You are in an auto accident in Washington State, and your immediate reaction is the desire to assign fault to the other driver. In most states, fault matters and plays a significant role in compensation. In what's known as no-fault states, placing blame isn't always so critical to obtaining compensation. But there are things to be aware of if you do live in a no-fault state that can sometimes make a difference in your auto accident case and in the compensation you receive.
At Law Offices of Paul L. Schneiderman, our car accident lawyer in Washington State will review your case and guide you through the process of filing a claim or a lawsuit. Though no-fault insurance is supposed to – in theory – make life simpler for victims of auto accidents, that's not always the case. Contact us at 206-464-1952 to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.
What Constitutes a No-Fault Car Accident in Washington State?
There are two different types of insurance systems when it comes to injury claims arising from a car accident: fault and no-fault.
Under the no-fault system, the injured person's insurance is financially responsible for their injuries or losses, regardless of which party is responsible for the accident.
In this respect, the no-fault system is more straightforward than the at-fault system. There's no requirement for the injured party to prove the other party was at fault. However, there are limitations to what types of losses are covered by no-fault insurance and the extent of coverage.
What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) in Washington State?
Personal injury protection (PIP) is another way many states refer to or name no-fault car insurance. If you live in a no-fault state, you are usually required to have PIP. In the event you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, your PIP policy will cover certain losses.
While the specific coverage of PIP varies between states, there are common threads of economic damages PIP does cover.
What PIP Most Likely Covers
- Medical bills for injuries caused by the accident
- Lost income, if you were unable to work as a result of the accident
- Replacement services, if you were unable to do certain activities as a result of the accident (e.g., driving)
- Funeral costs in the case of death
What PIP Most Likely Does Not Cover
PIP will not cover medical expenses that exceed the limits of your coverage. So, if your PIP insurance covers $50,000 but the total sum of your medical expenses reaches $75,000, you are responsible for the remaining $25,000.
Also, unlike a personal injury claim in court, most PIP policies do not include coverage for pain and suffering or emotional distress and similar non-economic damages.
Can You File a Lawsuit for a PIP Violation in a No-Fault State?
There may be times when an injured party wants to file a personal injury lawsuit and/or include a claim for a PIP violation against the insurance company for nonpayment and perhaps other grounds. Washington State has the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA), where an insured has broad remedies that are potentially available if an insurance company is found to not act reasonably in addressing a PIP claim.
Examples of significant injuries include:
- Loss of use of a body part or function
- Serious and permanent disfigurement
- Substantial scarring
- Bone fractures
- Permanent disability
The exact definition of “significant injury” varies between states.
Some no-fault states require an injured party's necessary medical expenses to exceed a certain threshold before they can file a claim against the at-fault party or their insurer.
The specific thresholds vary between states. Some are set at the benefit amount under the injured party's PIP policy, while others range between $1,000 and $4,000.
The types of medical expenses that count towards the threshold also vary. They can include physical therapy and dental work, for example.
Do You Still Need a No-Fault Car Accident Lawyer in Washington State?
While it's not mandatory to engage a lawyer for a no-fault car accident claim, it can be useful to do so particularly if you've been seriously injured or suffered large losses as a result. They can help you navigate the process to ensure you get the maximum compensation you're entitled to.
Remember this, too: even though you have no-fault insurance, your insurance company wants to protect its own interests (namely, profits) first. An insurance adjuster may still try to minimize or even avoid a settlement in some cases, depending on the circumstances. For example, your no-fault benefits could be denied if:
- You failed to follow the procedures properly (e.g., failed to use the right form to notify the insurance company of your accident or failed to inform them within a certain time frame); or
- The insurance adjuster argues the injuries you claim to have sustained are not accurate or did not result from the accident
In either of these scenarios or any other scenario, a no-fault car accident lawyer will advise you of your legal options. The attorney can also represent you and your interests in an alternative dispute resolution platform or file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Contact a No-Fault Car Accident Lawyer in Washington State Today
Though fault is not necessarily required to be proved before you obtain compensation for property damage or bodily injuries after a car accident, it is necessary sometimes. So, if you have been involved in an auto accident in Washington State, make sure you know how the no-fault system works. Sometimes, the process is not as straightforward as it would seem and additional legal steps are necessary.
At Law Offices of Paul L. Schneiderman, our car accident attorney makes sure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us either online or by calling us at 206-464-1952 to schedule a free consultation.