Uninsured (UM) & Underinsured (UIM) Accidents

Auto insurance is important for multiple reasons. For instance, if you were in a crash, your insurance can help cover the damages to the vehicle and much more. After a car accident, everyone shares their information, such as driver’s license number, insurance policy number, etc. However, there are instances when other drivers do not have insurance or are underinsured. This becomes a problem for the victim of the collision.

Accidents are part of everyone’s lives. Washington State has taken precautions and has insurance requirements for motorcycle, auto, and truck drivers.  Nevertheless, drivers can get around this. Therefore, if you were in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, it is crucial to seek legal help to recover the compensation you deserve.

Lawyer for UM/UIM Accidents in Bellingham, WA

As a responsible driver, you have auto insurance to protect yourself in case of an accident. Nevertheless, not everyone is as diligent. In other words, there are drivers on the road that do not have insurance, and there’s many that do not have uninsured (UM)/underinsured (UIM) auto insurance. As a result, the victim can be at financial risk if they are ever in an accident with a motorcyclist or someone without coverage. In many instances, some victims have been injured in a motor vehicle collision by an uninsured driver, and they feel stuck with medical bills and other damages.

Retaining a legal professional can help you evaluate your options for compensation. At PNW Trial Lawyers, our attorneys understand the frustration of being in an accident and having all your expenses out of pocket. Our experienced auto accident attorneys can help you through this situation. We have the knowledge and resources available to represent and fight on your behalf. Our main office is located in Bellingham, Washington, and we serve clients in Everett, Anacortes, Mt. Vernon, and the surrounding areas of Snohomish, Whatcom, and Skagit county.

Contact us at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation.

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Overview of UM/UIM Accidents in Washington

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Washington State Insurance Laws

Washington is a comparative “fault” auto insurance state, and the system is based on tort liability. In other words, Washington follows the traditional “fault” system, which entails that in auto accidents, the at-fault party is responsible for the damages that resulted because of the accident. Since Washington is a pure comparative negligent state, the fault of all the parties involved in the accident is crucial in determining compensation. Damages in auto accidents can be catastrophic injuries, loss of income, vehicle damages, etc.

A driver, pedestrian, or a passenger that has been injured in a motor vehicle accident is able to:

  • File a claim with his/her insurance company for damages – In this situation, it is assumed that your insurance policy can cover the damages sustained during the accident.
  • Third-part Claim – By pursuing a third-party claim, the victim is making the claim directly to the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
  • Court – The victim files a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver.

In Washington, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance agency that has liability coverage. There are four (4) options in obtaining coverage, any persons who drive a motor vehicle must have either the minimum policy requirements, apply for a certificate, have a liability bond, or become self-insured. Below are a few of Washington State Laws pertaining to insurance requirements:

  • House Bill 1014: Financial Responsibility of Motorcycle Operators – Motorcyclists have a responsibility to have insurance coverage. They must have at least the minimum coverage and carry proof of insurance.
  • RCW 46.30.030: Insurance Identification Card – When an insurance company issues or renews a motor vehicle liability insurance policy, they must provide the policyholder with an identification card.
  • WAC 308.106.020: Insurance Identification Card Content – When the insurance company provides the policyholder with an identification card it must at least include the following information:
    • Insurance Company Name
    • Policy Number, Effective Date, and Date of Expiration
    • Name of insured driver, information of the motor vehicle (year, make, model, etc.)
  • WAC 308.106.030: Insurance Identification Card for Self-insured, Certificate deposit, or bond – When the person or organization provides insurance to the individual, they must also provide them with an identification card. The insurance identification card must contain the following information:
    • WAC 308.106.030(a): Self-insured
      • Self-Insured Number issued by the department
      • Effective Date of the Self-insured certificate
      • Name of the driver covered, information of the motor vehicle (year, make, and model) or the word “fleet” can be used instead of the vehicle information
    • WAC 308.106.030(b): Certificate of Deposit
      • Certificate number issued by the department
      • Name of driver covered by the certificate deposit
    • WAC 308.106.030(c): Liability Bond
      • Company Name that issues the Bond
      • Bond Number
      • Name of the driver covered by the bond
    • RCW 46.29.090: Minimum Policy Requirements – Any persons who drive a motor vehicle in the state, must carry liability insurance with at least the minimum amount:
      • $25,000Death or injuries to another person
      • $50,000Death or injuries to two or more persons
      • $10,000Damages to another persons’ property
    • RCW 46.29.550: Certificate – Must have a liability bond of at least “sixty thousand dollars” ($60,000) filed by a surety bond company that has authorization in Washington State.
    • RCW 46.29.630: Self-Insurers – Any persons who has more than twenty-five (25) vehicles registered in the state under their name may qualify as a self-insurer. The persons must obtain a certificate of self-insurance.
    • RCW 46.52.020(1)(a): Liability Insurance – No persons is allowed to operate a motor vehicle in this state without being insured “under a motor vehicle liability policy” with the liability limits as stated in RCW 46.29.090. However, the driver has the option to demonstrate they are “self-insured” as stated in RCW 46.29.630, has minimum coverage by a liability bond as stated in RCW 46.29.090, or is covered by a certificate of deposit as stated in RCW 46.29.550.
    • RCW 46.52.020(1)(c): Violations – Failure to display proof of insurance to a law enforcement officer when asked to do so, creates the assumption that the person does not have motor vehicle insurance.

