In this article, we'll look at a few Washington state laws related to auto insurance, including minimum car insurance coverage requirements and options for complying with the state's Financial Responsibility Requirement. Read on for the details.
Washington is a "Fault" Insurance State
Washington follows traditional "fault" rules when it comes to the options of those involved in a car accident. Depending on the circumstances, a driver, passenger, or pedestrian who has been injured and/or incurred vehicle damage via a car accident may choose to do any or all of the following:
- file a claim with his or her own insurance company (whether a general health insurance or car insurance policy)
- pursue a third party car insurance claim with the insurer of another driver who may have been at fault for causing the accident
- go to court and seek money damages against the at-fault driver by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Because Washington is a "fault" state, there are very few restrictions on your options when it comes to getting compensation for losses tied to car accidents. "No-fault" states have more restrictions, but proving fault in order to get compensation isn't required. (You can learn more about how no-fault insurance states work in our article No-Fault Car Insurance and State Laws.)
Washington's Minimum Car Insurance Requirements
Although there are several options for fulfilling the state's financial responsibility requirements for vehicle owners (see "Washington's Financial Responsibility Requirement" below), most drivers choose to buy auto insurance coverage in order to meet this obligation.
In Washington, an auto insurance policy must provide, at a minimum, the following basic types and amounts of coverage:
- $25,000 per person for injuries suffered in an accident.
- $50,000 per accident if more than one person is injured.
- $10,000 per accident for property damage.
Although these minimums are all you need under Washington's Financial Responsibility Requirement (see following section for details), it's usually a good idea to consider purchasing higher coverage limits. Your insurer is only required to pay up to the limits of your coverage -- even if your ultimate financial responsibility for an accident is much greater. If you're found to be "at fault" in a crash, you'll be expected to pay any damages (i.e. the other driver's medical bills, lost income, and vehicle damage) that your insurance limits don't cover.
Washington's Financial Responsibility Requirement
Buying an auto insurance policy isn't the only way to meet Washington's Financial Responsibility Requirement if you want to drive legally in the state. Instead of buying the minimum insurance coverage listed above (or more coverage if you want it), you may also:
- self-insure, if you or your business owns more than 26 vehicles registered in Washington.
- purchase a certificate of deposit for $60,000, or deposit $60,000 with the State Treasurer.
- purchase a liability bond for at least $60,000 from a surety bond provider licensed to do business in Washington.
Whichever method you choose for meeting the Financial Responsibility Requirement, you will need to have proof of financial responsibility available in your vehicle at all times in case you are pulled over. In Washington, driving a vehicle without meeting the financial responsibility requirement can cost up to $450 per offense.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Washington
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects people who are involved in an accident with a driver who doesn't have insurance (uninsured), or who doesn't have enough coverage to pay all the losses caused by the crash (underinsured).
Washington doesn't require drivers to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, but it does require insurers to make this coverage available for those who want it. (See Uninsured Motorist Car Insurance Coverage and Underinsured Motorist Coverage to learn more.)
More Information on Car Insurance in Washington
The Washington Department of Licensing provides an online guide to the state's auto insurance and financial responsibility requirements.