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Insurance Benefits And Coverage Available In Wrongful Death Claims

There are different types of insurance benefits that may be available to you or other surviving family members if your loved one dies as a result of a motor vehicle accident. If the deceased had automobile insurance coverage, these benefits may include:

• Personal Injury Protection (PIP) / Survivor Benefits: Usually, there is at least $10,000 worth of coverage that is available for loss of services performed by the deceased. Services lost would include mowing the grass, taking the kids to school, home repairs, etc. The amount of this coverage could be as high as $35,000 depending on the policy. Washington law states that PIP coverage of $10,000 must be offered unless rejected in writing by the insured. If the carrier cannot produce a copy of the insured’s written rejection, then PIP coverage must be offered, even if the insured never paid for it.

• Funeral Benefits: Available to help cover the cost of the funeral.

• Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Benefits (UM/UIM): This coverage will apply if the at-fault driver is uninsured, or if the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage is insufficient to cover all damages. UIM coverage is a “floating layer” of coverage, meaning that it is coverage in addition to the coverage held by the at-fault driver. Washington law states that UM/UIM coverage must be offered in the same amount as a driver’s liability coverage unless rejected in writing. If there are multiple policies, then the separate UM/UIM coverage amounts may be stackable. You will need to consult an attorney to make this determination.

Types Of Insurance Policies

These coverage types are extremely important because they will often determine whether a wrongful death case can be successfully pursued:

• Personal insurance coverage: You should ask for all policies that covered the at-fault party so you can determine if stacking is available. Do not trust the opinions or statements made by the insurance adjustor about what policies exist or may apply. Get the policies and make your own determination or have an experienced attorney review the policies.

• Umbrella policies: These are insurance policies that apply when additional coverage is needed to cover the value of the loss. An umbrella policy is also called an “excess policy” because it offers additional coverage on top of a primary policy, like an automobile insurance policy.

• Business insurance policies: As the name implies, these are insurance policies that cover the actions of the business entity and the company employees.

• Personal and business assets of the at-fault party: You may need to look at the personal and business assets of the at-fault party to determine whether they are sufficient to pay the value of the claim if insurance does not exist. If the at-fault party is a major corporation, then it may be self-insured.