Bellevue Washington Insurance Law Blog
Having insurance is just another part of being a responsible adult. But while many people in Washington carry coverage for auto and health care, they often overlook other types of coverage. For example, life insurance can be the difference between a family just surviving or thriving following the death of a loved one. When considering which type of life insurance might be best, it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of whole life insurance.
Term life insurance is only a temporary form of coverage, which expires at a specific date. A whole life policy lasts for the policyholder’s entire life. The policyholder can purchase the appropriate amount of coverage and then designate benefits, such as children or other loved ones.
Anyone who has ever purchased an insurance policy probably understands just how confusing the terms can be. In many cases, what is and is not covered is not always clear. This can lead to very frustrating situations in which a Washington policyholder makes what he or she thinks is a legitimate claim, only to be told by the insurance company that it is not. A potential lack of insurance coverage is the exact situation that some men and women are facing right now.
In another state, many people’s homes were flooded after a man-made dam failed. More than a billion gallons of water flooded into a number of homes, and was even strong enough to knock down granite countertops. In some areas the water mostly came through basement drains instead of doors or windows, which destroyed water heaters, furnaces and some family heirlooms.
It is no secret that health care is expensive. Men and women in Washington often rely on health insurance to cover at least a portion of their medical expenses, but still come up short when it comes time to pay medical bills. A health savings account — HSA — is designed to cover some of those leftover costs. Whether someone qualifies for an HSA is up to insurance law, though.
An HSA is an account that can only be used for health care related expenses. Policyholders can contribute a portion of their pretax earnings, which means that they are both setting aside money for medical care but also securing a helpful tax benefit. HSA savings do not incur taxes and there are no penalties for using the funds. It is also possible to lower one’s tax bracket by contributing enough pretax income.
Informed consent is essential in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to matters of personal health and welfare. Unfortunately, Washington patients in dire need of medical care are often pushed into signing agreements they have not read and are in no state to understand. Some do not even remember ever signing anything. But when this happens, the insurance company may only pay a fraction of the cost, leaving the patient with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. But just because someone receives a bill does not necessarily mean that he or she is responsible for payment.
For example, an out-of-state man who was billed $48,934 for an air ambulance ride may not actually be responsible for that much. In July 2019, a stray dog ran out into traffic on the highway and knocked him off of his motorcycle. He broke three ribs, an elbow and his neck. Emergency responders then transported him to a hospital via air ambulance, a move that was an estimated 30 minutes faster than by ground. While in transit, he was given the drug fentanyl for his pain before signing a form consenting to treatment and billing.
Even though homeowners hope that disaster will never strike, they also know that they should prepare for the worst. But even after taking that important step toward protection, the average homeowner might not be familiar with the process for filing a homeowners insurance claim. Having a firm understanding of this process can help a homeowner avoid any unnecessary headaches when dealing with the insurance company.
For some people in Washington, the first step is to file a police report. This is only if the damage was caused by something like vandalism or theft, and homeowners should be sure to contact the insurance company next. If that is not the case and the damage was caused by something else, like a fire, the first step is to notify the insurance company. While policies can differ, many require that damage be reported within a specific time frame.
Negotiating claims with the insurance company might not be easy or fun, but it is not impossible. Still, auto insurance companies often bank on the hope that you will give up before you can get very far in the process. Being prepared and keeping the following tips in mind can make negotiating an auto insurance claim easier for some drivers in Washington.
Documentation is very important when negotiating with the insurance company. This includes things like pictures taken at the scene of the accident, the police report, repair bills, medical records and medical bills. When a claims adjuster has access to all of this information, he or she can more easily determine an appropriate settlement.
When a person’s condition is dire, an ambulance ride sometimes is not enough. Air ambulances are essential in these types of life or death situations. But when being transported to a hospital via helicopter, patients or family members probably do not anticipate the cost of saving someone’s life. Surprise medical bills for these rides can land some Washington patients several tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
The biggest indicator that someone will receive a bill for an air ambulance ride is if the ambulance itself is not in his or her insurance network. However, when every second counts, those in desperate need of medical care are not really in the position to ask whether a helicopter ride will be covered. One study shows that around 72% of people who are transported in an air ambulance end up with surprise bills for the ride. Since the rides are not covered, ambulance providers can generally charge whatever they choose. Some of those charges are as high as $20,000.
The cost of owning and repairing a home can quickly add up, which is why having homeowners insurance is so important. Some lenders even require Washington homeowners to have coverage. But what does the average homeowners insurance policy actually cover? Perhaps somewhat less than what most people think.
A standard homeowners insurance policy should cover the home’s physical structure, personal belongings and temporary living expenses if displaced. This means that a policy should cover more than just the cost of damages from a range of natural disasters. Personal belongings that are damaged or even stolen are generally covered, as are expenses related to temporarily living elsewhere during repairs, such as hotel bills and meals. Most homeowners policies also provide liability protection, which covers lawsuits for injury or property damage that occurs on the policyholder’s property.
Life might have felt predictable before you got hurt, but now you are left trying to figure out the right path forward. If you can no longer work because of your injury, that path may include long-term disability benefits. Insurance law in Washington and across the country does not make it easy for you to navigate this system, though. You may want to consider some of the following when claiming benefits.
There are two ways to secure long-term disability coverage, one of which is by privately purchasing a policy. Making a claim should resemble making claims for other types of coverage, like health care or auto insurance. While this might make the process of filing straightforward, it also means that the insurance company might deny your claim just as easily. You should do your best to be prepared to answer any tough questions your insurer might have.
Renters rely on their landlords for repairs around their houses or apartments. Since a landlord is usually just a phone call away, the average renter in Washington might not think that he or she needs renters insurance. But renters insurance is not like homeowners’ insurance. It is not for damages or repairs to the property, but things like possessions or injuries that happen on the property.
Renters insurance covers three main things. One area is premises liability, which is a type of legal claim that someone can make if he or she is injured on another person’s property. Should an injured party sue and secure compensation, that is where renters insurance should step in and cover the resulting costs.