Most people understand a little bit about car insurance, at least when one is speaking about the major coverage areas like liability and deductibles, but what about the lesser known ones? Uninsured motorist coverage falls into this category.
By definition it would seem fairly simplistic, but there is more to this type of coverage than the title would indicate. First, it is important to understand what uninsured motorist coverage is and isn’t.
It is protection for you if you are hit by someone else that does not have insurance, who drive away without giving you their insurance information (otherwise known as a hit and run), or to cover you if the insurance company that the person who hit you is insolvent. Uninsured motorist coverage pays for injuries sustained in the accident.
It is not, generally, protection for the damage done to your vehicle in the accident. Many people are confused when they purchase this type of insurance, thinking that this type of coverage will pay for the damage done to their vehicle in the event they are hit by someone who doesn’t have insurance. Some states require you to carry this type of coverage; others require that it be a part of the liability package.
Another thing to consider with uninsured motorist coverage is that it not only covers you when you are driving your car, but it will also cover you if you are a passenger in someone else’s car.
Let’s say you are heading to dinner with your friend and you are in an accident that your friend is not at fault in. After their uninsured motorist insurance has paid for the cost of your injuries, you can then use your own car insurance to pay for the balance up to the limit you have purchased. This helps immensely, especially if you have limited or no medical insurance coverage.
If you are in an accident that is a hit-and-run situation, and difficult as keeping your faculties about you may be, the first thing you will want to do is get the license plate number of the car that is leaving the scene. If possible, pull out your cell phone and take a picture of the back of the departing vehicle. By doing this, at the very least you will have a photo of the color, make, and model of the car that struck you. This can help the authorities in their attempts to locate the errant driver. When this happens you are required to report the incident within 24-hours if you want to claim your uninsured motorist coverage benefits.
With all this in mind, the question isn’t really whether or not you need uninsured motorist coverage, but if you can afford to risk driving around without it if it is not required by law. It may seem like an extravagance at first, but the time to realize that you need this type of coverage is not after you are hit by someone who doesn’t have insurance.