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Why should I purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?

  1. Why should I purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?
  2. How does uninsured motorist coverage work?
  3. How does underinsured motorist coverage work?
  4. What happens if I don’t have any UI/UIM insurance?
  5. How much UI/UIM insurance coverage do I actually need?
  6. Why consult with a Kent car accident lawyer like Zach Herschensohn?
  7. Hurt? Contact Herschensohn Law today

Why should I purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?

road with debris after accident

In the State of Washington, when you buy car insurance, your insurance company is required to offer you uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage (UI/UIM) as part of your auto insurance policy. If you want to decline it, you’ll have to do so in writing.

You might be tempted to do so. You could save yourself a few bucks per month on your premiums, after all. What’s the worst that could happen?

Well…it’s pretty bad, actually.

Far from being a superfluous money-maker for the insurer, UI/UIM is one of the most valuable policies you can buy. Without it, even a “moderate” car accident could leave you in serious financial trouble, with no way to get the compensation you need—even with an experienced car accident attorney fighting for you.

Read on to learn a bit more about how UI/UIM insurance can protect you after an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.

How does uninsured motorist coverage work?

Under normal circumstances, if you get hurt in a car accident, the person who caused that accident is responsible to pay for the damages you sustained. This includes things like current and future medical bills, lost wages, lost or reduced future income, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and more.

But, let’s say that you’re the victim of an auto accident, and the hit-and-run driver flees the scene before you can get a name, contact info, or even a license plate number. Or, maybe the other driver does stick around, but it turns out they’re uninsured. What happens next?

If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your own auto insurance company steps in to cover your costs. Essentially, it acts as a substitute for the other driver’s liability insurance and allows your claim to go forward. The only difference is that you’ll be negotiating with your own insurance company instead of the at-fault driver’s.

How many uninsured drivers are on the road in Washington?

A whole lot more than you probably realize.

According to a 2021 study by the Insurance Information Institute, an estimated 21.7 percent of Washington’s drivers are uninsured—more than one in five. That is the fifth-worst mark in the entire nation.

Put that another way: if you don’t have uninsured motorist insurance and you get into a car accident that someone else caused, you’ve got about a one in five chance of walking away with no coverage whatsoever for your injuries.

How likely am I to be involved in a hit-and-run accident?

Hit-and-runs aren’t as prevalent here as they are in many other states. Washington ranked within the top10 states where hit-and-runs were unlikely, but that doesn’t mean they don’t ever happen.

When a car accident occurs, both drivers are required by law to stay at the scene of the crash until the police arrive. Drivers who fail to do so may be charged with a felony. Despite the legal consequences, some drivers still take off after causing a crash because:

  • They’re driving drunk or under the influence of another substance and don’t want to get caught
  • They’re involved in a crime or are fleeing from police
  • They’re uninsured and don’t want to deal with the legal consequences
  • They’re completely unaware that they just caused a crash (very unlikely)

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How does underinsured motorist coverage work?

Uninsured drivers aren’t the only problem faced by car accident victims in Washington. Even if the other driver does have insurance, realistically they probably don’t have enough of it—certainly not if you’ve been badly hurt.

Washington drivers are required to carry the following liability coverage at the absolute minimum:

  • $25,000 in bodily injury or death per individual
  • $50,000 in bodily injury or death per crash
  • $10,000 in property damage

Again, in the typical two-car crash, the insurance provider of the at-fault driver would pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages through a personal injury claim. Property damage would also be covered.

But $10,000 in property damage and $25,000 in bodily injury coverage (and only $50,000 per accident if multiple people are hurt) doesn’t exactly go that far, particularly if you end up missing a lot of work and need surgery or ongoing care. Sure, it’s better than $0. But it still may be woefully short.

Once you hit the limit of the other driver’s liability insurance, that’s where underinsured motorist coverage steps in to cover damages that go above and beyond that cap.

RELATED POST: How do car accident settlements work?

What happens if I don't have any UI/UIM insurance?

If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage, things can start to get really dicey. Depending on the circumstances, your ability to get the compensation you deserve may be extremely limited.