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Insurance Coverages in Motor Vehicle Accident Cases

If you have been in an accident and the driver who hit you was uninsured or underinsured, it is crucial to contact your insurance company. This can help make sure that you are covered for damages. Notify your insurance company so that you may have access to your uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) coverage. Many insurance agencies have deadlines, restrictions, and various policies for filing a claim. If you are also a victim of a hit-and-run accident, having insurance can help cover the damages to your vehicle and the medical expenses related to the injuries you sustained.

As of July 2019, motorcyclists must also have liability insurance coverage and carry evidence of insurance. In addition, Washington State law requires that insurers offer uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) motorist insurance to individuals that are purchasing liability insurance. Although in many states, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is mandatory, in Washington, it is optional.

Per RCW 46.29.090 drivers are required to carry the minimum bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. Aside from the insurance coverage that a driver must have, there are also coverages that insurers must offer to policyholders, and coverage that your lender may require. The following is information on various insurance coverage and how they can apply to a motor vehicle accident claim.

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Bodily Injury Liability

This liability covers any injuries that the policyholder caused on another. It also covers your family, yourself, and the members you have listed in your policy when driving another person’s car. Unfortunately, the minimum requirements stated by the law sometimes is not enough to cover all the medical expenses for the injured parties. See RCW 46.29.090

Property Damage Liability

The driver must have a minimum of $10,000 of coverage. Furthermore, this coverage is meant to help cover expenses for damages made to another vehicle or property by you. However, property damage liability does not cover the damages made to your motor vehicle. See RCW 46.29.090

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Uninsured (UM)/Underinsured (UIM) Motorists Coverage

At times when you are a victim of an accident, you have medical bills and expect the at-fault party to compensate you for their damages. However, there are instances when the at-fault party’s insurance cannot pay the medical bills. It can be because the at-fault party might not have insurance, or the coverage they do have is not enough to pay for the damages. Having UM/UIM coverage is extremely important in these circumstances, whether it is you, your designated driver, or your family member in an accident. 

Although having UM/UIM is not required by law, it must be offered to policyholders purchasing liability protection. UM/UIM coverage will be able to reimburse you for the injuries you suffered in the accident. This additional layer of coverage is also extremely helpful in hit-and-run accidents. Since you do not know the at-fault party, the coverage can help with your car damages and your medical expenses. If a policyholder does not want UM/UIM coverage, he/she must reject the coverage in writing. See RCW 48.22.030(4). 

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Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Personal Injury protection, also known as PIP, helps cover medical expenses and wage loss if you sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of which party is at fault. Therefore, if the other driver is uninsured, or you were the party at fault, PIP can compensate for your medical bills, lost wage, and funeral expenses. Although having personal injury protection is not required by law, insurance agencies must offer this option to you. See RCW 48.22.085. 

Under PIP, the following individuals are covered if they are involved in a car accident: policyholder, child (step, foster, or adopted), your significant other (married), a non-family passenger, and a pedestrian.

If the policyholder does not want PIP coverage, then he/she must state it in writing. If they do not reject or deny the additional coverage in writing, the insurance company can add this to the policy. If a policyholder does have PIP coverage, it must offer coverage for “each insured with benefit limits” and a minimum. See 48.22.100 

  • Medical & Hospital Expenses – A minimum of $10,000 of coverage for medical and hospital expenses. This included all persons that were injured in the auto accident. After the date of the accident, this option is available for up to three (3) years. The benefit limits is $35,000
  • Funeral Expenses – The benefit limit is $2,000 for each individual that died because of the accident.
  • Wage Loss – A minimum of $10,000; the person receives $200 per week to cover the lost income. The benefit limit is $35,000; the person receives the maximum payment of $700 per week. However, to qualify for the wage loss benefits, you must have missed work for fourteen (14) consecutive days because of the injuries you sustained from the accident. Unfortunately, this benefit is limited to one year.
  • Loss of Service – A minimum of $5,000; the person receives $200 per week to cover service replacement. In other words, this coverage is meant to pay for assistance, that you cannot do on your own. For example, after a car accident, some individuals are left with catastrophic injuries and cannot perform basic duties on their own, like household chores. The maximum benefit is $14,600.

