Washington Auto Accident Laws & Resources
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No one ever wants to get in an auto accident but if you get in one in Washington state, you should understand the laws and regulations there.
Once you understand these things, you’ll have the information you need to deal with a possible claim or lawsuit. This article highlights the most important Washington auto accident laws you should know.
If you have questions about a claim or lawsuit, you can find a Washington auto accident attorney with the attorney finder on Lawsuit Info Center.
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Washington Car Accident Statistics
In 2019, there were 45,500 auto accidents in Washington state, with 325 fatal accidents and 973 serious injuries.
Government data shows that the major causes of accidents were distracted drivers, teen drivers, and drunk drivers. Forty-five accidents were caused by people who were intoxicated.
The Most Dangerous Highways In Washington
You can get in an accident anywhere in Washington, but there are several roads where accidents happen the most. It’s wise to take precautions when driving on the following roads:
- State Route 20: This highway features the dangerous Washing Pass, and is located in North Cascades National Park. This area gets many snowstorms and is prone to avalanches, which means a lot of accidents happen. From November to May, it is closed to reduce injuries and fatalities.
- State Route 522: This is called the Highway of Death by local residents. It is one of the most hazardous roads in the US. This road was supposed to be four lanes but now only has two, and it has a lot of curves with few dividers.
- Interstate 5: This is the most hazardous interstate in Washington with the most traffic of any road in the Northwest with more than 70 million on it annually. There have been 300 fatal wrecks on the highway in the last 10 years.
- Highway 2: This is a remote, rough highway that runs from Seattle to Spokane. It takes emergency responders about 90 minutes to get to accident victims, making it a bad place to get in an accident.
- Hart’s Pass: This may be the most dangerous road in the entire state. Located in Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, it’s a one-lane dirt road without guardrails to keep cars from plunging over the side to the valley below.
Auto Insurance Requirements In Washington
The laws of this state require that all drivers have car insurance to protect people who are hurt in a car accident that they cause. The minimum requirements are:
- $25,000 per person for injuries in a single car accident
- $50,000 per person if more than one is hurt
- $10,000 per accident for property damage
You also can buy an insurance certificate for $60,000 or obtain a liability bond if you want to opt out of the insurance requirement.
Auto insurance in Washington covers liability, but also can include the following:
- Collision coverage: This coverage is mandatory if you’re financing or leasing a vehicle. It pays for damages that your vehicle has in an accident, up to the limits of the policy.
- Comprehensive coverage: This coverage also is required if you are financing or leasing a car. It covers damages that are not caused by an accident, such as a hailstorm or theft.
- Personal injury protection: This coverage will pay for your medical bills and lost wages up to the policy limit. You can reject this coverage, but it must be in writing.
- Uninsured and underinsured driver protection: This is optional but recommended. It will pay for your injuries, lost wages, and property damage if you are hit by an uninsured, underinsured, or hit and run driver. This insurance can be a life saver in these situations, as the other person may not have any assets to go after in a lawsuit.
Keep in mind that maintaining the minimum insurance amounts will not be enough coverage if you are at fault in an accident with severe injuries. That’s why it’s wise to carry higher amounts of insurance if you have substantial assets. If you don’t, you could be sued in civil court and have to pay out of your pocket.
Washington Auto Accident Laws and Fault
Washington is a comparative negligence state when it comes to car accident fault. This means that each party in the accident is assigned their part of the responsibility for the accident, and the damages you receive is based on your percentage of fault.
For example, if you have $50,000 in damages but are found by the insurance company to be 10% at fault, you would receive a settlement of $40,000.
It’s important to have an attorney advocate for you during negotiations with the insurance company because the settlement you receive can be reduced if you are found partially at fault.
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Reporting A Car Accident In Washington
If you are in a car accident in Washington, the police usually show up and take an accident report. This report can be a critical piece of evidence in assigning liability for the crash.
However, if the police do not show up, you are required to report the accident if there is any damage exceeding $1000, or if someone was hurt or killed.
Generally, it is a wise move to report any accident to the police no matter how minor. That way, there is an official record of the event if the other party decides to file a claim, or attempts to say you left the scene of the accident.
In Washington, you are required to provide your contact and insurance information to the other driver before leaving the scene. You also are required to render aid and assistance to anyone hurt in the accident.
Car Accident Settlements In Washington
Insurance settlement negotiation is an informal but complex process, but there are common features in most settlement processes.
First, you will submit a claim to the insurance company that shows evidence of damages from your Washington car accident. The insurance company will do an investigation examining the claims and any evidence. The insurance company may offer a settlement to you, but the initial settlement offer is often much less than what the case is worth.
If you accept the settlement, you cannot come back later and ask for more money.
