Washington State has one of the most diverse and spectacular landscapes throughout the entire United States. Glaciers, beaches, rainforests, and snow-capped mountains are all just a short drive from the downtown bustle and activity of urban Seattle. When it comes to natural getaways and city excitement, there’s no denying that the Evergreen State is the place to be.
One thing Washington does have in common with the rest of the country is the number of car wrecks we see each year. Similar to Pennsylvania, the rate of car accidents in Washington State is just short of the national average. Considering our reputation of endless rain and gloomy weather, it’s no surprise Washington sees so many accidents on its roads and highways. If you drive in Washington, you will want to ensure you at least have the minimum amount of car insurance according to state law.
PA Vs. WA: Minimum Insurance Requirements
When compared with Pennsylvania, Washington requires their drivers to have far more insurance coverage. For example, Pennsylvania law expects their drivers to have a minimum of $15,000 bodily injury liability per person, $30,000 per accident, and $5,000 in property damage liability. Washington State law, however, requires substantially more coverage: $25,000 in bodily injury liability, $50,000 per accident, and $10,000 for property damage, double what Pennsylvania requires.
Washington State is one of the most consumer-friendly places for insurance in the United States. Even our governor, Jay Inslee, once worked as a personal injury lawyer before jumping into politics. Drivers in Washington enjoy protections few other states provide.
Personal Injury Protection
According to Washington State law, insurance providers are required to add Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage to insurance policies unless they obtain a written authorization explicitly rejecting such coverage. Though PIP is not required in Washington State, insurance companies do have to offer it to the drivers they insure.
PIP coverage in Washington State provides the following minimum amount of benefits to drivers who obtain such coverage:
- A maximum of $10,000 in medical expenses per individual
- Up to $200/week for lost wages
- A maximum of $5,000 for loss of services
- Up to $2,000 in funeral expenses
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In contrast to Pennsylvania, Washington State has a huge problem with uninsured motorists. Pennsylvania has one of the lowest number of uninsured motorists in the country, at just under 8% of all drivers. Washington State, however, has a full 17% of drivers on the road who are uninsured, far and above the rate of not only Pennsylvania but the entire country.
Due to how many uninsured drivers there are in Washington State, the law requires insurance companies to provide Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage automatically. Similar to Washington State, UM coverage is offered automatically and consumers must opt out in writing if they choose not to include it on their policy.
Tort laws are far more forgiving in Washington state for the plaintiff than they are in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has a hybrid contributory negligence system. Pennsylvania drivers must choose between full or limited tort when they buy insurance. Choosing a limited tort policy may net you a 15% discount on your insurance, but it could leave you in the lurch when you are hurt in an accident. If you are unlucky enough to be in a car accident you must prove you are less than 50% to blame for the accident if you hope to receive compensation for your injuries and losses. More than 50% blame will likely leave you without any sort of legal recourse and responsible for both your medical bills and any out-of-pocket expenses.
Washington state, on the other hand, has a comparative negligence system. This type of system awards settlements based upon the percentage of blame/fault afforded to each party involved. For example, if you are found to have been 10% responsible for your car accident then your claim value will be reduced 10% based upon your share of the liability.
Statute of Limitations
At just 2 years, Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations (SOL) is somewhat short when compared to other states. Washington’s isn’t much better though. Our statute of limitations only gives accident victims 3 years to file a claim. The shortest The states with the shortest statute of limitations is just a single year and is in the following states:
The longest statute of limitations of any state is 10 full years and belongs to Oregon. The next longest SOL after Oregon is 6 years and is in the following states: Maine, Minnesota, and North Dakota.
Washington takes uninsured drivers seriously, sticking anyone caught driving without insurance with a stiff fine. If a traffic officer catches you driving without insurance in Washington you will likely receive a ticket of at least $450. And you may even lose your license in the process.
Pennsylvania is no less strict, fining drivers a minimum of $300 if they’re caught driving while uninsured. Your license and registration are then suspended for 3 months and you will likely be charged another $300 fine for driving while uninsured. Driving without insurance coverage is a bad idea regardless of what state you live. In the long run, the cons far outweigh the pennies you save each month by being uninsured. Do the right thing and call an insurance agent today.
The Advocates Law at Driggs, Bills and Day is one of Seattle’s premier law firms and has been helping clients all throughout Washington State recover from their personal injuries since 2012. Anthony Johnson is a Content Manager with the firm.