I don’t have PIP or UM coverage, or do I?
Many people don’t know what type of insurance benefits they have under their automobile policy until an accident occurs. Two of the most important benefits under any automobile policy are Personal Injury Protection (commonly referred to as “PIP”) and Underinsured Motorist Insurance (commonly referred to as “UM”).
PIP coverage pays for any of the costs associated with medical treatment that is related to the auto accident that you were involved in. PIP can also cover lost wages and any other expenses incurred because of the crash, but these amounts are usually limited to a weekly dollar amount. The two most common PIP coverage amounts in Washington State are $10,000.00 and $35,000.00.
UM coverage provides benefits to the victim in the car crash, when the person responsible for the accident has little or no insurance to pay for the costs and damages that resulted from the crash. The minimum UM benefit coverage that a person can purchase in Washington is $25,000.00. This amount can be as high as $100,000,000 (one hundred million?) and of course like all insurance the more benefits you get the higher is the cost.
When a person in Washington State purchases automobile insurance, the Company providing the policy has a duty under state law to offer both PIP and UM insurance to the purchaser. If the purchaser declines PIP and/or UM coverage, the insurance company must obtain a written waiver form the purchaser in writing which declines the purchase of these benefits. If the insurance company fails to obtain this written waiver, then it is required to provide the purchaser with the state minimum benefits at the insurance company’s cost.
For example, assume I purchase an automobile policy in Washington State and decline both PIP and UM benefits to keep the premium low. The insurer then fails to obtain a written waiver from me stating that I am declining PIP and UM coverage. I then purchase the policy. The next day I am involved in an automobile crash and the person causing the crash has no insurance. Under Washington law, the insurance company who sold me the policy must provide me with $10,000.00 in PIP benefits and $25,000.00 in UM benefits at its own cost.
If you can afford it always purchase PIP and UM benefits. With the costs of medical treatment and the number of people who drive without insurance these days, it is too much of a risk to not have these benefits. If for some reason you didn’t purchase these benefits, and you are involved in a crash, make sure your attorney checks to see if you signed a written waiver for your insurance company that waives PIP and/or UM coverage. If your insurance company cannot produce this waiver, demand that they pay benefits.