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Where was the last place you drove? How many other drivers were on the road? Now, how many of those drivers do you think are insured?

It’s something many of us assume: if you drive, you’re insured. Not only is it the best way to protect yourself from driving-related financial ruin: it’s also the law. But a lot of people break that law. According to a 2011 study by the Insurance Research Council, an estimated 13.8 percent of drivers are uninsured nationwide.

And what happens if an uninsured driver hits you? Who pays for your medical bills, lost wages, and physical therapy? Who pays for your passenger’s injuries?

That all depends on the types of car insurance you carry. While it may seem unfair, paying a bit extra to protect yourself from financial loss due to someone else’s negligence is just another piece of your insurance policy puzzle.

In this article, we’ll be talking about protecting yourself from costs associated with bodily injury. Be sure to check out our articles covering the basics of Uninsured Motorist Protection and the specifics of Uninsured Motorist Property Damage protection to learn more.

And be sure to find your best rate with Insurify today. You can even save your profile and be alerted when insurance rates drop.

What is Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) coverage?

Imagine that you’re rear-ended one afternoon. You suffer some minor whiplash and go to the doctor. The doctor prescribes a muscle relaxant, neck brace, and three days of rest before returning to work. On your follow-up appointment, your doctor recommends seeing a chiropractor for the next six months.

Your neck is stiff most days, though getting better slowly. But the worst part is that the person who rear-ended you has no insurance. Whoops.

You can hire lawyers (and pay for them) and take the at-fault driver to small claims court. It will take time, and collecting on the money is another issue altogether. A better way to get these expenses paid for is to carry Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) insurance.

As the name suggests, UMBI covers the cost of financial loss due to physical injury caused by an uninsured driver. This loss includes those medical bills and the lost wages and anything considered pain and suffering—up to the coverage limit. Your coverage limit typically mirrors your liability limits and will be listed on the declaration page of your policy documents.

So if the event above happened to you and you carried UMBI, your insurance company would have covered your costs quickly. Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury protection also covers you as a pedestrian if you’re hit by a car in a crosswalk, for example. Many policies will also cover hit-and-run accidents. And in the worst-case scenario, UMBI can help cover funeral expenses.

Of course, everything differs from state to state, and how much you need to carry will depend on other coverage options in your policy. For example, in some states, you’ll be required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP). While PIP will cover expenses incurred by the fault of an uninsured driver, the policy limits are usually low. So even if you carry PIP, you should carry additional auto insurance to cover losses beyond PIP limits.

Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury shouldn’t be confused with Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD). Though these two types of coverages are often purchased within the same policy, they are two different riders. UMPD only covers costs associated with damaged property (i.e., your car and possibly other belongings in the vehicle at the time of the accident).

For a general overview of Uninsured Motorist (UIM) coverage, see our article Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

What if an underinsured motorist hits you?

Now let’s consider if that driver who hit you carried the state minimum, but the injuries sustained by you and your passengers cost well over that minimum. In most states, your uninsured motorist insurance will also cover the difference between the underinsured driver’s coverage and the actual costs due to injury, up to your coverage limit.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In some cases, your insurance company will deduct the uninsured driver’s payout from your coverage limit.

It works like this: you sustain injuries that cost you $30,000. The driver at fault carries $20,000 of medical liability coverage. You carry $25,000 of UMBI coverage. The driver at fault’s insurance company pays you $20,000. Your insurance company deducts that from your coverage limit and pays you $5,000. And, yes, you’re stuck with $5,000 in damages not covered.

Still, in some situations, Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury insurance does not cover any losses caused by an underinsured motorist, leaving you vulnerable to financial loss.

The best way to know how much you’re covered is by reading your auto policy documents or speaking directly with your insurance agent. Ask about coverage limits for uninsured and underinsured driver-related car accidents and consider if that’s realistically enough car insurance coverage for you. If it isn’t, ask your agent about adding more.

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Do you need UMBI coverage?

Whether or not you need to purchase Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury coverage depends upon the other types of coverage you have in your insurance plan. However, you do need to cover yourself from any catastrophic loss. That’s the whole point of insurance in the first place

The fact of the matter is, injuries can cost tens of thousands of dollars. In worse case scenarios, hundreds of thousands. While you may not be ultimately at fault for the loss, you’ll still have to foot the bill for medical expenses. Many people have gone bankrupt due to someone else’s negligence.

UMBI and other insurance options protect you from such a loss. Due to differences in state laws, you may need to carry something other than UMBI to be protected. The structure of different car insurance companies may also influence how you construct your car insurance policy.

Luckily, the cost of Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury is typically low, about five percent of your premium. Those costs rise if you have a spotty driving record. Infractions like speeding tickets can have a significant effect on your bottom line. Then again, good driving and insurance discounts can help lower your insurance premium.

How do you purchase UMBI coverage?

When you purchase your insurance policy, you simply ask (or check a box if you’re filling out an online form) for coverage. Speaking with your insurance agent may be easier for some people, and it may be mandatory for some insurance companies. But no matter how you purchase, be sure you purchase enough insurance.

Coverage limits will depend on your situation. If you’re single and rarely have other people in your car, you may want to opt for less coverage than drivers with a family of four. And for a family of four, state minimums may not be enough. Be sure to speak with your insurance agent about stacking your coverage options to keep you and your family protected.

Purchasing UMBI coverage by state

As hinted at before, UMBI requirements vary by each state. In some states, it’s mandatory while in other states, it’s optional. Even if you live in an optional-coverage state, you’ll want to carry some form of insurance that will kick in if an uninsured driver hits you.

States that require Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury insurance

As of this writing, there are 24 states, plus the District of Columbia, where insurance requirements include UMBI. These are:

In these states, you will be required to carry a minimum amount of coverage, anywhere from $15,000/$30,000 to as much as $50,000/$100,000 for a single claim. And in some states, minimum coverage does not include underinsured drivers. You’ll need to decide if minimum coverage is enough for your needs.

States where Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury insurance is optional

In many states, carrying UMBI is optional. These include:

In most cases, if you live in one of these states, you will be required to reject the coverage in writing. This may mean writing a physical letter, signing a waiver, or completing a special form.

Bottom Line: The XYZ of UMBI

Whether or not your state requires it, your insurance plan should include coverage for uninsured and underinsured drivers. For many drivers, this means adding Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury to your auto insurance policy. For others, another solution may be a better fit.

Be sure to speak with your insurance provider about your coverage options, and always be sure to check your rate with Insurify.

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Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.

JJ Starr
JJ StarrInsurance Writer

J.J. Starr is a health and finance writer with a background in banking, lending, and financial advising. She holds a Series 6, FINRA, and life insurance licensure and a master's degree from New York University. Through her writing, she strives to use her decade of experience to help consumers make sound financial choices. Connect with J.J. on LinkedIn.