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Washington Subrogation Law

March 28, 2023

If you’ve had a car accident, you probably think you’ve learned far more about how insurance companies work than you ever wanted to know—and then you hear talk about subrogation. What is subrogation law in Washington, and what does it mean for you when you’re recovering from an accident?

When you’re dealing with recovering from physical injuries and economic damages from an accident, you may need to know exactly what subrogation means for you and whether or not it impacts the way you file an accident claim.

Washington Subrogation Law

What is Subrogation?

Subrogation is a process used by an insurance company when they file a claim to recover the money they’ve already paid out on a claim from the insurance company of the at-fault party. For example, if you’ve been injured in an accident, you’re likely to have immediate medical needs, including evaluations, treatments, and procedures. Rather than waiting for the process of determining fault in the accident and pursuing a claim against them, your own health insurance policy will cover the amount of your treatment after your deductible according to their terms. Once the accident investigation shows someone else was at fault for the accident, the insurance company uses subrogation to recover the amount they paid out on the initial claim. Subrogation is their way of gaining repayment from the policy of the party at fault in the accident.

Subrogation and Washington’s At-Fault Insurance Law

Because Washington is an at-fault state, it matters who caused an accident. That person’s insurance policy must cover a claim. When you’ve had an accident, there are three ways to seek compensation for damages:

  • File a first-party claim through your own insurance company, pay your deductible, and wait for your insurance company to recover the amount they’ve paid out, plus your deductible from the at-fault party’s insurance policy, after which they must return your deductible (minus any percentage of fault if you’re found to be partly at fault in the accident)
  • File a third-party claim directly to the insurance company of the at-fault party so they directly cover your damages with no need for subrogation. While this may seem like the most direct route, often the insurance policy’s limits prevent you from fully recovering your damages when the party at fault has only the minimum legally required coverage of $25,000 per injury victim and $50,000 total for all injury victims per accident
  • File a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover full compensation through a court award

A Seattle car accident attorney can discuss the details of your unique accident case and help you decide the best way to pursue compensation and maximize your claim after an accident.

Can Subrogation Benefit You After an Accident in Washington?

Not only does an insurance company’s subrogation process help you gain back the deductible you’ve paid toward your medical treatment after an accident, but it can also benefit you in other ways. By first filing a claim with your own medical insurance or the medical coverage provided under your own insurance policy, you can maximize a potential settlement later. Large health insurance companies have contractual discounts with medical providers, but you don’t have to claim an amount at that discounted rate during the settlement process. Instead, you can claim the standard reasonable rate. Washington law doesn’t allow admission of your healthcare coverage in court so it can’t be used against you in a lawsuit.

Finally, it’s important to understand the process of subrogation before you accept a settlement. Most insurance companies require you to notify them if you intend to accept a settlement because it may impact their ability to recoup losses through subrogation.

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