“I don’t want my insurance rates to go up!”
Sometimes when people call us after a car accident, they don’t want to use the car insurance that they’ve paid for because they are afraid their insurance rates will go up. There are two possible answers to this question:
Yes, your insurance rates may go up if you are at fault in a car accident. Or if you have accumulated speeding tickets, or traffic tickets, such as “Failure to yield.” Sometimes, your car insurance rates will go up because the company is raising rates on every driver in their company. Other reasons for your rates going up can be because companies will sometimes give you a low rate initially to get your business, then raise your rates after a few years. That’s a marketing ploy.
No: your rates won’t go up if you are in an accident that is someone else’s fault. There are two main kinds of car insurance that you can use to protect yourself before you’re in an accident: Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist (UIM). You need to buy PIP and UIM coverage before you’re in an accident.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP): PIP is for paying medical bills related to a motor vehicle accident. If you have been hurt at a store or other premises, there may be a similar coverage available, called Medpay. Thankfully, PIP and Medpay are available no matter whether the accident is your fault or not. PIP is a separate coverage that you pay for; in Oregon it is required. In Washington, you have PIP unless you sign off when you get your auto insurance that you are choosing not to buy PIP. It’s not a coverage to scrimp on because it’s usually cheap and it’s a great way to take care of medical bills caused by an accident.
A vehicle’s PIP can also be utilized by a pedestrian or bicyclist who is struck by a car. Again, this is no-fault coverage, so it does not matter who is at fault.
UIM ( Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist ) coverage helps in two situations:
- The other driver had no liability insurance.The sad fact is that in the state of Washington, 28% of drivers have no car insurance at all. So, it’s important to pay a little money to protect yourself against that horde of uninsured drivers by buying Uninsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. For example: someone runs a stop sign and injures you but they have no car insurance. If you have UIM coverage on your policy, the good news is that you have already protected yourself against those drivers who have no insurance. If you don’t have UIM coverage on your own auto insurance, then you are quite possibly out of luck. That is one of the saddest calls that I get. I’ll often check and confirm whether the other driver truly has no insurance. Another potential source for U.I.M. coverage that we will check on is whether you are living with a blood relative who does have U.I.M.. Sometimes U.I.M. can be accessed this way.
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage. The other situation where UIM coverage helps you is when the at-fault driver has insurance, but the value of your claim for injuries exceeds the insurance coverage that the other driver has. If the other driver has the Washington state minimum coverage of $25,000.00, the other driver’s insurance will only pay up to the value of the coverage that the other driver bought, no matter how serious your injuries are. Even if you have surgery and/or are left with a lifelong disability, their insurance will not compensate you for the value of your injuries beyond the coverage that the at-fault driver paid for. However, if you have Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage, you are protecting yourself even if the other driver has minimum coverage and your injuries are more serious.
A bicyclist or pedestrian can use Uninsured/Underinsured coverage if struck by an at-fault vehicle. Another big plus for carrying UIM coverage on your vehicle.
So, start the new year right by reviewing your auto insurance coverage, and make sure that you protect yourself first! Happy New Year! I’ll leave you with the above cartoon by “Shoe”, one of my favorites.