Car insurance can be complicated, to say the least. There are a number of different types of coverages some required by state law, some required by auto lenders and some truly optional. One of these confusing coverages is uninsured motorist insurance or UM. Many drivers also associate this with underinsured motorist coverage. State laws will dictate that you may need one, both, or neither.
Some drivers may wonder if purchasing uninsured motorist coverage is necessary if they have health insurance. Before getting into the ‘ifs' and ‘whys' of uninsured motorist insurance (UM), it's necessary to understand what the coverage protects you from.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage is insurance coverage that protects you even when an at-fault driver is not insured. This could be an underage driver, someone driving under the influence, a hit and run, or someone who just didn't have insurance. It's a part of your auto insurance coverage, and depending on which state you live in, it could be required or optional.
The coverage may be best understood with an example. Say you're involved with an accident with a driver that doesn't have car insurance and you're severely injured and are hospitalized for a few days. Aside from the hospital bills, there are physical therapy and other bills that must be paid. Because the at-fault driver is uninsured, you're left with mounting medical bills. This is where uninsured motorist coverage provides protection. Its limits generally match your liability bodily injury coverage limits.
Additionally, if you're the victim of a hit-and-run accident when the driver flees the scene, uninsured motorist coverage would also provide protection. As the name would suggest, this is only for situations where there is no proof of coverage from an at-fault driver. If you're hit by an underinsured driver, you would need underinsured motorist coverage.
Why do I need uninsured motorist coverage if I have health insurance?
The primary reason you’d need uninsured motorist coverage if you have health is if it’s required by law in your state. You can see if uninsured motorist coverage is required in your state here. Uninsured motorist coverage is required in 21 states as well as Washington, D.C.
Even if you aren't required to buy uninsured motorist coverage, it can still be a smart addition to your policy. Why? It works in the same way personal injury protection does in a basic sense.
Health insurance doesn't provide the same coverage as uninsured motorist coverage. Health insurance will at most cover your medical bills up to your limit – whether the accident was your fault or a third party's. The bills are higher if a prolonged hospital stay is required, with co-pays and deductibles. You might also end up paying the medical costs of those in the vehicle at the time of the accident, especially if the accident was your fault.
Uninsured motorist coverage covers your medical bills as well as the medical bills of passengers in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Plus, uninsured motorist coverage can provide protection for lost wages and car damage.
More importantly, many drivers don't realize their health insurance policy may have an exclusion clause. In other words, while your health insurance covers other illnesses and accidents, some specifically don't cover injuries from auto accidents. An insurance agent can verify this for you if you want to double check your policy.
What does uninsured motorist insurance cover?
Uninsured motorist coverage is often conflated with underinsured motorist coverage. They are two separate coverages, and you may need to choose between them in some states.
Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) offers the following collision coverage in an accident with an uninsured or hit-and-run driver:
- Damage to passengers present in the car at the time of the accident
- Injuries sustained to a permissive driver in an accident caused by an at-fault driver
- Medical expenses
- Expenses for pain and suffering from an accident caused by an at-fault driver
- Lost wages
As well as car accidents, UMBI also covers damages to victims (pedestrians, cyclists, and walkers) of accidents caused by at-fault drivers, as well as hit-and-run cases. An uninsured driver could be held legally responsible, subject to lawsuits and prosecution. If you're facing injuries now, you may not want to wait. In this type of instance, you can pass the right to sue onto your insurance company.
Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) covers:
- Car damage in an accident caused by an at-fault driver
- Damage to property in an accident caused by an at-fault driver
In the event of an accident, you would have more protection with uninsured motorist coverage than you would have with your health insurance plan.
Should You Add UM to Your Liability Insurance?
Accidents, especially those involving serious injuries, can be very costly. Given that about 13 percent of drivers are uninsured, uninsured motorist coverage can come into play more than you might think. While health insurance offers some coverage in many policies, it doesn't provide the same level of protection as uninsured motorist coverage.
Your state may require this on top of your standard liability coverage. Even if they don't, it could save you a lot of money in medical bills and more when added to your auto insurance policy.
Find the best car insurance company for your uninsured motorist coverage and other needs today by seeing which companies other drivers recommend here.
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