Personal Injury | November 15, 2022 by JOSHUA D. ANDERSON

What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident

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It’s never a good idea to leave the scene of a car crash. In Washington State, this event is considered a criminal offense. The law requires those involved in collisions to stop and take responsibility for their part in the crash. Even if you were not to blame, you must stop and exchange information with the other drivers at the very least. In many situations, you must report the accident to the authorities. 

 

While you might always do the right thing when driving or when you are in a crash, other drivers might not. You might pull over after a collision and exit your vehicle – only to see the other car speeding away. This often happens when the other driver is trying to avoid any problems with law enforcement officers or when they do not have insurance. 

 

Regardless of the reason, having another driver flee the scene can be devastating and stressful. You might immediately begin wondering how you are going to cover the costs of the accident, especially if you know you have injuries. In this situation, you should immediately contact the police. In the event that police are unable to come to the scene and complete a police report, you should immediately file a police report through the appropriate agency documenting what took place. 

 

The good news is that there are options for legal and financial relief – even following a hit-and-run. Consider contacting a car accident attorney in Bonney Lake to understand your options. 

 

What Is a Hit-and-Run Accident?

A hit-and-run accident is a car crash where a driver hits a victim’s car or the victim and does not stop or offer assistance. These accidents may be devastating to the victims, who may not have recourse for recovering damages.

 

Hit-and-Runs Are Not Uncommon

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that hit-and-run crashes happen about every 43 seconds in the U.S. Therefore, this type of accident is not uncommon and poses an ongoing threat to both drivers and pedestrians.

 

Avoiding a Hit-and-Run Charge: What Drivers Are Required to Do

To avoid getting a hit-and-run charge, a driver in Washington must do the following:

 

  1. Stop their vehicle at the crash scene or as close by as possible.
  2. Provide their contact details, insurance company info, insurance policy number, and vehicle license number to each party in the crash.
  3. Offer reasonable help to anyone who is injured.

 

Even if your car is hit while you’re not occupying it, the other party is legally responsible for leaving a note with their name and contact details. 

 

Penalties for Hit-and-Run Accidents

Hit-and-run penalties in Washington depend on the extent of the damages. For example, hitting an unoccupied vehicle is considered a misdemeanor and comes with a penalty of up to 90 days of jail time or up to a $1,000 court fine.

 

If the hit-and-run driver injures a driver or pedestrian and flees, the crime escalates to a Class C Felony, where the party is subject to up to five years in jail and a $10,000 file. If the victim dies in a hit-and-run crash, the crime is considered a Class B Felony, which can lead to 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.

 

Property damage is categorized as a gross misdemeanor, subject to 364 days in jail and a fine of $5,000.

 

Why Hit-and-Run Accidents Occur

People may flee the scene of an accident if they’re intoxicated, feel panicked, or are uninsured. Some drivers have contraband in the car. In all of these situations, drivers are usually afraid of having the police arrive at the scene and face serious criminal problems. However, hit-and-run drivers can face criminal charges for leaving the scene if law enforcement officers eventually catch them. This often happens, especially when witnesses – or you – take pictures or remember the license plate numbers. 

 

The Steps to Take After an Accident

If you’re the victim of this type of accident, you should take the following steps, among others:

 

 

  1. Move your car to a safe spot, if possible 
  2. Call 911 if you need medical aid
  3. Contact the police to file a report 
  4. Take pictures of the accident scene as well as the damages to your car
  5. If there are witnesses, try to get their accounts and contact information

 

If you are a pedestrian who has been hit, get over to a safe spot, away from traffic, if possible.

 

Call the police to file a report and, again, take pictures of the accident scene. Call 911 or ask someone to call for medical assistance if you’ve sustained an injury. Ask for witness accounts and get their contact information, if possible. 

 

What to Tell the Police

When filing a report with the police, give any details about the fleeing car that you remember, such as:

  1. Make and model of the car and its color
  2. Any distinguishing features of the other vehicle
  3. License number
  4. A physical description of the driver

 

You should also consider contacting a doctor, even if you don’t think you’ve sustained a serious injury. Sometimes, a driver may feel okay following an accident, but the mishap may trigger an injury that may appear several days, or even months, after the crash.

 

Call Your Insurance Company Right Away

Contact your insurance company to see if your policy covers hit-and-run accidents. You may be able to receive compensation if you have policies for uninsured motorist protection, personal injury protection, or MedPay. If you have an attorney, they will be able to make this call for you. Do not assume that just because you are contacting your own insurance company they will be cooperative or easy to work with.  

 

Uninsured Motorist (UM) Insurance

This insurance can help you receive compensation in case a driver in a hit-and-run cannot be located. This type of coverage in Washington State is voluntary.

 

PIP Insurance

Personal injury protection or PIP coverage allows you to receive a minimum of $10,000 in coverage to pay for medical bills, among other things, regardless of the at-fault party. Whether this protection extends to hit-and-runs depends on your insurance policy.

 

MedPay

MedPay insurance is designed to provide coverage for a driver’s medical costs, regardless of who is deemed to be at fault. Again, as with PIP protection, you’ll have to read your policy to see if hit-and-runs are covered.

 

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help

 

In Washington State, you should consider contacting a personal injury lawyer to learn more about recovery after this type of mishap. He or she can help you if you can’t locate the other driver or if you do find the other driver and need to sue for damages. 

Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident? Call Our Car Accident Attorney Near You.

Are you the victim of a hit-and-run accident? If so, learn more about your rights by contacting Anderson Law | Injury Attorneys. Call (253) 881-8613 for a free consultation today.



The information contained on this website is intended for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice. Nothing in this website establishes an attorney-client relationship between us. Different facts can dramatically affect a legal opinion. You should consult an attorney for legal advice that pertains to your personal situation.

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Joshua D. Anderson

Joshua D. Anderson grew up in Enumclaw, Washington with a close-knit family who instilled in him the values of faith, family, and hard work. Since a young age, Josh knew he wanted to be an attorney so he could advocate for others and always knew his focus would be personal injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of San Diego and graduated Cum Laude from Seattle University School of Law. While pursuing his degree, Josh served as an extern for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partiner, Joshua D. Anderson who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.