I was injured in a motor vehicle collision, what insurance is available to me?
Third-party liability insurance
This is the insurance that pays for damages that an at-fault driver causes. That is to say, that if a driver causes a collision and injures a person, this is the insurance available to compensate an injured party. In Washington, state law requires that drivers carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability coverage, but it is a good idea to carry higher insurance limits in order to protect your assets.
Typically, third party liability insurance will not pay on a claim until a claimant agrees to settle for good—once the claim is settled, that’s it (with few exceptions). It’s a good idea for people injured in car accidents to wait to settle their claims until after they have had an opportunity to see doctor and find out what their injuries are, find out how serious their injuries are, and get treatment for those injuries. Many insurance companies will try to settle claims quickly in order to pay claimants less, especially if the claimant has not had an opportunity to be evaluated by a medical provider or obtain the treatment they need.
What if there is not enough, or any, liability insurance to cover my damages?
Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Under Insured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Under Insured Motorist (UIM) Coverage under your own policy may be able to cover a shortfall in an at-fault driver’s insurance coverage. If an at-fault driver does not have enough insurance (we see it all the time in Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland), or any insurance at all, you can make a claim against your own insurance for benefits under your UM/UIM coverage. It’s like suing the other person for your damages, but your own insurance company pays (and has the option to try to collect from the underinsured/uninsured driver).
What if other person’s insurance won’t pay for my medical bills until I settle my claim, but I need to pay for treatment now?
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage
Typically, third party liability insurance will not pay for medical bills, or anything else, on your bodily injury claim until you agree to settle your whole claim for a certain amount, and under insured motorist coverage under your own policy will not even consider a claim until a third-party liability settlement has been reached. The problem is that people need money to get treatment and accepting a settlement before they have received treatment and know what’s wrong with them is problematic. People may not know how serious their injuries are, or how long it will take to get better, or how much treatment they need. It is not until they have seen a doctor and have initiated treatment that they see how they respond to certain treatments and may have an idea of how they are doing and how long it will take to get better.
That’s where personal injury protection (PIP) coverage comes in.
Under your own policy, you have to be offered PIP coverage, either in the amount of $10,000 or $35,000. This coverage allows you to get treatment before settling your claim and will pay your bills as you get treatment. Additionally, you can collect wage loss benefits if your injuries keep you off work for more than two weeks. You can even receive benefits to pay for services that you cannot do around your house as a result of your injuries.
If you have a question about any of this, feel free to give us a call Anderson Law at our Kennewick office on Clearwater Avenue. Just call 509-987-1777.