Do I need uninsured motorist insurance?

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Do I need uninsured motorist insurance?

When it comes to buying auto insurance, there are many different types of coverage. It can get expensive, so it’s important to determine what you really need.

One category of car insurance coverage that you may initially disregard is known as uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist insurance (UIM). But, it may benefit you greatly to have this type of policy in place. That’s because UM/UIM covers your costs if you are in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance or who doesn’t have sufficient insurance. In this case, UM/UIM coverage would pay for injuries to you or your passengers, and it might also pay for damage to your car. In addition, UM/UIM would cover you in the case of a hit-and-run accident.

Do I really need uninsured motorist insurance?

You might think you don’t need UM/UIM because most drivers have their own auto insurance. And, you are correct in that most drivers do carry insurance. It’s illegal to drive without it in most states. However, about 12.6% of drivers in the United States - or 29.7 million - are still uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council. 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.

A primer on uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance

There are two categories of UM/UIM coverage: uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) and uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD). UMBI pays for medical expenses that are incurred in an accident with an uninsured driver. UMPD, on the other hand, pays for damages to your car or other property.

It’s important to note that UM/UIM doesn’t replace your collision or personal injury insurance coverages. Instead, it’s a supplementary type of insurance that could protect you from accidents with negligent drivers.

Your coverage options depend on where you live

Each state has different automobile insurance laws and regulations. Many states require that you carry UMBI and UMPD, so if you live in one of these states, you won’t have the option of declining the coverages and you’ll have to pay for it. Other states, however, require that the insurance is offered but you can still decline it in writing if you don’t want it.

-> Here’s what each state requires when it comes to auto insurance.

Lastly, if you reside in a state where UM/UIM isn’t required, you may still be able to purchase it. You’ll just want to keep in mind that not all coverages - most notably UMPD - are available in all states.

To learn more about whether UM/UIM is required in your state, how you can purchase it, and how much it costs, it’s best to call your insurance agent or carrier.

Photo: Nicholas A. Tonelli