What to Do If Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident in Washington

What to Do If Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident in Washington

Accidents are terrifying, especially if you or a loved one suffered painful injuries as well as property damage to your car. When the accident was caused by another driver, you might justifiably expect them to offer help and an apology, but what if the at-fault driver not only doesn’t offer assistance but instead, flees the scene of the accident without leaving a name or contact information? What do you do then?

Hit-and-run accidents are not as uncommon as you might think. According to a AAA report and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a hit-and-run accident happens every 43 seconds in the U.S.

Hit-and-Run Laws in Washington

Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense in Washington with significant legal penalties. According to Washington RCW 46.52.020:

“A driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury to or death of any person or involving striking the body of a deceased person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to, and in every event remain at, the scene of such accident…”

Even hitting an unoccupied vehicle and leaving the scene without giving your name and contact information is a misdemeanor crime with a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail. Charges and penalties increase in severity for fleeing the scene with occupants in a vehicle and become felony charges for fleeing and leaving injury victims. If a hit-and-run driver causes a fatality and leaves the scene, they face a felony conviction and up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine upon apprehension.  

What Do I Do If I’m the Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident in Washington?

Seeing a driver flee the scene is an upsetting experience. It’s difficult to take purposeful action in the immediate aftermath of an accident, especially if you’re hurt. If you’re able to retrieve your cell phone, you can try taking a photo of the fleeing car. Even if it’s already a distance away, you may be able to enlarge it later for details. In addition, do the following:

  • Move to the side of the road to a safe location if you’re physically able
  • Call 911 to report the accident. Ask for emergency services and the police. Inform the dispatcher that you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run driver and describe the vehicle that caused the accident and the direction they were heading
  • Take photos of the accident scene and your damaged vehicle
  • Take photos of any visible injuries
  • Go directly to the hospital and ask for a complete medical examination and a detailed report
  • Follow your doctor’s directions carefully
  • Inform your car insurance company that you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run accident and be prepared to show them the police report
  • Hire an Everett car accident attorney to advise you of your options for recovering compensation

You may be able to recover compensation for your damages through your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or collision coverage if you’ve selected either addition to your basic policy.

If the police locate the hit-and-run driver, they are liable for your damages as well as the criminal penalties they face. If the driver does not have insurance, your uninsured motorist coverage must cover your damages to the limits of your policy. Make sure to contact an experienced Everett car accident lawyer from Wells Trumbull today.