Written by attorney Scott Carness

Understanding Automobile Personal Injury Protection Insurance in Washington State

Personal Injury Protection - Don't Leave Home without It The Washington State Legislature made it mandatory for insurers to provide Personal Injury Protection coverage, or PIP, unless coverage is waived by the insured. So, what is PIP? PIP pays for all reasonable and necessary healthcare expenses that are incurred as a result of a collision or "occurrence." PIP benefits are generally limited by dollar amount and time. Typical PIP coverage might look like this on your declarations page: $10,000/3 years. This means there is up to $10,000 dollars available to pay for reasonable and necessary healthcare expenses incurred by an insured as a result of a collision. The time limit for payment is up to three years following a collision. Therefore, both the $10,000 dollars and the three years act as terminating events for coverage. If, for instance, the $10,000 dollars was paid out for healthcare expenses before the three years expired, the coverage would end. On the other hand, if, you were to reach three years from the date of the collision before $10,000 dollars was expended, the coverage would also terminate. In addition to medical expenses, PIP coverage usually has wage loss provisions and loss of services benefits as well. Typically, there is a fourteen-day waiting period before wage loss benefits are paid. That is, wage loss benefits are not available for the first fourteen days following the collision. The coverage then lasts for 52 week, or until your doctor returns you to work, whichever is sooner. Generally, wage loss coverage is at the level of $200 dollars per week, or 85% of your weekly wage, whichever is less. Loss of services benefits pays for essential household services that an insured would have otherwise done for him or herself. The limits are usually $40 per day up to a $5,000 maximum. These services could include hiring someone, not a member of the household, to provide childcare, housecleaning, gardening, or repairs around the home. Who is covered? PIP provides limited benefits to covered persons who may be injured in a collision. PIP coverage is like a bubble. The "bubble" includes everyone in your vehicle and extends to bicycle riders and pedestrians. Unlike liability coverage, PIP does not depend on who is at fault for a collision. What's not covered? PIP exclusions include injuries arising from racing contests, acts of war, intentional injury, nuclear exposure and injuries arising during the commission of a felony. As always, read your policy and the definitions. How much coverage should you purchase? The answer is simple: as much as you can afford. If you are involved in a serious collision, $10,000 dollars in healthcare coverage can be quickly exhausted. One way that you might free up some extra cash with which to purchase PIP coverage is to raise the property damage deductibles under the collision and comprehensive portions of your policy. With a $500 or $1,000 dollar deductible, you might be able to free up enough cash with which to purchase PIP coverage. Talk to your insurance agent and find out what kinds of coverage are available and at what levels. Try to purchase PIP (if available) with limits of $35,000 or $50,000.

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