What is uninsured motorist coverage?

A driver gripping the steering wheel of a car.

With 253 million cars and trucks on the road, there are bound to be a few drivers who are either underinsured or uninsured. These drivers pose a financial risk, because in the event of an accident where they are at fault, there’s no real recourse to collect.

Auto insurance is mandatory in nearly every state, but according to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly one in eight drivers is not insured. This is a national average, and could be even higher in some states.

If you are in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you could be responsible for any costs associated with the accident — even though it was not your fault, because there is no other avenue from which you can recover the costs.

As unfair as it may seem, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to carry underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage on your own auto insurance policy that insures against these situations.

Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage defined

An uninsured motorist is a quick and easy definition: it is a driver who, despite the requirement to carry vehicle insurance, does not have it. The definition of an underinsured motorist can vary from state to state, but is commonly considered to be one who carries insurance, but his or her coverage has liability limits that are too low to meet the costs associated with an accident. The minimum coverage limits for liability insurance differ from one state to the next, and can be quite low — especially when considering any medical expenses in an accident.

Types of coverage

Some insurers will “bundle” uninsured and underinsured driver coverage together as one addition to your policy, while others may offer them separately. Talk to your carrier or agent about what the risks are in your state — if there are a high number of uninsured drivers and the state’s liability limits are low, your agent might recommend coverage for both. A number of states require uninsured motorist coverage, and a few even require drivers to carry underinsured motorist coverage as well.

Insurance companies generally offer uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, and uninsured motorist property damage coverage. Underinsured motorist policies cover the shortage between what the at-fault motorist’s liability limits are, and the cost of the damage.

How does coverage work if you are in an accident?

When you are in an accident and you are not at fault, the other driver’s insurance coverage pays for the damage and injuries that resulted. If you are in an accident and the other driver is at fault, but he or she is uninsured, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company will pay for the damages and injuries, up to your policy’s limits.

If you are in an accident caused by another driver and the damages exceed the limits of the liability coverage of the other driver, your insurance company will cover the difference, if you are carrying underinsured motorist coverage.

In essence, uninsured and underinsured coverage is a protection against being responsible for paying the bills of an accident that wasn’t your fault.


The content on this site is offered only as a public service to the web community and does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. This site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an insurance company or an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a suitably qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter. The comments and opinions expressed on this site are of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the insurance company or any individual attorney.

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