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What is Uninsured and Under Insured Motorist Coverage and Do I Need It?

You need it. More than any other type of motor vehicle insurance coverage.  It became optional due to a terrible law in July of 1990, so you have to know to TAKE it.  Soon you will see why. This type of coverage is commonly called Uninsured Motorist and Under insured Motorist coverage or “U” coverage, applying to both types.    We will refer to it this way throughout the article.

These UM and UIM coverages are intended to apply to bodily injury.  Thus, let’s assume a person runs a red light and smashes into your car.  The damage will cost $3,800 to repair.  The red light runner, however, has no car insurance. He was driving around uninsured. He is therefore an “uninsured motorist.” You are not hurt. Can you use your uninsured motorist coverage to get your car fixed or replaced, since it was damaged by an uninsured motorist? No.  The UM coverage applies only to bodily injuries. If you were hurt, and chose full tort, then yes, you can use your UM coverage to pay yourself the value of your bodily injuries. This UM coverage was specifically designed to apply to you and your household family members who were personally injured by an uninsured motorist.

Next Question

Then how will my car get fixed?  Answer:  Under your own Collision coverage, less your deductible, which you will never recoup in all likelihood.  Your uninsured motorist coverage will not cover your Collision deductible because again, it only applies to bodily injuries We advise choosing a $250 Collision deductible, although most people choose $500 to lower the premium. You cannot recover it from the red light runner’s insurance coverage because he did not have “property damage- liability coverage,” which would have covered any property he damaged as a result of driving negligently.

Back to UM coverage. It is perhaps the most important of all automobile insurance coverages.  It protects YOU and YOUR family from going uncompensated for the suffering caused by an uninsured, financially irresponsible motorist. If he drove without car insurance, he will probably drive without a driver’s license.  So, he essentially walks away, scott free. But you, or your family member, will have no source of benefits if you waived the now waivable UM coverage.  So please, don’t waive it.  Buy it.

Just as importantly, don’t take UM coverage in an amount lower than your bodily injury liability coverage, which benefits strangers. Don’t reduce your UM coverage to be lower than you bodily injury liability coverage, unless you want to protect other people more than you protect your own people from others.

Lastly, under insured motorist coverage applies when the person who negligently hurt you, or a resident family member, had automobile liability insurance.  He has it all right. But in the state minimum amounts of $15,000 per person he injures, $30,000 per accident he causes. That’s no matter how many people are injured in that one accident. So, if you’re injured seriously, and your injuries are valued at $125,000, what happens?


You collect the $15,000 of the UNDER insured motorist’s bodily injury liability insurance coverage and then you turn to your OWN UIM coverage. Hopefully, you elected at least $100,000, so you have a total of $115,000 available to you.  We advise taking “U” coverage in no less than the amounts of $100,000/$300,000.

UIM coverage is just as important as UM coverage—because thousands of motorists in Pennsylvania are driving around right now with either no automobile liability insurance or the bare minimum of $15,000/$30,000 in bodily injury liability insurance. Some insurance companies even make a joke of it, implying it’s all you need and they keep you legal. Not much of a joke when you find out the person who caused you to undergo an ORIF operation, 12 weeks of physical and occupational therapy, and the loss of your job or job statute has a whopping fifteen grand in car insurance. Is that enough?

That is why you need to take control over matters you can control, meaning you should choose UM and UIM coverage, and  choose it in the highest amounts you can afford (but no less than the bodily injury liabilty coverage you chose). These two coverages are quite likely the two most important you can buy. Please, buy them, don’t waive them. If you have to waive something, waive towing, rental car, funeral expense, etc. and increase your collision and comprehensive deductibles. But please, don’t waive the most important two coverages to protect your own family.

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