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Washington State Auto Insurance Requirements
You must carry the same auto liability insurance limits if you choose to buy a bond instead of an auto insurance policy. If you use a certificate of deposit, you must deposit $60,000 in cash or securities with the Office of the State Treasurer. If you’re insuring 26 or more cars, you can self-insure through the Washington State Department of Licensing.
Proof of insurance
Your auto insurance company must provide you with an identification card when they issue or renew your car insurance liability policy. At your request, the company will provide a card or temporary proof of insurance for each car covered under your policy.
The insurance identification card must include the name of the insurance company, the policy number, and the policy’s effective and expiration dates. It must also include a description of the insured car(s) and/or the name of the insured driver.
If you do not carry proof of insurance and you are stopped by law enforcement, the state of Washington considers it a traffic infraction. You will receive a $450 fine and it may go on your driving record. The courts could add other fees to your fines, such as a public safety and education assessment, which is 70 percent of all fines.
Out-of-state drivers who plan to drive in Washington should check their auto insurance policies. Most insurance policies include a broadening clause that raises the automobile liability limits to the minimum insurance requirements of the particular state they’re driving in.
Autos exempt from the Mandatory Auto Insurance Law
Understanding your auto insurance policy
Your auto insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. It spells out exactly what the company agrees to do in exchange for the premium that you pay. This contract is divided into two sections: a declarations page and the policy itself.
The Declarations Page
The Declarations Page includes:
Types of coverage
There are many different types of coverages available to meet your auto insurance needs. Some are required and some are optional. Here are brief descriptions of the available coverages:
Personal injury protection
Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury
Uninsured/under insured motorist property damage
Comprehensive coverage (other than collision)
Emergency road service
Car rental expense
Death, dismemberment and loss of sight
Custom equipment coverage
Many companies also offer other endorsements (additional coverage). Ask your insurance agent or broker about:
Remember to check your declarations page to verify the coverage you purchased.
What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP)?
Is it required by law?
Who is covered?
What does PIP cover?
How much does it cost?
What doesn’t it cover?
Do I need it?
Are there other choices?
Shopping for automobile insurance
Many insurers offer auto insurance in Washington state. Under state law, insurers may consider your age, driving record, where you live, credit history, and other factors to decide if they will offer you coverage. Not every insurer will offer you coverage.
If an agent or broker is unable to find coverage for you, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an insurer willing to cover you. No single agent or broker will have access to all auto insurers doing business in Washington state.
There are three segments of the auto insurance market you should know about:
Most insurers offer coverage that falls into the standard or the preferred markets. A few corporations have several companies within their group and establish tiers that range from the preferred market to the non-standard market.
Without recommending or suggesting specific companies, we do offer tips to help you shop for auto insurance. Regardless of how you shop or who you choose, it is important to do your homework in advance. You should:
-Know what types and limits of coverage you need.
-Ensure you’re dealing with an authorized company and a licensed agent or broker.
-Make sure you have the make, model and other details of the vehicle you wish to insure.
-Answer any questions about your driving record and accident history fully and accurately.
-Shop for customer service and price.
-Agents and brokers selling insurance in Washington must be licensed with the state of Washington State Insurance Commissioner's Office which regulates nearly 85,000 licensees. Some are employed exclusively by a specific insurer, while others work independently. You can find agents and brokers:
-in your local phone book
-through referrals from friends and family
Insurance can be a sophisticated product. You need to do your homework and shop the market, regardless of whether you buy in the traditional manner or here online.
Facts About The Washington StateInsurance Commissioner's Office
The Washington State Insurance Commissioner's Office has responsibility for regulating all insurance business in the State of Washington under the authority granted by the insurance laws of the state. The people of Washington paid approximately $23 billion in 2003 for insurance to more than 1,381 insurance companies, Health Care Service Contractors (HCSC) and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO). This figure includes money spent for life, health, property, casualty and marine insurance.
Insurance is regulated by individual states, not the federal government. The State of Washington Insurance Commissioner's Office was created by the first state Legislature in 1889-90, with the office first administered as an adjunct of the duties of the Secretary of State. It became an independent state office in 1907, and the first Insurance Commissioner was elected in 1908.
At first, the main functions of the office were simply to register insurance companies that wanted to do business in Washington and to oversee compliance and penalty provisions of the Washington's Insurance Code. Other duties included supervision of insurance company formation within the state and monitoring of the reinsurance market. Over the years, the Commissioner's duties have expanded to include the ascertaining that all authorized insurance companies meet and maintain rigid financial, legal, and other requirements for doing business in this state. The agency also licenses a number of insurance-related professionals, including agents, brokers and adjusters.
Today, consumer protection is the most important job of the Insurance Commissioner, who coordinates a wide variety of protective and assistance services. His investigators follow up any consumer complaint, looking into the circumstances of disputes between consumers and companies, and taking the consumer's side whenever companies have acted improperly. Consumer Protection also responds to thousands of questions from consumers every year, and the agency publishes and distributes consumer guides and fact sheets to help educate Washington state residents about their choices and rights when buying and using health coverage. In addition, the office's SHIBA Help-Line offers the services of trained volunteers statewide for counseling, education and other assistance to consumers with health insurance and health care access issues and questions.
Other insurance facts about Washington state:
Anyone selling insurance in Washington state must hold a license from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Overseeing the testing, licensing, continuing education and professional performance of the more than 86,000 licensees currently in the state constitutes a major part of the insurance office staff's workload.
The agency also is responsible for collection of a tax assessed on insurance premiums. A century ago, a little less than $15,000 in premium tax money was collected. By comparison, the same tax today generates nearly $229 million a year for the state's general fund. No general fund money, incidentally, is used to operate the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. The cost of the agency's operations is funded by a small separate levy on insurers, who by law must shoulder the cost of their own regulation.
A special consumer-assistance arm of the agency offers information to senior citizens, people nearing retirement age, and others interested in health insurance-related benefits ranging from Medicare and Medicare Supplements to Long-Term Care insurance and employer-related retirement benefits. The Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA, pronounced sheee-bah!) are community-level volunteers trained by experts in the Commissioner's office to answer consumer questions in these areas and to help work out problems when they occur.
For more information:
Agents, brokers and other insurance licensees may contact the agency directly through the Investigations and Enforcement Division, which includes Licensing and Continuing Education. That Division can be reached by phone at 360-725-7144.
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