Hit-and-run accidents are fraught with complexity for the victim when it comes to being made whole, simply because the responsible party might never be identified. It can help to know the steps to take in the moments after a collision and also to understand what Washington state law says about hit-and-run accidents.
Anyone involved in an auto collision has a legal responsibility to own up to the incident. (RCW 46.52.020) Exactly what that party is required to do — and the consequences they might face for not doing it — depends on the situation. Regardless of the circumstances of your accident, the dedicated personal injury lawyers at Twyford Law Office can help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
We encourage you to discuss your case with us during a free consultation. Call us at (509) 327-0777 to schedule yours.
What Is a Hit & Run?
Let’s say your car is sideswiped while it sits parked on a street. The person who did so need only take “reasonable steps” to locate you. It is permissible for them to leave a note with as little as their name and address. The same is true if the fixed property, such as a mailbox, is damaged. (RCW 46.52.010)
Responsibilities are greater when a collision involves damage to an attended vehicle or the injury or death of another person.
In a property-damage accident, the involved drivers are expected to move their vehicle to a “suitable location” out of traffic and then remain there. In the event of injury or death of another person, however, drivers must stop their vehicles immediately.
In either of these cases, drivers are required to provide the following to the other driver:
Insurance policy number
License plate number
Each person also has a responsibility to help another injured party receive medical attention – and the law is clear that this assistance is not evidence of liability.
Penalties for Committing a Hit & Run
Leaving the scene of an accident involving a parked car or fixed property, without meeting the obligations to notify the victim, is only a misdemeanor here in Washington.
But when other people are involved, leaving the scene of the accident — or failing to comply with the other requirements as noted above — is a felony. It is a Class C crime in the case of a property-damage accident and a Class B felony, punishable by a maximum of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine, when there is injury or fatality.
What to Do if You Are the Victim of a Hit & Run
Despite the potential consequences of fleeing an accident, it is estimated that 11% of accidents involve a hit and run. If you are victimized by another motorist who does not remain at the scene, you have a few options.
First, if you are present when the collision takes place, gather as much information as you can. You might be stunned or disoriented, but any information might assist in tracking down the driver. As long as you don’t require immediate medical attention, focus on compiling data and filing an accident report with local law enforcement.
Use your cell phone to record observations and take any photos. If you see someone nearby who might be an eyewitness, request their contact information. Businesses in the vicinity might have captured the incident on security footage, so check with them. These actions might help identify the person responsible for the hit-and-run. If this is successful, you might be able to make a claim with the responsible party’s insurance company or file a lawsuit.
Call a Spokane Hit & Run Injury Lawyer Today
Failing to locate the guilty party may not end your hopes of compensation, however. Uninsured motorist coverage is commonly part of auto insurance policies, though it is not required by Washington state law. This coverage is typically activated in hit-and-run cases when the other driver cannot be identified. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you see this claim through with your insurance carrier.
Contact us today to get started on your case. You can reach us at (509) 327-0777.