What Is the Difference Between Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage in Washington?

| Blog

As you probably know, Washington state law requires you to carry auto insurance if you own or drive a car. More precisely, the state requires you to have liability coverage. This coverage applies to death, personal injury, or property damage that you cause to someone else.

In addition to liability coverage, you can purchase additional forms of coverage as part of your auto policy. The law does not strictly require you to purchase this coverage, although your insurance company is required to offer it. Two popular forms of additional coverage are personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage.

Many people with PIP or UM/UIM coverage may not completely understand what is covered or what to do if their insurance company denies their claim. This is why you should always contact an auto insurance lawyer if you have been in an accident. An experienced attorney can review your case and insurance policy and advise you of your rights.

Remember, an insurance company is a for-profit business that always keeps an eye on its bottom line. In contrast, a Seattle car accident attorney has a legal and ethical obligation to put your interests first. This includes holding your insurance company accountable when they violate state law or the terms of your policy.

Personal Injury Protection

Personal injury protection (PIP) is a form of optional auto insurance coverage that benefits you, a member of your household who is related to you, or any non-family passengers injured in a car accident. Unlike liability coverage, which applies when you are found at fault for an accident, PIP benefits are effectively “no-fault.” This means that you do not have to prove who caused the accident.

In Washington State, PIP benefits typically cover the following:

  • Medical Benefits: Your PIP coverage includes up to $10,000 for “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses for each covered person injured in an auto accident. You can purchase additional PIP coverage to increase these medical benefits to $35,000 per person.
  • Wage Losses: PIP coverage can also provide limited wage replacement benefits if you cannot return to work immediately following a covered accident. Your policy will pay up to $200 per week for up to 1 year (or $10,000) if you are disabled for at least 14 consecutive days following your accident. As with medical benefits, you can purchase additional PIP coverage to increase the available wage benefits to $700 per week (or up to $35,000 annually).
  • Loss of Services: Similar to wage loss benefits, PIP can also pay for non-family members to perform household services if you cannot do so following a covered accident. These benefits are limited to $200 per week up to $5,000–or up to $14,600 if you purchase additional coverage.
  • Funeral Expenses: PIP coverage pays up to $2,000 in funeral expenses if a covered person dies in an auto accident.

While PIP benefits are no-fault, there are some situations it will not cover, including:

  • injuries that were intentionally caused by the insured person;
  • injuries resulting from the insured person engaging in “organized racing activities”;
  • injuries caused by an insured person in the course of committing a felony; or
  • accidents involving farm equipment, off-road vehicles, mopeds, or motorcycles.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Like personal injury protection, UM/UIM coverage in Washington is designed to pay benefits to you or a family member following an auto accident. Also, like PIP coverage, you are not legally required to carry UM/UIM coverage, although it is generally a good idea. Where the two types of coverage differ is concerning establishing fault.

As previously noted, PIP coverage applies regardless of who is legally liable for causing the underlying accident. UM/UIM coverage, in contrast, only kicks in when the policyholder can prove another driver was at fault. Indeed, the purpose of UM/UIM coverage is for your insurance company to “step into the shoes” of a negligent driver who (a) was never identified (i.e., a hit-and-run accident), (b) failed to purchase liability coverage as required by Washington law, or (c) has insufficient liability coverage to compensate you for your accident-related losses fully.

When you seek UM/UIM benefits, you must prove the other driver caused the accident. This places you in an adversarial position with your own insurance company. They may try to prove the other driver was not responsible–or even that you caused the accident. You need an experienced Washington car accident attorney who can act as your advocate.

It is also worth noting that unlike PIP coverage, which only covers personal injury, UM/UIM benefits compensate you for property damage. For example, if a hit-and-run driver hits your car while it is parked on the side of the road, you can seek compensation under your UM/UIM policy.

Know What to Do Following a Washington Car Accident

While insurance is probably not the first thing on your mind in the moments following a car accident, you should still take certain steps to help make things easier should you need to file a claim. Here are a few key things to remember:

  1. Call the police. An officer can come to the scene and prepare an official accident report you can give your insurance company.
  2. Gather whatever information you can at the scene. Take pictures of the vehicles involved and identify witnesses who saw what happened.
  3. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible following the accident to preserve your coverage rights.
  4. Seek immediate medical treatment, even if you do not think you were seriously injured.

Finally, you should not hesitate to call a car accident lawyer today. Premier Law Group has helped many Bellevue, Federal Way, Renton, and Seattle clients deal with their insurance companies following a severe crash. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.