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It is an alternative to Personal Injury Protection (PIP). MedPay helps cover medical payments. However, it is not as comprehensive as PIP. Therefore, it does not cover or provide the additional benefits that PIP does. For instance, if you were in a head-on collision, MedPay will pay for your medical expenses up to your policy limit. However, if you missed work because of your injuries and were not paid during that time, MedPay will not cover your lost income. This is a good option because it is cheaper than PIP and provides coverage for medical bills up to the policy limit.

Collision Coverage

Property damage liability helps cover expenses that you made to another vehicle or property (e.g., fences). While collision coverage is an add-on and optional, it is a coverage that some lenders may require you to have. Furthermore, the collision coverage is meant to pay for damages to your car in case of a collision or “your car flips over.” Regardless of which party is at fault, this coverage will help fix your vehicle.

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Umbrella Policy

The umbrella policy is not required by law. Nevertheless, it provides an extra layer of protection. If a driver crashes into your vehicle and he is uninsured or does not have enough coverage for your damages, then your insurance will use your liability protection. It is presumed that your policy has enough to cover the damages after the accident. But what happens when this is not the case. These policies are meant to be used after you have exhausted your liability protection. The umbrella policy helps protect you financially by covering the amount that your liability protection could not and up to the limit of your policy.

Dram Shop Liability

If you were in an accident with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol or weed, and the driver is also uninsured or underinsured, it is imperative that you seek legal assistance. Many victims of drunk driving accidents do not know all the options available to them, depending on the facts of their case. In some situations, many victims are not aware that they can hold a third-party responsible for their damages. In other words, the victim can pursue legal action and file a dram shop liability claim against an establishment or business that provided the driver with alcohol past the point of intoxication.

It is important to consult with a legal professional in regard to your options to seek compensation. If the at-fault driver that caused your car accident does not have insurance or is underinsured and was under the influence of alcohol, you might be able to pursue a dram shop liability case.

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Private or Public Health Insurance

After your motor vehicle accident, if the at-fault party cannot cover your damages, and you have either MedPay or PIP insurance coverage, you can have your medical expenses covered through that first.  Once the amount is exhausted in your MedPay or PIP coverage, your private or public health insurance can cover the remaining medical expenses. Using your private health insurance, public health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, may require out-of-pocket expenses. Such as having to pay deductibles.

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What to do After an Accident

If you were in an accident with an uninsured driver, remain calm. It is important to make sure that everyone is well and those that need medical attention receive it.

  • Call 911 & File a report – Be sure that the police officer that is at the scene files a report. If there wasn’t a police official, it is imperative that you report the collision. A motor vehicle accident that resulted in injuries, the death of another, or damages to the property of $500 or more must be reported within four (4) days of the accident. Furthermore, if there was a police officer and he/she filled a report, be sure to request the report number. See RCW 46.52.030
  • Exchanging Information – During the accident make sure to acquire the information of all the parties involved. For instance, license plate numbers, contact information, driver’s license number, information about the car (make, model, year), etc. See RCW 46.52.020
  • Important Details – Be sure to record important details such as date, time, and location of the accident.
  • Documentation of Expenses – It is important to document all your expenses related to the accident. For example, medical bills, vehicle repairs, rental car, etc.
  • Pictures – Be sure to document all damages, including those sustained by other vehicles. Take pictures of the scene of the accident. Your pictures should include the license plate of the vehicles, traffic signs, and the position of the vehicles after the accident.
  • DO NOT Accept Money – If the other driver does not have insurance and they try to offer you money to avoid legal complications, do not accept it. Not having insurance can result in penalties. Furthermore, after the accident, you will not be able to determine the cost of damages to your property and your well-being. Motor vehicle accidents can result in permanent and long-term injuries, for example, spinal cord damages.

If you, a loved one, or an acquaintance were in an auto accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, it is imperative to consult with a lawyer. Retaining a lawyer can help you in understanding what options are available to you and how you can seek compensation for your damages.

