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What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Updated: November 2019

Uninsured motorist coverage is part of a car insurance policy that helps pay for your medical bills or car repairs if you're hit by a driver who doesn't have car insurance.

Typically, when you're in an accident and the other driver is found to be at fault, his or her auto liability coverage would help pay for your medical bills or repairs to your car. But if the at-fault driver doesn't have car insurance, you may have to pay out of your own pocket for those expenses. That's where uninsured motorist coverage may help.

Video Transcript

What is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?

An uninsured motorist is someone without auto insurance. Chances are about one in seven drivers in the U.S. is uninsured, according to a 2011 estimate by the Insurance Research Council. Uninsured motorist coverage helps you pay for damages caused by a driver who doesn't have car insurance. If you're hurt or your car is damaged in a crash caused by such a driver, this coverage will help pay for costs, up to the limits in your policy.

But, what does it mean to be underinsured? Let's say you are injured in a car accident in which the other driver is at fault, but only has the state's minimum required bodily injury liability coverage, which isn't nearly enough to cover your medical bills. In some states, as long as your damages exceed the at-fault driver's policy limits, you can collect the difference up to your own policy limit. In that situation, the other driver would be considered underinsured.

However, in other states, if you and the at-fault driver have the same limits, the driver would not be considered underinsured and you may not be able to collect under your own insurance policy even if your damages are more than the other person's policy limits.

It's important to read your policy to understand how your underinsured motorist coverage is applied. This way, you can make sure you have the amount of coverage that is right for you.

The bodily injury portion of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage may also cover injuries to your passengers or anyone driving your insured auto with your permission at the time of the accident.

In some states, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is a single coverage, for which you pay a single premium. In others, they are separate coverages, for which you would pay separate premiums.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required in some states, while it's optional in others. Also, it's important to know that uninsured motorist property damage coverage is not available in some states.

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What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Underinsured motorist coverage is a protection that helps pay for your expenses if you're hit by an underinsured driver. In some states, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages are bundled together and offered as a single protection on your car insurance policy.

So, what does it mean to be "underinsured"? It depends on where you live. Each state defines "underinsured" a bit differently. An underinsured driver has auto liability insurance but either:

  • Their liability limits aren't enough to cover your bills after an accident, or
  • Their liability limits are less than or equal to your underinsured motorist coverage limit

What Does Uninsured Motorist Insurance Typically Cover?

Uninsured motorist coverage may offer two types of protection:

  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, also known as UMBI, helps pay for your medical expenses resulting from a crash caused by an uninsured driver. In some states, protection may extend to a family member who is driving your car, or to your passengers.
  • Uninsured motorist property damage coverage, also known as UMPD, helps pay for repairs to your vehicle after a crash caused by an uninsured driver. This protection is not available in all states.

Underinsured motorist coverage offers one type of protection:

  • Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage helps pay for your medical bills if you are hit by an underinsured driver.

Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage Required

Depending on where you live, uninsured motorist coverage may be required by law. Drivers in most states are legally required to carry auto liability insurance coverage. However, one in eight drivers on U.S. roads is uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council. So, it may be a good idea to consider uninsured motorist coverage, even if it's optional where you live.

Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage Required?

Underinsured motorist coverage is an optional protection in most states. The following table shows the states that require uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (or both) and notes which coverages you must have in each state.

States That Require Uninsured and/or Underinsured Motorist Coverage

State Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage Required? Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage Required? Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage Required?



District of Columbia

















New Hampshire*

New York


North Carolina

North Dakota




Rhode Island**

South Carolina


South Dakota




West Virginia





*Auto insurance is not required in New Hampshire. However, if you purchase insurance, uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage is required and includes underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage as well.

**Uninsured motorist coverage is not required in Rhode Island if you carry the state minimum limits for bodily injury auto liability coverage. If you purchase higher auto liability limits, then you must also purchase uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. Additionally, uninsured motorist coverage includes underinsured motorist, bodily injury and property damage coverage.

***Virginia does not require drivers to have auto insurance if they can prove they can pay for losses resulting from an accident. If you purchase insurance, you must have uninsured motorist (which includes both property damage and bodily injury) and underinsured motorist coverage.

Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage If It Isn't Required?

You may wonder if you need uninsured motorist coverage if it's not mandatory in your state. While a minimum amount of auto insurance is required in almost every state, there are still a lot of drivers on the road who do not have car insurance or who have policies that would not cover all of the expenses related to an accident. If you file a claim after an accident caused by one of those uninsured or underinsured drivers, you could still wind up paying out of pocket if the at-fault driver doesn't have enough insurance to cover your damaged car or medical bills. Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to help protect you against a situation like this, so it may be worth considering even if it isn't legally required.

Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage If I Have Collision Insurance?

Collision insurance helps cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle if it is damaged in an accident. It does not cover the costs of any medical bills for you or your passengers that may result from the accident. So, if you're hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you could be paying for those doctor's bills out of your own pocket. Uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverages can help with medical bills resulting from an accident.

Uninsured motorist property damage can also help to pay for repairs to your vehicle if it is damaged in a crash caused by an uninsured driver. In many states where this coverage is available, it works in conjunction with collision coverage — uninsured motorist property damage coverage often reimburses customers the cost of their collision deductible.

So, while you may have collision insurance, you may want to see if your insurance company offers uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as well. However, be aware that some states do not allow collision insurance and uninsured motorist property damage to be on the same policy.

It's important to understand how uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages work where you live. Then, you can choose coverage limits that may help you in case of an accident.

Need help understanding your state's requirements? Talk to a local agent about uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

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