Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Washington State: Do You Need It?

Uninsured motorist coverage isn’t required in Washington State, but skipping it is taking on an enormous risk.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Uninsured motorist coverage isn’t legally required in Washington State, but Washington’s high number of uninsured drivers makes it vital coverage to have.
Washington State only legally requires drivers to carry
liability insurance
in the amount of $25,000 of
bodily injury liability
per person, $50,000 of bodily injury liability per incident, and $10,000 of
property damage liability
per incident. These requirements are pretty low, and it’s a wise idea to add on uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage to protect you and your passengers from high medical costs following a car accident. 
Here to help sort out both the
car insurance
coverage you really need and the best way to lower your
Washington car insurance costs
, the trustworthy insurance comparison super app. We’ll take a look at what uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is, why it’s important in Washington, and the easiest way to get it. 
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Do you need uninsured motorist coverage in Washington?

So having
uninsured motorist coverage
is not legally required in Washington—but is it something you should have anyway? The short answer: yes, absolutely
According to a 2019 study by the
Insurance Information Institute (III)
, around 21.7% of all drivers in Washington are uninsured, giving it the dubious honor of having the fifth-highest number of uninsured drivers in the nation.
This means that if you’re on the road in Washington State, more than one out of every five drivers you see on the road has no insurance at all. And if you factor in the number of drivers who only have the minimum required insurance, you might start to feel pretty vulnerable out there. 
Enter uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage! Broadly speaking, this affordable add-on coverage does two things. One, it picks up where the other driver’s liability insurance leaves off in order to help pay for medical expenses associated with a car accident. And second, if the at-fault driver has no insurance, your UM/UIM policy will make sure your medical bills are paid for and you’re not stuck with massive out-of-pocket costs. 
Sounds a bit scary, right? Well, here’s some good news: uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is pretty inexpensive to add on in Washington. Your cost will vary according to factors like your age, where you live, and your driving record, but sources report that UM/UIM coverage in Washington can be purchased for as little as a few hundred dollars each year.

How uninsured motorist insurance works in Washington

So let’s say you choose to just get the minimum amount of liability insurance and that’s it. This tactic keeps your insurance premium costs low—but it also leaves you open to an alarming amount of risk. 
Medical costs in the states are sky-high even with health insurance. The
average cost of an ER visit
in Washington State is almost $2,000, and that’s likely only the beginning if you’re in a serious car accident. Even if the other driver has the minimum amount of liability coverage, expenses can easily balloon past the $25,000 and $50,000 limits. While it’s unpleasant to think about it happening, it’s even more unpleasant to have it become reality. So let’s plan ahead!

What’s available

So what kind of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage should you purchase in Washington? 
The UM/UIM insurance available in Washington State falls into two categories: 
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM/UMBI) covers you and your passengers’ medical expenses after an accident with a driver that has no insurance.
  • Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UIM/UIMBI) covers medical expenses if the other driver’s liability insurance isn’t sufficient to completely cover your costs. 
Even though it’s not a legal requirement to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage,
Washington State law
requires that all providers offer it. If you choose not to carry it, you must decline the coverage in writing. 

What it covers

In general, the UM/UIM bodily injury coverage offered in Washington pays for medical expenses for you and your passengers that arise from a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. But those expenses aren’t limited to ER bills and medical or surgical costs. UM/UIM insurance coverage also covers: 
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Long-term rehabilitative or nursing care
  • Medical devices such as wheelchairs
  • Retrofitting your house to accommodate a disability caused by the accident
  • Pain and suffering (under certain circumstances) 
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in Washington
can also be used to cover damages from accidents caused by phantom vehicles. No, not like the kind in Scooby Doo. For example, if a car swerves into your lane and doesn’t hit you, but you swerve and crash into something else in order to avoid it, your UM/UIM policy might be able to help pay for the damages. Makes you wonder what kind of coverage the
Mystery Machine

How to make a claim 

Washington law requires you to exchange your information with the other driver or drivers involved in an accident, and this includes your current insurance information. If you or one of your passengers is injured and the other driver doesn’t have insurance, then you’ll need to file a claim under your uninsured/underinsured policy. 
The process is pretty straightforward, and you’ll want to contact your insurance agent right away. Make sure you diligently document the accident—take lots of notes and pictures and get a copy of your accident report. Keep track of any and all receipts for your medical costs and doctor bills. The more thorough and organized your documentation is, the faster your claim will be processed
If your medical costs happen to go over the limit on your coverage, then you’ll have to make up the difference via your health insurance,
personal injury protection (PIP)
plan, or other means.

Why it’s a good idea to buy uninsured motorist insurance in Washington

While it’s true that going beyond Washington’s required minimum car insurance will cost more money upfront, it’s still a really good idea to add uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to your policy. Here are a few reasons why:

Car accidents can be extremely expensive

The biggest thing that people should be concerned about
after a car accident
is if everyone is okay. But sadly, the first thing that comes to many people’s minds is “how am I going to pay for this?” 
The National Safety Council estimates that the average
cost of a motor vehicle accident
injury is anywhere from $23,900 for a possible injury to $101,000 for a disabling injury. Not only can an accident with an uninsured driver cause serious physical injury, but it can also bring years of financial difficulties in terms of long-term medical costs and lost wages.
When you look at the big picture, it makes a tremendous amount of sense to invest in an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy. If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to use it—and that would be just fine! But if you need it, it can mean the difference between an accident being a short-term inconvenience versus financially affecting you for the rest of your life. 

Washington is #5 in the nation for uninsured drivers

It bears repeating that almost 22% of all Washington drivers are uninsured, which is pretty astonishing. The next time you’re at a stoplight in Washington, look at the five cars nearest you. Now remember that at least one of them is likely to be uninsured. 
In fact, recent studies placed
at number three in the nation when it comes to drivers with no insurance. For just a few hundred dollars more a year, you’ll be able to buy serious peace of mind. 

How to save on uninsured motorist coverage in Washington

Many folks are tempted to skimp on car insurance coverage to save money, and we get it—things are expensive these days! But cutting corners on your car insurance can leave you open to crippling financial problems in the event of an accident. 
But here’s the happy plot twist—when you shop with
, you can rest easy knowing that you’re going to get the coverage you need to stay safe at a price that you can afford. Jerry partners with more than 55 of the best car insurance providers in the nation to find you a selection of competitive quotes. 
No phone calls are needed—but if you do have any questions at all, our
trustworthy licensed brokers
are available to help every step of the way. On average, Jerry shoppers save more than $800 a year on their car insurance costs—which is more than enough to add on that uninsured/underinsured motorist policy! 
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