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Legal Process for Filing a Claim

Filing a claim with your insurance company and taking the case to court requires two different processes. When you file a claim with your insurance provider it is assumed that your insurance policy can cover the damages sustained during the accident. If you are making a claim with your insurance, below is information on the process:

  • File a Claim – You are able to file a claim with your insurance company or with the at-fault party’s insurance. When you file a claim with your insurance company, you will need the following information:
    • Policy number
    • Date, time, and location of the accident
    • If a police officer was at the scene of the accident provide your insurance information with the police report number, and the department.
    • Provide your insurance with the pictures you took after the accident.
    • They might ask you for the insurance information of the at-fault driver.
      • Underinsured – Provide them with the at-fault driver’s policy number, driver’s license number, and contact information.
        • If the at-fault party is not able to fully reimburse you for your damages, then your insurance provider will open an investigation. After the investigation, you either receive additional reimbursements or you are denied.
        • If your insurance provider and you cannot agree on a fair settlement you can seek legal action.
      • Uninsured – Provide them with the driver’s license number, contact number, etc.
        • Your insurance company will open an investigation of the accident.
        • You will be compensated up to your policy limit or your compensation can be allocated based on your proportion of fault.

It is important to keep in mind that you will receive compensation after your insurance company finishes investigating the accident. During the pretrial investigation, your insurance provider will have access to your medical records and interview the witnesses. If you and your insurer do not agree on a fair settlement amount, you can submit your claim to arbitration.

In addition, because Washington is a pure comparative negligence state, your claim will reflect the fault you shared in the accident. Furthermore, the time you have to file a claim depends on your policy and insurance provider. If your insurance company denies your claim or acts in “bad faith,” you can seek legal action. In Washington state, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is three (3) years after the date of the accident.

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Insurance Company Against UM/UIM Drivers

Although having UM/UIM coverage is great and provides that extra cushion of protection, there might still be some problems. When a UM/UIM claim is made, obtaining compensation can be difficult and challenging. It might seem as though your insurance provider is against you. In a situation in which the insured filed a UM/UIM claim, it is in the best interest of the insurance agency to demonstrate that the policyholder was at fault or negligent. Under these circumstances obtaining a legal professional is of utmost priority. 

In a UM/UIM claim, although the accident might not have been your fault, your role of “insured driver” has now become an “uninsured driver.” That is to say that the policyholder is in the place of “the uninsured…to the extent of the carrier’s policy limit.” See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Bafus, 77 Wn.2d 720,724,466 P.2d 159 (1970).

Furthermore, your rights and obligations have changed because your insurance provider does not owe a duty to defend your claim. See Ellwein v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 142 Wn.2d 766, 779-80, 15 P.3d 640 (2001). 

Complications with Compensation

It is imperative to have legal representation, especially if the victim does not have uninsured (UM) coverage and the at-fault driver does not have insurance. In situations like this, consult with a legal professional to better understand how you can be compensated for your damages. If the at-fault driver is uninsured, he/she can file for bankruptcy and the debt will be discharged. In this situation, retain an attorney is crucial. 

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Additional Resources

Washington State Patrol – Visit the Washington State Patrol’s link if you would like to request a collision report, submit a collision report, or view collision statistics. The site also offers information about the traffic and resources for commercial vehicles and drivers. The agency’s goal is to make the state’s roadways safe, and the commercial vehicle page is a great resource for truck drivers. Furthermore, it offers a way to report unsecured or lost load. In addition, the Washington State Patrol’s Impaired Driving Section coordinates with other agencies to help provide services. One of the multiple agencies is the Drug Recognition Experts Program, which allows officers to learn and recognize when a driver is impaired.

Office of Insurance Commissioner – Visit the website to learn more information about Washington State’s mandatory auto and motorcycle insurance law. There are other resources available such as looking for agents or agencies that have insurance, tips on what to consider when purchasing insurance, and much more. If you were a victim of a car collision or any other motor vehicle accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, it is essential that you know your rights to file a claim. Since Washington State is a comparative fault state, understanding your rights, knowing the process is crucial. When your insurance company handles the claim, it is presumed that your insurance policy can cover the damages sustained during the accident. The website provides a great resource for what to expect during the process of filing a claim with your insurance.

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Attorney for UM/UIM Accidents in Whatcom County, WA

If you were a victim of a car, truck, or a motorcycle accident, consult with an experienced attorney whether the at-fault party is properly insured. At PNW Trial Lawyers, our personal injury attorney knows the difficulties that come with being in a motor vehicle accident. We understand the medical, financial, physical, and emotional anguish that is coming days after the accident. Our attorneys would like to help you and your family seek compensation. While you are recovering, we can fight for you and represent your best interest so that you can receive just compensation.

At PNW Trial Lawyers, our attorney can assist you with filing a claim either with your insurance, a third-party or even in a civil claim if the accident was due to other parties’ negligence. Contact us at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session. Our firm serves clients in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Everett, Anacortes, and many other cities in the surrounding area.

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