Do I Really Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Over half of states do not require a driver to carry uninsured motorist coverage, leaving drivers uncertain if this is a cost they should shell out for or not. Californians fall into this category, along with much of the western United States. Just because this type of coverage is not mandated by the state, however, does not mean it is not worth investing in. Uninsured motorist coverage, which also includes underinsured motorist coverage, is a valuable addition to your liability policy and generally does not add too much to your premium.
Roughly 12-14% of drivers do not carry any insurance at all, despite every state except New Hampshire requiring it. This means that if you are in an accident, there is a 1 in 7 or 8 chance that the other driver has no insurance, leaving you on the hook for damage to both your vehicle and your person. Repair expenses and medical bills can quickly enter the tens of thousands; very few people are equipped to absorb such high amounts easily.
California is considered a tort or fault state, as opposed to a no-fault state. In no-fault states, each individual’s insurance companies cover their own damage; in tort states, the insurance company of the party responsible pays. It is easy to see how this becomes a problem when the person at fault has no insurance at all. Additionally, uninsured motorist coverage protects you from hit and run incidents, where there is no other party to even discuss with.
The state requirements for auto insurance in California are lower than in many places, meaning that even if the person who is responsible for the accident has coverage, it might not be adequate enough to pay for your needs. Uninsured motorist coverage frequently includes underinsured motorist coverage as well, giving you help if the other insurance limits are reached.
Uninsured motorist insurance divides into two types. The most common type covers bodily injury, arguably the more important of the two. It will protect you and anyone in your car when it is hit by someone without insurance, under the same liability limits as your personal coverage. The second type is for property damage, to help pay for repairs to the vehicle, although this is sometimes included in your collision coverage.
Generally speaking, insurance to protect you in the case of an accident with an uninsured driver does not cost much to add to your policy. You are probably looking at an extra five to ten dollars per month – a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of dollars you could rack up between doctors and auto body shops. The peace of mind it can buy you is worth it even though the state of California does not mandate that you carry it.
If you do find yourself on the unfortunate end of an accident with an uninsured motorist, be aware that filing and completing a claim can be a complex process. You may want to think about hiring a lawyer to assist you in fully recouping your damages so you can move on and get back on the road.