• Accident Guide

WA Accident Guide

Getting into an accident can be such a trying time, with panic and pain both a factor. In some cases, drivers and their passengers can be quite lucky, escaping the incident unscathed, while there are those who are less lucky and may be injured or even killed in a traffic accident. The thing to remember is that even if there is an injury or death, the best thing is to handle the incident appropriately, as accidents do happen, and if the accident was just that, the chances are you won’t be penalized for the injury or death of others. In some cases it may not even be your fault, but even if it is, stick around as you commit a crime by leaving.

Handling a Washington Traffic Accident

Much like all states of the U.S., there are different steps to follow in Washington if you ever encounter a traffic accident, however, the precautions to take in an accident are all the same, and should be followed depending on the severity of the situation in order to increase the safety of those involved and handle the accident most appropriately.

  • Never leave the scene, as it automatically places you at fault, causes you to commit a crime, and is against the law. If you are involved in an accident, it is best just to assess the situation, remove the vehicle from the roadway, and contact the appropriate authorities to obtain the emergency assistance that is needed.
  • Stay to the road shoulder in order to prevent any other accidents or even injury from a side swipe hit.
  • If your engine is still running, make sure it is completely shut off.
  • If you need a cigarette, fight your urge. If there is spilled fuel, lighting a cigarette can cause a fire or explosion; depending on where and how much the fuel is spilled and spread.
  • If you have had a collision with any type of utility pole, be careful for downed wires that may have fallen during the accident.
  • Try to give oncoming traffic an alert, using flares if possible to attract attention – especially at night.
  • If the collision was with a vehicle currently unoccupied, you should do your best to locate the vehicle’s owner. If you cannot find them, leave a note on the vehicle where it is likely to be seen, leaving your name, contact information, and that of your insurance policy as well. You should then report the accident to local authorities in case the note is lost before the owner finds it and to protect yourself from a hit-and-run offense.
  • If the other drivers are around, exchange insurance and contact information with all parties involved. You should get all contact information, license plate information, and insurance information, providing the same.
  • Try to get the names and contact information of any witnesses present for the accident.
  • If you have a camera or camera phone handy, take pictures of all damages to all vehicles involved so no one can damage their vehicle later and say it was caused by you or so that no one can say your damages came afterward.
  • Regardless of how well you think you have studied television shows that involved accidents, never try to remove an injured passenger or driver from a vehicle, as their injuries could be increased by this action. If you find someone is in harm’s way if they remain in the vehicle – such as if there is a fire starting or some other pertinent danger – attempt to remove them as carefully as possible, even attempting to locate something for a brace support. Only when in immediate danger should a person be removed without emergency aid.

Filing Washington Accident Report

When do I need to file an accident report?

  • Every accident you are involved in you must file an accident report if law enforcement does not arrive to assess and investigate the collision

How long do I have to file the report?

  • You are given 4 days to report the incident yourself, with a blank accident report form offered at the Washington Police Department, Sherriff’s Office, or even the Washington State Patrol.

Collision Reporting on Washington Driving Records

The Washington Division of Licensing is going to add any collision report filed with your name into your driving record – but only if:

  • The incident involved an injury or death
  • The accident reached $700 or more in damages to either or both vehicles.

You won’t find cause or fault of the accident on these reports, however, as the DOL is only going to add the date the accident occurred, how many vehicles were involved, whether the vehicle or vehicles you hit were driving or parked or if it had occupants or not, and whether death or injury was a result.

If you wish to see what accident information is added to your Washington driving record, you can mail a letter that contains your name, birthdate, and date of collision to the following address:

            Accident Processing Unit
            Department of Licensing
            P.O. Box 9030
            Olympia, Washington 98507-9030

Washington Insurance Information Exchange

If there was a personal injury caused by an accident that you were involved in, with damages reaching over $700, you have the right to request the insurance information of other drivers involved. You must send the request with the full name of the other drivers or vehicle owners, the date of the collision, the other party’s birth date if you know it, and the collision report number on file with the DOL. Attach a check for the $10 fee and send it all to the following address:

            Accident Processing Unit
            Department of Licensing
            P.O. Box 9048
            Olympia, Washington 98507-9048


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