Much like your family, you expect your automobile insurance to be there when you need it most. With the right coverage, it should be. Insurance companies in Washington must offer two types of insurance whenever they issue a new policy to a policy holder. The first type, personal injury protection (“PIP”) insurance, is like your seven year-old son. It should be there for you, but you shouldn't expect it to do a much if things get serious. The second type, uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance, is like your parents. It should be there for you, but you need to exhaust all other options before expecting any help. Many times people come to us confused about these insurance coverages. As the late Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) used to tell his television wife Lucy (Lucille Ball), “Let me ‘splain.”
Personal Injury Protection
As mentioned above, unless a policyholder expressly refuses PIP insurance, it is written into all insurance policies in Washington. The minimum limits are $10,000, but policy holders may elect to increase the coverage by paying a higher premium. Regardless of who may be “at fault” for a crash, PIP insurance covers the “reasonable and necessary” expenses such as medical bills and wage loss following a crash. Because the limits are often smaller, we typically see clients who have “exhausted” their PIP coverage during the initial emergency room visit following a crash. When this happens, unless other coverage such as health insurance steps in, the injured party will be personally responsible for all unpaid medical bills until money is secured from an at-fault third party through settlement or court judgment. Many times medical providers will even place a lien on any amounts received. If you are worried about this, you should talk with your insurance agent about increasing your PIP limit. Most insurance carriers offer increased limits of up to $35,000.
Like PIP insurance, UM/UIM insurance is written into all insurance policies in Washington unless the policyholder expressly refuses it. The minimum limits are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. UM/UIM insurance covers damages that an insured would be entitled to receive from a third party but, because the third party has no insurance or has insufficient insurance, the person is unable to do so. For example, if you are injured in a car crash and suffer $50,000 in damages, but the person that caused the crash is uninsured, UM/UIM insurance would step in to pay your damages up to your policy limit. As the costs of medical care continue to rise and the numbers of uninsured/underinsured motorists on the roadways continue to increase, we see more and more clients needing to “use” their UM/UIM insurance. Hopefully you won't need to, but if you do, you want it to be there for you. Talk to your insurance agent about this important insurance and consider increasing your limit beyond the minimum amounts required by Washington.
Insurance can be a difficult concept to understand. If you have questions regarding your policy and how it may cover you following a crash, we deal with these issues daily and are experienced in these matters. If you have a question, give us a call. Be warned however. Just like asking your grandpa, you may get more detail than you care to know.