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What Kind of Auto Insurance Should I Have

Matthew D. Dubin: Do you know what auto insurance coverage you have? When's the last time you checked your auto policy, and why does it matter? I'm Seattle personal injury attorney Matt Dubin. Join me now as I discuss the most important elements of your auto insurance coverage.

The first kind of coverage I'd like to address is liability.

Liability is the only auto insurance coverage required by Washington law, yet nearly 20 percent of Washington drivers don't have liability coverage, and that puts us all at risk. Liability insurance doesn't protect you if you're injured in an accident. Instead, it covers someone who is injured by you in an accident. Now it's important to have liability insurance both because it's required by law and because it will protect your assets if you do injure someone else in an accident, but if you're hurt as a result of someone else's negligence your liability coverage won't protect you at all. And that leads me to the next coverage that I'd like to discuss, which is personal injury protection or PIP coverage.

PIP coverage pays for all accident-related reasonable and necessary medical bills, regardless of who caused the accident. Your PIP coverage may also pay for certain essential services around the house such as housecleaning or yard work or other services that you're not able to perform for yourself because of your injuries. It will also pay for some of the lost income that you suffer from being unable to work as a result of your injuries. Now in Washington, the most common amounts of PIP coverage available are $10,000 or $35,000. I strongly recommend that everyone carry the $35,000 level of PIP coverage. It only costs a few dollars a month more than the $10,000, but if you're seriously injured in an accident you'll be glad to have that extra coverage. Some people might say why do I need PIP coverage? I already have health insurance. But there are significant differences between PIP and health insurance. With health insurance you are often required to see in-network providers or get a referral to see an expert. Also with health insurance there are copays and deductibles that you need to pay out of pocket before you get the coverage. With PIP, you can see whoever you want and as long as the treatment is reasonable and medically necessary and related to the accident, they have to cover that up to the amount of your limits. Again, I strongly recommend everyone have the maximum amount of PIP coverage available.

Finally I'd like to discuss uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, often referred to as U, UM or UIM on your policy.

Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage will protect you if you're injured by someone who has no insurance or who has very low limits of insurance. For example, if you're rear-ended by a person who has no insurance and you suffer injuries as a result of that collision, your uninsured motorist coverage will act as if it was the liability coverage for the person who hit you, providing a layer of insurance to pay not only for your medical bills but also for your pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. Similarly, underinsured motorist coverage will protect you if the person doesn't have adequate insurance. For example, if the person who hit you has $25,000 of insurance but you require back surgery as a result of the collision, that $25,000 isn't gonna cover your damages, and your underinsured motorist coverage provides a layer of insurance above and beyond the liability coverage for the person who hit you. Again, making it more likely that you'll be able to get a full recovery for your injuries.

The three most important coverages that you need to make sure you have and with adequate coverage are liability, PIP, and uninsured or underinsured motorist.

So I ask again, do you know what your insurance coverage is, and when's the last time you checked your auto insurance? Why don't you pull out your declaration page and confirm your auto coverage right now, and if you don't have the limits you need, call up your insurance company and make sure you're protected. You'll be glad you did if you ever get in an accident.