Uninsured motorist: What is it good for?

Written by Penny Gusner on June 18, 2014 & Posted in Auto Insurance

Uninsured motorist is one of the most misunderstood types of car insurance coverage. Some mistakenly believe it covers you if you let an uninsured driver operate your vehicle, or that it always covers damage to your car. Neither is true. For uninsured motorist car insurance to be used, an uninsured vehicle must cause you harm -- and be held responsible for the accident.

Uninsured motorist is actually broken into two separate coverages. One is for bodily injury and the other is for property damage. Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) is more prevalent and what is most people are referring to when they talk about uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury pays, up to your chosen limits, for medical expenses when the person legally liable for your injuries is an uninsured driver. This means if an uninsured car runs a red light and T-bones your vehicle, your UMBI coverage will kick in to help pay your resulting medical bills.

UMBI has limits similar to your liability coverage. For example, if you have uninsured motorist bodily injury limits of 25/50 this equates to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury is required by over 20 states and is available in all states but Michigan. Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) is separate coverage and is required only in eight states and isn't even available in 23.

UMPD covers your vehicle only if it's damaged by a driver who is both legally liable for the accident and is uninsured. This coverage doesn't help if a friend, who has no insurance of his own, borrows your car and crashes it. Instead, in that case, your own collision coverage would cover your car's damages.

Uninsured motorist property damage limits vary considerably, but typically range from $3,500 to $25,000. It typically comes with a deductible as well.

Uninsured motorist is essential to have as part of your car insurance policy if you want coverage for injuries you sustain due to an uninsured motorist, which can add up quickly to several thousands of dollars or much, much more. It's highly unlikely the at-fault party will pay personally for your damages - even if you go to court and get a judgment -- since the driver was unable even to keep mandatory auto insurance in place.

Your health insurance may pay your medical bills, but you'll still be responsible for any deductible or copayment that is due. And health insurance doesn't pay for pain and suffering and loss of work, both which typically are included with UMBI coverage.

UMPD coverage is important if you want protection on your auto insurance policy for uninsured drivers damaging your vehicle. However, collision coverage is better to carry since it covers your vehicle when it collides with another vehicle or object, regardless of fault.

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