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Uninsured Motorists Coverage: 8 Answers You Need

By Insurance.com Posted : 05/14/2009

Why do you need to buy Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage? Because the number of uninsured drivers is rising. The Insurance Research Council estimates that almost 14% of drivers don't have auto insurance – and by 2010 it could reach 16%. Forget swine flu. The real epidemic is people driving without auto insurance!

We get questions every day from people asking why they need UM/UIM coverage and how they should handle uninsured motorist claims. For a quick overview of the basics, jump to the bottom. For the answers you need, keep reading.

1. Does UM/UIM cover property damage in hit-and-run accidents?

Almost never. Accidents where the other driver can't be identified are handled under your own Collision coverage. This includes accidents where a hit-and-run driver damages your car while it's parked. It may not seem fair to have to pay for something that wasn't your fault, but it keeps auto insurance rates lower for the majority of uninsured accidents.

2. Should I buy UM/UIM if I already have health insurance?

Absolutely! Always buy Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage, because it pays for many things that other types of insurance usually don't, such as lost wages and pain and suffering. So, it's not really a waste to purchase it even if you think you're covered otherwise. Plus, if you have a high deductible for your health insurance, UM/UIM can cover your deductible.

3. Why should I pay for auto insurance that basically covers other drivers? Doesn't UM/UIM encourage people to drive without insurance?

UM/UIM coverage protects you and your family and passengers, not the other driver. It's true that the person who hit you should have purchased the coverage, but having UM coverage allows you to quickly receive payment for your claim, saving you the time and expense of suing the other driver. Rest assured your insurance company will pursue the guilty driver to recover the money they had to pay.

4. Will I get paid if the other driver denies fault?

The other driver doesn't need to admit fault. Your auto insurance company (or a court) will determine fault and handle your UM/UIM claim based on their investigation of the facts. If they find the uninsured driver at fault, then you will be entitled to payment up to the limits of UM/UIM coverage you purchased.

5. How much money can I collect under my UM/UIM coverage?

You can never collect more than your policy's UM/UIM limit for claims under this coverage. Most people buy UM/UIM coverage in an amount that matches their Bodily Injury Liability (BI) limits, but you can choose to buy less UM/UIM coverage if you wish. For example, if you buy 100/300 BI limits (100 per person/300 per accident), but choose to buy 50/100 limits for UM/UIM, you can collect up to $50,000 per person in an accident with an uninsured driver, up to a maximum of $100,000 for all drivers injured in the same accident.

For UIM coverage, the total amount you can collect from both the other driver's insurance company and your own is the number shown on your policy – in this example 50/100. You don't normally add that to what you get from the other driver – although you can in a few states.

6. Can I make a claim on the other driver's UM/UIM coverage?

No. UM/UIM coverage is something you buy to protect yourself – and your property, if you purchase UMPD coverage. You're essentially protecting yourself from drivers who don't have auto insurance or don't have enough to pay for accidents they cause.

7. Should I get UMPD coverage instead of Collision coverage? Which is better?

UMPD is only available in certain states, so unless it was offered to you when you bought your policy, it's probably not an option. And, if you're making a loan or lease payment on your car, you'll be required to buy Collision coverage, until it's paid for. After that, you can choose – knowing that UMPD coverage will only pay for damage caused by an uninsured driver you can identify.

So, if you have to pick one, remember that Collision coverage will pay for all situations involving an accidental Collision. If opting for Collision coverage simply won't work financially, UMPD can serve as a last resort. In a limited number of states and situations, you can purchase both, and we recommend you do so, if that option is available.

8. Does UMPD coverage pay for car damage from hitting a car part lying in the road?

Unfortunately, it doesn't, unless you can prove that it came from a specific uninsured motorist. Remember that the coverage you've purchased is Uninsured Motorists Property Damage coverage – so you must find the motorist who's at fault before you can get paid.

Uninsured Motorists Coverage Basics

Uninsured/Underinsured motorists coverage (UM/UIM) refers to two separate but similar coverages: UM (Uninsured) and UIM (Underinsured).

1. UM: This coverage can be divided into Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) and Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD). Both are comparatively cheap coverages.

  • UMBI can pay for injuries to people protected under your policy – including family members in other cars and passengers in your insured cars – resulting from a car accident caused by an uninsured driver. A driver is uninsured if: they have no legal auto insurance, they have insurance but their company can't or won't pay or they are a hit-and-run driver.
  • UMPD can pay for damage to your car by an uninsured driver you can identify, but almost never a hit-and-run driver. If you're lucky enough to have the option of purchasing UMPD and Collision coverage, UMPD usually pays your Collision deductible only.

2. UIM: This can pay for injuries the same way UMBI does, but for drivers who have auto insurance that is lower than your policy's limit and not enough to cover the bills.

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For more information, see Why You Need Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage.

Looking for different information? Have questions or feedback? Please let us know.

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