For those with questions about auto insurance coverage for both yourself and others, the following information covers the basics.
Insuring Against Damage to Others
Washington law requires that every driver of a registered vehicle have proof of the ability to respond to claims for damage to another arising from a collision. For personal injury or death caused by a collision, a person must be able to cover at least $25,000.00 per person per occurrence, and at least $50,000.00 for more than one person.
A person also must be able to cover at least $10,000.00 in property damage. There are some exceptions for qualified self-insured or bonded individuals. Most people can satisfy this requirement with a policy of liability insurance.
Besides being mandatory, a policy of insurance is the first line of defense to protect your own assets from a claim for damages. Is it enough protection? Probably not. It takes little more than a minor accident to run up property repair bills in excess of $10,000.00. Damages for personal injury, which can include ambulance bills, an emergency room visit, x-rays, prescription drugs, physical therapy, medical or chiropractic treatment, plus lost wages and damages for pain and suffering, can easily exceed the $25,000.00 statutory minimum coverage requirement.
Insuring Against Your Own Damages
No law requires a driver to protect him or herself from damages as the result of an automobile collision, but such “first party” coverage is available. If the at-fault driver is under-insured or uninsured, “UIM/UM” coverage is available as part of a policy of automobile insurance. With this coverage, your own insurance company will pay you the damages you would be entitled to from the at-fault driver.
You can also purchase injury protection — PIP coverage — so your own company pays your medical bills and lost wages as you incur them. This way, you do not have to wait to collect from the at-fault driver, even if he or she has sufficient automobile liability coverage in place.
Finally, many drivers purchase comprehensive and collision insurance to cover damage to their own car caused by hit-and-run, road hazards, and even damage caused by your own negligence.
More About Auto Insurance
For a more in-depth discussion of automobile insurance and what to do in case of a collision, the Washington State Association of Justice has published an online flip book that can be found at Trialnews.org.
Attorney at Law
Blado Kiger Bolan, Tacoma, Wash.