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In the US, one can often add Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage independently to one's car insurance. What exactly is the difference? It seems that, going by the name only, Underinsured should cover a strict subset of Uninsured since every person that is uninsured is also underinsured but not vice versa. The fact that one can add these coverages independenly suggests that there is more to that. Specifically, what is covered/not covered in the following scenarios:

  1. add only Uninsured
  2. add only Underinsured
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You are correct that uninsured covers you if the at fault driver doesn't have insurance; and under-insured covers you if the costs to your vehicle or medical are above the limits of the other driver. Without this under-insured coverage you would have to sue to get the additional money from the other driver.

The required minimum coverage for auto insurance is set by the state, but because the minimum limits vary by state, you can be hit by a driver with the required amount of insurance for their state yet it be lower than the requirements for your state.

Your state can require that you purchase uninsured and/or under-insured coverage.

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    Add to that that from other questions i have gleamed that the mandatory insurance in the USA is comically low. We talk of tens of thousands of USD - while in euope the legal mandatory is in the millions (7.5 million euro per accident) actually. If the other guy hits a bus full of people, then his insurance is extremely likely NOT going to be good enough for their health care bills. – TomTom Feb 20 at 18:15
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The definitions might be different depending on the provider, but here's eSurance's definition, which seems reasonable to me:

The difference between uninsured and underinsured coverage

Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you're in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn't carry liability insurance.

Underinsured motorist coverage, on the other hand, steps in when you're in an accident with an at-fault driver whose liability limits are too low to cover the damage or medical expenses. The at-fault driver's insurance will typically pay for all damages up to the policy limits, and then your underinsured motorist coverage will cover the excess amount up to the limits you select.

Adding underinsured only would NOT cover you if you had an accident with someone who has NO insurance. In other words, uninsured is NOT a subset of underinsured - they are orthogonal.

  • - add underinsured coverage only => no coverage when driver has no insurance - makes sense to me. However, - add only uninsured => no gap coverage when driver has insurance - makes no sense to me, because the claim in case of uninsured driver will always be at least the claim in case of underinsured driver. – NingNing Feb 20 at 18:58

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