Uninsured and underinsured motorist are two different types of car insurance coverages that can protect you in the event of an accident. They have some similarities, but there are also significant differences between them. Uninsured motorist coverage provides protection when the at-fault driver does not have insurance of any type. Underinsured motorist coverage protects you when the driver responsible for the accident does not have adequate insurance to cover all the damages.
What is an uninsured motorist?
Not everyone drives with insurance, which can impact drivers with insurance. That’s where uninsured motorist insurance comes in.
Despite efforts by states to curb the number of motorists without insurance, the Insurance Research Council in 2017 reported that 13% of drivers nationwide were driving without motorist coverage in 2015, the last year for which data is available.
You might wonder why people would break the law and drive without insurance. A study by the Financial Responsibility and Insurance Committee of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators found that 82% of uninsured drivers said they can’t afford insurance or that their vehicle is inoperable or isn’t in use.
All told, about 29.7 million drivers were without auto insurance in 2015. These states have the greatest percentages of drivers without car insurance:
- Florida — 26.7%
- Mississippi — 23.7 %
- New Mexico — 20.8%
- Michigan — 20.3%
- Tennessee — 20%
- Alabama — 18.4%
- Washington — 17.4%
- Indiana — 16.7%
- Arkansas — 16.6%
- District of Columbia — 15.6%
Maine had the smallest percentage of uninsured drivers. Only 4.5% were driving without motorist coverage in 2015 (the latest year with data).
- If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, your uninsured motorist insurance will cover any injuries or damages they cause to you.
- Underinsured motorist insurance covers bodily injuries and property damage if the at-fault driver has insurance but not adequate coverage to pay for all the damages.
- Whether you need uninsured motorist coverage depends on your state’s minimum car insurance requirements.
- The cost of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage vary by insurers, but you can expect it to be about 10% of the total premium cost
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist insurance protects you, your passengers and your car in the event of injury or damage when an at-fault driver has no insurance.
Meanwhile, another part of auto insurance coverage called underinsured motorist insurance covers injuries sustained at the hands of a driver who has insurance but not enough to pay for all your medical expenses.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is one of four components to a well-rounded auto insurance policy. The other major parts are liability, collision /comprehensive and MedPay/PIP.
How does uninsured motorist insurance work?
An uninsured motorist is an individual without liability car insurance. If your car collides with another vehicle and the other driver is at fault, then their insurance should be paying for your vehicle repairs and medical expenses. If the other driver does not have enough coverage, then uninsured motorist insurance will cover these expenses up to its limits, so you don’t have to bear the cost yourself.
How does underinsured motorist coverage work?
People who don’t have enough insurance to cover all the damage they cause are referred to as underinsured motorists. Underinsured motorist coverage is designed to fill the gap between your costs and how much the other driver could pay.
State law mandates drivers to have adequate amount of liability coverage to cover bodily injury and property damage they cause. Although, if the other driver doesn’t have insurance or enough coverage to pay for the damages, you can turn to underinsured motorist.
How much uninsured motorist coverage do I need?
Uninsured motorist bodily injury-related coverage will insure you against medical expenses and related costs in the case of an accident. Property damage coverage, on the other hand, protects your car from any damages done to it by another vehicle during a collision.
Depending on what state you’re living in, you can get one or both the coverages. It is suggested that you match your liability limits with the uninsured motorist limitations on your insurance policy. Most experts recommend keeping both at 100/300, but it is up to each individual’s personal preferences.
What are the different kinds of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?
There are four types of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages, depending on the kind of damages or injuries. Here are the four types of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UM or UMBI) – covers injuries when an uninsured at-fault driver hits you.
- Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) – covers your vehicle’s damage when an uninsured at-fault driver hits you
- Underinsured motorist bodily injury (UIM or UIMBI) – covers injuries when an at-fault driver hits you, but only in cases when the at-fault party has insufficient insurance.
- Underinsured motorist property damage (UNDPD) – covers damage to your vehicle when an at-fault motorist hits you, but only in cases when the at-fault party has insufficient insurance.
In some states, uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist are bundled together as one coverage. You will see it listed as UM/UIM. In other states, you can buy UM and UIM as separate coverages.
Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage
The most common type, which many states require car owners to carry, is uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage.
Uninsured motorist insurance pays up to your limits – without a deductible – which typically mirrors your liability limits (per person and per accident). UM basically takes the place of the other driver not having bodily injury liability coverage. Uninsured motorist bodily injury is also used to cover injuries sustained in hit-and-run accidents when the at-fault driver can’t be found.
This typically covers the following people when harmed by an uninsured driver that is legally liable for the auto accident:
- Household members (resident relatives)
- Permissive drivers of your insured vehicle
- Passengers of your insured vehicle
UM coverages can vary by policy term but generally include these expenses:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Other injury-related expenses
UM ordinarily extends to you and your household members if an uninsured driver hits you as a pedestrian or, in some states, a bicyclist.
Uninsured motorist property damage
While standard uninsured motorist coverage pays for medical expenses that result from an accident caused by an uninsured driver, there is a separate kind of coverage for damage to your vehicle.
Uninsured motorist property damage coverage, or UMPD, is what pays for repairs to your vehicle if an uninsured driver strikes you. Unlike UMBI, this coverage doesn’t protect against damage caused by hit-and-runs or miss-and-runs. These are also called a “phantom vehicle situation,” when another driver causes you to crash but doesn’t actually touch your vehicle because it would be easy for fraudulent claims to be made. For instance, a driver could have a single-car accident and then claim a hit-and-run, so he didn’t have to make a collision claim.
For uninsured motorist property damage, most states have you pick a maximum amount that will be paid out if an uninsured motorist damages your car. That’s similar to how you choose a property damage liability limit for damage you cause others.
In some states, UMPD insurance cannot be used for hit-and-run accidents. The following states don’t allow drivers to use UMPD coverage for hit-and-run damage:
UMPD limits vary by state but are typically low compared to collision coverage, which pays up to your car’s actual cash value at the time of an accident.
In states offering uninsured or underinsured motorist property damage coverage, consumers may have the choice to buy UM insurance as a split limit or combined single limit policy.
- Split limit plans have separate motorist coverage levels for UMBI and UMPD. For example, they may be written as $50,000/$100,000/$25,000, providing coverage of $50,000 per person, subject to a maximum of $100,000 per accident for bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage.
- Combined single limit plans are offered in a small number of states. One motorist coverage level can pay for both UMBI and UMPD. For instance, a $100,000 policy pays for up to that amount of UM claims, regardless of whether they are related to bodily injury or property damage.
Deductibles are usually due with uninsured motorist property damage coverage. Deductibles tend to range from $100 to $500.
Uninsured motorist coverage vs. collision
Collision covers your vehicle’s damage regardless of who’s at fault.
You may not need uninsured motorist property damage coverage if you have collision. As mentioned, collision handles the damage regardless of fault — and regardless of whether the other driver has car insurance.
UMPD pays for damage only in crashes involving uninsured drivers. Many states require UMPD. However, if your state doesn’t, you may still want the peace of mind of having an extra layer of coverage on top of your collision coverage.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage if I have collision and comprehensive?
UMPD coverage is generally purchased by drivers who don’t have collision coverage, as carrying both collision and UMPD is redundant.
However, you may want to carry UMPD even if you don’t think your car is worth enough to buy collision coverage. That’s because some states require you to have UMPD. And if you do carry both coverages, some of those states allow you to use UMPD to pay the deductible of your collision coverage when hit by an uninsured motorist.
Underinsured motorist coverage
Underinsured motorist is similar to UM coverage but instead covers you when the at-fault driver has insufficient insurance to fully compensate you. Insurance companies generally define underinsured as anyone who’s at-fault and has bodily injury liability limits that are less than your UIM limits. The limits aren’t enough to cover the losses of those injured.
Underinsured motorist property damage (UNDPD) is much less common than its liability counterpart. Since collision coverage generally offers better protection than UNDPD, underinsured motorist property damage is predominantly sold when required by the state and bundled with uninsured motorist property damage.
Your car insurance company won’t pay for damages that have already been paid for by another party; therefore, many policies require that you inform them in writing of any tentative settlement with the at-fault uninsured driver or you must obtain your insurer’s permission before filing a claim (within the allowed timeframe) with the underinsured driver’s insurer. Failure to do so may result in a complete loss of your benefits or could be considered insurance fraud.
