There are a lot of things that are out of your control when you get behind the wheel of your car. You can be the safest driver out there—driving a safe vehicle, following all the laws and exercising the best defensive driving skills—but at the end of the day, you’re sharing the road with hundreds of thousands of other drivers and your safety depends on their driving skills as well. And when one of those other drivers causes an accident, avoiding it may be out of your hands. Unfortunately, whether the person who caused the accident has insurance to cover the accident is also out of your hands. But that is one thing that you can—and should—control for by carrying good uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage) on your own policy.
In California, approximately 15% of the drivers out on the road are completely uninsured, leaving them unable to pay when they cause an accident. Countless others are underinsured, meaning that while they may carry insurance, their coverage limits are too low to be meaningful when an accident occurs. The way that you protect yourself against these drivers is by making sure that your own insurance policy includes good UM/UIM coverage. This coverage kicks in to cover bodily injury and property damage when the at-fault driver does not have the state required minimum liability coverage. It provides compensation for medical expenses, loss of income or earnings, any decrease in your ability to earn money in the future, and out-of-pocket expenses that you might pay in relation to the accident. The coverage will also provide recovery for some non-financial losses such as emotional pain and suffering and the loss of the ability to participate in activities that you once enjoyed.
Because UM/UIM coverage is intended to take the place of the other driver’s policy, it is wise to carry coverage levels that are the same as your liability level. And here’s where the insurance consumer needs to pay attention. Even if you carry high liability levels, say $100,000/$300,000, the automatic UM/UIM coverage is often much lower—the legal requirement is $30,000/$60,000. So when you purchase that policy, make sure that you bump those UM/UIM levels up so that they match your liability coverage. The good news is, it is relatively inexpensive to increase the levels, which means that it is a small up-front cost for a potentially large pay off in the end.
Insurance is meant to protect you against the unforeseeable. While accidents themselves may be unforeseeable, one thing that you can guard against is what happens after the accident and making sure that you and your loved ones are taken care of. Having strong UM/UIM coverage may just be the most important part of your policy.