Uninsured Motorist Coverage Explained

Uninsured motorist insurance can spare you from shelling out money for crashes you didn’t cause.

Andrew Marder, Ben MooreFebruary 4, 2021
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If a driver without insurance hits your vehicle, you could be on the hook for big medical and repair bills — unless you have uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist insurance and its companion, underinsured motorist coverage, spare you from shelling out your own money for injuries or property damage from crashes you didn’t cause. In some states this coverage is required, but you can get it in others as well. Generally, it doesn’t cost much to add to your auto policy. Here’s what else to know.

How uninsured motorist coverage works

An uninsured motorist is a person without liability car insurance. When you’re in an accident and the other driver is at fault, their insurance is supposed to pay for your car repairs and medical costs for you and your passengers. If the other driver doesn’t have insurance and can’t pay, you can wind up holding the bill.

The same thing can happen when you’re in an accident with an underinsured driver. Underinsured motorists are drivers who have insurance, just not enough to pay for all the damage they’ve caused.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is designed to fill the gap between your costs and the other driver’s ability to pay.

What does uninsured motorist coverage pay for?

Uninsured motorist coverage pays for injuries or damages that you, family members in your household or passengers in your car suffer after an accident with an at-fault driver who has no insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage is similar, paying out when the at-fault driver has insufficient insurance to cover all damages.

There are four types of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage:

  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury, or UMBI, pays for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages if you can’t work after an accident and funeral expenses after a crash with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have car insurance. It may also cover you if you’re hit as a pedestrian or while riding your bike.

  • Underinsured motorist bodily injury, or UIMBI, covers the same expenses as UMBI, but for accidents with an at-fault driver who doesn’t carry enough insurance to cover all damages.

  • Uninsured motorist property damage, or UMPD, pays for damage to your car or property after an accident with an at-fault driver with no car insurance. A deductible may apply.

  • Underinsured motorist property damage, or UIMPD, covers car and property damage after an accident with a minimally insured at-fault driver after you pay your deductible.

Which states require uninsured motorist coverage?

Drivers in 18 states and the District of Columbia are required to carry uninsured motorist coverage. Car insurance isn’t mandatory in New Hampshire or Virginia, but if drivers in either state purchase it, policies must include both uninsured/underinsured motorist and property damage. In other states, you may be required to reject the coverage in writing if you don’t want it.

Even if uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage isn’t required where you live, you may still want the extra security they provide. Roughly 13% of drivers nationwide — or about 1 in 8 — drive uninsured, according to a 2017 study by the Insurance Research Council, the most recent data available.

Since uninsured motorist coverage may pay out if you’re hit by an underinsured driver, it can also be useful if you’re hit by someone with minimum required car insurance. In some states, minimum liability limits for bodily injury are as low as $15,000; injuries after a bad crash could easily exceed that amount.

Use the table below to see your state’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage requirements.

State

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage requirements

Alabama

Coverage is optional if available.

Alaska

Coverage is optional if available.

Arizona

Coverage is optional if available.

Arkansas

Coverage is optional if available.

California

Coverage is optional if available.

Colorado

Coverage is optional if available.

Connecticut

UMBI/UIMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Delaware

Coverage is optional if available.

Florida

Coverage is optional if available.

Georgia

Coverage is optional if available.

Hawaii

Coverage is optional if available.

Idaho

Coverage is optional if available.

Illinois

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Indiana

Coverage is optional if available.

Iowa

Coverage is optional if available.

Kansas

UMBI/UIMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Kentucky

Coverage is optional if available.

Louisiana

Coverage is optional if available.

Maine

UMBI/UIMBI required: $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident.

Maryland

UMBI/UIMBI required: $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident.

UMPD/UIMPD required: $15,000 per accident.

Massachusetts

UMBI required: $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident.

Michigan

Coverage is optional if available.

Minnesota

UMBI/UIMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Mississippi

Coverage is optional if available.

Missouri

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Montana

Coverage is optional if available.

Nebraska

UMBI/UIMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Nevada

Coverage is optional if available.

New Hampshire*

UMBI/UIMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

UMPD/UIMPD required: $25,000 per accident.

New Jersey

Coverage is optional if available.

New Mexico

Coverage is optional if available.

New York

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

North Carolina

UMBI required: $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident.

UMPD required: $25,000 per accident.

North Dakota

UMBI/UIMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Ohio

Coverage is optional if available.

Oklahoma

Coverage is optional if available.

Oregon

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Pennsylvania

Coverage is optional if available.

Rhode Island

Coverage is optional if available.

South Carolina

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

UMPD required: $25,000 per accident.

South Dakota

UMBI/UIMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Tennessee

Coverage is optional if available.

Texas

Coverage is optional if available.

Utah

Coverage is optional if available.

Vermont

UMBI/UIMBI required: $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident.

UMPD/UIMPD required: $10,000 per accident.

Virginia*

UMBI/UIMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

UMPD/UIMPD required: $20,000 per accident.

Washington

Coverage is optional if available.

Washington, D.C.

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

UMPD required: $5,000 per accident.

West Virginia

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

UMPD required: $25,000 per accident.

Wisconsin

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

Wyoming

Coverage is optional if available.

*Car insurance in New Hampshire and Virginia is not required, but if purchased, uninsured motorist coverage is required at these minimum limits.

The cost of uninsured motorist coverage

Compared with other types of coverage in an auto policy, prices for uninsured motorist insurance are relatively low, but could be higher in states with more uninsured drivers.

Since liability insurance is meant to protect your assets should you cause a wreck, you would want the same financial assurance if someone else caused the wreck. For that reason, it’s standard to purchase uninsured motorist coverage in at least the same amounts as your liability limits. The more assets you have to your name and the more liability insurance you purchase, the higher your costs for uninsured motorist coverage are likely to be.

Still, uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance is cheaper than liability coverage when purchased in the same amounts — generally less than half the cost.

'Stacked' uninsured motorist coverage

Depending on your state and insurance company, you may have the option to “stack” your uninsured motorist coverage. For an extra cost, you can combine uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury limits for multiple vehicles — either under one policy or across several policies in your name — to increase the overall coverage in an accident.

Here’s an example: Say you own two cars insured under one policy, each with $50,000 of uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. If you choose to stack the coverage, any injury expenses from an accident with an at-fault uninsured driver would be covered up to $100,000, the total stacked policy limit.

Frequently asked questions

While your health insurance should pay for medical treatment after a wreck, uninsured motorist coverage could still be beneficial, as it can cover ongoing expenses like long-term care. Plus, there’s typically no deductible for UMBI/UIMBI coverage, which could offset a high health insurance deductible.

Both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage pay for the same expenses after an accident, with one key difference. Uninsured motorist coverage pays out after a crash with an at-fault driver who has no insurance, while underinsured motorist coverage is reserved for accidents with an at-fault driver who has some insurance, but not enough to cover all costs.

Yes, some car insurers will use your uninsured motorist coverage to pay for injuries or damage expenses after a hit-and-run accident.