Let’s start with a hypothetical.  Assume Shirley is driving her car down a Seattle residential road and comes to a four-way stop.  She stops her car.  She looks right.  No cars.  She looks left. She views one car approaching the intersection, driven by Joe, but the car is about 20 yards away from its own stop sign.

Shirley continues forward assuming that Joe will stop his vehicle.  She gets half-way through the intersection before Joe strikes the left rear side of her auto.  Joe was obviously negligent because he failed to stop at a stop sign.  At the scene of the accident, Shirley learns that Joe is uninsured (Shirley carries a standard auto liability policy).

Shirley later suffers minor neck injuries from the collision and requires physical therapy.  Since Joe is without insurance can Shirley get reimbursed for her physical therapy bills by her own insurer?  The answer is…maybe.

Mandatory Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance

Washington State law mandates that all drivers carry motor vehicle liability insurance of not less than $25,000.  This insurance covers damages that an insured causes to another driver on account of the insured’s negligence.  In our hypothetical, if Joe followed the law and carried a sufficient auto liability policy, this policy would cover the cost of Shirley’s physical therapy.

Unfortunately, however, Joe is not alone.  Despite strict penalties for the uninsured motorist, thousands of drivers in Washington operate a vehicle, every single day, with no liability insurance.  Is there any hope for Shirley, or does she simply have to pay for her therapy out of her own pocket?

UM and UIM to the Rescue

Uninsured Motorist insurance (UM) and Underinsured Motorist insurance (UIM) are essentially liability policies that a driver can select to help manage the risk if he gets hit by a driver without, or with very minimal, insurance.  UM provides compensation to an insured when he is injured by a driver without liability insurance.  UIM provides compensation to an insured when he is injured by a driver whose liability insurance is insufficient to provide full compensation for the injuries.

Both UM and UIM policies act as insurance for the adverse driver with no or minimal insurance coverage.  If an insured selects a UM or UIM policy, he will be able to make a claim against his own insurance company for the negligent conduct of an uninsured, or underinsured, driver.  An easy way to think of this is to simply note that your own UM and UIM policies will become the policies of the adverse driver, and you will be able to make a claim against your own insurance company as if they were the insurance company for the adverse driver.

UM and UIM not Required by Law

While Washington law requires all insurance companies to offer UM and UIM coverage to their insureds, Washington law does not require that an insured accept this offer.  That is, Washington drivers are free to reject both UM and UIM coverage if they believe such a rejection is in their best interests.  If they do, then these drivers must express their rejection, in writing, to their specific carrier.

Keep in mind that if a driver rejects UM/UIM coverage, there is a real risk that he will go without sufficient financial resources if struck by a negligent driver that carries no liability insurance whatsoever.  This is why our firm typically advises to carry UM/UIM coverage.  The expense is not that great, but the peace of mind and security can be insurmountable.

Joe, Shirley and Physical Therapy Expenses

If we return to our hypothetical, Shirley will have to pay for her physical therapy expenses out of her own pocket since Joe failed to carry liability insurance.  However, if Shirley opted for UM/UIM coverage with her carrier, prior to her accident with Joe, then this coverage will definitely compensate Shirley for her therapy expenses.  See, an insurance hypothetical can be fun!

Of course, the Phillips Law Firm understands that “insurance” and “fun” are often not found in the same sentence.  Although difficult to make matters fun, we undoubtedly know that we can make insurance issues easier to understand.  If you have questions about your own auto liability policy, contact us.  If your were recently involved in an auto accident where the at-fault driver had little or no liability insurance, contact us as well.  Our experienced and dedicated team of attorneys is ready to assist with your questions and case.


Insurance Bad Faith Claims


Bad Faith - Claim DeniedAccording to Woody Allen, “There are worst things in life than death.  Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance agent?”  Yes, insurance agents and insurance companies often get a bad wrap.  This is because many insureds, or persons covered by insurance, believe they are unfairly dealt with when they submit a claim under their policy.

