Underinsured motorist coverage is a type of automobile insurance coverage that protects you when the at-fault driver does not carry enough insurance coverage to compensate you for your loss.
An underinsured driver is defined as someone who may meet the minimum legal financial responsibility required by state law, but does not maintain adequate policy limits to cover the amount of damage they cause in an accident. Essentially, underinsured motorist coverage protects you by paying for damages beyond what the at-fault driver’s policy can cover.
Underinsured motorist coverage and uninsured motorist coverage can both help pay for injuries to you and your passengers when you are involved in an accident for which you are not at-fault. That being said, it is important to know that underinsured motorist coverage and uninsured motorist coverage are separate insurance products, even though they are often purchased together.
While an “underinsured” motorist does not carry enough insurance, an “uninsured” motorist does not maintain the state’s minimum coverage or even any coverage at all. For example, if an Illinois motorist carrying the minimum policy drives into Missouri and causes an accident, that driver is technically an “uninsured” motorist.
Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in Missouri and Illinois
According to the Department of Transportation, Missouri only requires liability insurance for private passenger vehicles. Legal coverage amounts are as follows:
· $25,000/person and $50,000/accident for bodily injury
· $10,000/accident for property damage
· $25,000/person and $50,000/accident for uninsured motorist coverage
· Unlike uninsured motorist coverage, Missouri does not require underinsured motorist coverage.
In order to comply with Illinois state law, you must have BOTH liability insurance and uninsured/underinsured motorists bodily injury coverage. The minimum insurance limits required by the state of Illinois are as follows:
· $20,000/person and $40,000/accident liability for bodily injury
· $15,000/accident liability for property damage
· $20,000/person and $40,000/accident for uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury
* Please note that the minimum requirement for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in the state of Illinois does NOT include property damage coverage.
Do You Need Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
We purchase automobile insurance to protect ourselves and underinsured motorist coverage provides us with the greatest protection of all.
Why Do You Need Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Unfortunately, many drivers believe they can’t afford more insurance coverage, so they accept the risk and opt for the minimum coverage with lower premiums. As you can see, the minimum insurance limits required by Missouri and Illinois are fairly low and they are often not sufficient for the damages caused by an accident.
If you are involved in an accident that causes $75,000.00 in damages, but the at-fault driver only has $25,000.00 of applicable coverage, that driver is underinsured for the damages. Your underinsured motorist coverage would be needed to help with the remaining $50,000.00 (assuming you purchase enough coverage on your insurance plan).
How Much Underinsured Motorist Coverage Do You Need?
We recommend you carry at least $100,000.00 of underinsured motorist coverage.
First, some automobile insurance policies define an “underinsured” motor vehicle as a vehicle with bodily injury coverage for less than the amount of underinsured coverage carried in your policy. Therefore, if you carry $20,000 of underinsured coverage, and the at-fault driver has a $20,000.00 bodily injury policy, then that driver is not underinsured because he/she does not carry less insurance than you. So, in reality, you are paying for a coverage you cannot use or access. If you were carrying $100,000.00, then you could access the additional coverage.
Second, many automobile policies, especially in Illinois, have set-offs for money collected from the at-fault driver. Therefore, in the example above, if you carried $100,000.00 of underinsured motorist coverage, and you collected the $20,000.00 policy from the at-fault driver, then you could only collect $80,000.00 after the set-off. If you were only carrying $50,000.00 then you could only claim up to $30,000.00 after the set-off. Therefore, carrying higher underinsured coverage limits is incredibly important.
The insurance policy language often controls in determining how to apply your coverage, and the law is different in Missouri and Illinois when interpreting the policy language. Therefore, to protect yourself and your family, do your research and discuss your options with your insurance agent to determine how much underinsured motorist coverage you need. Also, if you have umbrella coverage, make sure that it includes uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. The affordability of the additional premiums for this coverage might surprise you.