What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

By Teo Spengler - Updated April 19, 2018
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The law requires drivers to carry insurance, right? So why do you need uninsured motorist coverage? Most people do purchase liability insurance, if only to comply with state law. But if you believe that all other drivers carry insurance, you are living in fantasy land. A notable percentage of people drive without any insurance at all, or continue to drive after their insurance has expired or been cancelled. If one of those drivers happens to hit you or your car, uninsured motorist coverage comes in very handy.

Tip

Uninsured motorist coverage provides insurance coverage for you and your car in case you are injured or your property is damaged by a driver who doesn't have liability insurance.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Most drivers purchase liability coverage that will pay for damage they cause to other drivers or their vehicles. But some don't. According to Farmer's Insurance, one in eight drivers carries no insurance at all. If you happen to get your car smashed through the negligence of one of these uninsured drivers, you are in trouble. There is no insurance coverage for you. Your own liability policy will cover damage you do to another car and its passengers, but not to yourself. And the uninsured driver is uninsured.

That's when you are glad to have uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage includes both bodily injury, taking care of your medical expenses, lost wages, damages for pain and suffering, and also property damage coverage that takes care of damage to your vehicle. Almost half of all states make it a legal requirement that drivers carry uninsured motorist coverage.

Do You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage if You Have Health Insurance?

Uninsured motorist coverage provides much different protection than your health insurance. If you are injured in a car accident, you might miss work for a short period or a long one. Uninsured motorist coverage picks up lost wages. You might suffer pain from the collision and perhaps for some time afterward, you might have emotional distress if you can't do the same things you did before the crash. Your car may be totaled. With uninsured motorist coverage, all of these losses are covered.

Is Underinsured the Same as Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage are in the same family, but not precisely the same thing. Many people simply purchase the minimum liability coverage their state requires in order to drive legally. If they collide with you causing you serious injuries, the bare minimum won't begin to cover your medical treatment.

While uninsured motorist coverage steps in when the driver colliding with your car is not insured at all, underinsured motorist coverage protects you when the amount of insurance the at-fault driver carries is too little to pay for your bills, lost wages and other expenses caused by his negligence.

Can You Sue an Uninsured Driver?

You can sue an uninsured driver, but it's a waste of your time and money if he doesn't have any assets. And it is logical to assume that someone who doesn't buy liability insurance probably isn't rolling in the dough.

It will take a lot of time and effort to bring the suit and get a judgment, and all of it will be for naught if he can't pay the judgment. Since lawyers who handle this type of suit usually do so on contingency (meaning for a percentage of the winnings), it may be hard to get a lawyer to take the case if the uninsured driver doesn't have any money. These may not be the sorts of things you want to spend time worrying about when you are recovering from an automobile accident.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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