Unfair denials, poor settlement amounts, and lack of communication are just a few complaints many of us have when we are forced to deal with insurance carriers.  In this light, the term “bad faith” may sound like a perfect phrase to use when discussing an insurer.  But, bad faith actually refers to a cause of action an insured may have if his insurance company wrongfully denies a claim.  Let’s look further.

Insurance Bad Faith

Washington law states that an insurance company cannot deny a claim for false or bogus reasons.  Rather, insurance carriers have a duty to basically treat others the way they themselves would like to be treated.  Or, they must give the same considerations to the interests of their insureds as they do their own interests.

For example, the law imposes several duties upon insurance companies.  Some of these require insurers to:

  • Carefully investigate a claim
  • Conform to specific rules when settling a claim
  • Make payment, for valid claims, in a reasonably timely manner
  • Provide specific reasoning as to why a claim is denied

When an insurance company fails to abide by these duties, the law says they’re acting in bad faith.  If an insurer acts in bad faith, the insured may file a legally valid bad faith claim.  If successful, the claim can recover: the benefits under an insurance policy, emotional damage, and/or attorney’s fees and costs.

Claim Denial v. Bad Faith

It’s important to note that there is a difference between an insurer simply denying a claim and an insurer acting in bad faith.  The best way to describe this is by means of an example.  Let’s assume you’re involved in an automobile accident and damage the bumper on your car.  You take the vehicle to a repair shop and spend $250 to repair the bumper.  You then file a claim with your auto insurance company for reimbursement of the $250.  Provided that your insurance company is acting in good faith, they can deny the claim for various reasons.  This is basically a claim denial and it’s perfectly legal…assuming the insurer is acting in good faith.

A bad faith claim kicks in when the insurer engages in flagrantly wrongful conduct.  In our example, assume the insurance company denies your claim after throwing your claim, and all supporting documents, into the garbage without even a simple review.  This is acting in bad faith and you can bring a bad faith claim against the insurance company.

If successful, the claim is designed to punish the insurance company for its wrongful acts.  This means compensation is not limited to the amount of the bumper repair bill.  Compensation can include additional monies (ultimately left for a jury to decide) that will vary from case to case depending on the specific nature of the insurer’s bad faith act.

Insurance Fair Conduct Act

The Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA) is a piece of Washington legislation that codifies much of the State’s insurance bad faith laws.  It’s important to highlight a few details on the IFCA.  These include:

  • It only applies to claims a policyholder makes with his own insurance company.
  • It does not apply to health insurance companies.
  • Despite the last point, the IFCA does apply to other types of insurance policies that include medical costs (e.g., auto and homeowner polices).

The Phillips Law Firm Knows Insurance

Our firm has years of experience in handling insurance related claims.  Our firm has also assisted numerous clients understand the myriad of complex insurance policies and provisions that flood the industry.  Our passionate attorneys are ready to answer your questions and assist in your insurance related case.  If you feel you have recently been a victim of an insurer’s bad faith acts, contact us today so we can help.


You’ve paid your insurance premiums each and every year and stayed loyal to the same insurance company for years. Yet in the days and weeks following a serious accident—this same insurance company suddenly can’t be bothered to return your phone call or respond to your claim. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, this is what many accident victims experience after a serious car accident.

Insurance companies are supposed to be on your side, looking after your interests and ensuring that you have the money you need to recover. After all, this is what they promised. Yet the majority of insurance companies care more about their shareholders than their policyholders. As such, they may unfairly deny your claim, offer you a low-ball settlement, or delay on important claims. When this occurs, you need an experienced Seattle car accident lawyer on your side.

Even the best insurance companies will try to limit their liabilities and offer you a settlement that is far less than you may need to fully recover. Their hope is that like most accident victims, you simply accept this offer without fighting. Yet when accident victims retain legal representation, they are usually able to recover significantly more money for their injuries.

