Paying Bills During a Liability Claim
A driver that causes a victim’s injury—and/or the victim’s own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage—will ultimately be required to pay the victim’s medical bills and lost wages. However, liability claims can take months—if not years—to resolve. Thus, a victim may need to look to other sources to pay their bills and have income until the liability claims are resolved.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP). When a person buys their liability insurance, Washington law requires that the insurer also offer the person, for an additional fee, PIP insurance as an add-on coverage. RCW 48.22.085. Washington law does not require that a person carry PIP coverage. However, it does require that a person reject the PIP insurance in writing if they do not want it included in their insurance policy or bill. At a minimum, PIP insurance must provide limits high enough to pay benefits of up to $10,000 for medical and/or hospital expenses, $2,000 for funeral expenses, $10,000 in income continuation benefits (subject to a $200 per week limit), and $5,000 in loss of services benefits (subject to a $200 per week limit). RCW 48.22.095.
PIP coverage is “no-fault” coverage. This means that the insurer must pay benefits, regardless of who is at-fault for a crash. However, because these benefits relate strictly to the crash, an insurer only needs to pay benefits for costs that are (1) reasonable, (2) necessary, (3) causally related to a crash, and (4) incurred within 3 years of a crash.
PIP coverage does not just provide potential benefits to the person that purchased the coverage. It will also provide benefits to a relative that lives in the purchaser’s household, passengers in the purchaser’s vehicle, and any pedestrian the purchaser may injure. RCW 48.22.005.
Health Insurance. Assuming a person has a health insurance policy that otherwise covers the type of injury the person suffered in the crash, the person’s health insurance, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, will also cover medical bills. However, such insurance generally claims to be “secondary” to PIP insurance. Thus, a health insurer will generally claim, if a PIP policy exists, that its insured must exhaust PIP benefits prior to relying on health insurance benefits.