Auto Insurance Requirements in Washington

Auto Insurance Requirements in Washington

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In the state of Washington, every driver must fulfill their "financial responsibility," which generally means you purchase a car insurance policy with liability coverage. Personal injury protection is encouraged, though you can reject it in writing. There are also several alternatives you can choose from to meet your financial responsibility requirements.

You'll also need to carry proof of financial responsibility — such as a paper ID card or certificate of alternative coverage — anytime you drive. If you ever get pulled over on the road in the Evergreen State, you'll need to show that proof.

Washington required car insurance coverage

Washington required min. limits
Bodily injury (BI)$25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident
Property damage (PD)$10,000 per accident

Washington car insurance minimum requirements

A Washington liability insurance policy will at least include bodily injury and property damage coverage. According to state law, your liability insurance coverage must meet or exceed these limits:

Bodily injury (BI): If you cause an accident, your insurance company will cover the other party's medical bills and property damage, up to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, unless you raise your limits. This coverage also pays your legal bills if the other party decides to sue. Depending on the insurer, you may raise your liability limits to 300/500.

Property damage (PD): Your insurance company will pay up to $10,000 per accident if you damage property with your car, such as a telephone pole or street lamp. In Washington, you may raise this limit to $100,000.

Optional car insurance coverage in Washington

While you're required to buy a policy with at least the minimum limits, you may add optional coverage that protects you against other incidents. Although your premium will increase, they may come in handy following an accident.

Personal injury protection (PIP): This coverage pays for your own medical expenses, lost compensation and funeral costs following an accident, whether or not you are at fault for the crash. If you die in the accident, then your beneficiary receives the benefits.

The state of Washington requires all insurers to automatically include PIP coverage on every insurance policy, but you can reject it in writing. If you decide to keep it, there are two limits you can choose from: $10,000 or $35,000. This represents the maximum coverage you can receive per accident.

Collision and comprehensive: Collision coverage pays for your own car's repair bills following an accident, while comprehensive coverage pays for noncollision incidents, such as vandalism or theft. Your reimbursement is limited to the total market value of your car, and you'll need to pay a deductible before coverage kicks in. Available in increments of $50–$2,000, the deductible you choose will affect your premium cost.

Uninsured/underinsured motorists (UM/UIM): This coverage kicks in if you're hit by an uninsured driver or someone who doesn't have enough insurance to cover your bills following an accident. As of 2012, more than 16% of Washington motorists are driving on the road uninsured. Your UM/UIM limits may never be higher than your BI and/or PD limits.

Alternative proof of financial responsibility

The Washington financial responsibility law prohibits drivers from operating without some form of liability insurance in the state. Although a liability insurance policy is the easiest way to meet this law, the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) also allows three other forms of liability coverage. By fulfilling any of the three alternatives, the DOL will issue you a certificate as your proof of financial responsibility:

Cash/security deposit: You will receive a certificate number when you deposit $60,000 with the DOL, either in cash or securities such as government bonds or notes. To apply for a certificate of deposit, you must first submit a Financial Responsibility Application and Affidavit form to check for qualification. After receiving a notice of qualification and submitting an Assignment of Monies or Securities for Financial Responsibility form and your financial statement within 30 days, the DOL will issue you the certificate. Any claims or judgments against you will be drawn down from the deposit.

Self insurance: When you have 26 or more cars registered under your name, all of which you either own or lease, you may apply to the DOL for a certificate of self-insurance. The DOL will assign you a certificate number once you have proved that you can — and will continue to — pay for injuries and damages you cause in an accident as an insurance company would under a minimum liability policy. Contact the DOL office for an application and list of documents you need to present to the department.

Liability bond: When you get a licensed Washington surety company to issue you a liability bond in the amount of $60,000, you may carry documents proving the existence of this bond as your financial responsibility. This is the only alternative that you can carry without DOL's prior approval — you will not receive a certificate. If the bond is considered invalid, you will be treated as uninsured. A valid proof of liability bond will show the name of the surety company as well as the bond number.

Mark is a Senior Research Analyst for ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry, primarily auto insurance. He previously worked in financial risk management at State Street Corporation.

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