Your auto insurance is one of the most important elements of your personal insurance portfolio. But some people purchase only the minimum required liability coverage, not realizing they may be leaving themselves open to huge bills for damage to their own vehicles after an accident. Here’s how you can better protect yourself with uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
How Claims Usually Work After an Accident
Most states in the U.S. require some type of auto liability insurance to register a vehicle and drive legally. This type of auto insurance can help pay for medical care and damage if another motorist is hurt or their property is damaged.
The insurance of the person at fault in an accident typically covers liability for the other party. Say you miss a stop sign and hit another car. The person in the other vehicle has a minor injuries and significant damage to the side of their minivan. A claim is filed with your insurance carrier, which checks the police report and, after determining that you were indeed at fault, writes a check to the other party in the accident.
Likewise, if another party hits you, and they are at fault, their insurance typically pays for your medical bills, doctors’ appointments, lost work days, and repairs to your vehicle.
What Happens If Someone Without Insurance Hits You?
Insurance works well, like in the scenarios above, when everyone has at least the minimum liability coverage required by their state. However, each state sets its own requirements for mandatory liability coverage, some being higher than others.
If someone without insurance or with a low state requirement hits you and is at fault in an accident, what happens then? Maybe they have no auto insurance at all. Or perhaps they have $25,000 in property damage coverage, but your new $60,000 car is totaled in the accident. How do you make up the difference?
In some cases, you could go to court to sue the other driver for damages. But those cases can go on for months or even years, with no guarantee of a win. If the person you’re suing doesn’t have the money — maybe they’re unemployed, which is why they were driving without insurance — how would they pay a court judgment that awards money to you? How would you cover the replacement of your vehicle, which you need to get to work every day and are still making payments on to your auto lender?
How to Better Protect Yourself with Extra Coverage
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage: While a few states make this mandatory, many make it optional. Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance can help protect you when the other party has no auto insurance or doesn’t have enough to cover your injuries or damages.