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If you have been the victim of a hit-and-run in Washington, you know it is an experience that can leave you shaken — especially if people were injured or your vehicle was damaged. Washington hit-and-run laws penalize drivers who flee the scene of an accident but are eventually caught. And fortunately, even if they are not found, you may still be covered for vehicle repairs or medical costs by your own insurance policy.
Hit-and-runs in Washington
In Washington, drivers are required to remain at the scene of an accident. If the driver who is at fault leaves the scene for any reason other than to bring help, it is considered a hit-and-run. Leaving the scene of an accident in WA may result in severe penalties, so it is worth taking the time to understand the hit-and-run laws here.
Washington hit-and-run laws
Per Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.52.020, if a driver injures a person or damages a vehicle, that driver is legally required to stop, exchange information and provide any necessary assistance, including getting injured parties medical care. If the accident causes a death, it will likely be considered a class B felony. An injury will likely result in a class C felony.
If you break the Washington hit-and-run law, your license may be suspended for up to one year. A class B felony may result in a jail term of up to 10 years or a fine of up to $20,000, while a class C felony is punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of no more than $10,000.
When you can drive again, you may experience some challenges related to your car insurance. After a hit-and-run in Washington, insurance can be harder to come by and may be significantly more expensive, particularly if you are classified as a high-risk driver.
How hit-and-runs impact car insurance rates in Washington
As mentioned, a hit-and-run conviction typically results in the at-fault driver’s car insurance rates going up. Between causing an accident, getting ticketed and potentially being required to file an SR-22, insurers may view hit-and-run drivers as more of a gamble to insure and price policies accordingly.
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run and file an insurance claim with your own provider, it’s possible that your rate will rise too — albeit less severely (in most cases) than if you caused the accident. Even so, it’s fortunate that there are multiple types of auto insurance coverage that may kick in. Collision insurance is one. Collision is generally part of a full coverage policy, and as the name suggests, it will help pay for repairs to your car when it is damaged in an accident. However, you will likely have to pay your deductible first.
4 things to do after a hit-and-run in Washington
While it might be tempting to chase after a fleeing driver, stay put if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident. Instead, take the following actions:
- Check for injuries. Ascertain if anyone has sustained injuries. If it is safe to do so, move all vehicles and people involved out of the flow of traffic. Call 911 to have emergency medical services and police sent to your location if needed.
- Jot down what you remember. While everything is still fresh, make notes on any details you can remember. For example, if you can recall, write down the hit-and-run driver’s license plate number, vehicle’s make and model and any other details that could help the police find them. If there are passengers in your vehicle or witnesses nearby, it can be helpful to write down any details they remember, too. You may also want to take pictures and/or videos of the scene and the damage to your vehicle.
- Cooperate with the police. Have your insurance card handy and cooperate fully with the police officers at the scene. Stay out of their way while they are conducting interviews or otherwise aiding those who were involved in the accident.
- Start your insurance claim. You should be able to get your insurance claim started right away by either calling your insurance provider or going to their app or website. The sooner you get your claim started, the sooner you will receive compensation for any covered losses.
Will insurance cover a hit-and-run?
Ideally, the police will be able to locate the hit-and-run driver. At that point, your insurance claim should be fairly straightforward. You’ll typically use the at-fault driver’s liability insurance — which the state requires every car owner to carry — to cover medical expenses, repairs or replacement of your vehicle, up to their policy’s limits.
But if the other driver cannot be located, or if the other driver does not have insurance, things get a bit more complicated. At that point, your options will depend on which coverages you carry:
- Uninsured motorist coverage: If you chose to add this coverage type to your policy, it may step in after a hit-and-run. Just like liability coverage, there are two types of uninsured motorist coverage: bodily injury, which helps with resulting medical expenses, and property damage, which helps to repair your vehicle. Generally, you will not need to worry about a hit-and-run deductible (meaning no out-of-pocket expense for you) with uninsured motorist coverage.
- Collision coverage: If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, this type of insurance may help repair or replace your car. But collision coverage does come with a deductible that must be met by the insured prior to the coverage kicking in.
Frequently asked questions
In the Evergreen State, car insurance is fairly affordable. Washington drivers pay an average of $1,410 annually for full coverage car insurance. This is well below the national average of $2,014 per year. However, your individual rate is based on circumstances unique to you, such as your driving history and credit rating, so it may be higher or lower than what’s average.
Yes, if you leave the scene. The relevant Washington statute, RCW 46.52.010, says you need to stop and try to find the affected driver. If you cannot, you have a legal responsibility to leave a note with your information on the car you hit. Failure to do so can result in a misdemeanor charge.
Accidents in Washington, including hit-and-run collisions, stay on your license for five years — with a few exceptions. If you are driving a commercial vehicle and convicted of a hit-and-run, it will stay on your license for 10 years. And if the accident involves alcohol, it will remain on your record for life. Your insurer is likely to have its own rules regarding how long your rates will be impacted after an accident, though.