Understanding UM and UIM Coverage in Washington State

Washington State has one of the worst rates of insured drivers in the country. In fact, it’s currently ranked the 5th worst, with 21.7% of our state’s drivers not carrying any insurance.

If you’re hit by one of these drivers – or a driver who only carries the bare minimum insurance – you could take a huge financial hit. Thankfully, there’s a type of insurance coverage designed to help victims in this exact situation. In our post today, we’ll look at uninsured and uninsured motorists coverage and how they work in Washington State.

By the end of this post, we hope to convince you to pull out your policy and make sure you’ve got this vital coverage.

What are UM and UIM Insurance Coverage?

Simply put, uninsured motorists (UM) and underinsured motorists (UIM) coverages are add-ons to your car insurance policy. This coverage could kick in if you are hit by a driver without insurance (uninsured) or not enough insurance to cover your damages (underinsured).

In essence, UM/UIM coverage provides you with an additional layer of financial protection for certain collision situations.

Does Washington State Require UM or UIM Coverage?

Washington State does not require that you carry UM or UIM coverage. However, by law, the insurance company must give you the option to purchase it. If you decline, you’ll need to sign a waiver.

Every state differs on their requirements. So, if you’ve found this post and live in another state, make sure to check up on your own state’s laws. Some do require it!

What Does Uninsured Motorists Coverage Cover?

There are two broad categories that UM/UIM insurance will cover:

  1. Property damage. Most obviously, this could cover costs to repair or replace your damaged vehicle. However, UM can also offset costs of other types of property damaged in a collision. For instance, if a drunk driver plowed into your garage, UM could come into play.
  2. Injuries. In addition to medical bills, UM coverage can also pay for things like lost wages, funeral expenses, pain, and suffering.

Yes, We Recommend that you Carry UM and UIM

Even though Washington State doesn’t require it, we think it’s a very good idea that you carry UM and UIM coverage.

As we mentioned before, Washington has a very high rate of uninsured drivers on our roads. In our experience, drivers who are irresponsible enough to not carry insurance are often the same drivers who make poor decisions on the road. In the event you are hit by one of these drivers, you could be out of luck in getting your car repaired or medical bills paid. Besides this, some drivers only carry the minimum required levels of insurance. These levels are often quite low and wouldn’t begin to cover an injury needing ongoing medical care.

In other words, you could be on the hook for a lot of out-of-pocket expenses without UM coverage. Even if you have good medical coverage and generous PTO, suppose you had a friend in the car at the time of the accident who isn’t insured. They may be on their own. Besides this, no one will compensate you for pain and suffering due to the collision. A motor vehicle accident can negatively impact your quality of life, so this is worth considering.

If you need one more reason, consider this: UM coverage is typically very inexpensive to add to your policy. For just a few more dollars per month, you could get thousands more in potential coverage should you need it.

Situations Where UM or UIM Can Help You

Let’s consider some potential situations where your UM/UIM could kick in. Some are less obvious than others.

  • UM/UIM driver collision. If the driver that hits you either does not have insurance or enough insurance, your coverage could help cover costs.
  • Hit-and-run collisions. What happens if the driver flees the scene? Your UM coverage can help. However, make sure to call police to the scene so they can file a report. Some insurance companies may require documentation to validate your claim.
  • Hit-and-run property damage. Imagine returning to your parked vehicle, only to find it’s been damaged. What’s worse, the other driver didn’t bother leaving a note. UM coverage may apply in this situation, too.
  • Phantom vehicle. A phantom vehicle is one that causes property or bodily damage, without making direct contact. For instance, suppose a car cut you off, and then you swerve into a guardrail. While the other driver didn’t collide with you, it did trigger the accident.
  • Pedestrian/cycling injuries. If another driver hits you while you or walking or cycling and you get injured, yes, your UM/UIM coverage can cover your medical bills.

Unfortunately, these situations can (and do) happen. In fact, AAA estimates that a hit-and-run accident happens in the US every 43 seconds. Given that grim statistic, it’s good to be prepared.

UM Coverage Can Make a Big Financial Difference

To illustrate how much of a difference UM coverage can make, let’s use a hypothetical example.

Bob Hertz and Lisa Smart both bought insurance policies through Allsnake. Bob decided to opt out of both Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and UIM/UM coverage in order to save some money. Plus, he has great medical insurance. However, Lisa added both PIP and UIM/UM to her insurance policy. She only pays a few dollars more per month for her premium than Bob.

Next, imagine both were involved in identical rear-end collisions. They both incurred $22,000 in medical expenses over the next several months on identical treatments.

Bob’s expenses were paid for by his health insurance. His employer has an ERISA plan and placed a lien on Bob’s personal injury case for the full amount of $22,000. Lisa’s medical costs were covered by her PIP. Her PIP could then pursue reimbursement from the negligent driver.

Now, suppose the drivers that hit Bob and Lisa only carried Washington State’s minimum liability coverage of $25,000. Even if Bob can get a full settlement offer of $25,000 from the other driver’s policy, he’ll only be left with $3,000 for his pain, discomfort, and disruption.

On the other hand, consider Lisa’s situation. Imagine she also gets a $25,000 settlement offer from the other driver’s insurance policy. On top of that, her PIP has covered her $22,000 medical expenses upfront, and she can file a claim against her UIM policy. Suppose they agree to settle with her for $50,000. In this case, she’ll be left with $75,000 in her pocket for her injury claim!

The table below recaps the math of this hypothetical situation:

Bob’s ClaimLisa’s Claims
Medical Costs-$22,000-$22,000
Medical Payments$22,000 (Health Insurance)$22,000 (PIP)
At-Fault Driver’s Insurance$25,000$25,000
Medical Lien-$22,000None*
UIM ClaimNone$50,000
Victim Net for Pain & Suffering$3,000$75,000

* PIP lien is waived when UIM claim is paid. 

Call Your Insurance Agent to Review Your Policy

Has it been a while since you’ve reviewed your policy? If so, consider giving your insurance agent a call to make sure you’re knowledgeable and satisfied with your current coverage levels.

Some questions you might ask:

  • What are my current property and bodily injury limits?
  • Do I have UM/UIM coverage? If so – how much?
  • Do I have the same limits and coverage on all my vehicles? (Don’t assume this!)
  • How much would it cost to increase my coverage?
  • Am I eligible for any discounts?

Often, only a few dollars more per month on your premium gets you substantially more coverage. Remember, the best time to review what your insurance policy covers is before you need it! Take the time to review your policy.

If You Need to Access UM or UIM Coverage, Call a Lawyer

Even if you carry UM/UIM coverage, there’s one last thing you should know. If you end up in a collision and need to file a claim, your insurance company is unlikely to offer a fair settlement.

We highly recommend that you call one of our car accident attorneys for help. It’s free just to see if we can help. If we can, we can navigate all policies that could come into play and negotiate on your behalf. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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