Washington is not a no-fault insurance state.
When no-fault insurance was first implemented, several states thought it would streamline the process of dealing with automobile accidents. Today, only 12 of those states remain, with many considering going back to a tort system.
Washington operates under a tort system for processing auto accident complaints. That means when an accident occurs, fault is assigned to one or both drivers. Each driver is still required to carry insurance, but the at-fault driver’s insurance is the one who picks up all of (or most of) the tab.
What does that mean?
If you are in a car accident with another driver, and that driver is found to be 80% at fault, then their insurance company would be forced to pay 80% of the damages.
For the vast majority of cases, this system works fairly seamlessly, but when an accident occurs in which one driver suffers extensive injuries or even dies, then insurance companies become much more difficult to deal with.
Policy Limits, Litigation, and Personal Injury Lawsuits
Every driver in Washington is required to carry liability insurance with limits of at least $10,000 for property damage and another $25,000 for bodily injury. That’s great if this person causes an injury that costs less than $25,000. What about the person whose hospital bills add up to $50,000?
Washington drivers have the option of carrying PIP or Personal Injury Protection insurance. This would pay out in the event that you are injured, regardless of whose fault the accident was. It’s an excellent idea to carry PIP, but it’s not required by law.
The worst case scenario, of course, is that you’re in an accident in which your medical expenses exceed the other driver’s insurance policy limits. The insurance company is only on the hook to pay the amount the at-fault driver is insured for. If that’s only $25,000, then that’s all you’re going to get from the insurance company.
At that point, your only other option is to sue the at-fault driver for the remainder of the damages. For those who have suffered extensive injuries, this could be an excellent option. On the other hand, if they’re only carrying the minimum policy offered by their insurance company, it’s more than probable that they don’t have significant assets from which to draw. Hence why PIP (and underinsured motorist) insurance is a very smart choice.
Haggling with Insurance Companies
If you’ve suffered injuries in a car accident and were taken to a hospital and received treatment, you might consider having a lawyer look at your case. The insurance company has literally no incentive to pay out your claim to the full extent of its value. Their first offer will be a portion of your property damage and medical expenses. You’re entitled to more.
If you’ve missed time from work, then you’re entitled to be compensated for the time you’ve missed. If you’ve suffered extensive pain, then you’re entitled to be compensated for that as well. You’re entitled to be compensated for not being able to enjoy the things you once enjoyed. You’re entitled to be compensated for emotional anguish related to the accident.
Insurance companies will not offer you compensation for any of these damages. For that, you need a skilled personal injury attorney. Kapuza Lighty PLLC of Yakima, Washington has handled cases like this throughout Eastern Washington, including Grant County, Benton County, Kittitas County. Give us a call or contact us online and we’ll ensure that you get a fair settlement.