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The Washington state car accident guide: What to do if you’re involved in a crash

What to do if you’re involved in a crash

what to do after car accident injury

If you’re involved in a car accident, Washington, there’s a flurry of emotions, concerns, and activities that take place in just seconds.

While it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, it’s also important to remember that the decisions you make in the moments and days that follow the crash are crucial for protecting your physical well-being, as well as your legal rights.

Here’s what you to do if you’re involved in a car crash in Washington state.

Call the police or Washington State Patrol (WSP) immediately

after car accident injury

Whether the car accident you’re involved in involves another driver, a pedestrian, or someone riding a bicycle, Washington state car accident laws require you to immediately stop and call the police or WSP if someone is injured, or if there is greater than $700 in property damage. (Even if it’s only a minor fender bender and you’re not sure there’s been that much damage, call anyway. It’s better to be safe than sorry.)

The responding officer will complete a Washington car accident report, known as a collision report (or more generally as a police report), which records a third-party observation of what they believe happened as well as the cause of the auto accident. If the WSP or the police only completes a basic report, you are required to complete one within four days of the accident. Calling law enforcement fulfills your legal duty.

Yet, calling WSP for a state accident report form or calling your local police to report the accident has another important benefit. If someone the on the scene is injured, calling 911 is the most effective way to get WSP or your local police, along with paramedics, to assist anyone who is injured.

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Do not apologize to anyone involved in the accident

after car accident

While it may seem nothing out of the ordinary to say that you’re sorry because of the accident, doing so could be taken as a sign that you’re admitting guilt. It could even show up in the Washington car accident report.

Keep in mind that the accident report is something that is taken into consideration by the insurance company when claims are reported. While you should certainly check to make sure that the other driver as well as passengers involved are not injured, do not apologize or say anything that could be construed as an apology.

Take photos and notes of the scene of the accident while you’re still present

what to do after car accident injury
If you’re not injured and you’re able to do so, use your smartphone to take photos of the accident scene while you’re still present, but do not get in the way of the responding police officer while they work on the Washington state car accident report. Take photos of the damage to the involved vehicles, the street, any skid marks, stop signs, road signs, road conditions, or anything else at the scene of the accident that could help with your insurance claim, as well as any potential legal claim that you may want to file in the future. Write down license plate numbers, time of day, weather conditions, diagram of the accident—anything you can think of to help you preserve a record of the event and involved vehicles.

Get the names and contact information of any witnesses

This is important. Third-party witnesses may be necessary to help support your version of what happened. Ask for a statement from any eyewitnesses, or at least their names and phone numbers so they can be contacted later. You may also need to provide this information to the police, the insurance company, and to your Washington state car accident attorney.

Also, make sure you swap names, phone numbers, driver’s license details, and insurance information with the other involved driver.

Get treatment for your injuries

car accident injury

Even if you believe that the injuries you have aren’t that serious, you should always make sure that you get medical attention right away.

One issue that most people don’t recognize is that some car accident injuries don’t have obvious symptoms until they become quite serious. Internal bleeding, traumatic brain injuries, and many other kinds of injuries may go undetected for hours, days, or even weeks following an accident. Seeking medical treatment right away can often help you catch these problems before they have a chance to worsen.

On top of that, if you don’t seek medical care within the first few days after the accident, the insurance company may try to argue that your injuries weren’t really that serious, or that they were not related to the crash. By speaking with a doctor right away, those medical records can provide strong evidence linking the injuries to the crash, even when symptoms are delayed.

Finally, remember you’ve just been involved in a stressful situation. With adrenaline flowing through your veins, you may not feel much pain right away. This makes it more difficult for you to tell whether you’ve suffered a serious injury. To protect yourself, get checked out. If you are injured, get the treatment that you need.

Call your insurance company

Regardless of who you believe to be at fault for the accident, you should always report it to your own insurance company soon after a crash. Don’t wait to let the car insurance company know that you were involved in an accident, especially if it met the criteria in Washington state car accident laws that made it a requirement for you to report it to the police.

