According to the Insurance Research Council, one in seven drivers in the United States have NO auto insurance whatsoever. States like Mississippi, who have a 28% uninsured driver rate, Florida, with a 24% uninsured driver rate, and Alabama, with 22% of drivers uninsured, are by far the worst offenders, but every single state in the US has a shocking number of drivers who are driving around without insurance. some days ago we reported about the current debate in California.

Car safety system - crash simulation toyota
Uninsured and under-insured motorists are a risk on their own: not being at fault doesn't mean that you will will get the damages paid.

Technically, there’s nothing you can really do to make sure more drivers carry auto insurance, but what you can do is make sure you protect yourself adequately against this threat. When you look at the odds, sharing the road with so many uninsured drivers means you’re not only more likely to have a car accident than experience a plane crash, but you’re also more likely to experience a wreck with someone who doesn’t have insurance.

What It Means For Policyholders

Let’s say that you’re sitting at a red light, waiting for the light to change when suddenly you feel your car jolt forward. You’ve been rear ended. While most drivers do hold insurance, if you happen to be hit by a driver that doesn’t have any auto insurance, you could be forced to take them to court

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for compensation or otherwise be out a lot of money to pay for the resulting damages.

By having this “uninsured” car driver insurance (UIM), you’re covered up to a certain amount, depending on what the premium you pay

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is, in the event that you happen to get hit by one of those one in seven drivers who doesn’t hold adequate or any insurance.

How UIM Works

How your UIM works depends on the state that you live in and it may also depending on your insurance company. Typically it will pay for a number of different expenses that may result from being in a car accident, such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of wages

What a lot of policyholders don’t realize is that you’re covered in any vehicle. So even if you’re driving with a friend and their car is hit by an underinsured or uninsured driver and you’re injured, you’ll still e covered. The coverage also generally extends to any member of the policyholder’s family and can also cover pedestrians or cyclists who are hit by a car.

How Much UIM Do You Need?

The first thing you need to remember when choosing UM/UIM limits is that you should never under insure yourself—ALWAYS match up your UM/UIM limits with the liability limits on your policy. If you carry liability limits of 100/300/100, for one, you’re not going to save much at all by carrying UM/UIM limits of 25/50/25—you’ll literally save pennies monthly.

Secondly, your liability coverage pays if you cause an accident that injures someone else or damages their property—why would you insure a complete stranger for more than you would insure yourself or any family members or friends that are passengers in your car? It makes absolutely no sense to carry less coverage for UM/UIM limits than your liability limits, especially when it barely costs anything to increase those limits.

If you don’t want to carry higher UM/UIM limits for yourself and don’t care if you underinsure yourself, do it for the sake of your friends and family that ride in your car—when it comes down to it, that’s insurance coverage for them too, because if you get into an accident with an uninsured driver and a passenger is injured, that’s the coverage that will pay for their medical bills.

Imagine this scenario—you get into an accident with an uninsured driver, and although you’re not injured at all, your passenger’s legs are both broken, arm is broken, and is

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unable to work for six months. How would you feel if your passenger’s medical bills and lost wages exceed the coverage your policy offers? Can you imagine the conversation you’d have to have when you tell the passenger they’ll have to cover their own medical expenses? In that situation, you’d be lucky if the passenger didn’t sue you—another reason to carry UM/UIM limits that are matched to your liability limits. People tend to be much more forgiving if they can at least break even.

You never know just how bad of a car accident you’ll be in until you’re in it. Generally policyholders will purchase $100,000 in UIM, though how much you wish to be covered for really depends on your personal circumstances. Remember, in most cases this type of coverage will not only cover yourself, but your family members and a number of other third party individuals. With mounting health care costs in the United States, no one can afford to gamble with protection like this.

Image: Flickr.