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Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Protection from Unprotected Drivers

Just imagine: you are a model driver with an up-to-date driver’s license and no traffic tickets. You have a great track record and you’ve always had your auto insurance up to date. One day, someone hits your car. You get hurt and you need to go to the hospital. However, the other driver doesn’t have enough coverage to pay your medical expenses, or worse– the person hits your car and drives away before you can even think about doing anything.

It is an extremely unfair situation, one with a good chance of happening. About one in eight drivers are uninsured (uninsured motorists), according to a 2021 report by the Insurance Research Council. If you’ve ever encountered such a driver, you might already know: you are responsible for those expenses!

Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself. If you have Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage, you can guarantee the payment of medical bills and other expenses for you and your passengers.

What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured Motorist Coverage is a component of your auto insurance policy that provides coverage when you have an accident caused by someone without insurance.

It is a supplement to your standard vehicle policy and pays for injuries to you and your passengers and, in some cases, even for property damage if the other driver is legally responsible for the accident but does not have insurance.

What is an Uninsured Motorist?

Each state defines “insufficient insurance” somewhat differently, which causes the definition of an uninsured motorist to vary. Typically, it is a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover another person’s damage if he or she is found guilty in an accident.

You will probably be covered by this insurance if you are in a car accident caused by:

  • A driver who does not have liability insurance on his auto insurance
  • A driver who does not have enough liability insurance to cover his medical bills
  • A driver whose insurance company denies coverage
  • A driver who has invalid liability coverage at the time of the accident due to the insurer’s insolvency (bankruptcy) or because the coverage was fraudulently obtained by the insured
  • A driver who flees the scene of the accident (hit-an-run); the insured has a duty to notify the police if he is involved in an accident of this type

What is included in this coverage?

Coverage for uninsured motorists can pay for:

  • Your medical bills
  • Loss of your salary if you cannot work because of the accident
  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Funeral expenses

What are coverage options?

There are four main types of coverage grouped under uninsured motorist coverage:

  • Uninsured motorist corporeal injury – pays when an uninsured driver causes a car accident and consequently an injury.
  • Uninsured motorist property damage – covers damage to your car if it is hit by an uninsured person. Some states allow you to use this coverage to cover hit-and-run accidents.
  • Underinsured motorist corporate injury – pays when another driver causes a car accident but does not have enough liability insurance to cover all of your medical bills, lost wages, etc.
  • Underinsured motorist property damage – covers damage to your car if it is hit by someone who does not have sufficient liability insurance.

Who is insured by UM Coverage?

An important question and perhaps determining factor when deciding on coverage is knowing who else will be insured under your policy. In the case of uninsured motorist coverage, you can secure the benefits listed above for:

  • You, the named insured
  • Anyone occupying your insured car
  • Any person entitled to compensation for personal injury caused by an uninsured driver, family members or passengers of the covered vehicle.

**An example is a parent who can recover the cost of medical expenses for an underage child whose injuries were caused by an uninsured driver.

Uninsured Motorist x Underinsured Motorist Coverages

There are two kinds of drivers nobody wants to encounter in traffic accidents that were not caused by you. In addition to uninsured motorists, there are also those who have some insurance but not enough to cover the total cost of a claim. These are underinsured motorists.

Most states require drivers to have at least some minimal level of liability coverage, and some will opt for the very bare minimum to be within the law. This can lead to financial consequences for the driver on the other end of a collision. 

Though similar, these are two separate coverages you can include in your auto insurance policy. However, the two can be grouped together and are generally a relatively inexpensive addition that may have little impact on the value of your insurance package, although they protect you beneficially.

Do I need this coverage?

Nineteen states along with Washington DC require policies to include coverage for uninsured drivers. Massachusetts, for example, requires an opening of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident for bodily injury caused by an uninsured driver.

If your state requires coverage for uninsured motorists, there isn’t much you can do. However, if they don’t require this coverage, you should consider including it in your policy, and evaluate whether it is worth paying more for auto insurance compared to the risk you are taking without the additional coverage.

Here are some ways to decide:

Do you have other insurance to cover car accident injuries?

  • The main function of coverage for uninsured drivers is to pay medical bills after a car accident. If you have good health insurance you may feel that you do not need uninsured motorists coverage, but it’s a good idea to assess your deductible before making a decision.
  • For coverage, you pay for medical expenses without co-payment or coinsurance, in addition to exempting health insurance deductibles.
  • Coverage not only covers hospital bills, but also wages lost due to time off and coverage for pain and suffering.

Do you have other insurance to cover car damage?

  • In states where property damage coverage for uninsured drivers is available, you may not need it.
  • Collision insurance will also cover damage to your car if someone else hits you and will cover a wide range of circumstances, not just uninsured drivers.

What happens if I don’t have coverage for uninsured motorists?

If you have no coverage for uninsured drivers and you are hit by someone without insurance, you can sue the guilty driver in court. To do this, however, you will likely need to hire a lawyer and the legal process could be lengthy.

How are hit-and-run accidents covered by UM?

Hit-and-runs are accidents in which the driver drives away before being seen or before exchanging contact information with those involved.

A hit-and-run can occur between:

  • Cars
  • A car and property, such as your fence or mailbox
  • A car and a pedestrian

Depending on your state, uninsured motorist coverage may cover damages if you are the victim of a hit-and-run.

Now, it’s up to you!

As we never tire of saying– at BRZ, we believe that information is your best tool for making the best decisions for you and your family. We are here to clarify any doubts and answer any questions you might have.

We are just a click away on Whatsapp, Instagram or Facebook, or you can stop by one of our offices for a coffee and a chat!

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