Seattle Bad Faith Tactics So how do insurance companies get around paying you top dollar? It’s easy. Many of them engage in bad faith tactics that are designed to limit their liabilities and protect their bottom line. Some of these bad faith tactics include:

  • Denying valid claims
  • Delaying payments
  • Refusing to answer or return phone calls
  • Repeatedly losing paperwork
  • Sending claimants for unnecessary medical tests or paperwork
  • Dragging out claims process
  • Purposely targeting high-cost claims to use as basis for denials
  • Canceling insurance policy after a claim is made
  • Offering low-ball settlements
  • Ignoring medical information that is vital to a claim
  • Failing to investigate claim properly
  • Failing to defend against third party claim

If an insurance company is giving you the run around or has denied your claim unfairly, it may be time to speak to an attorney. At the Phillips Law Firm, we can help you fight the large insurance companies and ensure that you receive the money you need to fully recover.

Contact Seattle Car Accident Lawsuit Attorneys

If a negligent driver injures you or someone you love, an experienced Seattle car accident attorney at Phillips Law Firm can help. If you are interested in learning more about your legal options, call us at 1-800-708-6000. Our Seattle personal injury lawsuit attorneys are waiting to assist you 24/7, offering a free case evaluation. Remember our no fee promise. If we do not recover anything for you, you do not owe us an attorney fee.

The personal injury lawyers at Phillips Law Firm have successfully represented injured individuals and their families in Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, Everett, Kent, Auburn, Renton, Federal Way, Bellingham, Marysville, Lakewood, Redmond, Shoreline, and throughout the State of Washington.


Even when liability is clearly established after an accident, a victim’s recovery from injuries sustained in an auto accident is often limited by the ability of the at-fault party, or parties, to pay compensation for the victim’s damages. Most commonly, the majority of an auto accident recovery comes from one or more insurance companies. Unfortunately, if a driver without insurance injures you, or your injuries exceed the scope of the at-fault driver’s coverage, the situation could become more complicated.

Washington State’s Mandatory Auto Insurance Law

Washington state law requires all drivers to carry auto liability insurance and proof that they have insurance. The law requires anyone who drives a motor vehicle in the state to do one of the following:

  • Carry liability insurance- you must have liability limits of at least $25,000 for injuries or death to another person, $50,000 for injuries or death to all other people, and $10,000 for damage to another person’s property
  • Pay a deposit to the Washington State Treasurer, or
  • Have a liability bond of at least $60,000

This law does not apply to motorcycles, motor scooters, police or government-owned vehicles, or any specially licensed “horseless carriage vehicles” more commonly referred to as antique or collector vehicles. However, a driver is still responsible for any damages or injuries that result from the use of any of these exempt vehicles.

Most drivers choose to maintain coverage in excess of these minimum statutory requirements in order to protect their personal assets. For drivers who own homes, their homeowners insurance may provide some additional protection in the event their personal liability exceeds their auto insurance coverage.

How a Washington State Auto Accident Attorney Can Help

Insurance plays a key role in protecting parties from uninsured and underinsured drivers, who seem to be multiplying in today’s down-turned economy with increasing insurance, fuel and cost of living expenses. In situations where the insurance coverage is simply not there, injured drivers may be able to recover from their own insurance companies if they purchased additional protection against uninsured and underinsured drivers. As a last resort, a Washington State auto accident attorney may still hold the at-fault driver personally liable, attaching the person’s assets or even garnishing wages if necessary.

Obtaining the best recovery for clients means knowing how all these types of insurance work together and being creative in identifying other parties who may have contributed to the accident and may be partially liable.

Contact Seattle Car Accident Attorneys

If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, an experienced Seattle car accident attorney at Phillips Law Firm can help you obtain the compensation you need to recover. If you are interested in learning more about your legal options, call us at 1-800-708-6000. Our Seattle personal injury lawyers are waiting to assist you 24/7, offering a free case evaluation. Remember our no fee promise. If we do not recover anything for you, you do not owe us an attorney fee.

