How Does Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Car Insurance Work in Washington?

How Does Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Car Insurance Work in Washington?

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All auto insurance companies in Washington state are required to offer at least $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to each driver that applies for coverage. However, PIP insurance isn’t required to drive in Washington and, in order to reject it, you simply need to submit a denial of coverage to the state. Waiving PIP insurance reduces your auto insurance rates, but it also means you won’t have coverage for your own injuries if you’re involved in an accident, unless you purchase 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, at minimum, the following coverage limits:

  • $10,000 of coverage for medical expenses. This amount is available for every person injured in a car accident and will cover all medical expenses incurred within three years of the accident.
  • $2,000 of coverage for funeral and burial services, if a person is killed in an auto accident.
  • $200 per week, up to $10,000 total, of coverage for lost income. In order to qualify for income replacement coverage, you need to have missed at least 14 consecutive days of work due to your injuries from the accident. This benefit will only extend for up to one year.
  • $200 per week, up to $5,000 total, of coverage for service replacement. This coverage is intended to pay for assistance if you’re unable to perform certain duties, such as household upkeep or child care, due to your injuries and need to hire a nonfamily member as replacement.

Keep in mind that policy limits represent the maximum amount payable for an expense, so if, for example, your medical expenses only come to $5,000, that is the amount the insurer would pay out. You wouldn’t receive any additional funds on top of those directly tied to costs, unless you pursued a settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurer. On the other hand, if your costs exceed your PIP insurance limits, your insurer would not provide additional coverage. 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 at-fault party involved in an accident for damages. Whether your injuries and expenses were 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. You should also keep detailed records for every expense that you intend to receive PIP benefits for. 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, it’s likely to reject your claim.
  • Are reasonable and necessary: Try to obtain a note from your doctor explaining each procedure and the reasoning for it. Similarly, you’ll want to obtain a note from your doctor if you intend to collect benefits for lost income or assistance services. This letter should confirm that you were unable to perform the tasks in question and should specify the period of time during which you were not able to perform normal activities.

If you were inside a vehicle at the time of the accident, you would file a claim with the insurance company covering the car you were in. If you were a pedestrian or bicyclist involved in an accident, you would also file a claim with the insurer of the car involved in the incident. However, if that vehicle’s insurance policy didn’t include PIP insurance, you would instead file a claim under your own auto insurance policy’s PIP coverage.

How Much Does PIP Insurance Cost in Washington?

The cost of personal injury protection insurance in Washington varies depending upon your policy’s coverage limits, which 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 PIP limits by $15,000 can cost as little as an additional $13 per month.

PIP CoverageMonthly PIP CostTotal Monthly Auto Insurance Premium

MedPay vs. Personal Injury Protection

Medical payments coverage, also called MedPay, is an alternative to PIP insurance that some insurers in Washington offer. 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 additional expenses that are covered by PIP benefits. 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’s limits. 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.

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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