What to Do After a Car Accident in Washington


According to research, a car accident occurs every five minutes in the state of Washington.

Do you know how to respond if you experience one?

Immediately following an auto accident, you’re understandably shaken up, confused, and unsure what to do next. That’s why it pays to know the steps to take, people to talk to and details to remember.

Today, we’re taking a close look at how the Washington state accident reporting process works. This way, you know what to expect if you ever find yourself in the middle of the unthinkable.

Step 1: Stay Calm and Call 911

After an accident, your first step is to remain calm. This is a critical moment and any action you take now will be scrutinized in court.

Most importantly, do not flee the scene. Pull your vehicle over immediately into a safe area, away from other drivers or pedestrians, and turn off the engine. If it’s a major accident resulting in immobilized vehicles or injuries, call 911 to seek help immediately.

Step 2: Exchange Important Information

If you’re physically capable, your next step is to exchange basic contact information with everyone involved in the crash. The specific data you’re required by law to share and obtain includes your:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Driver license number
  • License plate number
  • Insurance information (company, policy number)

Remember that anything you say at this juncture could be used against you in court. Avoid apologizing or admitting responsibility, and stick to the facts.

If your phone is still working after the accident, it’s a smart idea to take a picture of the scene, along with any vehicles involved. This can serve as helpful evidence in court.

Step 3: Follow the Washington State Accident Reporting Process

If you alerted authorities to the accident and the police arrive at the scene, they will complete an on-site accident report. However, if you did not alert the police and the accident caused an injury, fatality, or more than $700 in property damage, you’ll need to file what’s known as a Collision Report.

Washington law mandates that you must file this report within four days of the accident. You can create and submit a Collision Report with the Washington State Patrol at this site.

Step 4: Understand Your Insurance Policy

Washington operates as a “fault state”. This means that the driver legally responsible for causing the accident must pay for any bodily or property damage it caused.

Thus, the law requires that any driver in the state carry certain levels of insurance to help cover these costs. If the extent of damage is beyond those limits, the at-fault driver is personally responsible for filling the gap and providing additional compensation.

Step 5: Know Your Lawsuit Options

The Statute of Limitations for filing a lawsuit after a car accident in the state of Washington is three years.

Once this period of time has passed, a plaintiff is no longer able to seek compensation for accident-related damages. If you decide to pursue one, you need to know how to proceed.

First, you’ll submit a brief complaint to the City-County Building. Within this complaint, you’ll describe the accident, along with all parties involved. You’ll also request monetary compensation and explain the reason you’re seeking this support.

Understand that depending on the exact details surrounding your case, the lawsuit process can be quick and simple or drawn-out and laborious. It pays to have an experienced car accident lawyer by your side who can help you navigate the paperwork and ensure you’re taking the right steps.

If your claim is $5,000 or less, it’s often easier and more beneficial to file it with the District Court’s small claims division. There are many different types of lawsuits you could pursue following an accident, so let’s take a look at the most common ones.

Negligence and Comparative Negligence

This is the most commonly-filed lawsuit following an auto accident.

Are you seeking compensation for accidental injuries? If so, you can file a negligence lawsuit if you can prove that the at-fault party failed to exercise proper care in the moments leading up to the accident.

On the other hand, there are many accidents in which both parties are at-fault. In this case, the lawsuit follows regulations dictated by Washington’s Contributory Fault Law.

In short, this law maintains that a plaintiff is eligible for recovery, but the amount they’re awarded is reduced by the percentage of accident-related responsibility that they carry. For instance, if you need $5,000 to fix your car after an accident, but you caused 15% of the event, you’ll only receive $4,250.

Wrongful Death

If the accident is serious enough to cause a fatality, loved ones of the deceased person may choose to file a Wrongful Death lawsuit.

This compensation can help cover the cost of funeral expenses. It can also be applied to help cover any lost wages that the plaintiff experiences due to the event, along with lost companionship.

Products Liability

Was there a design or manufacturing defect in an automobile that catalyzed the accident? If so, plaintiffs can file a Products Liability lawsuit and sue the manufacturer directly.

While these cases aren’t impossible to win, they require the input of an automotive professional and can get very technical.

Work With Our Experienced Car Accident Attorneys

In the moments directly following a car accident, it might feel like your entire world is upside down. Even if you don’t experience any major injuries, the stress and chaos alone can be maddening.

This is where we come in.

We’re a team of experienced attorneys skilled in every aspect of personal injury law. We’re here to help you complete the necessary paperwork, comply with the Washington state accident reporting process, and defend your rights in court if necessary.

Contact us today to schedule a free confidential consultation to discuss the details of your case.

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