Washington Auto Insurance Questions & Answers

Q: How can I save money on my car insurance?

A: There are many ways to save money on car insurance and still maintain safe levels of coverage:

Make sure you choose the right car. Before buying a car, check with your agent to see how much the rate for the car you have chosen will be and if the car payment and the premium fit your budget.

Choose a higher deductible. If you increase your portion of the risk, your insurance premium can be decreased. You can save nearly half the cost by raising your collision and comprehensive deductibles from $250 to $500 or higher. However, be aware that you will have to pay the higher deductible any time you use these coverages.

Always take advantage of special discounts that most insurance companies offer. For example, discounts are available to young drivers who are good students or have taken a drivers' education course. Discounts are also available to seniors through a variety of programs.

Make sure to eliminate duplicate coverage. You may have coverages that overlap, such as medical coverage and health care, or collision and uninsured motorist property damage Ask your agent to explain what each coverage offers.

Definitely shop around before choosing an insurance company. Because each company's rates are based on its own loss experience, the premium charged by different companies can be different for the same driver. Remember, though, the cheapest insurance isn't necessarily the best.

Q: I was involved in a Washington automobile accident. What should I do?

A: The following:

  • Notify the police to file an accident report.
  • Notify your company or agent if necessary.
  • Find your automobile policy and read it.

Q: How long does the company have to respond?

A: Every state has slightly different rules; but generally speaking, an insurer (insurance company) should complete its investigation within thirty days after notification of a claim, unless such investigation cannot reasonably be completed within that time. If an insurer is unable to contact or locate its policyholder, the investigation may take longer. If they can't complete the investigation within 30 days they are required to keep you updated on the progress of their investigation.

Q: What if their insured won't file a claim?

A: You cannot force an insured, or policyholder, to file a claim. However, every insurer, upon receiving notification of a claim, must respond within ten working days to acknowledge the receipt of such notice unless a payment has been made within that period of time. They also must provide claim forms and help in having their insured report the claim.

Q: Their insured was cited by the police. Why do they have to investigate?

A: Remember, a traffic citation is not a determination of legal liability. The insurance company must investigate claims made according to language in the policy. It is possible that there may be more one person at fault and the liability would be shared.

Q: I have "full coverage." Why won't my company pay?

A: This is a common misunderstanding, as there is no definition of "full coverage". The coverages that you actually have are listed on the declaration page you get from your company at renewal time. They are the ones that are listed that have a price beside them. There are additional coverages that you must request, such as towing, rental, and extended coverage for special stereo or other equipment.

Q: Do they owe me a rental car, and for how long?

A: You are entitled to be compensated for the loss of use of your vehicle for a reasonable length of time while it is under repairs or not drivable if the other party's insurance is accepting liability. It is usual company practice to provide loss of use until the first offer is made for a total loss settlement amount. If your company is handling the damages you must have rental coverage on your policy to obtain a rental car.

Q: Can I take my car wherever I want to have it fixed?

A: While you are free to choose the shop you want to do the work, the insurer owes only the going rate for repairs in your area. In other words, if the shop you choose charges a higher labor rate, you may end up paying the difference.

Q: What happens if the estimates don't match?

A: The repair shop will usually work with the adjuster to handle any additional costs that occur. These could be due to hidden damage or parts price differences, for example. If the company and the shop can't agree, it is the responsibility of the company to provide the name of a repair shop that is a reasonable distance from where you live, and that will repair your vehicle for the amount of the estimate.

Q: Can they use non-brand name parts or used parts?

A: While they do not necessarily have to replace parts with new ones, the company does owe you repair or replacement with like kind and quality parts. The repair requirements state that if the parts and repairs are guaranteed by the repair shop, and are in the same condition as the parts damaged, that is acceptable. If you insist on certain parts you may have to pay the additional cost.

Q: I don't want it fixed right now. Can they pay me the repair amount?

A: Policies regarding payment of damage amounts vary from company to company. Your company may have policy language regarding whether it is necessary to repair your vehicle or to make the draft payable to a lienholder or a body shop and the owner. If the other party's company is paying they are required to pay either the registered owner or the lien holder, or both. A direct payment to the owner usually will not allow for any supplemental payments for additional damage.

Q: They've declared my vehicle a total loss but won't pay me enough to replace it. Is this legal?

A: You are owed the fair market value of your vehicle (before the auto accident), by the company. You can determine this amount by using local dealer quotes and/or newspaper ads or other auto sales publications, as long as the vehicle being sold is comparable to yours in mileage, condition, options, etc. Additionally, they will pay you sales tax on the value of your vehicle, and pay the unused portion of your registration fees. You may have the option of purchasing your damaged vehicle as salvage, and paying the company the amount they would get if they sold it to a wrecker.