Uninsured Motorist Coverage Explained

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

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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.

What is uninsured motorist coverage?

Uninsured motorist insurance spares 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.

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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.

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

Uninsured vs. underinsured motorist coverage

Uninsured motorist coverage is often sold with underinsured motorist coverage. They both 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.

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.

There are two types of uninsured 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.

  • 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.

If you're looking for protection beyond this, you may want to consider full coverage insurance. Although you can't buy a specific full coverage policy, this term often refers to a combination of coverage including comprehensive and collision insurance plus state-mandated coverage like liability insurance and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Which states require uninsured motorist coverage?

Drivers in 18 states and Washington, D.C., 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 motorist bodily injury 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 motorist coverage isn’t required where you live, you may still want the extra security it provides. Nearly 13% of drivers nationwide — or about 1 in 8 — drive uninsured, according to a 2019 study by the Insurance Research Council, the most recent data available.

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

State

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

Kentucky

Coverage is optional if available.

Louisiana

Coverage is optional if available.

Maine

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

Maryland

UMBI required: $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident. UMPD required: $15,000 per accident.

Massachusetts

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

Michigan

Coverage is optional if available.

Minnesota

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

Nevada

Coverage is optional if available.

New Hampshire*

UMBI required: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident. UMPD 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 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 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 required: $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident. UMPD required: $10,000 per accident.

Virginia*

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

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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 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 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.

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 coverage, which could offset a high health insurance deductible.

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

You may be required to buy uninsured motorist coverage, depending on where you live — but even if you’re not, it’s worth considering. This type of insurance costs relatively little and could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars if you’re hit by an uninsured driver.

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