Should every motor vehicle on Washington state roads have auto insurance that includes protection from bad drivers that don’t have their own auto insurance at all, or from bad drivers that haven’t bought enough insurance to pay for injuries and vehicle damage they cause? The answer is: yes! It’s called Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage.
Did you know that over 1 in 5 drivers in Washington state are totally uninsured? Washington ranks 5th in the nation for the highest number of drivers with no liability insurance, which the law requires. This means that if you or a patient are involved in a traffic collision caused by an uninsured driver, there is no source of recovery to pay for damage to your vehicle, or injury to you.
Did you also know studies have shown drivers who drive without liability insurance tend to be higher-risk drivers and more likely to cause traffic collisions? Also, high-risk drivers also tend to cause more serious crashes resulting in significant-to-catastrophic injuries and property damage. Unfortunately, you won’t know who is, or isn’t insured until after the damage has been done. So, how do you and your patients protect yourselves? The answer: do not waive the option to purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (also known as UM/UIM), and strongly consider buying more than just minimal coverage.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance (UM): UM insurance is “rainy day” coverage added to your auto policy to protect you and your passengers, and it is different from liability insurance, also required by law. UM coverage is intended to cover medical expenses, income loss, miscellaneous expenses you incur, and even compensation for pain, suffering, and other quality of life issues after injuries caused by an uninsured driver. It is also intended to repair or replace your damaged vehicle caused by a driver with no liability coverage.
Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UIM): There are some motorists who do have liability insurance, but it’s not enough to fully pay for the injuries or damage they cause. Here, the at-fault driver is underinsured, and Underinsured Motorist insurance is intended to step in to cover the difference between the liability insurance and the damages caused. Usually, UM and UIM insurance are sold together and have the same limits of coverage.
A warning: in both UM and UIM situations, your own insurance company gets to become your adversary, much like the liability, or “at-fault” insurance company is. Your insurer gets to “stand in the shoes” of the missing liability insurance company in UM situations, and your insurer gets to become a “second” liability insurer in UIM situations. So, the company providing UM/UIM coverage can use the same arguments a negligent driver’s liability insurance might raise to undermine or devalue a claim for damages.
Still, UM/UIM coverage is critically important, because there are many drivers on the road, who for financial or other reasons choose not to follow the law on insurance coverage, or who only have cheap and minimal coverage. Without UM/UIM coverage, a fault-free driver could be set back thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in auto repairs and medical expenses in a matter of a split second.