How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Do I Need?

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Leslie Kasperowicz
14 Years in the Insurance Industry (CSR & Writer)

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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Uninsured motorist coverage protects you when you’re hit by an uninsured driver. Approximately 1 in 7 drivers in the United States is driving illegally without insurance. Uninsured motorists are so prevalent in some states, in fact, that uninsured motorist coverage is legally required.

In Florida, for example, it’s estimated that around 26% of drivers are uninsured.

Uninsured motorist coverage isn’t legally required in all states, but it’s available in most states. You can buy uninsured motorist coverage as optional coverage. Typically, it’s bundled under uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

How much uninsured motorist coverage do you need? How much should you buy to stay protected? Today, we’re going to help answer that question.

How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Works

how much uninsured motorist coverage to buyIf you get into an accident with another driver, and the other driver is at-fault, then the other driver’s car insurance is required to pay for repairs. This only works, however, if the other driver has car insurance.

If the other driver has no car insurance, then you won’t be able to claim money through the driver’s car insurance provider.

In this situation, you have another option: you can sue the other driver for damages. Unfortunately, the drivers who drive without insurance typically aren’t wealthy: they have limited assets. Even if you win a lawsuit, you’re unlikely to win a significant amount from the other party.

This is where uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage comes into effect. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is a specific type of car insurance policy that kicks into effect when you get into an accident with a driver with insufficient insurance or no insurance whatsoever.

In other words, with uninsured motorist coverage, you’re paying extra on your own car insurance to cover your damages in the event of an accident with an uninsured motorist.

How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Should You Have?

We get a lot of questions about how much insurance coverage people should have.

The answer always comes down to the same two questions:

  • How much insurance can you afford to buy?
  • How much risk are you willing to take?

Some people buy too little insurance. They buy bare minimum coverage, for example. This can leave you exposed to an enormous amount of risk in the event of a collision or any other incident.

Other people buy too much car insurance: they’re over-insured. They pay too much for car insurance every month, spending hundreds per year on optional policies they don’t need.

This lesson remains true for uninsured motorist coverage. It’s possible to have too much or too little coverage. The answer ultimately depends on personal preference.

Certain States Require Uninsured Motorist Coverage

A number of states require uninsured motorist coverage. These states require you to carry uninsured motorist coverage to legally drive on the road – just like you need basic liability coverage.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, for example, is mandatory in Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington DC.

Meanwhile, other states require uninsured motorist property damage coverage. Those states include Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

How Much Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage Do I Need?

We’ve established that certain states require uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage and other states do not. The next step is to decide how much you need.

Fortunately, buying uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is usually straightforward because the coverage limits equal your liability coverage limits.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage is typically sold in amounts that equal your liability bodily injury coverage. If your policy has $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person and $100,000 per accident, then your uninsured motorist coverage would offer the same protection.

In fact, many insurance companies will get you to sign a waiver if your uninsured motorist coverage is lower than your liability coverage. By signing a waiver, you acknowledge that you were offered the higher coverage and declined it.

Do I Need Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Some states, as mentioned above, require uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. In most states, however, it’s optional.

Like all car insurance policies, it’s up to you to decide how much car insurance you can afford to buy. Based on your personal needs and aversion to risk, you can choose the right option for you.

Generally speaking, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is a good idea in the United States. Countrywide, approximately 1 in 7 drivers have no car insurance. Other drivers maintain the bare minimum requirements: they’re under-insured, which means they have insufficient coverage if they’re involved in an accident.

Some states have even higher rates of uninsured drivers. In Florida, for example, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 drivers has no car insurance – the highest rate in the country.

Ultimately, it’s a good idea to buy uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage if you can afford it. If you choose to buy coverage, then your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage will equal your liability coverage. That means you typically don’t need to worry about how much coverage to buy: it’s equal to your liability coverage.

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