Person contacting his insurance immediately after a vehicle collision

When a person is injured by a negligent driver it’s important to understand how auto insurance in Washington state handles the accident. In the United States each state adheres to either a “no-fault” or “tort” (at-fault) system. Washington adheres to the “tort” system. In this article we will cover these topics so that you can feel more confident during the auto insurance claim process.

Do NOT do this after you have been in an auto accident.

Following an accident, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will send the injured party forms to start the claims process. These forms have important legal consequences, like waiving your medical privacy, and should not be signed without first consulting an auto insurance lawyer.

It’s important to know that if you or a loved one has been in an auto accident you do not have to sign a blanket waiver of your medical privacy to get compensated for your injuries.

Navigating insurance claims can be tricky and confusing and are designed this way to minimize the payout of the at-fault insurance agency. Do not sign anything before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Washington State Insurance Laws

What is a No-Fault and Tort/Fault State System?

No-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection (PIP), stipulates that despite who is at fault in a car accident, each driver’s insurance typically covers their own medical expenses and other financial losses, up to a specified limit. In states with no-fault laws, each driver is required to submit an injury claim to their insurance company. This provision is designed to simplify the claims procedure, lower court expenses, and minimize the need for litigation.

How Tort/Fault Insurance Functions in Washington Following an Accident?

Insurance companies will designate an adjuster to determine fault after an accident, but to recoup losses, victims must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If it takes a long time to determine fault, drivers can utilize their own insurance coverage to cover their expenses.

What is the Timeframe for Insurance Claim Acceptance or Denial Notifications?

The settlement standards applicable to all insurers in Washington State are stringent and designed to protect the rights of claimants. Upon receipt of fully completed proofs of loss, insurers must notify first-party claimants within fifteen working days whether the claim has been accepted or denied, providing written reasons for any denial. If more time is needed for investigation, insurers must inform claimants promptly and provide updates every thirty days thereafter. Insurers cannot deny claims based solely on policy provisions without explicit reference, nor can they fail to settle claims or negotiate directly with claimants without notifying them of impending time limits. Additionally, insurers must ensure the accuracy of evaluations determining actual cash value to uphold fair settlement practices.

Should You Hire A Car Insurance Attorney After An Accident?

Personal injury lawsuits are more prevalent in tort/fault states. Disputes concerning fault, compensation, and policy limits may culminate in legal action to resolve the issues, warranting the expertise of an attorney.

Navigating auto insurance laws and the intricacies of Washington’s at-fault system can be intricate. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, it’s important to know your rights so you can receive the compensation you deserve.

Common Reasons to Hire A Car Insurance Attorney

  1. Helps eliminate the stress of having to navigate uncertainty with the at-fault insurance agency
  2. You are getting pressure from the insurance agency to ‘settle’ the claim before understanding certain rights that you are guaranteed after an auto accident
  3. You have any injuries sustained after the auto accident. You have a limited time to file injury claims in Washington State, and an experienced car insurance lawyer will be able to walk you through how to get a settlement to cover your medical expenses

Reasons You Might Not Need to Hire A Car Insurance Attorney

  1. You have minor damage to your car and are not feeling injured a few days after the accident and are not moving forward with filing a claim
  2. You are able to navigate the Washington State Government website to better understand your rights after an accident
  3. You have been through this process enough times that you are slowly on your way to becoming a car insurance attorney yourself

Understanding Your obligations to Your Insurer

What is Subrogation?

Subrogation is when your insurer seeks reimbursement from the at-fault party for costs they covered. For instance, if your insurer pays for your medical treatment after an accident, they can legally recover those costs from the responsible party or their insurer.

If you paid a deductible, it’s included in the reimbursement demand. If you’re partially at fault, you’ll only recover a percentage of your deductible. Your insurer expects your cooperation during this process, including notifying them if you plan to settle with the at-fault party to protect their right to subrogation.

You can read more about Subrogation in Washington State here.

Did You Know? Filing a Collision Report is Mandatory in Washington State for Damages Exceeding $1,000

Understanding when to file an accident report in Washington State is crucial. Even for minor incidents, state law requires submitting a Motor Vehicle Collision Report if damages exceed $1,000 for any unit involved or if there are injuries to any person. While it’s common to overlook reporting minor accidents, complying with Washington State regulations is vital to ensure legal adherence and protect your rights in the aftermath of an accident.

The Law Offices of Michael Clark in Tacoma Are Here to Help

Even if you were partially at fault in the accident, Washington uses a system called pure comparative negligence, which enables drivers to collect damages based on their degree of fault. For instance, if a driver is 99% at fault, they can still receive 1% compensation from the other driver.

Want to learn more? Explore our Car accident fact sheet.

With 26 years of experience in handling car accident cases in Tacoma, our legal experts are well-versed in Washington State’s complex laws. Whether you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, a drunk driver, or due to any other circumstances, our Tacoma car accident lawyers are here to provide you with personalized legal counsel.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident, don’t hesitate, seek immediate legal assistance from the Law Offices of Michael Clark to safeguard your rights following an accident.

Schedule a free consultation.