yourself at risk.
While nearly every state requires drivers to have auto insurance, that doesn't mean everyone complies with the law. According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 13% of drivers countrywide didn’t have auto insurance in 2019. And those who do have insurance may not have enough to pay for damage or injuries they cause. If an uninsured/underinsured driver hits you and you don't have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you could be responsible for covering accident-related expenses out of your own pocket. Learn more about car insurance requirements by state.