Being in a car accident is devastating enough on its own, but when you’re hit by an uninsured driver in Washington, the stress can climb to a whole new level. When the person who caused the crash isn’t insured, you’ll have to worry about whether you will be able to receive compensation for your losses stemming from the accident. This is an area where having an experienced personal injury lawyer can really help you, especially if you’re not sure what to do next.
Insurance Requirements in Washington
In this state, all drivers are required to carry liability coverage, which is insurance that covers damages and injuries they cause during an accident. This type of coverage ensures that the other person has coverage if you cause an accident. Specifically, Washington requires that all drivers have at least $25,000 in liability coverage per person per accident, $50,000 for all deaths or injuries per accident, and $10,000 in coverage for property damage per accident.
It’s important to note that a driver can legally deny coverage for liability if they are able to prove they have the resources to pay for damages caused by an accident, such as certifying they have at least $60,000 in cash available to them. However, most drivers without liability coverage aren’t doing so legally, and there are more such cases in this state than you may realize. Washington ranks among the top ten states for uninsured drivers, with the Insurance Information Institute reporting that in 2015, 17.4 percent of all drivers on the road didn’t have proper auto insurance.
What You Can Do
If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, it’s only natural to wonder how you will receive compensation for your lost wages, medical costs, car damage and other losses. In this situation, you generally have two options: file a claim on your own auto insurance policy or file a lawsuit against the driver in court.
To file a claim against your own policy, you’ll need to have what is known as “uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage.” This is exactly what it sounds like, providing coverage to a policyholder who was in an accident caused by a person who didn’t have insurance or had coverage levels that were too low to cover all the losses.
The amount of compensation you’ll receive going this route, however, will be subject to your coverage limits in this area. In addition, your insurer will essentially act as if your policy belongs to someone else. That’s not ideal, as it means your insurer will not be looking out for what’s in your bests interests. Instead, the insurer will focus on paying as little as it can and settling the matter as quickly as possible. If your insurer wants you to settle your case quickly, they will offer you a settlement, but it may not be what you are entitled to or even enough to cover all your losses. Don’t sign any settlement agreements with your insurer until you are certain of what you want to do. You can have a personal injury lawyer at your side if you decide to make a claim on your own policy, and he or she can deal with the insurer for you, review any potential settlement offers, explain all your options and negotiate so your rights are protected.
Your second option is taking the uninsured driver to court for the damages and losses you suffered as a result of the accident, which includes time missed from work, medical expenses, damage to property, emotional distress and more. However, an uninsured driver may not have enough money or assets to cover the award if you win your case against them. Going to court will involve documentation from the accident, legal fees and other costs, so you’ll want to make sure the driver has assets you can access should you win. A personal injury attorney can investigate the driver and his or her assets to determine whether a lawsuit is the right way to go in your case.
Being hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance doesn’t mean you won’t receive any compensation for your losses. It does mean, however, that you may need to take a different approach. Contact Feldman & Lee today if you need help with a personal injury case.