If you have personal injury protection (PIP) or no-fault insurance coverage through your own auto insurance company, this can pick up at least some of the slack. As with UI/UIM coverage, Washington insurers are required to offer PIP, and if you don’t want it, you must reject it in writing. However, if you opted for the minimum PIP coverage, the limit is just $10,000. That is blink-and-it’s-gone territory for a serious car accident.

If the other driver was on the job, say as a transportation or delivery company, their employer might have a hefty liability insurance policy you can tap into. Most run-of-the-mill car accidents don’t qualify, however.

Beyond that, you will probably have to rely on your health insurance and paying out of pocket to cover medical expenses and vehicle repairs. And of course, you’ll get no compensation for any non-economic losses like pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of ability to enjoy things you used to love, or even funeral expenses if a loved on died in the crash.

One final option is to sue the driver of the other car directly. If the person who hit you is a millionaire, that might work. But if they have few assets, chances are you won’t be able to get much out of them regardless of how badly you’re hurt.

How much UI/UIM insurance coverage do I actually need?

So now you understand why you should never reject uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage. That leaves one big question unanswered: how much coverage do you really need?

The answer? It depends.

For starters, in Washington, car insurance companies are required to offer you a minimum of $25,000 in UI/UIM coverage. You legally cannot buy any less than that. But again, those limits are pretty low for a typical injury accident. If your insurance company offers more, and you can afford it, you should carefully consider it.

Factors to consider include how many miles you drive on a weekly basis (and how dangerous the traffic is along those miles), how expensive your vehicle is, how much personal injury protection insurance you have, your budget, and whether you believe you will be able to rely on your health insurance to pay medical bills on an ongoing basis.

One thing to note is that most insurance companies will not allow you to carry more UI/UIM coverage than liability coverage. So, if you don’t think you have enough insurance to cover you if you’re hit by an uninsured driver, you will probably need to raise your liability limits as well.

Why consult with a Kent car accident lawyer like Zach Herschensohn?

Unless your car accident was a very minor one, dealing with the aftermath is almost always a complicated affair. And if your injuries were moderate or worse, the likelihood that you’ll need to file claims with multiple insurance companies rises considerably—as is the likelihood that coverage limits will be a factor, and you’ll be left with far less than you deserve.

Unfortunately, Zach Herschensohn won’t be able to transport you back in time so you can buy UI/UIM coverage before you needed it. But he and his team are ready to help you in lots of other ways, including:

  • Identifying any and all other potentially liable parties and potential sources of insurance coverage you can draw from. In some cases, a trucking or transportation company, equipment manufacturer, bar or restaurant that knowingly overserved the other driver, or other party may share some responsibility to pay for your damages.
  • Making sure you have a rock-solid case, backed by strong evidence, to give you the best shot at absolutely maximizing the compensation you do receive.
  • Negotiating with healthcare providers to reduce the amount you’ll need to pay to settle your medical bills—allowing you to keep as much of your settlement as possible.
  • Taking all the weight and pressure off of you to handle your own case, so that you can focus on your health and your family—not your legal battles.

Remember, too, that even if you did purchase uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage, that doesn’t mean that your own auto insurance company is going to be any more excited to pay you than another driver’s. They’re in it to make money, too, which is why having an aggressive attorney in your corner can help you get the full compensation you deserve.

Hurt? Contact Herschensohn Law today

Our team takes a direct, no-nonsense approach to handling car crash cases and fighting for the maximum compensation our clients deserve. If you need to discuss your case and work through your legal options with an experienced car accident attorney, give us a call today—our initial consultations are always 100% free, and there’s no cost for our services unless we take your case and win. We don’t win? You don’t pay.

To connect with one of our car accident attorneys, dial (206) 588-4344 or complete our easy online contact form today.

References

Insurance Research Council (22 March, 2021). One in Eight Drivers Uninsured [press release]. Retrieved from https://www.insurance-research.org/sites/default/files/downloads/UM%20NR%20032221.pdf

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

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