In the state of Washington, having liability insurance is mandatory. By law, you must have at least $25,000.00 worth of liability insurance in case you cause an auto collision and hurt somebody. Also, you must have at least $10,000.00 of property damage coverage in order to cover repairs to another person’s vehicle if you are the at-fault driver.
Unfortunately, too many people are driving around without meeting this responsibility. They have no insurance at all! So what happens if one of these people causes an auto accident, and you are injured in that accident?
The answer to that question will most likely come down to protecting yourself through the Uninsured Motorist coverage associated with your own auto policy. Uninsured motorist coverage, or UM as it is known, is a part of your auto insurance policy that covers your damages in case you are hit by an uninsured driver. It will cover both property damage (fixing the damage to your car) and it will cover your losses incurred because of injury to your body. This means that you will receive compensation for things like pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses.
It is important to know that when you open a UM claim, your own insurance company takes on an adversarial role you. They essentially “step into the shoes of that at-fault party.” That means that instead of going after the person that caused the accident for your reimbursement, you are actually going after your own insurance company. Because of this, they want to pay you as little as they think they can, and thus an adversarial process begins to play out. Thus, you can see why it is very important that you have the right attorney representing you during this process.
There are many important points that you should know about UM coverage. First, you probably have UM coverage even if you don’t know it. In Washington, every policy sold automatically comes with UM coverage. You can opt-out of the coverage, and people do sometimes to save a little money. However, the burden is on the insurance company to come up with the proof that you opted out. So a good attorney may be able to get you this valuable coverage even if you think you do not have it!
Secondly, UM coverage may extend to all members of your family, so if you or the kids are involved in a situation where you are hurt in someone else’s car, your UM coverage can still cover you, the kids, or another member of your family that lives with you. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to be the owner of the auto policy to benefit from the provisions of that policy. A good injury attorney will be able to figure this out for you.
Next, UM coverage can even cover you or your family members if they are involved in a hit and run or “phantom vehicle” collision. This means coverage when the offending party flees from the scene and is not found. It is really important to know that if the at-fault car never contacted your vehicle, it is called a “phantom vehicle” and there may be more requirements that you need to do in order for you to qualify for UM coverage, such as file a police report within a few days of the collision and immediately notify your insurance company.
Lastly, your insurance policy is loaded with exclusions, meaning reasons and scenarios why you may not qualify for UM benefits. It’s important to read the policy and figure out all the ins and outs of coverage. It is not easy to do, which is why personal injury attorneys can and will help you out in deciphering what coverages you have and how you can get the most benefit out of those coverages. So please, if you’ve been in an auto accident, give the injury lawyers at Russell and Hill a call as soon as possible at 800-LAW (529)-0842!