Most people purchase auto insurance without ever giving much thought to the kinds of coverage that they are actually buying. Anyone who watches television, surfs the internet, or listens to the radio will be exposed to advertisements for auto insurance. If the content of these adds describes what is most important to consumers, then low cost and feeling protected are at the top of the list. Everyone has heard “Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent.” or “Like a good neighbor…”. While these catch phrases are memorable, auto insurance advertisements never provide consumers any detailed information on low-cost insurance that provides real protection. If they did, they would be selling everyone Personal Injury Protection coverage.
One of the most important and least understood insurance products you can buy in Washington is Personal Injury Protection or PIP insurance. In Washington, PIP provides–at minimum the following coverage:
- $10,000.00 for reasonable and necessary medical expenses for each person injured in an auto accident for injuries incurred within three years of the accident
- $2,000 for funeral expenses
- $200 per week for income loss for one year (after the injured individual is disabled for 14 consecutive days)
- $200 for loss of service (payments for non-family members to do work the injured person cannot do)
Keep in mind that this is the minimum coverage available. Higher PIP limits can be purchased. In addition, PIP is relatively cheap insurance coverage.
Some people may rationalize not buying PIP because they already have health insurance. That would be a mistake. Virtually all health insurance plans have a deductible, co-payment, or both. Further, most health insurance plans require you to get a referral before seeing a specialist, like an orthopedist, physiatrist, or neurologist. PIP will not require payment of a deductible or co-pay, and you can see any doctor you choose.
People who rely on their health insurance may have their treatment delayed while their health insurer “authorizes” a referral. In addition, they will be out of pocket whatever their deductible and co-payments cost until their claim against the negligent party resolves. This is because the person responsible for causing the collision will not pay you anything until you settle your case. Worse, if an uninsured driver causes the collision, then you may never be reimbursed your out of pocket health insurance payments.
Since PIP is no fault coverage it does not matter who caused the collision. PIP insurance will pay your collision related medical bills. In addition, you will not be out of pocket anything for medical expenses—including health insurance deductibles or co-pays—while your claim against the responsible driver is pending.
In addition to providing coverage while driving your vehicle, PIP insurance also provides coverage while you are a passenger in someone else’s vehicle. PIP even provides coverage if you are struck by a car while walking or riding a bike. In fact, anyone that rides a bike on a busy city street should purchase PIP coverage.
There are some things that PIP does not cover. PIP does not apply to medical treatments your insurance company decides are not as follows:
• 1) reasonable
• 2) necessary
• 3) related to the accident
• 4) not incurred within three years of the accident
In addition, PIP does not cover injuries intentionally caused by the injured person, injuries sustained during organized racing, or injuries sustained while the insured person is committing a felony.
Considering the benefits provided by PIP, we recommend that our clients purchase PIP with at least the minimum coverage limits of $10,000. If finances allow, we encourage our clients to purchase additional PIP coverage. The cost of PIP is minimal when compared to the benefit and peace of mind it provides.
If you have a question about your car accident case call our office at 206-527-2000.