What to do after a hit-and-run accident?

Under Washington State law, you must stop if you crash your vehicle into someone else. Unfortunately, hit-and-run accidents are becoming increasingly common. What happens if you’ve been a victim of this type of crash? Understandably, it’s an infuriating situation that can leave you wondering how you’ll now pay for your medical bills and damage to your car.

As personal injury lawyers, we’ve spoken with many clients over the years who have found themselves in this situation. We wanted to provide some thoughts on what you should and should not do if you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run-accident.

Types of Hit-and-Run Scenarios

A hit-and-run accident happens any time a driver causes a crash and leaves the scene. There are a few different ways this could occur:

  • Driving Hit-and-Run. A car fails to pull over or stop after striking another vehicle. They may even speed away from the scene.
  • Parking Lot Hit-and-Run. Sometimes, a driver will damage another person’s vehicle in a parking lot, perhaps while backing in or out of a space. Instead of waiting for the other driver to return to their car or providing contact information, they leave.
  • Bicyclist or Pedestrian Hit-and-Run. Unfortunately, some drivers have been known to leave even after seriously injuring a pedestrian or bicyclist with their vehicle.

Depending on the severity of the crash and injuries, a fleeing driver could face serious criminal charges.

Why would a Driver Flee the Scene?

There are several possible explanations for why a driver may speed away from the scene of a crash they’ve caused. For instance, they could be:

  • Wanted for other crimes.
  • Driving under the influence.
  • Driving a stolen vehicle.
  • Uninsured or unlicensed.
  • Having a panic response.

While these are possible explanations, they are not excuses. It is never acceptable to leave the scene of a crash.

Hit-and-Run Laws in Washington

Washington State law requires that drivers take certain actions after colliding with another car (per RCW 46.45.020). Drivers must:

  1. Stop their vehicle.
  2. If safe to do so, move their vehicle off the road or out of traffic.
  3. Provide contact information to the other driver, including name and insurance information.
  4. Render medical aid to any injured party. This could include calling 911 or taking an injured person to the hospital.

If a driver fails to meet these requirements, they could face serious criminal charges including hefty fines and even jail time. In the event a driver kills someone and runs, they could be facing a felony charge. On a related note, Washington State law also has requirements for drivers who strike an unattended vehicle and cause property damage. (As you might imagine, it’s also a crime for a driver to flee this type of collision.)

One Thing Not to Do after a Hit-and-Run

Whatever you do, do not attempt to chase after a car that’s hit you. You do not want to cause further accidents or be held responsible for speeding or other infractions. As upsetting as this situation is, it’s important to stay safe.

Besides this, staying at the scene of the accident means you’ll have a better chance of getting eyewitnesses, an accurate police report, and pictures to document what happened. Call the police and wait for them to assist.

Steps to Take after a Hit-and-Run Accident

Here are the steps you should take if you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run accident.

  1. Seek medical care. If you or any of your passengers have suspected serious or life-threatening injuries, don’t hesitate to call 911.
  2. Call for emergency services. A police report can be a valuable source of evidence and corroborate your claim of it being a hit-and-run situation. Plus, they can help secure the scene if it’s creating traffic.
  3. Locate any witnesses. It’s possible a witness gathered a license plate number or captured part of the event on phone. Don’t forget to check any nearby businesses, who may have video surveillance.
  4. Notify your insurance company. Still can’t locate the other driver? It’s possible you can file a claim against your own policy. See our post about how car insurance works for more information.

Last, if you have sustained injuries, we urge you to reach out to a personal injury lawyer for assistance. They can help investigate what happened, inform you of your legal rights, and help determine who you can file a claim with. Having a skilled lawyer on your side can make you feel like you’ve regained some power in this situation.

How Insurance Works for Hit-and-Run Accidents

We encourage you to reach out to your insurance agent as soon as you can following an accident. Ideally, the same day. In most cases, you should be able to file a claim against your own insurance company. In other words, your own policy may be able to cover your property damage and medical expenses.

Depending on the circumstances, these coverages may come into play:

When you call your insurance company to report the accident, make sure to indicate that it was a hit-and-run collision. In the event that the at-fault driver is identified, your insurance company can take action. (And likely the police will take action, too!) The good news is that your insurance premiums are not likely to increase if you were in a no-fault, hit-and-run accident. The bad news is that you will likely be on the hook for out-of-pocket deductibles.

Reach Out to a Personal Injury Lawyer for Help

It’s free to speak with a lawyer from our team about your hit-and-run-accident. We have offices in Tacoma and Olympia and can assist no matter where you live in Washington State. Feel free to call us or fill out the short form on our homepage. We understand that every collision is different – and you may have unique options available to you given your circumstances. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to answer any questions you have about what happened.

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