Because you must be covered by auto insurance in order to legally drive in Washington, the Evergreen state launched the Washington Automobile Insurance Plan (WAIP) in 1948. It was created to provide automobile insurance to people who seek coverage and have a hard time finding it through the voluntary market, including high risk drivers.
Washington’s auto insurance markets has three segments: (1) the Preferred market with low premiums for very good drivers, (2) the Standard market for the average driver with a reasonably good driving record, and (3) the Non-standard market, which includes young drivers, those with multiple tickets or accidents, and drivers with histories of drunk or reckless driving.
If you fit into the third category, the Non-standard market, you may have difficulty purchasing insurance. While there are many auto insurance companies in Washington State, less than a dozen of them write non-standard policies. And that’s where WAIP comes in.
What is the Washington Automobile Insurance Plan – (WAIP)?
The WAIP is designed to make sure that high-risk drivers can find insurance, and that their costs are shared among the companies that write automobile insurance in the state of Washington. In addition to making sure that high risk drivers are covered, the plan also establishes the procedure for distributing those drivers fairly to insurance companies. When a high risk application comes in from an insurance agent, the WAIP designates which company the driver is assigned to. The proportion of high risk drivers a company must take matches its auto insurance market share in the state.
As with all state plans that cover a residual market, WAIP is considered a last resort. Your insurance agent will contact WAIP on your behalf, and submit an application for you with all the necessary information. WAIP will notify both you and the assigned insurer of your new policy.
To qualify for coverage through WAIP, you must be a Washington state resident and have a valid Washington driver’s license. You must also have a clean record of paying premiums for auto insurance within the previous 2 years. Additionally, you also need to confirm that you’ve tried without success to get auto insurance in the voluntary market within the 60 days prior to your application to the WAIP.
Usually, if there’s a problem with any of the above, you can re-apply to WAIP as soon as the problem is resolved. However, if your application is deemed “fraudulent” – as in you have misrepresented facts on your application, you may have to wait 12 months to re-apply through WAIP. During that time, you won't be able to legally drive, unless you can find coverage somewhere.
The types of coverages through the WAIP are the same as in the voluntary market – they just tend to cost more. Required coverages include bodily injury and property damage. Optional coverages include collision, comprehensive and uninsured motorist. Washington State also requires that all auto insurance companies offer Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP covers medical expenses, loss of wages, and funeral expenses. You can reject this coverage in writing if you wish, but depending on your financial situation and assets, you may want to opt for this.
A policy assigned through the WAIP usually lasts for 3 years. You should use that time to build a better driving record. If your driving record does improve, you can return to the voluntary market at any time. At the end of very year, you’ll have the option of renewing your policy the WAIP. We recommend using that opportunity to search for cheaper insurance elsewhere. Your assigned insurer through WAIP should refund your premium on a pro-rated basis if you are able to find insurance outside of the WAIP. If you can’t find an insurer after 3 years, you can return to the “pool” and be assigned a new insurance company through WAIP.
Coverages for high risk drivers in the WAIP break down as shown in the table.
|State Minimum Requirements||WAIP Maximum Limits|
|Bodily Injury (BI)||$25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident||$100,000/$300,000|
|Property Damage (PD)||$10,000||$50,000|
You must pay for the minimum coverages, but you can choose to pay a higher premium for additional coverages.
Table 2 shows you the optional coverages that are available through WAIP.
|Optional Coverages||State Standards||Maximum Limits Available through WAIP|
|PIP||$10,000||$10,000 medical/$2,000 funeral/$10,000 income loss. up to a total limit of $35,000|
|Collision||Actual cash value||Actual cash value up to $35,000|
|Comprehensive||Actual cash value||Actual cash value up to $35,000|
|Uninsured Motorist Coverage||varies by insurer||Up to the same limits as your bodily injury or property damage coverage|
Note that you can’t purchase physical damage coverage on a car that is an antique or has an Actual Cash Value greater than $35,000.
WAIP Premiums and Payments
While the cost of auto insurance coverage through WAIP is generally higher than in the voluntary market, insurers are capable of adjusting premiums and coverages to suit your needs and budget.
The average annual cost of insurance in Washington was $1,499 for the voluntary market in 2014, which is on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of auto insurance across the 50 states. This is why Washington’s Bureau of Insurance encourages you to check the voluntary market for coverage as your driving improves. In the voluntary market, you’d have access to lower rates.
Auto insurance companies have their own underwriting rules when it comes to assessing you as a risk. Like most states, Washington insurers will consider everything from your age to the make and model of the car your drive. Your driving record, of course, matters too. It pays to know the factors that insurers look at when setting your premium.
You have a couple of options for paying your auto insurance premiums. One is to pay 40% of the premium up front and the full balance within 30 days of the start of your policy. The other option is an installment payment plan through which you would still pay 40% of the annual premium as an up-front deposit. The remainder would be paid in 5 equal monthly installments. The installment plan comes with a small ($4) monthly surcharge.
Be sure to pay your premium on time. Late payments can cause your insurance to be cancelled, and there’s a fine (and a hassle!) to get it renewed.
How to Get Insurance through the WAIP
The WAIP itself doesn’t take consumer inquiries. But if you contact one of these insurers - http://www.insurance.wa.gov/your-insurance/auto-insurance/cant-find-auto-coverage/ - they can tell you if they’ll insure you themselves, or if you are a candidate for assignment through the WAIP.
For more information about the WAIP, call the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner at 1-800-562-6900 or check the Washington Automobile Insurance Plan website for more information.