Car Insurance in Washington

Washington Car Insurance

Washington state car insurance laws are written to make sure you are able to pay for injuries or damages after a car accident.

Read more to learn about WA car insurance laws, programs, rates, and discounts.

Car Insurance Requirements

To fulfill Washington's mandatory auto insurance law, you must carry liability insurance to help pay for property damage or injuries resulting from a car accident that you cause.

Your liability car insurance must have the following minimums:

  • $25,000 for injuries or death per person.
  • $50,000 total for injuries or death per accident.
  • $10,000 for property damage.

Optional Car insurance

While Washington auto insurance laws only require you to have liability auto insurance coverage, there are several optional coverage types that can help further protect you financially.

Most WA car insurance companies offer the following types of optional coverage:

  • Collision – Helps cover accident-related damages to your car.
  • Comprehensive – Helps cover non-collision related damages to your car, such as those resulting from theft or vandalism.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist – Helps pay for your own injuries or property damage if you are involved in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver or a driver whose insurance is insufficient to cover your costs.

NOTE: As part of your loan or lease agreement, you may be required to purchase collision and comprehensive coverages for your financed or leased car.

Personal Injury Protection

Personal injury protection (PIP), or no-fault car insurance, will help pay for certain costs after a car accident, regardless of who caused the accident.

PIP will help pay for your:

  • Medical costs.
  • Loss of income.
  • Funeral expenses.

While you are not required to carry PIP in Washington, car insurance companies are required to offer PIP to you.

If you decide to reject the PIP option, you must do so in writing.

Washington Proof of Insurance

Washington officials mainly monitor car insurance status via traffic stops.

If you are pulled over by a police officer, you are required to show your proof of insurance upon request.

Your insurance card, issued to you by your insurance carrier, acts as your proof of insurance.

Car insurance cards must include:

  • The name of your car insurance company.
  • Your policy number.
  • Effective date of your policy.
  • Expiration date of your policy.
  • Year, make, model of your car.

You will be issued an insurance card every time you buy a new policy or renew your policy. Make sure to carry your most current card with you.

Insurance Violations and Penalties

If you are caught without your proof of insurance, you are subject to a fine.

If you had a valid insurance policy at the time of a traffic stop but were unable to show your insurance card, you may present the court with proof that you were insured at the time of the violation before your court date to have your charges removed. You may still have to pay a court-processing fee of $25.

If you are caught driving without car insurance, you face a minimum fine of $550.

WA Car Insurance for High-Risk Drivers

Drivers who are considered high-risk because of past traffic violations or accidents may have a difficult time finding car insurance companies willing to cover them, and may have to take extra steps to comply with Washington auto insurance laws.

Washington Automobile Insurance Plan

While all drivers must be insured, Washington car insurance companies do have the right to deny coverage to drivers they feel are high-risk.

If you are unable to find a car insurance carrier, you may apply for coverage through the Washington Automobile Insurance Plan.

Through the plan, WA car insurance companies share the risk of covering high-risk drivers.

Washington is one of many states that comprise the Washington Automobile Insurance Plan (WAAIP), which acts as a processing center for the various state plans within the association.

Insurance rates through the plan are generally much higher than standard policy rates. It's smart to continue to shop for car insurance through the standard market.

To learn more about how to apply for car insurance through WAAIP, visit the WAAIP website.

SR-22 in Washington

Certain violations may require you to file proof of financial responsibility known as an SR-22 certificate, sometimes referred to as SR22 insurance.

You may be required to file an SR-22 if you:

  • Have had your driver's license suspended.
  • Have been convicted of certain offenses.
  • Failed to pay judgment fines.
  • Driven or owned a car involved in an accident.

In most cases, you must maintain your SR22 filing for 3 years.

Many insurance providers can file SR-22s for their clients; however, some carriers don't offer this service. You may be required to shop for a car insurance provider that does file SR-22s.

Car Insurance Regulation

Since car insurance can be complex, Washington has various programs meant to help consumers with various car insurance issues.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner

If you have a question or concern about your insurance policy or provider, you can get help from the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC).

The OIC can:

  • Help you understand your policy.
  • Determine if your insurance company violated the terms of your policy.
  • Help your insurance company and you communicate with each other.
  • Recommend places or programs that can better help you.
  • Review a complaint and help facilitate a resolution.

The OIC cannot:

  • Give you legal advice.
  • Make medical judgments.
  • Determine who was at-fault in a car accident.
  • Determine the value of a claim.
  • Establish the facts in a case.
  • Force an insurance company to make a payment on a claim or refund you money if they have not broken the law.

For more information, you can contact the OIC by calling (800) 562-6900.

Car Insurance Fraud

Handling car insurance fraud costs car insurance companies large sums of money every year. Those costs get passed down to you in the form of higher premiums.

Common forms of car insurance fraud include:

  • Staging car accidents.
  • Falsifying or exaggerating injuries.
  • Falsifying or exaggerating the extent of property damage.

If you suspect insurance fraud, you can report it to the OIC by filling out their online form.

Determining Your Insurance Rates

Several factors go into determining the price of your car insurance premium.

When shopping for car insurance, most car insurance companies will factor in the following to determine your rates:

  • Driving record.
  • Credit history.
  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Marital status.
  • Your car's:
    • Make.
    • Model.
    • Year.
  • History of insurance claims.
  • Deductibles:
    • This is the amount you are responsible for paying towards a claim.
    • The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.

WA Car Insurance Discounts

A great way to save on car insurance is to take advantage of discounts. When comparing car insurance quotes, ask about any discounts for which you may be eligible.

Most Washington car insurance companies offer the following discounts:

  • Good driver.
  • Good student.
  • Defensive driver course.
    • Available to drivers 55 years old and older.
  • Multi-car.
  • Homeowners.
  • Anti-theft device.
  • Safety device.

Taking advantage of discounts is a great way to get affordable car insurance rates. However, the best way to maintain low-cost Washington car insurance is to keep a clean driving record that reflects safe and violation free driving.

Most Stolen Cars in Washington

If your car is a common target for theft, you may have to pay higher car insurance rates.

The following is a list of Washington's most stolen cars in 2013, according to

  1. Honda Accord.
  2. Honda Civic.
  3. Subaru Legacy.
  4. Ford Pickup (Full Size).
  5. Acura Integra.
  6. Toyota Camry.
  7. Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size).
  8. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee.
  9. Nissan Sentra.
  10. Chevrolet Pickup (Small Size).

DMV.ORG BBB Business Review