A Note On Self-Responsibility
(and Uninsured Motorist Coverage)
We cannot control other people. It’s one of humanity’s most ancient laws.
You can’t MAKE anyone do something, even if you want them to (so, so badly), even if you know it is best for them, even if you know them doing so would contribute to the general good of the world, save lives, cure diseases, end world hunger and human suffering. Nope, not even then.
The irrefutable truth is that you are only in charge of yourself – your response, your actions. How you decide to move in the world.
This rule applies on so many levels, from the most existential and global, to the most microscopic and mundane in human dynamics .
And it applies to car insurance.
(Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Ok, maybe this being a law firm blog was a bit of a spoiler.)
Just as we cannot control other people, we cannot control whether they carry car insurance. Although liability insurance is required by state law to drive on Washington’s roads, there are lots and lots–and lots and lots–of drivers operating their vehicles without any. It doesn’t stop anyone from driving badly.
So if you happen to be on the road with one of these drivers and they cause a crash, there is absolutely nothing on their end that will cover you or your injuries. Zip. And sure, you could try to sue the driver personally, but often this is more trouble than it’s worth.
You can’t control them. But you can control you.
Please welcome and big round of applause for Uninsured Motorist (UM) insurance!
UM insurance is a layer of coverage on your own policy that kicks in if you are hit by someone without any insurance. It fills the shoes of the at-fault driver’s liability insurance, and covers you and your bodily injury claim, just exactly as the driver’s policy would have.
(Note: your UM claim is still different than what pays your medical bills on an ongoing basis as you receive treatment. The UM claim is settled in one lump sum at the end of your case, just like the liability claim with the driver’s insurance company would have. Personal Injury Protection, or PIP insurance, is a separate layer on your own policy which covers your bills as you get treatment. Read up on the difference between PIP coverage and your liability claim in our previous post here.)
And get this – in Washington state the amount of your UM coverage and liability coverage must match.
How is that for karma in action? The coverage you extend to others (as in, the liability insurance you purchase to cover someone who get hurt if YOU cause an accident) is the same level at which you cover yourself (ie, if you get hit by someone without insurance). What you put out, you get back.
The tricky part is, state law allows you to waive UM coverage, as long as your insurance company has made sure to offer it to you. This is the same for PIP. DO NOT WAIVE! It will save some change on your premium, but it will never be worth what you save.
The moral of the story: just as in life, so too in insurance. You are responsible for you. Your car insurance policy is a lovely reflection of that.
Lauren Adler is lead personal injury attorney at Dayani Law Firm. She offers free consultations and speaks clearly and honestly about your options after a car accident. Send her a message below or call directly for a consult at (206) 777-5627