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Is Washington a no-fault state? A look at car accident liability

  1. Is Washington a no-fault state? A look at car accident liability
  2. What is no-fault insurance?
  3. What makes any given state a “no-fault state”?
  4. So, how do things work in Washington State?
  5. Hurt in a car accident in Washington State? Here’s what to do next
  6. Call the experienced team at Herschensohn Law today

Is Washington a no-fault state? A look at car accident liability

is Washington a no-fault state

Is Washington one of the 12 U.S. states (as of 2022) that are currently considered no-fault states? The short answer is no.

However, that doesn’t mean that no-fault insurance doesn’t exist here! In fact, you probably have it in your auto insurance policy, whether you know it or not.

Confused? Let’s discuss.

RELATED BLOG POST: What to do if you’re involved in a crash in Washington state

is Washington a no-fault state

What is no-fault insurance?

is Washington a no-fault insurance state

No-fault insurance is also known as personal injury protection insurance, or PIP, and it’s designed to pay for medical expenses and lost wages resulting from your car accident injuries, regardless of who caused the accident. Even if you were 100% in the wrong, PIP will pay out.

PIP is also considered “first-party” insurance, meaning you’re covered by your own insurance policy, rather than that of the at-fault driver.

The advantage of personal injury protection is that it significantly lowers the barriers to getting the money you need to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other costs (these are known as economic damages). You don’t have to prove fault to get it. You don’t need to go through the other driver’s insurance.

The main disadvantage is that PIP only offers compensation for direct medical expenses, lost wages, and sometimes other related services (such as cost of replacement household services). It will never cover pain and suffering damages (emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of relationship with family members, or loss of enjoyment of life). If you have serious injuries, pain and suffering could easily constitute the majority of a truly fair settlement.

Personal injury protection insurance also tends to be quite expensive relative to other forms of coverage, particularly in no-fault states.

is Washington a no-fault insurance state
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What makes any given state a "no-fault state"?

Washington car accident lawyer

Basically, it comes down to what type of coverage is “primary” after an auto accident.

In a no-fault state, your own personal injury protection insurance is the first place you go after you’ve been involved in a car accident. You’ll only need to file a claim against the at-fault driver if you don’t have enough PIP coverage to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages, or if you want to also get pain and suffering damages.

In “fault states,” also known as tort states, liability insurance comes first. When someone else causes an accident and you get hurt, the at-fault driver bears primarily responsibility for covering your damages—whatever they may be.

Even in a fault state, you might still have a personal injury protection policy yourself. But it’s really meant to serve as extra backup in case the other driver is uninsured or underinsured, and as a way to ensure you can get some quick cash for immediate medical expenses and lost wages while legal action for your case is still ongoing. (If you do win your case against the other driver, your own insurance company can get reimbursed by the at-faut driver’s insurer for any PIP benefits it’s already paid out.)

Washington drivers are not required to carry personal injury protection, but insurance companies are required to at least offer a minimum of $10,000 of PIP protection on every auto insurance policy they sell. If you don’t want it, you have to decline it in writing. Hence, most Washington drivers actually do have some PIP coverage even if they don’t realize it. That said, there’s no question that $10,000 doesn’t go particularly far these days, particularly if you have serious injuries to deal with.

RELATED BLOG POST: Why should I purchase uninsured motorist coverage?

Washington car accident lawyer

So, how do things work in Washington State?

is Washington a no-fault state

As mentioned above, Washington State uses a tort system, not a no-fault system. The person who caused the accident is also the one whose insurance company is responsible for paying out full compensation (up to the limits of the policy) to others who are injured in that accident.

In short: fault matters.

So, if you happen to be one of those injured people, and the accident that wasn’t your fault—or at least not entirely your fault—you’ll need to file a claim or lawsuit against the other driver (or any other potentially liable party) to get compensation.

Washington also happens to be one of relatively few states that have “pure” comparative negligence laws on the books. The short version of this concept goes like this:

  • More than one person or party can share blame for an accident. For example, perhaps one driver was drunk, while the other driver was speeding and failed to completely check that the coast was clear. Both were negligent, and a court might split the blame 70-30.
  • As long as you’re not 100% responsible, you can recover compensation—but your compensation will be reduced by your degree of fault. Even if you’re, say, 95% responsible for your crash, you can collect compensation. But you’ll only get 5% of the full extent of your claim.

In practical terms, this means that while you might consider suing the other driver to get your compensation, they could also sue you—and you could potentially both “win” as long as you both share at least some degree of the fault.

is Washington a no-fault state

Hurt in a car accident in Washington State? Here's what to do next

is Washington a no-fault state

Regardless of what state you live in or where your car accident occurs, getting free legal advice from an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible is always a smart choice.

Insurance companies flat out do not want to pay out the benefits that they’re supposed to. Denying claims and offering insulting low-ball settlement offers is how they make their money, and after many decades in business they’re very good at it.

If you want to successfully counter this insurance company chicanery, you’re going to need to come prepared with strong evidence—not only to prove that the other driver was truly responsible, but also to accurately account for the financial, physical, and emotional costs to your life.

Suffice it to say, that’s a pretty tall order for most victims of car accidents. Fighting the insurance company on your own, with no legal experience and while you’re also trying to rebuild your life, is rarely a good idea, to say the least. That’s why you need an attentive, aggressive legal defense.

is Washington a no-fault state

Call the experienced team at Herschensohn Law today

If you’ve been hurt due to some else’s negligence, contact the personal injury lawyers at Herschensohn Law today for a free consultation. You owe us nothing for the case evaluation, and you’ll continue to owe us nothing unless and until we win for you. To request your consultation, give us a call at (206) 588-4344 or use our handy online form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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