For those with questions about auto insurance coverage for both yourselfand 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 collision insurance to cover damage to their own car caused by a hit-and-run, road hazards, and even damage caused by their 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.