‘Offset’ versus ‘excess’ coverage limits
In some states, you have the option of carrying “offset” or “excess” UIM coverage.
If your insurer offers both types, you choose which type you want to carry. Excess coverage leaves the possibility that your insurance company could have to pay out more, so it costs more than offset coverage.
Offset or Difference in limits coverage
In most states, underinsurance motorist bodily injury coverage is allowed to have a reducing clause that allows your insurance company to reduce or offset your payout by any amounts recovered from another party’s liability policy.
Example: You’re in an accident and end up with $50,000 in medical bills. The other driver’s insurance only pays $20,000. You need to have $50,000 in UIM coverage to reap the additional $30,000 in benefits. If you only have $30,000 in UIM coverage, you only get $10,000 because the $20,000 settlement would be deducted from your UIM policy limits.
In some states, underinsured motorist coverage is considered “excess coverage” – above and beyond what’s paid by the other driver’s insurance. In states with this type of UIM coverage, your limits aren’t reduced by what the at-fault’s insurer has paid you. Instead, your UIM coverage is in addition to it.
Example: You are in an accident with total damages of $35,000. The other driver’s insurer pays $20,000, and your UIM limit is $20,000. You receive the $15,000 payout from your UIM policy.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage?
The requirement for uninsured motorist coverage all depends on your state’s minimum car insurance requirements.
- In more than half of U.S. states, you’re required to carry uninsured motorist coverage.
- In some states, a combination of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required.
- In some states, you must carry UM but can skip UIM coverage.
- In most states that don’t require uninsured motorist coverage, you must still be offered the coverage. It might be necessary to reject it in writing as the coverage may be automatically included on your policy.
|State||Uninsured Coverage Required?||Underinsured Coverage Required?|
|Connecticut||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident|
|District of Columbia||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and property damage at $5,000, subject to $200 deductible||No|
|Illinois||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||No|
|Kansas||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident|
|Maine||Yes, bodily injury at $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident||Yes, bodily injury at $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident|
|Maryland||Yes, bodily injury at $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident and property damage at $15,000||Yes, bodily injury at $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident and property damage at $15,000|
|Massachusetts||Yes, bodily injury at $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident||No|
|Minnesota||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident|
|Missouri||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||No|
|Nebraska||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident|
|New Hampshire||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and property damage at $25,000 per accident.||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and property damage at $25,000 per accident.|
|New York||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||No|
|North Carolina||Yes, bodily injury at $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident and property damage at $25,000||Yes, bodily injury at $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident|
|North Dakota||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident|
|Oregon||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||No|
|South Carolina||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and property damage at $25,000 with $200 deductible||No|
|South Dakota||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident|
|Vermont||Yes, bodily injury at $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident, and property damage at $10,000 with $150 deductible||Yes, bodily injury at $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident, and property damage at $10,000 with $150 deductible|
|Virginia||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and property damage at $20,000 with $200 deductible||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and property damage at $20,000 with $200 deductible|
|West Virginia||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and property damage at $25,000 for property damage||No|
|Wisconsin||Yes, bodily injury at $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident||No|
What if I am the one who is uninsured?
Driving without car insurance is risky. There are several possible repercussions and negative outcomes from driving without auto insurance:
- Personal liability. Without insurance, if you cause an accident, you’re personally liable for injuries and damage to others — not to mention your own medical and car-repair bills.
- Required by law. Unless you live in New Hampshire—the only state that doesn’t require drivers to carry auto liability insurance—you’re subject to legal penalties if you drive without it. (But even in New Hampshire, if you cause an accident, you have to be able to financially cover the damages you cause, or else you can be penalized.)
- Penalties, fines and possible jail time. Potential punishment for driving uninsured varies widely. Most states will penalize you with a fine, but some could suspend your driver’s license, require you to do community service or sentence you to jail.
In some states, you don’t even need to be caught driving without insurance to be penalized. If your state keeps an insurance database and sees that your vehicle isn’t insured, it may be able to find you and take other measures, such as suspending your registration.
