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Do I need uninsured motorist insurance?

Protect yourself from damage from uninsured drivers.

When it comes to buying auto insurance, there are several different types of coverage that make up your policy. Some are legally required and some aren’t, and it can be confusing to understand which kinds of car insurance you really need and which you can do without.

Uninsured motorist insurance, also called uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverage and often shortened to UM/UIM, is required in some states and is optional in others, but it should be a serious coverage consideration for everyone buying car insurance.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage generally only adds a few dollars to your monthly premiums, but the amount of coverage it gives you can be life-changing in the result of a tragic accident.

Read on:

What is uninsured motorist coverage?

Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you’re in an accident with an uninsured motorist. Underinsured motorist coverage, which is sometimes combined or offered separately, protects you when you’re in an accident with a motorist whose insurance limits aren’t high enough to pay for the extent of the damage he’s caused.

There are two categories of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage:

Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI)

UMBI pays for pays for injuries to you or your passengers when an uninsured driver is deemed at-fault; it also pays if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run driver. This coverage includes medical expenses and lost wages; it may even pay for rehabilitation and funeral costs, if you or a passenger die in an accident.. In addition, UMBI offers coverage if you’re hit by an uninsured driver while riding a bike or walking.

Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD)

UMPD pays for damages when your car or other property is hit by an uninsured driver.

Not all states and insurance companies offer both types coverages. UMBI is the more important of the two, and is often referred to simply as “uninsured motorist insurance.”

How uninsured motorist insurance compares to other coverage types

Uninsured motorist coverage can have some overlap with some other coverage types under your auto policy or other insurance policies you may have. In each instance, uninsured motorist insurance offers more robust coverage, but it’s good to understand how the coverage compares:

Uninsured motorist liability coverage vs. personal injury protection (PIP)

Uninsured motorist coverage pays for medical bills if you’re injured by an uninsured driver, but there are is another auto coverage type that may also pay your medical bilsin that situation: personal injury protection (PIP).

PIP is another type of car insurance coverage that is optional in some states and required in others. PIP coverage pays for your medical bills (and those of your passengers) in case of an accident, no matter who is at fault. If you have PIP coverage, it would apply if you are injured by an uninsured driver, but PIP coverage limits are usually low. Uninsured motorist coverage would pay your medical and other expenses after your PIP limits are met.

PIP and UM also both can pay for lost wages if you’re injured in an accident. Though again, PIP limits are generally lower than the coverage offered by uninsured motorist insurance.

Uninsured motorist liability coverage vs. health insurance

If you’re injured in a car wreck, your health insurance will pay for your bills, up to your limits and minus your deductible and coinsurance costs. That’s true whether the wreck was your fault or not, so if you have good healthcare coverage, and know that any regular passengers of your vehicle do as well, you may feel comfortable forgoing uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist liability coverage vs. disability insurance

Disability insurance replaces roughly the amount of your take-home wages if you can’t work due to an injury, illness or disability. Many people have short-term disability coverage through their employers and many others purchase long-term disability insurance independently.

If you’re seriously injured in an accident and unable to work, disability insurance may cover some of your lost wages after a waiting period; UIM would be able to cover you before disability insurance kicks in (usually after 90 days, for short-term disability policies).

Uninsured motorist property damage coverage vs. collision coverage

Uninsured motorist property damage pays for damage to your car in an accident with an uninsured driver; collision coverage pays for damage to your car when its in an accident no matter who is at fault.

Many people choose between uninsured motorist property damage coverage and collision coverage when buying insurance. But if you have collision coverage, you likely don’t need UMPD.

Collision coverage is more robust than UMPD — for example, if you crash your own car into a tree or get in an accident where you’re at fault, collision coverage would still pay for the damage to your car, while uninsured motorist property damage only pays if the uninsured driver is at fault.

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Who needs uninsured motorist coverage

The main reasons to buy uninsured motorist coverage: because it’s required, either by law for by your vehicle lease or finance company, and because it offers you more protection if you’re hit by an uninsured motorist than any other coverage can offer.

1. People who live in states where it’s required by law Some people need uninsured motorist coverage because it’s required by law.

Auto insurance is required in most states, but the types and amounts of insurance required vary. Bodily injury liability coverage is the most commonly required insurance, but nearly half of states also require uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Find out your state’s auto insurance requirements, including the minimum required amounts for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

The most common amounts of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage required by states who mandate it are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, the same as most states’ liability coverage limits. But as with all state car insurance required amounts, these minimums are likely too low for most people and could leave you open to risk.

2. People leasing or financing their cars Many leasing and financing agencies, including dealerships and banks, require that your insurance policy include uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

3. People who want to be protected against uninsured drivers Even if uninsured motorist insurance is not required in your state, you may decide you want uninsured motorist coverage to reduce your own risk. (Most experts recommend it.)

About 13% of drivers in the United States are uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute, and in some states, that number creeps up to 20% (Tennessee and Michigan), 21% (New Mexico), 24% (Mississippi), and 28% (Florida).

If you get hit by one of these drivers and sustain injuries or damage to your vehicle, you could be the one who has to pay the price — even if the collision wasn’t your fault. (That’s not to mention the drivers who are underinsured and may not have enough coverage to pay for extensive damages or injuries.)

A Policygenius agent can help you decide how much auto insurance you need, including how much uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage makes sense for your situation.

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Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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