Is the Washington State minimum car insurance enough?
The current Washington State minimum car insurance policy drivers are allowed to carry only provides $25,000 in liability coverage.
Most states require car owners to pay for some amount of car insurance. While it varies depending on where you live and how much you drive, the average driver in the U.S. is involved in 4 – 5 crashes in their lifetime.
One way to think of car insurance is that you are paying ahead to cover the costs and expenses associated with a car accident or crash.
The Washington State minimum car insurance policy
The minimum car insurance policy is usually the least expensive option.
In Washington State, the average minimum insurance policy costs less than $600 per year, according to carinsurance.com’s calculations. That will buy you the basic $25,000/$50,000/$10,000 policy.
That means that the most your insurance company will pay after a car crash is:
- $25,000 maximum to each injured person;
- $50,000 maximum for all of the injuries—or fatalities—from the crash; and,
- $10,000 in property damage.
Insurance adjusters may refer to this as a 25/50/10 policy.
That may sound like a fair amount of money, especially considering the cost of car insurance. But is it enough to cover the costs of a car crash?
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When your minimum car insurance policy is not enough
To illustrate the problems you might have if you don’t have enough car insurance, we are going to use an example of a fairly standard car crash scenario.
You’re almost home, are only 6 blocks away. The last traffic light turns yellow ahead of you, and you start to slow down. The driver behind you doesn’t see the change, and as you are braking, you see the headlights coming too fast in your rearview mirror.
The rear-end crash slams you into the steering wheel, and pushes your vehicle into the intersection. The next few minutes are confusing and terrifying, but luckily your vehicle isn’t hit by cross traffic.
An ambulance takes you to the hospital, where you are treated for headache and neck pain, and schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor. You some time off work while you recover.
Here are two different ways this standard rear-end crash could be a huge problem for you if you only have the Washington State minimum car insurance policy.
The other driver is uninsured
After the crash scenario above, you call your insurance company to start a crash claim. The insurance adjuster tells you that they got the police report, and learned the other driver doesn’t have car insurance.
The bare minimum policy in Washington is a liability policy: it only pays out if you are at fault (liable) for the crash.
It does not include two important types of coverage: Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) protection, and Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Insurance companies in Washington must offer these options, but you are not required to have them.
- UM/UIM insurance is meant to protect you if you’re involved in a car crash with an uninsured driver.
- PIP insurance pays for medical bills, wage loss, and other costs after a car crash, regardless of fault.
In this situation, there would be no insurance to cover your medical bills. You would be responsible for paying the ambulance, hospital and doctor bills, and could not recover your lost wages.
You are found at fault for the crash
How could it be your fault that someone rear-ended you at a stoplight?
It probably isn’t, but there are some versions of this scenario in which you could be found at least partially to blame for the crash.
The other driver might claim that you changed lanes directly in front of them and slammed on the brakes, causing them to rear-end your car. Or that you had been stopped at a green light, which would explain why no one hit your car in the intersection.
The version of the crash that the responding law enforcement officers write down may not be complete, or accurate. They may not get witness statements, or even talk to you at the scene before you go to the hospital.
Regardless of the reasons why, if you are found at fault for the crash, then it is your insurance that will have to pay for the other driver’s injuries and damages.
If that person has very serious injuries, or there were multiple people injured in the other car, then the Washington State minimum insurance policy wouldn’t even cover basic medical bills. Your own assets may even be at risk.
These are just two basic examples, but we have seen far more significant and severe crashes that have ruined people’s physical health and finances because there simply wasn’t enough insurance coverage.
The odds are good that you’ll be involved in a car crash at some point. Make sure that you are protected because the Washington State minimum car insurance policy alone is not enough.
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