Key takeaways

  • Uninsured motorist coverage is a car insurance coverage type that financially protects you and your passengers if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage is required in many states as part of minimum coverage requirements.
  • Stacking coverage is a way to increase the coverage amount for uninsured motorist claims
  • however, it comes at an additional cost and is not available in every state.
  • It is important to review your car insurance policy to see if you have uninsured motorist coverage and consider adding it if you do not.

Uninsured motorist coverage, also known as uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, can protect your finances after an accident when the at-fault driver doesn’t have car insurance to pay for injuries or vehicle damage. You may not think about this type of auto insurance coverage often, but driving without insurance is common, and you never know when you might have an accident with an uninsured driver. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team explains how uninsured motorist coverage works, including what it covers and what states require it as part of minimum coverage requirements.

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What is uninsured motorist coverage?

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is a type of car insurance that helps financially protect you and your passengers if you are involved in an accident where the at-fault party does not have insurance and cannot pay for injuries or damages through their insurance coverage. Without this type of insurance, you could be forced to pay out-of-pocket to cover your medical bills or vehicle repairs from an accident that was not your fault or if an uninsured driver hits you as a pedestrian.

Uninsured motorist coverage generally falls under these two categories, but whether you’re required to carry uninsured motorist coverage and the specific coverage details will vary by state.

  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI): This covers costs if you or any of your passengers are injured in an accident with an uninsured driver. In addition to covering any medical expenses (up to your policy’s limits), some UMBI will also cover lost wages if your injuries leave you unable to work for a period of time.
  • Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD): This covers damage caused to your vehicle by an uninsured driver. This coverage might apply if you are the victim of a hit-and-run. Depending on the state, UMPD coverage could be mandatory, optional or unavailable. Additionally, this coverage may or may not have a deductible and coverage limits vary by state. In cases of hit-and-run drivers, some states require the hit-and-run driver to be identified to confirm they are uninsured for the UMPD claim payout. Check with your insurance agent to find out what the physical damage options for your vehicle are with your insurance provider and state.

What is underinsured motorist coverage?

While uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are often lumped together, they refer to two different types of coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage applies if you are involved in an accident where the at-fault driver has no active auto insurance policy. On the other hand, underinsured motorist coverage covers you if a driver with car insurance hits you, but their coverage limits are not enough to pay for your damages.

When does uninsured motorist coverage apply?

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage applies when an at-fault uninsured or underinsured driver causes bodily injury to you or your passengers. With Americans experiencing a drastic increase in auto insurance rates this year, more drivers may be tempted to drive without car insurance. Here are a few situations when UM coverage may pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering or funeral expenses:

  • You and your passengers are injured when hit by an uninsured driver
  • You are the victim of a hit-and-run accident as a pedestrian
  • Your children are injured when hit by an uninsured driver while they are passengers in someone else’s vehicle
  • The insurance company of the at-fault driver denies their claim
  • The at-fault driver doesn’t have enough bodily injury coverage on their policy to cover the medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers

Do I need uninsured motorist coverage?

While uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage is not a car insurance coverage required in all states, it is required in many and may be a very beneficial financial protection to have. This coverage can protect you against costly damage caused by uninsured motorists, and in some states and jurisdictions, it offers coverage in the event of a hit-and-run. If you live in a state where uninsured motorist coverage is required, you must have it to drive legally. Whether or not it is required, though, including uninsured motorist coverage on your car insurance policy can provide a valuable layer of financial protection for yourself if you get into an accident caused by an uninsured driver.

How can I find out if I have uninsured motorist coverage?

The easiest way to see if you have uninsured motorist coverage is to review your current car insurance declarations page. This document summarizes your coverage and policy limits, as well as deductible amounts. Keep in mind that car insurance requirements depend on where you live. Many states require uninsured motorist coverage, but not all states require or even offer uninsured motorist property damage coverage.

You may also be able to review your coverage selections through your company’s website or mobile app or by contacting your insurance agent.

Frequently asked questions

    • The average cost of car insurance in the U.S. is $168 per month for full coverage and $52 per month for minimum coverage. However, the amount you will pay depends on numerous factors such as where you live, your age (in most states), your driving history and the type of vehicle you drive. To determine how much car insurance costs for you—and which company can give you the cheapest rate for your needs—you might start by selecting three companies that interest you and requesting quotes from each to compare.
    • Stacking” usually refers to increasing the coverage amount paid to you under uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage in the event of a covered claim. Stacking can apply in certain states if you have more than one vehicle on your policy. For example, you may have two vehicles on your policy and $50,000 UMBI coverage. If you were involved in an accident with an uninsured driver and your coverage is stacked, your policy would pay up to $100,000 in UMBI for your injuries. If your coverage is unstacked, your UMBI coverage limit would be $50,000 in this scenario.Keep in mind that this coverage only applies to UMBI and not UMPD, and is subject to state laws and your car insurance company’s rules. You may also pay an added cost to have this stacking coverage on your policy.
    • According to the Insurance Information Institute, almost half the states in the country require uninsured motorist coverage as part of state insurance requirements. Other states allow policyholders to opt out of the coverage by completing a rejection form or allow the coverage to be truly optional. The states with mandatory uninsured motorist coverage are:
      • Connecticut
      • Illinois
      • Maine
      • Maryland
      • Minnesota
      • Missouri
      • Nebraska
      • New Jersey
      • New Hampshire
      • New York
      • North Carolina
      • North Dakota
      • Oregon
      • South Carolina
      • South Dakota
      • Vermont
      • Virginia
      • Washington, D.C.
      • West Virginia
      • Wisconsin
    • The best protection against uninsured drivers is to avoid accidents altogether. Driving defensively and avoiding distractions can reduce the risk of an accident. Even if you do everything right, you could still have a run-in with an uninsured driver. Most insurance professionals recommend carrying UM coverage not just for you and your household members but also to help provide coverage for passengers who ride with you. Depending on your state, if you have collision coverage, you may not want the additional UMPD, or it may be included with your UM. Speak to your insurance agent about what UM coverage options are available in your state.