Read more about state penalties for driving without insurance.
Cost of uninsured motorist coverage
The cost of uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage can vary greatly, as multiple factors contribute to the coverage’s cost. Generally, you can expect UM/UIM coverage to be about 10% of the total premium cost.
Here are some of the major factors that can affect the rates:
- Chosen limits
- Claims history
- Geographic location
- Driving experience
- Additional rating factors
As evident between Massachusetts and Florida, the cost can vary wildly by location. Massachusetts boasts the lowest percentage of uninsured motorists in the country at around 4%, while Florida has the second-worst ranking with 24%.
|State||Average price of UM coverage|
But insurance companies can also differ drastically in rates.To get the cheapest car insurance for your situation, comparing carriers is critical. Use Insure.com’s tools to find the average insurance rate by vehicle or rates by state to discover a ballpark of what you can expect to pay for basic coverages before shopping around.
What is a negligence law?
The uninsured driver who hit you must be found at fault for your UM coverage to kick in. Depending on the state’s negligence laws, your UM payment could be reduced or eliminated if you’re found partially at fault.
- Comparative negligence – you can only collect damages if your degree of fault doesn’t surpass that of the other driver. If your insurance company finds that you were 20% responsible for the accident, your UM policy would only pay up to 80% of your damages up to your policy limits.
- Contributory negligence – prevents you from receiving any compensation if you’re found to be at fault at all.
- Modified negligence – you can’t receive compensation if you’re found 50% or more at fault. With the 51% rule, you can recover money if you’re 50% or less at fault, but not if you’re 51% or more at fault. South Dakota is the only state with slight gross negligence, which makes it harder to sue an at-fault driver.
|Arkansas||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Colorado||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Connecticut||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Delaware||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|District of Columbia||Contributory Negligence|
|Georgia||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Hawaii||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Idaho||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Illinois||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Indiana||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Iowa||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Kansas||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Maine||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Massachusetts||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Michigan||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Minnesota||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Montana||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Nebraska||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Nevada||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|New Hampshire||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|New Jersey||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|New Mexico||Comparative Negligence|
|New York||Comparative Negligence|
|North Carolina||Contributory Negligence|
|North Dakota||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Ohio||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Oklahoma||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Oregon||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Pennsylvania||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Rhode Island||Comparative Negligence|
|South Carolina||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|South Dakota||Comparative Negligence|
|Tennessee||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Texas||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Utah||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Vermont||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|West Virginia||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Wisconsin||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Wyoming||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
What is stacked uninsured motorist coverage?
Policy stacking is an option that allows you to increase your UM bodily injury and UIM bodily injury coverage limits by the number of cars you have insured with your carrier. You will pay a higher amount for your UM and UIM coverages for this heightened level of protection.
Example: If you have four cars on your auto policy, each with UM limits of $100,000, you can choose to stack these and combine the coverage limits for a total limit of $400,000.
A reason to stack your coverages is to obtain much higher limits for UM and UIM coverage. However, if you’re pinching pennies, you may want to hold off on stacking since you’ll pay more for the privilege (because your car insurance company could possibly have to pay out more if you used your UM/UIM coverage).
Stacking is not allowed in every state. And, not all car insurance companies offer stacking in states that allow it. Find out more about policy stacking and which states it’s allowed.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage if I have health insurance?
If you’re in an auto accident caused by an uninsured motorist and you don’t have UM coverage, your health insurance will generally pay for your medical bills related to that car accident, with you paying for any deductible and copayment amounts.
That can easily add up to a hefty amount if you require a hospital stay. If you have UM/UIM coverage, that pays for health care expenses before your health insurance kicks in.
Your health insurance won’t pay for lost wages if you miss work or for pain and suffering resulting from the crash. Lost wages and pain and suffering are paid for by the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. If the other driver doesn’t have liability insurance or doesn’t have enough of it, you’re out of luck — unless you want to pursue the matter in court.
As with any other car crash, before you can make a claim on UM/UIM coverage, car insurance companies will want to investigate the claim. They will confirm that the other motorist is uninsured or underinsured and that he or she is at fault.
