We've all seen it happen, or worse, had it happen to us: you're innocently driving down the street (or walking, or jogging, or even biking) and a car crashes into you, leaving you in shock, if not in pain. By the time your head has cleared the guilty party has disappeared. It's the classic hit-and-run, but what do you do?
The good news is that most states now require drivers to carry Uninsured and/or Underinsured Motorist coverage. (If you look at the declarations page of your auto insurance policy - the page that breaks your premium out by line-items, you'll see this listed, along with other categories like "medical expenses," "collision," or "comprehensive.") You should have both, and if you don't, call your insurer to add them.
What is Un/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Just as the name implies, un- or underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when you are hit by a driver who has no insurance. If they were at-fault, this part of your insurance will cover damages to your car, pay your medical bills, and cover most pain and suffering or other out of pocket expenses caused by the accident, up to the level of your coverage limits.
As well, if the driver who hit you has auto insurance, but only has the legal minimum amount of coverage mandated by state law (as little as $20,000 in many states), your underinsured motorist coverage will bridge the gap between what the other driver's insurance company will pay, and what your expenses actually are.
Do I Really Need this Coverage?
In today's economy, many people are trying to save money by cutting out any expenses deemed unnecessary. Whether or not your state requires you to carry it, un/underinsured motorist insurance is important. Why? Because overall, 15-25% of drivers on the road are driving without insurance (those numbers are higher in California, Arizona, and Mississippi), and of those who are insured, about a quarter of them have only the minimum amount required. Totaled, that means roughly 50% of the drivers around you do not have enough insurance to cover a significant accident.
In addition, your un/underinsured motorist coverage will protect you even when you're not in your car. If you're hit by an uninsured driver, while walking across the street, or riding your bike, your insurance coverage extends to those situations. This is especially important, since pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists are more likely to sustain severe injuries if involved in a car crash.
But What Does Un/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Cost?
Rates vary from insurer to insurer, but un/underinsured motorist coverage is generally fairly inexpensive - $35-50/year for about $500,000 worth of coverage is the average. Since at least half of the states in the United States already require at least some of this coverage, chances are you'll only be paying to increase coverage, not add it. Check with your agent today, and if you don't like the price, do some investigation with other agencies. Whatever the cost, be certain to ensure you are covered.
If you're ever the victim of a hit-and-run, you'll be glad you did.