There are many different policies to choose from when it comes to auto insurance and one that is often over-looked is uninsured motorist coverage.
Many people, especially in states like Florida where car insurance is pricey and getting pricier, choose to skip uninsured motorist coverage because it’s yet another thing that makes their premiums higher than they were before.
At Darr Schackow Insurance, we want you to have all the information before making any decisions about what policies to include or not. Read on to learn more about uninsured motorist coverage and its many benefits.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Simply put, uninsured motorist coverage (UM) is exactly what it sounds like. It’s additional coverage on your policy that covers you if you’re in an accident and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance.
Specifically, it provides coverage for you and your passengers if the other driver does not have liability coverage or if you’re involved in a hit-and-run and the driver cannot be identified. When you have UM coverage, your insurance will help compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, funeral costs, pain and suffering, and property damage to your car.
The two types of UM coverage are Bodily Injury (UMBI) and Property Damage (UMPD).
UMBI helps covers medical bills for your own treatment and that of your passengers. Personal Injury Protection only covers your medical bills. UMPD meanwhile covers damages to your car while standard Property Damage Liability covers damage to other people’s property.
Why Do You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
We know what you’re thinking. “Car insurance is required by law, so how are there uninsured drivers out there?”
Well, plenty of drivers are able to get around the car insurance requirements for reasons beyond your control, so that’s not something you can count on. Florida for one has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers at almost 13%.
Secondly, in many states, uninsured motorist insurance is tied into underinsured motorist coverage—drivers who have the bare minimum of coverage. This means if you’re in an accident with an underinsured driver and they are the at-fault party, their insurance limits may be too low to cover your damages and medical bills, meaning the burden would then fall on you.
What Makes Uninsured Motorist Coverage Different
Some people might consider uninsured motorist insurance to be unnecessary because of other policies they hold.
For example, we’ve heard clients say, “My husband is in the military, so we don’t need uninsured motorist coverage.”
The same comment could be said by someone who has more than the minimum PIP coverage, auto medical payments coverage, health insurance, disability insurance, Medicare, or even worker’s compensation coverage.
The benefits provided by the military, PIP, auto medical payments, disability insurance, and workers’ compensation can be substantial. However, even as good as those benefits are, some expenses are not covered under those policies that UM would cover.
UM pays what the insured is legally entitled to recover from the at-fault party. Often, monetary damages include things that none of the earlier referenced policies (or military benefits) will cover.
Let’s take a look at this issue by way of example and see the benefits of UM coverage beyond just reimbursement for medical bills.
Suppose Bill is involved in a hit-and-run auto accident and is seriously hurt by the at-fault party. He is protected by a personal auto policy (PAP) with $50,000 of PIP (he increased the $10,000 basic limit to this higher amount after seeing the small additional premium charge) and $5,000 of auto medical payments coverage.
His auto policy includes $250,000 of UM coverage, and his personal umbrella includes $1 million of UM. Bill has no disability income policy. Additionally, Bill is covered by a health insurance policy provided by his employer.
As a result of the accident, the following expenses and losses were incurred by Bill:
● $75,000 for prior medical bills.
● $175,000 for future medical bills.
● $20,000 for prior lost wages.
● $300,000 for future lost wages.
● $1,000 for a wheelchair since Bill is unable to walk now.
● $10,000 for future wheelchairs.
● $30,000 for a special van to transport Bill and his wheelchair.
● $90,000 for future vans.
● $20,000 to retrofit the house to accommodate the wheelchair.
● $25,000 for a yard service for Bill’s remaining life expectancy since he cannot cut the yard now.
● $100,000 for future pain and suffering.
● $100,000 for the loss of “family comfort” with his wife.
● $100,000 for the loss of the ability to coach youth softball.
● $200,000 for future loss of the enjoyment of life.
Looking at the insurance that Bill has (disregarding the UM for now), the PIP and auto medical payments coverage are quickly exhausted. Bill can fall back on his health insurance, but keep in mind that he will likely incur a deductible plus a co-pay each year. Once Bill’s PIP is exhausted, his wage-loss protection is gone, and with no disability income policy, he is “up the creek.”
Suppose, however, that the accident happened to be work-related and thus covered by worker’s compensation. In such a case, Bill’s medical expenses would be fully covered, subject to the workers’ compensation law provisions. Bill’s lost wages would be paid, typically (in Florida) at 66.67% of his wages.
The time period for which workers’ compensation will respond for lost wages varies from two years to a lifetime, depending on the type of disability. Remember, wage loss benefits are subject to a maximum per week, which as of 2023 is about $1,200 per week in Florida. The wage loss benefits paid to Bill by workers’ compensation would not fully replace his salary.
With or without workers’ compensation coverage, consider the money awarded to Bill for which he has no coverage, except under UM. UM would cover the excess medical expenses, lost wages, a wheelchair and accessible van, house modifications, yard service, pain and suffering, loss of family comfort, and other damages listed above.
What Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Cost?
Cost is the biggest roadblock when people are considering adding or cutting UM coverage.
Florida is already an expensive state for car insurance, but UM coverage costs an average of an additional $270 per year—not much when you consider how much protection it offers and the likelihood of being in an accident with an uninsured driver in Florida.
The cost of UM coverage doesn’t only apply to drivers who have it however. The more uninsured and underinsured drivers out there and the more accidents and claims filed, the higher everyone’s premiums will go. Having the right coverage could make filing your claims easier and eventually make your premium costs less volatile.
Of course, UM isn’t always an inexpensive coverage. Still, when the cost is compared to what most folks spend on cable TV, cellular service, a country club membership, or dining out for dinner twice a month to the cost for UM, it is probably the lowest listed.
Even if someone is in the military, is retired, or has “a lot of other insurance,” the protection provided by uninsured motorist coverage is valuable. Don’t be too quick to reject this valuable coverage.
Contact Darr Shackow for All Your Car Insurance Needs
What’s most important to us at Darr Schackow is that you understand your insurance. We’re here to help you get the coverage and understanding you need at a cost that fits your budget.
If you’re concerned your car insurance doesn’t have enough coverage or you’re not clear on what your coverages are, give us a call so we can make sure you’re fully safe and protected behind the wheel.
By David Thompson, CPCU, AAI, API