Even if you live in a no-fault state, it may still be a good idea to buy UM/UIM coverage. In a no-fault state, you have to file a claim with your own insurer — no matter who is to blame for the accident — and your right to sue the other party is restricted.
However, drivers are allowed to sue for severe injuries and pain and suffering if the case meets certain conditions. If the other driver is uninsured or underinsured, and you win a lawsuit against him, there may be nothing to collect.
What other kinds of coverages comprise an auto insurance policy?
In addition to UM/UIM, there are three additional main components of an auto insurance policy. These components can vary depending on the auto insurance requirements in your state.
- Liability – The main component of any auto insurance required by states for drivers/car owners to have a way to compensate those that they harm with a vehicle.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) or MedPay – These coverages pay for your auto accident-related injuries, regardless of fault, up to your limits. Most states that require PIP are termed “no fault” states and your PIP coverage is primary, even if another party is at fault and carries bodily injury liability coverage.
- Collision and Comprehensive – The two types of physical damage coverage that you can add to your policy to protect your vehicle. These coverages are optional in most instances, according to state laws. Collision covers damage to your car if it hits or is hit by another car or object. Comprehensive replaces stolen cars and covers damage to your car from fire, vandalism, and natural disasters.
Examples of UM/UIM accidents and claims
1. During your commute to work, you’re rear-ended by a driver with no insurance. Your car is badly damaged, and you opt to get checked out at the hospital.
Since the other driver is uninsured, you have to look to your own insurance policy for help. If you have uninsured motorist bodily injury, you can make a claim for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering if your injury calls for it.
Without UMBI coverage, you could use MedPay or PIP coverage, if you have it or your own health insurance – but you’ll have to pay your deductible and copayments. For your vehicle’s damages, you could make an uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) claim or a collision claim.
2. You are a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and you are struck by a car making a right on red. You are taken to the hospital. The driver has no insurance.
If you have UMBI, you can make a claim with your insurer. The insurer may then pursue the driver to ask for reimbursement for the monies it paid out. If you don’t have UMBI, your health insurance should cover your medical expenses, less any copays or deductibles that are due.
If you don’t have UMBI or other medical insurance to pay your medical bills, you would need to pursue the driver in court to pay for your medical and other expenses incurred due to the incident.
3. When leaving a lunch date, you find your car has been struck in the parking lot. The driver at fault left no information.
Without recourse to take against an unknown at-fault party, you need to have collision coverage to make a claim. If you have UMPD, it’s doubtful that you could make a claim since hit-and-run accidents generally aren’t covered. In a few states, if you have an unbiased witness to the event that will testify to it, you can make a UMPD claim.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage in Florida if I have health insurance?
No, uninsured motorist coverage is not required in Florida if you have health insurance. Your health insurance should be enough to cover any medical bills after an accident. However, you can still buy uninsured motorist coverage, even if you have health insurance for added protection and peace of mind.
Do I need uninsured motorist property damage if I have collision coverage?
No, you don’t need to get uninsured motorist property damage coverage if you have collision coverage. It will cover any damages to your vehicle with another car or object caused due to collision regardless of who is at fault.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage if I have full coverage?
Yes, you need uninsured motorist coverage even if you have full coverage. It sounds promising but is a package deal that varies from policy to policy. And full coverage may be missing important aspects of insurance like uninsured and under-insured motorist protection.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage in Colorado?
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is not a requirement in Colorado, but it can be helpful for the insured. This type of insurance protects you from drivers without any insurance or with insufficient coverage to cover your injuries should they cause an accident.
Is underinsured motorist coverage worth it?
Underinsured motorist coverage is designed to provide relief when someone else’ lack of responsibility causes you harm. Whether or not it is worth purchasing depend on your personal needs and how comfortable are you with the risks of driving and confident to pay damages out-of-pocket on top of any fines if an accident were to happen. Also, take your financial situation into account while making this decision.
Is uninsured motorist coverage necessary?
Some states require uninsured motorist insurance, while it is optional in other states. But individuals should consider this coverage when buying car insurance.
Does uninsured motorist coverage cover hit-and-runs?
Yes, some car insurance companies will use uninsured motorist coverage to cover medical expenses and property damage after a hit-and-run accident.