What is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Can you imagine getting hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver? It could happen because, according to a 2019 study, over 12% of drivers in the U.S. are uninsured. It’s worse when adding in the number of drivers who carry nothing more than their state’s minimum insurance. Learning what is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage on your car insurance can protect you from these drivers.

Mandatory uninsured/underinsured coverage in New York

In March 2021, the Insurance Research Council published a report on how many people were driving without insurance in the United States. While the findings were from data collected in 2019, the numbers have increased. Thus, the need for a sound auto insurance policy has never been more critical. One out of every eight drivers is not insured, which is scary.

New York State car insurance policies come standard with some protection against these drivers. Don’t get too comfortable as the amount is a starting point, and the minimum requirement is identical to the state’s bodily injury liability limits.

Meaning $25,000 is the most you would have available if an uninsured driver severely injured you. If other passengers in your vehicle were also hurt, the most available would be $50,000. However, just like with bodily injury coverage, no one person can exceed a $25,000 payment.

What if you were in an accident with an insured driver visiting from Pennsylvania? PA only requires its drivers to insure for $15,000, which is $10,000 less than New York. That is where underinsured motorist (UM) coverage comes in.

That coverage can fill the gap between the other driver’s bodily injury limit and your underinsured limit. Because uninsured and underinsured limits are combined, they share the same coverage amount. If injured by our PA neighbor, you’d have $10,000 available since that is the difference between your $25,000 and his $15,000.

Supplementary uninsured/underinsured coverage options

As we covered in our article “How to Get Car Insurance,” you have options beyond the low $25,000 limit. You have an option of adding supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or SUM. We’ll go with SUM because the alternative is a mouthful!

SUM coverage works in the same way as its UM counterpart. Except UM is limited to $25,000 per injured person, and SUM coverage gives you the option to build upon those low limits.

With SUM insurance, you have the option to buy as much as your carrier will allow. One stipulation: your SUM limits can’t be higher than your bodily injury (BI) liability limits. But, if you carry $250,000 per person BI, you can purchase up to that amount in SUM.

You can buy less in SUM compared to your BI limits. However, you must sign a form indicating your intention to do so. We don’t recommend this as the added cost of SUM is negligible compared to the rest of the policy.

Will this pay for damage done to my car?

We have been discussing injuries to you as a person all this time, but what about your car? When damage occurs to your car from an uninsured driver, who pays for that? Unfortunately, in New York, it isn’t your UM or SUM.

Your only option would be to file a claim using your policy’s collision coverage. Without existing collision coverage on your auto policy, there would be nothing your insurance would provide. If you did have the coverage, you’d still be responsible for paying your collision deductible.

Unfortunately, as explained in our article “What does property damage pay for?”, the other driver could be insured but only have $10,000 in coverage. If your car’s damages exceed $10,000, there is still no further coverage under the SUM section. Thus, you’d be back to making a collision claim instead.

Is this the same as “no-fault” coverage?

Neither UM nor SUM is the same as no-fault/PIP insurance. Although UM, SUM and PIP provide coverage for similar claims, UM and SUM are considered secondary to your PIP insurance coverage. They generally aren’t used until your PIP insurance has been depleted.

PIP provides a mandatory $50,000 for both you and your passengers. Any injury expenses come from your policy first, regardless of the other driver’s insurance status. Read our article “What is New York No-Fault Insurance” to learn more about how that coverage works.

How can I add SUM coverage to my auto insurance?

The easiest way to add SUM coverage, or to increase what you have, is to contact your insurance agent. If you don’t have an agent and would like us to review your policy, tap the Get a Quote button below. If you still have questions, please ask us. You can do so by using the Contact Us feature below, and one of our insurance pros will reach out to you.

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Horan Companies offers comprehensive auto insurance in New York State, including: Baldwinsville, Syracuse, Onondaga County, Liverpool, Fulton and Camillus, NY.