According to the Insurance Information Institute, Washington is in the top ten states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers.
It ranks number seven, with 17.4 percent of all Washington drivers driving without coverage. This number is substantially higher than the national average, which is 13 percent.
Insurance, unfortunately, is not just for the insured’s protection—it is for the protection for every other driver on the road. When a person is hit and injured or killed by an uninsured driver, the victim is forced to pay for damages that go beyond what is covered by his or her own policy out of pocket.
While many insurance policies in Washington have a limit of $25,000 per person, for many accident victims, $25,000 is simply not enough.
The Insurance Research Council (IRC) estimated the average uninsured motorist claim at $20,000 in personal injury losses alone. When property damage is involved, this figure can be much higher.
If you do not have uninsured motorist insurance, your only option may be to seek compensation from the uninsured motorist personally.
Mandatory Insurance Coverage
Washington state auto insurance laws require every driver to carry auto insurance. As of September 2019, Washington drivers must carry the following minimum liability coverage:
- $25,000 for injury or death to another;
- $50,000 for injury or death to all others; and
- $10,000 for damage to another’s property.
Washington is a Fault State
First and foremost, it is important to understand that Washington is a fault state, which means that fault policies apply in car accidents.
If you are unfamiliar with fault laws, this essentially means that a driver, pedestrian, or passenger who has been injured in a car accident can pursue compensation in one or all of three ways:
- Via a claim against the liable party’s insurance company;
- Via his or her own insurance company; or
- Via a third-party claim against the other driver.
In short, the victim has few restrictions when it comes to pursuing compensation. However, fewer restrictions does not mean that car accident victims will have an easy time pursuing compensation.
Victims must still prove the essential elements of a car accident claim, which include causation and damages.
Washington’s UIM Laws
Washington state auto insurance laws regarding underinsured motorist (UIM) apply to both underinsured and uninsured motorists.
Despite the fact that Washington leads the nation in uninsured motorists on the road, it does not have laws in place that require drivers to obtain UIM coverage.
Washington insurance laws require that all auto policies offer an option to purchase UIM coverage. If an insured declines, he or she must do so in writing.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance or Inadequate Insurance
Drivers cited for driving without adequate auto insurance may be found guilty of a traffic infraction. Penalties for driving without insurance include:
- Fine of at least $550
- Suspension of drivers license
- Mandatory payment of civil court judgments
In addition, a court might require the uninsured and underinsured motorist to personally pay for your damages. However, a driver’s personal assets are often insufficient to cover the full cost of another’s injuries and property damage.
If the uninsured or underinsured driver was at fault and fails to pay the resulting damages, that driver’s license may be suspended.
When to Contact a Washington Personal Injury Lawyer
While you should always contact an experienced car accident attorney if you were injured in an accident, it is even more imperative that you do so if you were involved in a hit-and-run, or if you were involved with an accident with an underinsured motorist.
The Yakima car accident lawyers at Kapuza Lighty, PLLC, can help you explore your recovery options and pursue the compensation you need to recover in financial comfort.
Whether that means filing a claim under your PIP policy or using your un/underinsured motorist insurance, we can fight on your behalf to ensure that you get the compensation you need and deserve. Call our office today or contact us online to get started.