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Hit and Run Laws in Washington State

Colburn Law

A hit-and-run accident is one in which a driver causes property damage, injuries, or deaths, but does not remain on the scene to fulfill his or her lawful duties. Instead, the driver flees the scene, in an attempt to escape liability for damages he or she caused. Hit-and-run is a serious crime. If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Washington State, you have rights. You may still be able to obtain compensation for your damages.

Woman sitting by her car after a hit and run accident

Driver Duties According to Law

One can find an outline of a driver’s duties following a car crash in Washington State Legislature Sections 46.45.010 and 46.45.020. These laws make it mandatory to immediately stop, locate or notify the owner of the damaged property, render aid to injured people, and remain on the scene until he or she fulfills the requirements of the law. Leaving the scene without fulfilling the requirements is a crime in the state of Washington.

  1. Stop immediately at the scene or as close to the scene of the accident as possible.
  2. Return to the scene without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
  3. Locate and notify the vehicle owner, if the crash involved a parked vehicle, or leave a note with information if one cannot locate the owner.
  4. Give one’s name, address, insurance company, policy number, and vehicle license number to anyone injured or involved in the accident.
  5. Render reasonable assistance to anyone with injuries from the accident, including calling 911 and requesting an ambulance.

Failing to stop at the scene and fulfill one’s legal duties could be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the accident. If the crash causes someone’s death, hit-and-run is a class B felony. Fleeing the scene of a crash that causes injury is a class C felony. It is a gross misdemeanor to strike the body of a deceased person without stopping. It is a misdemeanor to hit-and-run a parked vehicle.

The Penalties for Hit-and-Run

If the police catch the driver who caused the damages and fled, that person could face serious criminal penalties. In Washington, the consequences for a misdemeanor hit-and-run offense is up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. It can also increase insurance premiums and disqualify a driver from obtaining a commercial driver’s license. A class C hit-and-run felony is punishable with five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A class B felony could lead to up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. The hit-and-run driver could face civil penalties as well.

Holding Someone Responsible for a Hit-and-Run Accident

As the victim of a hit-and-run, you have the option to seek compensation from the at-fault driver, if police catch the perpetrator. You or your lawyer will have to file a personal injury claim seeking the full amount of your damages from the driver. The courts will generally extend your deadline to file until after the completion of a criminal trial, if applicable. A hit-and-run conviction could serve as evidence against the driver in your civil case.

Can You Recover Without the Hit-and-Run Driver?

steps to take after a hit and run accident

Police finding the perpetrator is the best-case scenario, but it is not always what happens. If the driver that caused your property damage or personal injury is not taken into custody, you may still be able to obtain financial compensation for your losses. You will seek benefits from your insurance provider, rather than that of the at-fault driver.

If your plan includes uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, this type of coverage will pay for your hit-and-run accident damages, as if the driver was in custody but does not have adequate insurance. A lawyer can help you choose the right course of action during your pursuit of  justice and compensation after a hit-and-run in Washington State.