Vehicle collisions are an unfortunately common occurrence. The average American is said to be involved in four accidents throughout their lifetime. When an accident happens, the standard protocol is to ensure everyone is ok and then get out of the car and swap insurance info with the other driver. There may come a time, however, when you find yourself in an accident with a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover the damages they caused. Or, even worse, you may encounter a driver with no insurance at all.
The truth is Washington State is home to several uninsured motorists. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Washington has a much higher percentage of uninsured drivers than the national average. More than 16% of Washington drivers are uninsured, while the national average sits at about 12.5%. This is despite a hefty fine of $550 for anyone caught driving without insurance. For everyone else, Washington requires drivers at least to have liability insurance in the case of an accident. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will ensure you are safe even after a collision with an uninsured driver.
What To Do At The Scene
First and foremost, if there are injured parties in your vehicle after an accident, call 911 immediately. It is against the law in Washington not to report an accident that resulted in an injury or more than $500 in property damage. The next thing you should do, upon finding out the other driver is uninsured, is take pictures of everything. Take pictures of the injuries, the damage to the vehicles, the road signs, the road conditions, and especially the other driver’s license plate and driver’s license. You will want to make it clear to a future judge and jury who was responsible for the accident.
How To Prepare
No one wants to think about getting into an accident, so preparing for one can seem morbid or macabre. However, given the statistics about uninsured drivers in Washington, preparing to be in an accident with an uninsured driver is not a bad idea. Your insurance company will offer an additional service to your plan that covers you in the case of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. This, combined with Personal Injury Protection (PIP), can mean all the difference between having your car repairs and medical bills covered or paying for them yourself.
If you have this additional insurance plan, you need only file a claim with your own insurance company in the event of an accident with an uninsured driver. The insurance will cover any damages your vehicle sustained at the hands of the uninsured. This insurance can also be used to help cover damages from a hit-and-run and a phantom vehicle. An example of a phantom vehicle is when a car swerves into your lane, and you get into a crash to avoid it. That driver may continue driving as if nothing has happened, leaving you to cover the costs.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) covers your medical bills and lost wages caused by a car accident, regardless of who was at fault. This can be a good policy to add to your regular insurance, irrespective of the possibility of uninsured drivers. If you are hit by an uninsured driver, though, you will be happy you have this insurance. PIP will cover up to $10,000 in medical bills at the base level. You can pay additionally to receive the $35,000 version. PIP has no deductibles or co-pays, and there are no limits on the amount of treatment you can receive. So if your doctor recommends a chiropractor or physical therapist, you can have as many visits as you need. This is a highly recommended type of insurance, especially in Washington State.
What To Do If You’re Hit By An Uninsured Motorist
So far, we’ve gone over things you can do to lessen the impact that a collision with an uninsured driver might cause. But what about the driver themselves? How do you make them pay for the damages they caused? If an uninsured driver fails to pay for their damages, you can file a report with the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) within 180 days of the accident. The DOL can employ numerous tactics to get them to pay, including suspension of their license. You may also personally pursue the at-fault party in a civil case that will impose further limitations upon them to make them pay. At some point, the court may even garnish their wages until their debt is paid off.
If you have been in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, call the experts at NBF Accident Law at (206) 923-8888.