The Basics of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Provisions
Uninsured and underinsured motorist provisions are additional allotments in one’s policy that protect drivers when the other party involved in a collision has either limited coverage or no insurance at all. They may also be used if you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run accident or a “phantom car” scenario.
When you submit an underinsured motorist claim, this essentially helps you make up the difference in cost when the at-fault driver has reached their policy limits but there are still expenses leftover. So, hypothetically speaking, if you have $10,000 in injuries but the other driver’s policy only allots for $5,000, your underinsured motorist provision should supplement the remaining $5,000 (depending on your own policy limits).
By contrast, uninsured motorist provisions come into effect when the driver at fault has no insurance at all; in such a case, your insurer will step in and essentially act as the guilty party and assist in paying expenses. Keep in mind that these too are capped by policy limits and are not necessarily all-encompassing. They are also separated into the categories of bodily and property damages. Property coverage would pertain to car repair costs and bodily coverage would go toward medical expenses. Policyholders should always know the parameters of their policy because they are not always bundled together, and may be required separately.
These provisions have a tendency to be challenging to understand and difficult to enforce. In addition, your insurer may attempt to force your case into a pre-packaged template or otherwise pay you less than your injuries warrant. Underinsured and uninsured claims have a tendency to become contentious, as your insurer essentially turns on you and fights against you. That is why you should always enlist the help of an experienced underinsured and uninsured motorist attorney to handle your case.
Washington Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Provisions
Each state is slightly different in terms of auto insurance requirements. This includes underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage, as some states require their drivers to carry one or both of these provisions. In Washington state, drivers are not required by law to carry either uninsured or underinsured coverage. That fact alone should compel drivers to add those coverages, as you never want to take a chance on the road, especially if they are not required legally.
Insurers doing business in Washington state are legally required to offer prospective policyholders uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage; drivers are not obligated to accept this coverage, and may waive or refuse it if they please, however this decision must be presented to the insurer in writing to be considered valid. If the insurer says that you denied coverage but is unable to produce a signed copy of this denial, the company is then expected to extend underinsured/uninsured coverage to you at the time of a crash, up to the same amount as the casualty liability coverage.
In addition, these provisions are not always specific to vehicles, so you may get coverage as a passenger in another vehicle, or while in a cab or bus. They may also be used for accidents that were caused by “phantom” vehicles, or vehicles that caused you to crash but didn’t actually hit you– for instance, if they cut you off and forced you to swerve off the road. Due to the difficulty in finding the at-fault parties, these accidents should always be reported within 72 hours.
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