Even if it seems beyond obvious to you that the other party is 100% at fault and their liability coverage should be responsible to pay, that doesn’t mean the other driver will see it that way (or be honest about the circumstances). By promptly reporting the accident to your own insurer, you can better protect yourself in case you later choose to make a claim, or if anyone else makes a claim against you. Plus, if you have questions about liability and insurance coverage options, an experienced Washington state personal injury attorney can investigate every option for recovery so you can get the compensation you deserve.

File a personal injury claim

If you were hurt in an accident that was not your fault, or even just not entirely your fault, you may be entitled to financial compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your damages. Your medical bills, wage losses, and even non-economic damages like pain and suffering could all be part of your claim.

Washington is one of relatively few states that has a “pure comparative fault” system, meaning that as long as the other driver was at least 1% at fault, you can file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company. (Your damages will be reduced by whatever percentage of fault you share, if any.)

The minimum amount of auto insurance that someone must carry in Washington is $25,000 of liability coverage for one person in an accident that you are found at-fault for causing, $50,000 for total injuries or death to all people in an accident you are found at-fault for causing, and $10,000 for damage to anyone else’s property in an accident you are found at-fault for causing.

While it isn’t required to have uninsured motorist coverage (referred to as UM coverage), it helps pay for damage as well as medical care if you’re ever involved in a car accident with someone with no insurance. The unfortunate reality is that, if the other driver does not have insurance—or if their insurance policy limits are inadequate to cover your damages—you may have limited ability to collect fair compensation unless you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage of your own to pick up the slack. Again, to get a clear picture of your options, it’s in your best interest to seek legal counsel.

Schedule a consultation with a Washington state car accident attorney as soon as you can

It’s important to schedule a consultation with a Washington state car accident attorney who has nothing other than your best interest in mind. Don’t put this off! The sooner you get solid legal advice, the less likely you are to make costly mistakes, such as admitting fault, giving statements you shouldn’t have given, or accepting a settlement offer for far less than what your case is worth.

A car accident lawyer can also get to work quickly, help you identify and protect key evidence, and build you a strong case. Your attorney can also identify insurance policies and sources of compensation that may apply to your situation, guide you through the claims process, handle filings and negotiations on your behalf, deal with the insurance adjusters, and keep your case moving along so you can shift your focus toward healing and rebuilding your life, rather than fighting legal battles.

At Herschensohn Law, initial consultations are always free, and you never owe us anything unless you win a settlement or verdict.


Stay off social media

what to do after car accident

We know: the temptation is real. But even though your first instinct—after the shock wears off—might be to give an update to your friends and followers, it’s never a good idea to post about an accident or personal injury before a case is settled or otherwise concluded.

Social media posts are not private, and the things you post can very easily be used against you by the insurance company—even if your posts aren’t about the crash itself. If, for example, you post a picture of you hiking or lifting something (even if the image was from before the accident), the insurance company might use that as evidence that you’re exaggerating your injuries.

So, the safest course of action is to simply take a break from posting for a while, and avoid discussing your case with anyone other than your doctors and your legal team.

Don’t settle unless you truly know what your case is worth

Remember, the primary goal of the insurance company is to save money for themselves, not to ensure your needs are fully cared for. The insurance adjuster may act friendly and tell you they are trying to help you, but they are not your friend. They may not offer you enough to cover the damage to your vehicle, pay for your medical expenses, or the time you may have lost from work.

RELATED: How does my attorney determine the value of my car accident claim?

Contact Herschensohn Law for your free consultation

It’s your job to get better. You shouldn’t have to argue with the insurance company about what your life is worth. Don’t sign releases from them without talking to your attorney first. Your ability to file a claim for your car accident is limited by Washington state car accident law to three years after the date of the accident in most cases.

Attorney Zach Herschensohn has been fighting for the rights of the injured in the Seattle metropolitan area and across Washington for years. He and his team can help you determine whether you have a case, calculate what it’s worth, and provide unbiased legal advice.

To learn more about how to get what you deserve from your potential claim, call Herschensohn Law PLLC now at 206-588-4344 to schedule your free case consultation.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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