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Uninsured Drivers and Hit-And-Run Automobile Accidents (Part 1)

April 9, 2018

“Who Pays the Bills?”

Around 1 in 10 drivers in Montana do not possess automobile insurance. This is important to note because if there were to be an accident between you and an uninsured driver, regrettably you are the one financially responsible for the property damage and medical bills, not to mention lost wages and pain & suffering.

Is this fair? Being injured by another motorist—through no fault of your own—and then being told you are responsible for your expenses is certainly not fair. But unfortunately, it’s reality.

Here, I’m going to discuss a few insurance policies that will mitigate the financial impact that uninsured drivers can cause. First, let’s define what an uninsured driver is.

An uninsured motorist is someone who did not have any insurance, had insurance that did not meet state-mandated liability requirements, or whose insurance company denied their claim or was not financially able to pay it. A hit-and-run driver is also categorized as an uninsured motorist. Ideally, the at-fault driver’s insurance company would make payments compensating for their insured’s negligent driving. However, when the negligent driver doesn’t have insurance (or has insufficient coverage) the money must come from you.

There are a few insurance policies that one can purchase to ensure that negligent uninsured drivers won’t wreak financial havoc:

  1. Uninsured Motorist (UM) Bodily Injury coverage or Uninsured driver coverage can pay for injuries sustained in an accident with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run motorist. This coverage may also cover pain and suffering as well as lost wages, making the policy both comprehensive and reassuring.

  2. Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage is very similar to UM Bodily Injury but only comes into play when the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient and fails to cover all of your damages.

  3. The last type of coverage is UM Property Damage coverage, where damages to your automobile will be covered in the event of an accident with an uninsured driver. UM Property Damage is less common, however, because many individuals have plans that already incorporate collision coverage, rendering UM Property Damage redundant.

Now the age-old question when it comes to any type of car insurance: do I need it? The answer is actually contingent upon your state of residence. In Montana, UM and UIM coverages are not required by law. Ironically, states with higher percentages of uninsured motorists typically don’t require UM and UIM insurance coverages. Take a look:

The reasons for this financially destructive pattern may be plenty. I will say, however, that UM and UIM insurance isn’t terribly exorbitant for the breadth of coverage that your receiving (it usually costs about 5% of your annual car insurance premium). Of course, nobody plans on being involved in a serious auto accident. But if you were, wouldn’t it be nice to know you’re not relying on the at-fault driver and the insurance coverage they do—or don’t—have?

UM/UIM coverage or Underinsured / Uninsured driver coverage is definitely something to be considered. In a future post, I’ll discuss some of the particulars of these coverages and what to be cognizant of when speaking to an insurance agent about UM/UIM plans.