No, Washington is not a no-fault state for auto insurance. Washington is an “at-fault” or “tort” state, which means the person who is at fault for a car accident is responsible for paying for other people’s injuries and property damage resulting from the accident. Additionally, unlike in no-fault states, drivers in Washington can file lawsuits to seek compensation for even basic medical expenses after an accident.
In typical no-fault states, drivers are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to pay for their own medical expenses after a car accident, regardless of fault. In Washington, PIP is not required.
Key Things to Know About Insurance in Washington
When an accident occurs, the insurance company for each driver who was involved will assign an adjuster to determine who was at fault. To collect payment for their losses, victims must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Depending on how long fault takes to be determined, drivers can file a claim with their own insurance company if they have coverage applicable to their own expenses, such as collision and comprehensive Their insurer can then recoup the cost from the at-fault driver’s insurer if the policyholder is not determined to be at fault.
Washington uses a pure comparative negligence system, meaning drivers can collect damages proportionate to their fault in causing the crash. For example, if they're 99% at fault, they can get 1% from the other driver.
Being an “at-fault” / “tort” state helps keep Washington’s insurance costs relatively low, compared to no-fault states.
Washington requires all drivers to carry liability insurance, a type of insurance that pays for others’ expenses after you cause an accident, such as damage to others’ vehicles and their medical expenses.
In addition to Washington’s minimum coverage requirements, you may want to purchase types of coverage that will pay for your own expenses after an accident. For example, collision and comprehensive insurance will cover damage to your vehicle, regardless of fault.
If your car is totaled and you’re not at fault, you should file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and report the accident to your own insurer as well. The other driver’s property damage liability coverage will reimburse you for your car’s actual cash value up to their policy limits. … read full answerActual cash value, or ACV, is the amount the car was worth immediately before the accident.
Claim Options if Your Car Is Totaled but You're Not At-Fault
In the event that the other driver does not have insurance, you can file a claim with your uninsured motorist or collision coverage, if you have it. You can also file a collision claim if the other driver refuses to admit fault. In this case, the insurance companies will eventually determine who is responsible. Then, your insurer will recoup the cost of your collision claim and deductible in a process called subrogation.
How Insurance Companies Determine if Your Car Is Totaled
Insurance companies decide if a car is totaled by comparing the cost of repairs to the car’s value. Exact formulas vary by state and insurance company. However, it’s worth noting that repairs are often more extensive than they appear, and even a small accident can sometimes total a vehicle.
It takes 3 to 5 years for car insurance to go down after an at-fault accident in most cases. Three years is a common penalty period for property damage claims. Insurance companies penalize drivers longer for accidents causing serious bodily harm or resulting from reckless or intoxicated driving. Premium increases vary widely by state and insurer, but the average increase is 41% after a single claim of $2,000 or more.… read full answer
Rates increase after an at-fault accident both to pay for the fees associated with filing a claim and to compensate the insurer for taking a higher risk. Drivers who have caused one accident are statistically more likely to be involved in another one.
Of course, if you pay for a policy with “accident forgiveness,” your rates won’t be raised for your first at-fault accident. Even without accident forgiveness, some insurance companies may give you a pass if it’s your first auto accident on a spotless driving record. Also, minor fender benders with less than $2,000 in damage may not trigger rate hikes.
However, no matter how minor your accidents are, if you have more than one within 6 years, or you have a combination of tickets and claims within 2-3 years, you are likely to face higher rates. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to pay for minor accident damage out of your pocket than to file a claim and trigger a rate increase.
Unfortunately, even if the accident you’re involved in isn’t your fault, you may find your insurance premium going up if you make a claim. This practice is prohibited by some states, but a study by the Consumer Federation of America found that most drivers who have made claims for not-at-fault accidents experienced rate increases of 8%-12%. For the insurance company, how much you’ve cost them is the most important consideration.
If age or inexperience, rather than accidents or violations, are the cause of your high premiums, you should see some decrease each year. If you’re a young driver, the biggest drop will come when you turn 25. If you are an older new driver, the largest decrease will come when you have five years of safe driving behind you.
If you’re at fault in a car accident, your liability insurance pays for the other driver’s car repairs and will likely cover any doctor’s bills if they’re injured. No-fault states are the exception, as they require each driver to use their own insurance to pay for medical expenses after an accident. But regardless of the state, fault always dictates whose liability insurance pays for property damage.… read full answer
Your liability insurance never covers your own expenses, so you will need collision insurance, personal injury protection (PIP), or MedPay in order to avoid paying out of pocket for an at-fault accident. Some states require drivers to have PIP or MedPay, while collision insurance is usually required if you are leasing or financing your car.
After an at-fault accident, car insurance rates go up by an average of 48%. The exact amount that your premium will go up depends on a few factors, including your state and how much damage you caused. But any increase is only temporary, usually lasting about 3-5 years. And if you have accident forgiveness with your insurance company, your rates might not go up at all.
Ultimately, no one wants to be at-fault in a car accident, but it’s important to understand how at-fault accidents work just in case. With that in mind, here’s a quick summary of what you really need to know.
Here’s What Happens If You Are At-Fault in a Car Accident
Your liability insurance should pay for the other driver’s expenses.
You will need to use other types of car insurance to cover your own repair and medical bills.
Your car insurance rates will go up by an average of 48% for 3-5 years.
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