Washington law requires that all motorists carry minimum liability insurance—at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability, up to $50,000 per accident, and $10,000 in property damage. Unfortunately, far too many people on the road do not have any insurance at all. In fact, a recent study put the uninsured rate in Washington at an astounding 16%. This rate gives Washington the tenth highest uninsured rate in the United States.
If you were badly injured in an accident, you might have incurred tens of thousands of dollars in medical care and lost wages. Rather than shoulder that financial loss yourself, you should seek compensation from the driver who caused the collision. If he or she is uninsured, however, you need to consider your options.
Option #1: Tap Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Benefits
PIP is no-fault insurance that will cover various losses, including:
- Medical and hospital costs (up to $10,000, though you can purchase more)
- Lost wages ($200 a week up to $10,000 in total, though you can buy more)
- Lost services, if you need to hire someone to do household chores ($200 a week, up to $5,000, though you can buy more)
- Funeral expenses (up to $2,000)
PIP insurance has the added benefit of being no-fault, which means you could have been responsible for the accident and you would still be covered.
Check to see if you have PIP benefits. Your insurer had to offer it to you, though you had the option to decline it. Also check whether a relative in your household had it, since you might be covered under their policy.
Option #2: Make a Claim on Your Uninsured Motorist (UM) Policy
UM insurance is designed for precisely this situation—you are injured in an accident but the driver who caused the collision does not have any insurance. Under Washington law, insurers must offer you UM coverage, though you could decline it in writing. Hopefully, you did not decline this policy since it will cover you in this type of accident.
Unlike PIP benefits, UM coverage only applies if another driver is responsible for the accident. If so, you can make a claim for your economic losses, such as medical care and lost wages.
Option #3: Use Your Health Insurance to Pay for Medical Expenses
You might have health insurance through a job, or you could have bought a policy on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. If you are injured, you should check whether you can use your health insurance to pay for medical care.
This isn’t an ideal situation, since you will be responsible for your deductible, which could be huge. You might also have high copays. Furthermore, health insurance cannot replace lost income, which you might need badly if you cannot work. Nevertheless, health insurance can at least reduce some of the costs of trying to deal with a devastating accident.
Option #4: Use Collision Coverage to Repair Your Vehicle
Collision coverage insurance pays to repair your vehicle when it is damaged from a collision with another object, such as another vehicle. If you took out a car loan, your lender might have required that you buy collision coverage.
Option #5: Sue the Driver
Even if a driver does not have insurance, he remains legally liable for all accidents he causes. This means you can sue him and try to get at his personal assets to pay out a jury verdict. In Washington, you might be able to foreclose on property, which means putting a lien on the property and asking the sheriff to sell it. You then receive some of the proceeds from the sale, which go toward fulfilling the court judgment against the defendant.
Unfortunately, not many drivers have sufficient assets to pay for your injuries. If they did, then they would probably have bought liability insurance, as is required by the state. Also, many people do not have the time to track down a defendant’s personal property so they can put a lien on it.
Talk with a Leading WA Car Accident Attorney
Khan Law Firm has been representing injured motorists for years, and we have built our reputation taking complicated cases, including cases where a client was struck and injured by an uninsured motorist.
Don’t despair if the other driver lacks insurance. You do have options. At our firm, we take great pride at identifying the best path forward for our clients so that they can recover as much as possible after a terrifying accident.
For more information about our services, you can talk to one of our attorneys by calling 206-430-6096. Please schedule a consultation, which is free and confidential. We will listen to you describe the accident and analyze the legal issues for you.