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Whenever you start your car and pull out into the street, you’re taking a gamble that you’ll reach your destination without incident; most of the time you will. The question is if you’re involved in an accident with someone who is uninsured, is your own insurance coverage adequate enough to take care of your needs? If not it’s time to start comparing quotes.
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The type of insurance coverage you need in this type of scenario is called uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. Some states, like Massachusetts require drivers to carry UM coverage as part of a minimum liability policy. In other states, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is optional.
The Purpose of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
With the exception of Iowa, drivers in every state are required to furnish some sort of proof of financial responsibility in order to legally operate a more vehicle on public roads. Most of us meet this requirement by purchasing a liability policy.
A liability policy pays for injuries and damage we cause as a result of our own actions and/or negligence.
However, if you don’t have insurance and you cause an accident, which hurts someone else, your victim will still have bills to pay. His uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage kicks in to take the place of a liability insurance you don’t have.
If your state does not require UM coverage, it’s still a good idea to have it anyway. According to Statistic Brain 16% of all the drivers in America are operating vehicles without insurance. Even worse, such drivers are responsible for more than 14% of all accidents.
Getting a Quote on Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
If you already have a car insurance policy in force, you can likely add uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage very inexpensively. Though it’s impossible to give you a concrete number here, it’s not unusual to be able to get several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of coverage for less than $100 per year.
If you don’t already have car insurance, it’s a good idea to include UM coverage every time you get a new quote. It’s inexpensive enough that there’s really no good reason not to have it as part of your policy. It offers great protection for the little bit of money it costs you.
Getting Quotes Online
In a world where technology and the Internet play such a crucial role in our day-to-day lives, it makes sense that one of the best places to compare coverage quotes is online. Websites with free quote tools, like this one, offer an easy way to get multiple quotes very quickly and efficiently.
Online comparison sites can save you a lot of time and frustration when shopping for car insurance.
Most of these sites begin the quote process by asking you for your ZIP code, something that’s done in order to narrow down the number of insurance companies to be queried. For example, there is no point querying the ABCD Insurance Company of New York if they aren’t licensed to sell policies in your home state of Indiana.
After the initial query the website will then ask for general information about your car, you and the other drivers in your household, and the types of insurance are looking for. This is the time to include underinsured motorist coverage if it’s not already required by law in your state. If it is, you won’t have the option of including it anyway.
The automated quote tool will then to one of two things, it will send your information directly to car insurance companies who will contact you with their quotes, or it will scour a database with information provided by participating insurance companies. The latter method results in instantaneous quotes while the former lets insurance companies contact you directly.
Getting Quotes from an Independent Agent
Another great place to get car insurance quotes you can compare is from an independent insurance agent in your local area. Actually, such agents are paid to compare quotes on your behalf. If you don’t want the hassle of doing it yourself, you can certainly let an agent do it for you.
The biggest downside here is the fact that you have to trust your agent to find the best policy at the best price. Most agents do indeed work this way. However, as with any industry, a small number would rather sell you the most expensive policy even if it weren’t right for you.
Also, keep in mind that independent agents are limited to a small number of insurance companies they represent. For example, you may have an agent who represents only State Farm, Allstate, and the Travelers. Such a limitation means he won’t have access to policies of other companies like Progressive, GEICO, and 21st Century.
Getting Quotes Directly from Insurance Companies
The final option for comparing uninsured coverage is to get quotes directly from car insurance companies themselves. This tends to be the slowest and most inefficient way, especially if you’re someone who’s always on the go. But it can be done nonetheless.
You can obtain quotes directly from car insurance companies by visiting their websites or calling them on the telephone. Most of the nation’s major insurance carriers provide online tools that take you through a detailed question-by-question process. Those without online tools typically have a toll-free number you can call.
Though you might prefer being able to deal with each car insurance company separately, keep in mind this method will take a long time. If you should call Company Z for example, you might spend 30 to 45 minutes on the phone and have to endure a sales pitch.
By contrast, when you use a website with a free quote tool you’re finished much more quickly. You fill out one form, click the “submit” button, and collect your quotes as they come in. You only have to invest the time in speaking with a representative after you’ve decided on the company you want to go with.
Comparing Your Quotes
Once you have your quotes in hand, you’ll want to compare uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage along with the other components. But be careful not to confuse UM insurance with personal injury protection (PIP). Although both types of insurance are similar, they are still distinct and different.
Personal injury protection will help pay your medical bills after car accident, above and beyond what your standard health insurance doesn’t cover. It’s helpful in an uninsured motorist scenario because your own liability insurance doesn’t pay medical bills. However, PIP doesn’t help repair or replace your damaged car.
Another thing to consider is the fact that personal injury protection coverage will help pay your medical bills regardless of who is at fault in your accident. Uninsured/underinsured motorist does not. It only helps you if the accident in which you sustained your injuries was the result of another driver.
If you cause an accident, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage does not cover your damages or injuries; you’re on your own.
The reason these distinctions are important becomes apparent when you take a look at various state laws. Some states, like Oregon require both UM and PIP coverage be included in every standard liability policy. Other states require neither while still others require drivers to choose one or both.
If you live in a state where these two insurances are either not required or where you must choose one or the other, you have to decide what’s most important to you. In either case, both should be at least equal to your liability amounts if they are to be of any value.
Raising the Amounts
Many of the experts in the insurance industry are now recommending drivers increase their UM and PIP amounts to well exceed their liability coverage. Either that, or raise the limits on all three types of coverage equally. If your limits are somewhere in the $30,000-$50,000 range you could easily double them without raising your premiums excessively.
The reasoning behind this lies in the fact that the costs of modern healthcare are way beyond what typical auto insurance policies provide. Think about what it costs for a general visit to your doctor, in most cases $75-$100, and then consider the type of care you might need after sustaining serious injuries in a car crash.
It’s entirely conceivable that your liability and uninsured motorist could pay $100,000 and yet still be inadequate should you need long-term hospitalization and after care. What your insurance doesn’t cover you would need to pay yourself or attempt to recover by suing the other parties involved in the accident.
In a nutshell, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is a wise idea for every driver. It doesn’t cost much, and it could save you a lot in the long run. In addition, for a little extra protection you might consider purchasing an umbrella policy. Umbrella insurance makes up for all of the gaps that exist in our other insurance policies.
Start searching for your uninsured/underinsured coverage right now by entering your ZIP code into our FREE search tool!