How Does Personal Injury Protection Work in Washington?

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Auto insurers in Washington State must offer at least $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to drivers who apply for coverage. However, PIP insurance isn't required in Washington, and you can reject it simply by submitting a denial of coverage. Waiving PIP insurance lowers your premiums, but it also means you won't have coverage for your own injuries if you're involved in an accident, unless you purchase medical payments (MedPay) coverage.

How does PIP coverage work in Washington?

Personal injury protection insurance must be offered by auto insurers to all policyholders in Washington with the following minimum coverages:

  • $10,000 for medical expenses: This amount is available for every person injured in a car accident and covers all related medical expenses incurred within three years of the accident.
  • $2,000 for funeral and burial services: If a person is killed in an auto accident, this coverage will help with burial costs.
  • $200 per week, up to $10,000 total, for lost income: In order to qualify for income replacement coverage, you'll need to have missed at least 14 consecutive days of work due to your injuries from the accident. This benefit extends for up to one year.
  • $200 per week, up to $5,000 total, for service replacement: This coverage pays for assistance if you're unable to perform certain duties, such as household upkeep or child care, due to your injuries.

Policy limits represent the maximum amount payable for an expense. If your medical expenses only come to $5,000, that is the amount the insurer would pay out. You'll only receive the amount that is directly tied to your medical costs, unless you pursue a settlement from the at-fault driver's insurer.

Even if your costs exceed the PIP insurance limit, your insurer will not pay more than the limit. Therefore, it's important to have PIP limits that are sufficient to cover any costs you might incur and wouldn't be able to pay for out of pocket.

Tort threshold in Washington

Unlike some states that offer PIP insurance, Washington doesn't limit your ability to sue the person at fault for an accident. Whether your injuries and expenses are minor or significant, you can pursue a settlement from the other driver's insurer.

How and when to file a PIP claim in Washington

Personal injury protection insurance in Washington only covers expenses incurred within three years of the accident in which you were injured, so it's important to file a claim as soon as possible. Keep detailed records of every expense you intend to include in your PIP benefits claim. You'll need to demonstrate that the expenses are:

  • Related to your injuries from the accident: If an insurer can link an expense to a previous injury or illness, they're likely to reject your claim.
  • Reasonable and necessary: Try to obtain a note from your doctor explaining each procedure and the reasoning for it. Similarly, you'll want a doctor's note if you intend to collect benefits for lost income or assistance services. It should specify that you were unable to perform the tasks in question and for how long

If you are in a vehicle at the time of the accident, you'd file a claim with the company covering that car. If you are hit as a pedestrian or bicyclist, you would file a claim with the insurer of the car involved in the incident. However, if that vehicle's insurance policy doesn't include PIP coverage, you would instead file a claim under your own policy's PIP coverage.

How much does PIP insurance cost in Washington?

The cost of personal injury protection insurance in Washington varies, depending on the coverage limit, the insurer you choose and your driving history. As you can see below, adding the minimum PIP coverage available in Washington can increase the total cost of a policy by 43%, assuming you only carry the minimum required liability insurance. However, increasing your limit by $15,000 can cost as little as an additional $13 per month.

PIP coverage
Monthly PIP cost
Total monthly auto insurance premium

MedPay vs. personal injury protection

Medical payments coverage, or MedPay, is an alternative to PIP insurance that is offered by some insurers in Washington. MedPay is similar to personal injury protection in that it offers first-party coverage for medical expenses if you're injured in an accident. However, it doesn't provide coverage for any of the additional expenses that PIP would cover.

Say you were seriously injured in a vehicular collision and had $5,000 of hospital expenses related to your treatment. Both MedPay and PIP insurance would cover the entire cost of your medical expenses, up to the policy limit. However, if you also missed work for three weeks and weren't paid for the time, MedPay would not cover your lost income, while PIP would, up to the limit.

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