The personal injury lawyers at Phillips Law Firm have successfully represented injured individuals and their families in Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, Everett, Kent, Auburn, Renton, Federal Way, Bellingham, Marysville, Lakewood, Redmond, Shoreline, and throughout the State of Washington.


Out of nowhere a car slams into yours at a stoplight. The “at-fault” driver quickly admits blame, but he doesn’t have adequate insurance coverage to pay your bills. Yet when you contact your own insurance company to help pay for damages and injuries, your claim is inexplicably denied. Sound familiar?

Insurance companies have tactics designed to reduce the amount of compensation they pay policyholders and injured drivers. They may even resort to unfairly denying your claim in the hopes that you will take this as a final decision. They may claim that you do not have adequate coverage or that since you accepted money from the “at-fault” driver, then you are not eligible to file a claim with your own UIM policy. When this occurs, it is important to seek legal counsel immediately.

At the Phillips Law Firm, we know that insurance companies don’t have their policyholder’s best interest in mind. While they promise “peace of mind” and that they are “on your side”, nothing is farther from the truth. What is most important to know is that your insurance company’s denial of a claim is NOT the final word. You have many legal options and an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand the pros and cons of each of those options.

One of the first things your injury attorney will do is determine why the insurance company is denying your claim. Your attorney will review your accident closely and introduce new evidence to the insurance company that they may have overlooked when denying your claim. Oftentimes, insurance adjusters do not understand the legal meanings and ramifications of your policy language. Your attorney can help them understand your policy better and how you are legally entitled to coverage.

If even after further evidence and law is presented, your insurance company still denies your claim, you may need to file a lawsuit against the insurance company. After a lawsuit is filed, your attorney will begin preparation for litigation in a court of law.

Remember, just because your insurance company denies your claim, does not mean you are not covered. Insurance companies often engage in devious and deceptive practices and are in the habit of denying coverage to limit their liabilities. An experienced Seattle attorney won’t let the insurance company take advantage of you.

Contact Seattle Car Accident Lawsuit Attorneys

If your insurance company has unfairly denied your injury claim, an experienced Seattle car accident attorney at Phillips Law Firm can help. If you are interested in learning more about your legal options, call us at 1-800-708-6000. Our Seattle personal injury lawsuit attorneys are waiting to assist you 24/7, offering a free case evaluation. Remember our no fee promise. If we do not recover anything for you, you do not owe us an attorney fee.

The personal injury lawyers at Phillips Law Firm have successfully represented injured individuals and their families in Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, Everett, Kent, Auburn, Renton, Federal Way, Bellingham, Marysville, Lakewood, Redmond, Shoreline, and throughout the State of Washington. 


Laws in Washington State and around the country were passed long ago requiring all drivers carry car insurance to that they can cover any damage or personal injury costs resulting in an accident. I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that this is a good thing, as long as it’s equitable.

As Washington personal injury attorneys with a diverse clientele spanning across all income brackets, we are right in the middle of the insurance issue. That’s why we were a little steamed about a study that came out this week regarding the disparity in charges for car insurance to lower income drivers than higher income drivers.

Lower Income Insurance Study

A new and quite extensive report from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), an organization that seeks to advance consumer interests through advocacy, research, and education, has shown some major rate disparities by income amongst some of the largest car insurance companies in America.

In the report the authors pointed out that for many poor people, the cost of car insurance can impede car ownership and in cases of lower cost cars, can exceed the cost of the vehicle itself. That has broad economic implications since those without cars have a harder time getting to work, school, day care or the grocery store.

“There is much academic research that clearly shows that if you have ready access to a car, it dramatically improves your economic opportunities,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director at CFA.

