Washington State Car Accident Laws – Complete State Guide


Laura Schaefer

With nearly 7.8 million people living in the rainy Evergreen state of Washington, car accidents are a fact of life. Over 600 motorists are killed every year, and there’s no sign of this slowing down. Washington State car accident laws are the blueprint to your accident claim, and knowing them may increase your chances of compensation.

Knowing the laws of your state before talking to an auto accident lawyer is key. Whether you call Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Olympia or another Washington city home, each crash is unique. Your circumstance requires the expertise of an attorney to get the most out of your settlement.

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How to Report a Car Accident in Washington State

If you’re involved in an accident, whether it’s a rollover or a sideswipe car accident, you must stop your vehicle and remain at the scene. Call for emergency help and render aid to others involved if necessary and able.

Drivers must report the accident to the Washington State Patrol or to local law enforcement if:

  • The accident caused an injury or death
  • It caused property damage of over $1,000

You must report it no more than four days following the accident according to Washington State accident law. Failing to report your crash may force the authorities to revoke your license and driving privileges.

What to Record at the Scene of the Crash in Washington State

Record as much info as possible from the scene of your Washington State car accident:

  • Take photos of your injuries and make notes about them
  • Take photos of the vehicle damage
  • Exchange contact information with the others involved
  • Name
  • Address
  • Insurance information
  • Driver’s license number

Photos assist with proving your claim against the at-fault driver because they accurately show your liability and damages suffered. Document your injuries immediately. Go see a doctor as soon as possible while alerting your insurance company about the accident.

Is Washington an At-Fault State?

Yes. The person at-fault for the car accident is responsible for injuries, vehicle damage, and other effects from the accident. This means the at-fault driver’s car insurance company will cover other people’s losses up to the driver’s liability coverage limits.

IMPORTANT: Washington is also a comparative negligence state, which means each driver is assigned a percentage of liability in an accident. If you were partially at-fault for the accident, your settlement will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Washington has strict laws regarding driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving under the influence is considered a gross misdemeanor in Washington State, with a maximum jail time of 364 days or a fine of up to $5,000, or both. The state also prohibits drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a vehicle.

Washington Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the amount of time a car crash victim has to file their accident claim.

  • The deadline is three years for both injury claims and property damage claims.
  • This three-year deadline applies to wrongful death claims as well.

The three year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident. For a wrongful death case or for a property damage claim, the measurement starts on the date of the person’s death. This might be different from the date of the accident if a victim dies shortly after the accident due to their condition.

File a legal complaint in court to meet the statute of limitations. Reporting the accident to the insurance company isn’t enough.

If you fail to file your car accident claim on-time in Washington state, your case may get barred before reaching the courts. It’s better to file as soon as possible to keep your evidence fresh and relevant for your attorney. Avoid the statute of limitations so your claim reaches the right eyes.

Washington State Car Insurance Laws

Washington state car accident law requires liability insurance for every car on the road. The required minimum amounts for car insurance coverage are:

  • $25,000 in liability coverage for bodily injury or the death of one person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more people involved in the accident
  • $10,000 to cover property damaged in the accident

Washington State requires drivers to provide proof of insurance to police. Drivers who don’t have insurance can be fined up to $550 according to RCW 46.63.110. An uninsured driver may also have their license suspended in this state.

IMPORTANT: The state of Washington allows a drive to skip auto insurance coverage if:

  • They apply for a certificate of deposit to guarantee financial responsibility with the state Department of Licensing
  • They provide a liability bond of at least $60,000

More Coverage Options

You can carry more insurance coverage to protect yourself in case a serious crash occurs in Washington state car accident law. The minimums set by the state may not be enough to cover every loss from a traumatic car accident. Additional liability coverage covers any family member driving your vehicle. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car.

Collision coverage is optional and can pay for repairs to (or replacement of) your damaged vehicle after a car accident.

Types of Damages in a Washington State Car Accident

Washington state may award two types of damages after a car accident; economic and non-economic damages. These fall under the blanket term of compensatory damages, which seek to mitigate the losses you suffered from a vehicle collision.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the monetary losses you sustained from the accident. These are measurable, tangible losses that an adjuster or attorney can quantify when shown the evidence. Examples include:

  • Medical bills covering the injuries
  • Vehicle repair bills
  • Lost income from missed days at work
  • Rental car fees
  • Lost earning capacity

Non-Economic Damages

Your non-economic damages include the non-monetary losses after an accident. These are strictly intangible losses that may come from the trauma of a car accident. These may include: 

IMPORTANT: An experienced attorney can help you calculate the total value of your car accident claim.

The state has no cap on non-economic damages according to RCW 4.56.250.

However, Washington is one of only four states in the nation that does not award punitive damages.

Connect With an Auto Accident Attorney from Our Network

Car accidents are complicated to deal with if you don’t have expert help. One misstep in your paperwork and you could miss a deadline or a detail. Not only will an attorney clear up the complex legal process for you, but you may receive a higher settlement than if you agreed to the auto insurance company’s first offer.

LegalASAP can connect you with an auto accident lawyer in your area to review your case for free. This guide clarified Washington’s car accident laws, but questions specific to your case can be answered with an attorney. The whole process is free of charge until you win your settlement, so click below to continue:

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.