Skip to main content

View more from News & Articles or Primerus Weekly

Protecting Yourself with Uninsured or Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage –
A Brief Overview of Liability Insurance in Illinois


By: Stephen I. Lane and Olivia A. Sarmas
Lane & Lane, LLC
230 W. Monroe Street, Suite 1900
Chicago, Illinois 60606
(312) 332-1400

In Illinois, if you are injured in a car accident which was caused by another driver, the at-fault driver’s auto-insurance policy limits, as well as your own auto-insurance policy limits, may set boundaries on the monetary amount you, as a victim, can recover from the insurance companies.

Illinois law requires all motor vehicle owners to maintain a minimum amount of auto liability insurance. 625 ILCS 5/7-601. Currently, Illinois’ minimum amount of auto liability insurance for bodily injury or death is $25,000.00. 625 ILCS 5/7-203.

These mandatory insurance laws are intended to protect consumers. However, there is no guarantee that every driver or vehicle owner will follow the law and have insurance coverage. Even if the at-fault party has followed the law and does have the minimum $25,000 auto liability insurance, that coverage often is not sufficient to fully and fairly compensate the victim.

For example, imagine if you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident that was someone else’s fault. The doctors advise that one or more surgeries, therapy, medications and other care may be needed to treat these injuries. Days, weeks, months or even years may be missed from work. There’s pain. Daily life has drastically and negatively changed.

Imagine that the person who caused the accident was not in compliance with Illinois law because he carries no insurance—not even the minimum liability coverage of $25,000.00. Or, as is sometimes the case, the driver crashed into your vehicle and drove away, so you have no idea who the tortfeasor is, or what, if any, insurance coverage he has.

Another possibility occurs where the at-fault driver is in compliance with Illinois law because he has insurance, but he only has the minimum liability coverage of $25,000.00.

In either of the hypotheticals, is $0.00 or $25,000.00 enough to fully and fairly compensate you for your injuries? Your lost wages? Your pain and suffering? Your loss of a normal life? Probably not.

So, now what?

Now, you, as a victim, can turn to your own auto-insurance company to step in and compensate you for the amount that the tortfeasor’s liability insurance failed to cover—that is, assuming your insurance policy has what’s called “uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage” (or “UM”) or “underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage” (or “UIM”). Many people are reluctant to take this action, thinking your insurance rates may increase. But you have paid the insurance premiums for your own protection just for situations like the ones above! As you’ll see below, it’s very important for your own protection that you have adequate insurance coverage yourself.

Where the at-fault driver has no auto insurance, or was a hit and run driver, then your own policy’s UM coverage will compensate you for your losses. Your ability to receive full compensation for your damages will depend on how much uninsured motorist coverage you have yourself, and that amount is generally tied to how much liability insurance you have. If your insurance limits are too low, you won’t be able to receive the full compensation you might otherwise be entitled to!

In the second hypothetical, where the at-fault driver has the minimum liability coverage of $25,000.00, but your damages are in excess of that amount, then your own policy’s UIM coverage will compensate you for the difference between that $25,000.00 and your actual damages. In other words, your insurance company gets a credit for the amount of insurance that the at-fault driver’s has. But again, your UIM coverage limits will go hand-in-hand with your liability insurance limits.

In both hypotheticals, therefore, you are limited to whatever your UM or UIM policy limits actually are, i.e., your UM or UIM policy limits dictate the most that you can monetarily recover from your own insurance company. Insurance agents and insurance companies often fail to tell you that the cost of increasing your UM and UIM coverage is extremely inexpensive compared to what you are charged for the rest of your insurance premium, so make sure you talk to your agent about getting the most UM and UIM coverage that is available to you!

All drivers in Illinois should keep in mind that they cannot control what other drivers do on the road or how much insurance they may have. You can make sure that you are protected by selecting an auto insurance policy where you are protected by sufficient UM and UIM insurance coverage.