Legally, before you can drive your car anywhere in Washington State, you must purchase auto insurance. Most people know this, but many do not know the types or the amount of minimum car insurance coverage you must have.
Under Washington law [RCW § 46.29.090, RCW § 46.29.550], you must either have a policy with bodily injury liability and property damage insurance or carry a liability bond of at least $60,000.
Bodily Injury Insurance
Bodily injury insurance is “third-party benefit” insurance, which means that it covers the injuries that others, not you, sustain if an investigation finds that you are at fault for an accident. Specifically, bodily injury insurance covers medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of mobility, etc.
Imagine you are driving down the road when you hear your phone go off; reaching for your phone, you take your eyes off the road, and rear end the car in front of you. The other driver complains of back pain and heads to the hospital in an ambulance.
In this example, bodily insurance would cover the other driver’s ambulance bills and whatever medical treatment he needed as a result of the accident. It can also cover the value of the pain and suffering that the other driver experiences, which can be a large sum of money.
Washington State requires that you maintain at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident on your bodily injury insurance policy. This means that if one person is injured, the insurance company must pay up to $25,000 for that person’s injuries. If multiple people are injured, the insurance company will pay up to $50,000 for the entire accident.
Using the example above, if the other driver incurred $30,000 in damages, the insurance company must pay up to the limit of your policy. If you only purchased the minimum insurance, you could be on the hook for $5,000.
If you cause an accident and injure multiple people in one car, your insurer will pay up to the limits of your policy and leave you to foot the rest of the bill.
Property Damage Insurance
Property damage coverage is exactly what it sounds like. Like bodily injury insurance, property damage insurance covers third parties in an accident you cause. Using the above example, you would be responsible for the damage to the other driver’s vehicle.
The law requires that you maintain at least $10,000 dollars of personal property coverage. While this seems like a lot of money, remember that this amount is for the entire accident and is not per vehicle or per person. So, if there are several cars involved in the accident, $10,000 is likely not going to be enough to cover all the property damage.
While you may be stuck having to foot the bill for the victims’ property damage, if you do not have other, optional insurance policies, you might end up paying for the damage to your car as well.
For more information on how Washington State laws affect accident and injury claims, check out our blog and library.