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Key Differences in Uninsured Motorist Coverage in BC and Washington State

In British Columbia and Washington State, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is a form of available insurance regulated differently between jurisdictions. Referred to as Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP) in BC and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) in Washington State, UMP/UIM is meant to provide backup coverage for incident-related costs if the at-fault driver has no insurance or limited insurance. Because uninsured motorist coverage is different on either side of the border, it is important to understand variations if you decide to pursue a cross-border injury claim.

Our cross-border personal injury lawyers can help you determine how uninsured motorist coverage might be applicable if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident. For legal advice about what may be possible for you, schedule a free consultation with our team today.

What is Underinsured Motorist Coverage and How Does it Differ Between BC and Washington State?

Underinsured motorist coverage is a form of liability insurance available in British Columbia and Washington State. It is meant to offer protection if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident and the at-fault driver’s insurance cannot compensate for all of your injuries, losses, and expenses.

In British Columbia, Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP) equal to $1,000,000 is legislatively mandated for all drivers. UMP is a liability policy administered through ICBC as part of their universal Basic Autoplan insurance. This means that UMP technically covers every driver in British Columbia with up to $1,000,000 in compensation if the driver responsible for their accident is uninsured or underinsured. You may extend your UMP amount through a private insurer independently of ICBC if you wish to do so.

In Washington State, drivers may opt out of Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) in writing to save on their insurance premiums. In addition, drivers in Washington State are allowed to purchase relatively low-coverage insurance policies because their contracts are personally managed. As a result, their insurance policy may not cover the total cost of injuries, losses, and expenses caused by a car accident they are at fault for. Furthermore, if they are injured in a car accident by an underinsured party, they may not have the liability insurance necessary to cover expenses incurred.

How to Access Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Another key difference between UMP and UIM in British Columbia and Washington State is the mechanism by which you may access your coverage.

In British Columbia, a driver must demonstrate that their injuries cost more than the amount of insurance available on behalf of the person who injured them to access their UMP. You may also have to settle your third-party tort claim against the at-fault driver first. This is only necessary if your accident occurred outside of BC and is not subject to the province’s no-fault insurance scheme. Upon settlement, your claim will be judged by ICBC, and, if awarded, your available funds may be subject to certain deductibles. UMP is normally regarded as a last resort in BC. This might mean that extended private health insurance you hold through your family or employer is preferable as your first line of coverage.

In Washington State, if claimants have UIM, they can access it before settling their third-party tort claim against the at-fault driver if they are underinsured. Claimants in Washington may also offer their own insurance company a chance to step in and pursue a lawsuit against the third party. This is usually done by issuing a “Hamilton” letter, which gives the insurance agency that paid out the claimant’s UIM a chance to recover their losses against the personal assets of the at-fault party. In either scenario, drivers in Washington State can potentially access their UIM coverage with more ease than drivers in British Columbia.

Are You Entitled to Underinsured Motorist Protection in British Columbia?

The introduction of Enhanced Care by ICBC in 2021 has altered how drivers in BC can access their UMP. If drivers injured in an accident after May 1st, 2021, choose to access their ICBC Accident (Part 7) Benefits, they are no longer entitled to UMP. ICBC Accident Benefits include coverage for medical care and wage loss when drivers are injured in a car accident.

Certain exceptions exist that allow drivers to access UMP after claiming Accident Benefits through ICBC. These include circumstances where:

  • The driver was injured in a foreign jurisdiction, and;
  • The laws of the jurisdiction in which the driver was injured entitle individuals to receive UMP

Schedule a Consultation with Our Cross-Border Injury Lawyers Today

If you are injured in a car accident by a driver who has little to no insurance, your situation can become even more complicated. By understanding your own policy, liability insurance, and the intricacies of UMP and UIM coverage, you can feel more prepared when an accident does happen. Because our cross-border injury lawyers at Border Solutions Law Group are licensed to practice in both Washington State and British Columbia, they can confidently answer your questions about insurance coverage, wherever your accident takes place. For assistance with an accident or claim, contact our team today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Disclaimer: For specific legal advice on your cross-border personal injury matter, please consult with a personal injury lawyer. The content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice and is instead intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic.