Being in a car accident is bad enough, but could become even worse if you find yourself dealing with an uninsured driver. Except for New Hampshire, every state in the U.S. has a minimum mandatory car insurance requirement. Despite that mandate, about one of every eight drivers does not carry auto insurance coverage; in some states, that number is one out of five.
If you find yourself involved in a serious accident with a motorist who doesn’t carry an auto insurance policy, you could be at risk for substantial financial losses. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is designed to protect against that possibility. While you can’t prepare yourself for an auto accident, understanding the different types of auto insurance coverage plans that exist, and how to properly plan for the unexpected, can give you peace of mind the next time you get behind the wheel.
Understanding your protection options
Knowing how to protect yourself against an uninsured driver means understanding the types of insurance protection that exist. While specific coverage options vary by state and insurer, there are three types of protection:
- Uninsured Motorist (UM) insurance—Also known as Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) insurance, this coverage will pay your medical bills if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault. This coverage option, which is a requirement in Massachusetts, will also reimburse you for lost wages that may be incurred as time away from work, as a result of the accident.
- Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) coverage—In addition to paying for damages to your vehicle caused by an uninsured driver, this coverage option also covers damage to other personal property, such as your house or your fence, that may have been damaged in the accident. In Massachusetts, UMPD is not mandated, but can be added to your policy for an additional premium.
- Underinsured Motorist (UIM) protection—In some instances, an at-fault driver may have liability insurance, but his or her policy’s limits do not cover the full extent of damage to your vehicle. In such cases, UIM insurance will cover this shortfall. There are 20 states that require UIM (Massachusetts not included), and it is recommended that you purchase UM/UIM coverage with the same limits as your own liability coverage.
Without obtaining these coverage options, you will have to pay for your losses or sue the other driver for damages, which often results in a trip to court and a headache that may reap little reward if the defendant has few assets.
Do your due diligence to protect yourself
If you are involved in an accident, it’s imperative that you document the accident and any damage that may have occurred to your vehicle or surrounding property. If you are hit by another driver, create a record of the accident and document who was at fault. You will want to call the police to file an accident report and you will need to get the other driver’s license, registration, plate number and vehicle make and model information. Take pictures of the damage, get the name and contact information of any witnesses and report the accident to your insurer. Following these steps ensures that you have a valid timeline of events and incident record on file that could be used in a personal injury case.
You will also want to contact your insurance company to report the incident. An uninsured driver might ask you not to report the accident to your insurer and promise to make good on your losses. Give the other driver your sympathy, but not your trust. If you don’t report and the other driver comes back later with new claims, you might find your insurer won’t pay or you might be dragged into court to defend yourself.
The experts are here to help protect you
No one plans to get into a car accident and that’s why they are just that—accidents. In fact, some people don’t carry auto insurance—whether due to financial limitations or a false perception of their driving record—and the results can be detrimental.
Being prepared against uninsured motorists can give you peace of mind each time you get behind the wheel, but don’t forget to give us a call if you feel you are the victim of an uninsured driver.