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Washington Car Accident Laws

September 26, 2022

Washington is one of the safest states for driving, recently ranking at number 7 in the country. Unfortunately, car accidents can and do happen everywhere, including in Washington. If you’ve experienced a car accident in Washington, you might be worried about more than just the impact on your health and the damage to your vehicle.

It helps to have a clear understanding of the state’s car accident laws so you understand your rights if you chose to file a claim with the help of a car accident lawyer. What you do after an accident affects the outcome of your claim for compensation for vehicle damage and medical expenses. You can better protect yourself by learning the laws and understanding how to establish fault.

Washington Car Accident Laws

Is Washington an At-Fault State?

Some states in the United States are no-fault states. These states place restrictions on a victim’s right to sue and instead rely on each policyholder’s own insurance to cover their claims. Washington, however, is not a no-fault state. Like the majority of states, Washington is an at-fault state or a “tort” state. The driver responsible for the accident is also responsible for the damages it caused. Washington requires every driver to carry insurance, but the at-fault driver’s insurance covers the expenses caused by the accident.

Understanding Fault in Washington Car Accidents

Washington operates as a full-comparative fault state using a system of comparison negligence after a car accident. After an investigation, each involved driver is assigned a percentage of fault. This also translates into a percentage of liability. Depending on the specific circumstances of the crash, both drivers receive an assigned percentage of fault. If a driver is 100% at fault, their insurance company pays 100% of the damages. If a driver is 70% at fault, their insurance pays 70% of the damages and the other driver’s insurance pays 30%.

Washington law requires drivers to carry at least $10,000 of liability insurance for property damage and $25,000 or more for personal injury. If the costs of an accident exceed a driver’s liability coverage, an accident victim can sue the at-fault driver for the remainder of the expenses.

Allocating fault depends on the results of the accident investigation and each claimant’s ability to negotiate with claims adjusters or prove fault to a judge and jury should the case go to court.

What You Must Do After a Car Accident in Washington

Washington requires accident victims to take some important steps if they are physically able. By taking the following steps, you help to protect yourself against fault:

  • Stop your vehicle at the accident site or on the nearest shoulder of the road
  • Give reasonable aid and comfort to any injured person
  • Call 911 to report the accident

Though not required, you can help protect your claim by taking a few extra steps:

  • If physically able, take photos of the scene and any involved vehicles
  • Take the contact information of anyone involved and any witnesses. Record witness statements with your phone

Proving fault depends on proving an at-fault driver did not exercise the reasonable care expected of all drivers and that a driver or passenger experienced an injury and/or property damage as a result of this breach of care. A car accident lawyer can help you with your claim for the best possible results.

How to Report a Car Accident in Washington

If a car accident results in more than $1,000 of damage to a vehicle, damage to nearby property, or any injuries, Washington’s state patrol requires accident victims to report the accident. Use the state’s motor vehicle collision reporting system to make your report.

By knowing Washington’s car accident laws and following the steps for protection against liability after an accident you can expect the best possible legal outcome for your unique case.

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