Researchers cited 2006 research that found that those with less education and working in less skilled occupations often pay premiums that were on average 40% higher. Certainly this has many different factors involved in it, but the wider view into the disparity suggests that there may be a larger inequality issue here.

Even though insurers are prohibited from asking for a potential customers income, the authors of the study contend that many of their methods put lower- and moderate-income households with between $20,000 to $40,000 in earnings per year at a disadvantage. The reason for this is that insurers, though not asking directly, have other roundabout questions that are perfectly legal with give them a fairly accurate gauge as to the income of the person they are interviewing.

One of the main reasons for this is that the cheaper the car insurance is on paper, the more the people are paying for the actual coverage. Researchers liken it to going to a store with large items that only wealthy people have access to and getting the item for the same price as a smaller item at another store that poor people frequent. The pricing versus coverage is often wildly disproportionate.

After examining the data and researcher’s coments, the CFA suggests that pricing should be largely influenced by factors that drivers can control, like the cars they drive and how far and safely they drive them.

“Poor people, we know from the data, they spend a lot less on gas, which means they are driving less,” said J. Robert Hunter, co-author of the paper and director of insurance at the group. “So if insurers more fully reflected miles driven in pricing, it would lower the rate for poorer people.”

Determining Rates

Differences in rates are nothing new. If you are a young male who drives a fast car, you know that well. Why? Because males between the ages of 16 and 25 are statistically the most prone to car accidents and most of the accidents are caused by speeding. The numbers ring true regardless of income. These rates come down at a certain point after the driver has proven they are responsible and hit a certain age.

What determines car insurance rates and do they effect the poor disproportionately?

  • Age – Generally, the older you are, the fewer accidents you’ll have than less experienced drivers, particularly teenagers. Insurers charge more if teenagers or young people below age 25 drive your car. No effect.
  • Credit – Insurance companies use FICO scores as a factor in insurance rates. Credit-based insurance scores are based on information like payment history, bankruptcies, collections, outstanding debt and length of credit history. Regular, on-time credit card and mortgage payments affect a score positively, while late payments affect a score negatively. Yes. Poor people generally have lower credit ratings overall.
  • Location – Local statistics influence Insurance rates, such as the number of accidents, car thefts and lawsuits, as well as the cost of medical care and car repair. Yes. Income is a large determining factor as to the crime rate of they area in which they live.
  • Make and Model – Automobiles that are expensive, have high theft rates, higher repair cost or have poor safety records cost more to insure. No effect.
  • Odometer Reading – If you drive a lot you increase your chance for accidents, the more you’ll pay. If you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, you will pay less. Some companies will give discounts to policyholders who carpool. Yes. As inner cities with more access to public transit become more gentrified, it forces the poor to move farther out, forcing them to put more miles on their odometer to reach their jobs.
  • Time Without Insurance – Plus there’s a time lag. You may also pay more if you haven’t been insured for a number of years. Yes. Poor people do not pay for items that they don’t use. If they live near their work, then they may have long periods where they do not drive.
  • Safe Driving Record – If you have a lot of accidents and serious traffic violations, the higher your rate of course. No effect.
  • Size of Policy – You’ll pay more for a large policy. Generally, insurance companies offer discounts if you have your homeowners and auto insurance policies with them. Yes. Many lower income people do not own their homes, boats, etc and do not have access to bundling discounts.

Seattle Car Accident Lawyer

There is a much larger poor population than there is rich, so it would be unreasonable to say that poor people get into more accidents based purely on population. There is also little to no evidence that, just because a person is poor, they are more prone to accidents.

We’re concerned about this issue because insurance companies will use any excuse to gouge the public and when one of their loyal customers receives a personal injury in a car wreck, they do everything in their power to avoid paying what they agreed to pay in order for the individual to receive proper care and/or just compensation.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident anywhere in Washington state, you need a skilled lawyer to deal with the insurance companies to assure you the best settlement. Call the Seattle car accident attorneys at Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation.