Most states have laws that require vehicle owners to have uninsured motorist

Most states have laws that require vehicle owners to have uninsured motorist (UM) insurance, which protects people injured in accidents caused by uninsured motorists. Victims would receive an amount equal to what they would have been paid had the motorist had been insured.
Uninsured motorist laws are different from state to state, but usually have two things in common:
  • Requirement that insurance covers all payments that the victim is entitled to, and
  • Meets the definition of uninsured vehicle (see below for definition)
Most UM policies spell out the following items:
  • Who is an "insured"?
  • Who is considered "uninsured"
  • The types of vehicles that are and are not covered by the UM policy (ex. Whether motorcycles or trailers will be covered.)
It's critical to understand what your policy covers in regard to uninsured motorists. Don't wait until you're in an accident to find out. Find out what your state's policy is.

Who Is Covered?

It is crucial that the person claiming benefits under an uninsured motorist policy fall within the policy's definition of an "insured" because that is who the coverage is intended to protect. In general, insured persons fall into one of three classes:
  • Class 1: The person named as the insurance holder and their family members
  • Class 2: Authorized occupants of the vehicle
  • Class 3: Persons related to the insured that suffered an injury from an accident with an uninsured vehicle. For example, children who seek damages for the death of a non custodial parent fall into this category.
Determining who falls into each category varies from state to state. The courts make this decision in many cases so it's important to know your state's laws if you need to claim UM benefits from your policy.

Getting or Having Coverage

Almost all states require insurers to offer uninsured motorist coverage. However, rental car companies generally do not have to offer uninsured motorist coverage through their insurance.
In some states you can refuse to carry UM insurance. The decision must be made by the "named insured" on the policy and:
  • Must be in writing
  • Must show that the insured understands what UM coverage is and what it means if the coverage is rejected, and
  • Is effective on the date the rejection was signed, which is usually when the full application was signed.

What's Covered and What's Excluded?

The amount of UM coverage is usually set by the state, which is state or minimum coverage, that the insurer must provide. You may also purchase additional coverage up to a specified point, called maximum coverage.
Property damage coverage is most often excluded in UM policies, but a few states require coverage in the policy. Damages to your car in an accident with an UM will most likely be paid for with out-of-pocket funds or under another part of your policy.
Almost all UM laws give coverage for all sums that the owner is legally entitled to recover, but the laws do not define what that exactly means.
In many instances, you are legally entitled to recover damages when you can prove:
  • That the uninsured motorist was at fault in causing your damages or injuries, and
  • That damages can be measured and a certain amount of money will fully pay for your damages

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