blog /

Is Washington a No-Fault State for Auto Insurance?

Posted On: November 21, 2023

Understanding Auto Insurance in Washington State

When it comes to auto insurance, understanding the legal framework in your state is crucial. One of the key distinctions in the United States is whether a state follows a “no-fault” or “tort” (at fault) system.

So, is Washington a no-fault state for car insurance? No. And here’s why.


Defining the Terms: No-Fault vs. Tort/Fault State

A no-fault insurance, also referred to as personal injury protection (PIP), says that regardless of who is at fault in a car accident, each driver’s insurance typically covers their own medical expenses and other financial losses, up to a certain limit. In no-fault states the law requires each driver to file an injury claim with their insurance company. This type of coverage is designed to streamline the claims process and reduce court costs and the need for litigation.

Some states have strict no-fault rules where you can only sue for major car accident injuries or when certain conditions are met, like severe disfigurement or high medical bills.

What Does No-Fault Insurance Cover?

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Lost income
  • Child care expenses
  • Survivors’ loss
  • Household services

Fun Fact: Back in the 1960s, people got tired of the long and expensive process of figuring out who’s to blame in car accidents. So, in the 1970s, the no-fault system was born. This system lets motor vehicle accident victims get money from their own insurance companies, which makes things faster and easier, so they don’t have to go to court as often.

In contrast, a “tort” or “fault” insurance coverage operates on the principle of assigning responsibility for an accident. In these states, the at-fault driver and their insurance company are responsible for compensating the other party’s losses, including property damage and medical expenses.

This often involves a process of negotiation or litigation to determine fault and appropriate compensation.

There are two types of tort insurance coverages: full tort and limited tort.

Here’s how at-fault or tort insurance works in Washington after an auto accident:

  1. Insurance companies assign an adjuster to determine who is at fault.
  2. To get compensation for their losses, victims must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
  3. If the process of determining who’s at fault takes too long, drivers can use their own insurance coverage to pay for their expenses.
  4. Since Washington is an “at-fault” or “tort” state, this keeps insurance costs pretty low compared to no-fault states.
  5. Washington law requires all drivers to have liability insurance, which pays for other people’s expenses if you cause an accident.

Did you know? In Washington, we use a system called pure comparative negligence, which means drivers can collect damages based on their share of fault. For example, if they’re 99% at fault, they can get 1% from the other driver.


The Difference Between a Fault State and a No-Fault State

The main difference between the two insurance claims lies in how responsibility and compensation work. In at-fault or tort states, like Washington, the driver at fault is responsible for paying the other driver’s medical and car repair expenses. In contrast, in no-fault states, everyone’s insurance covers their own medical bills and vehicle damage, regardless of who caused the accident.

Policy Limits

In a no-fault state, the insurance policy typically includes Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP helps cover your medical expenses, regardless of fault, up to your policy’s limit.

In a fault state, policy limits come into play when determining the extent of liability for the at-fault driver. The at-fault driver’s insurance policy is responsible for covering the other party’s losses, including medical expenses, property damage, and other economic damages. In Washington, it’s also not required to carry personal injury protection insurance.

Litigation in Washington

No-fault states generally aim to reduce litigation. Since your own insurance covers your medical bills, you typically can’t sue the other driver unless specific criteria are met, such as substantial bodily injury.

In fault states, personal injury lawsuits are more common. Disputes over fault, compensation, and policy limits may lead to legal action to resolve the issues. This is where a car accident attorney comes in mighty handy.


Speak With Our Experienced Washington Car Accident Lawyers

Navigating auto insurance laws and the implications of our at-fault system can be complex, especially in Washington. If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Tacoma, Seattle, or in Western Washington, and have questions or concerns about your rights and compensation, it’s essential to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Talk to a seasoned trial attorney at Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler PLLC about your accident so we can uncover the best strategy moving forward. To schedule a free consultation, call 253-364-4966 or contact our Tacoma office online.

Don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance to protect your rights and interests after a car accident.