On the other hand, if you think the insurance company is not offering enough money, you can give them a counteroffer and evidence to support your higher number. You can have many offers that go back and forth before agreeing on a number.
If you cannot come to an agreement, you will need to file a lawsuit. Most Washington car accident cases that involve substantial injuries and damages are best handled by an experienced Washington car accident attorney.
Washington Auto Accident Lawsuits
If the Washington auto insurance company doesn’t offer a fair settlement, you can take them to court. You could be entitled to medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
One of the most contentious parts of settlement and lawsuits is the pain and suffering compensation. Whether your accident is in Washington or another state, there will be disagreements about how much pain and suffering compensation you should get.
Pain and suffering is subjective, and insurance companies will almost argue that you are entitled to less compensation than you say. However, you are entitled to reasonable compensation for your pain and suffering if another person caused your accident.
After your accident, your medical bills and lost pay are only part of the stress and hassle of the incident. You also may deal with physical and mental pain from your injuries and treatment. You also could be dealing with disfigurement and scarring, and just overall trauma from the crash.
Pain and suffering in Washington state is assumed to mean the following:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of self-esteem
- Life limitations
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain and discomfort
For instance, if you are burned in your car accident, the damage value from the pain can be much more than the medical treatments you needed. You could recover money for the discomfort and pain from the burns as well as the medical treatment. Also, you could be entitled to money for the scarring and disability the burns caused you.
Also, note that pain and suffering covers what you experienced up to now and what you could in the future. Some car accidents can affect your life for years or permanently, and this fact must be accounted for in the lawsuit.
The subjective nature of pain and suffering compensation is why you need to have a skilled Washington personal injury attorney handle your case. It is unlikely that someone without legal experience will be able to negotiate a fair pain and suffering settlement or make a strong case to a jury.
Your attorney knows roughly what your pain and suffering could be worth, based upon where the lawsuit is filed and your injuries. He or she can help you get the most compensation so you can get on with your life.
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Pain And Suffering In Washington Auto Accident Laws
Pain and suffering can be difficult to calculate, since there is not a standard way to quantify it. The amount of pain and suffering that you feel is subjective and hard to prove. It shouldn’t be surprising if an insurance company tries to minimize your pain and suffering.
Your lawyer, the insurance company, or a jury may use a multiplier system to decide on an amount that is fair for your pain and suffering. Your medical expenses will be totaled and then multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 5. The number used is also not an exact science. A higher multiplier is used when the accident and injuries were severe. A five is rarely used, so anticipate a 2 or 3 if you are trying to get a rough estimate for yourself.
If your bills to fix a fractured arm are $15,000 and the jury decides that a multiplier of 3 is appropriate, your total for pain and suffering would be $45,000. This amount is in addition to the damages the include your healthcare costs, lost wages, and other expenses that can be proven with receipts and documents.
So how is your pain and suffering taken into consideration? There are many factors looked at including:
- Diagnosis and notes from your doctor regarding your injuries and treatment.
- Evaluations of your mental health from professionals.
- Expert opinions regarding the injuries suffered.
- Journals documenting your experiences with recovering.
- Statements from people close to you who witnessed your pain and suffering.
- The types of medication and treatments used to help you heal.
How Long Do Accidents Stay On Your Driving Record In Washington?
Non-commercial car accidents will stay on your license for five years. Commercial accidents stay on file for 10 years. But if your accident involves a conviction related to alcohol, it will stay on your permanent record for life.
Any accident logged by the state will show involvement but not fault if you didn’t cause it. For instance, if another driver rear ends you, it will still show on your record, but it will not show fault.
Having accidents on your record that don’t involve fault will not affect your insurance premiums in Washington.
It’s always a good idea to check your Washington driving record every few years to see if any of your previous accidents or citations are still on file.
How To Clear Your Driving Record In Washington
If you have negative marks on your driving record for tickets and accidents, it can drive up your insurance costs. Insurance companies avoid drivers that are a risk, so try to get your driving record clean if you can.
There are several ways you can do this in Washington:
- Remove errors: If you have any expired violations or accidents that are on your record, you can contact the DMV and report the mistakes. This can happen if the required time that the infraction stays on your record has expired but the item was not removed. If you have anything negative on your driving record, it’s a good idea to keep a record of when it should come off so you can make sure it was removed.
- Expungement request: If you have no errors on your driving record, you can submit an expungement request with the DMV. If it is accepted, you may need to go to traffic school or a driver training class. This will remove traffic violations related to any auto accidents in Washington.
- If you do either of the above, remember to ask for your driving record 60 days after to make sure that the changes were made. If nothing has been taking off, you should follow up with the DMV and ask that the infraction be removed again.
You can work with your attorney to get these negative marks removed from your driving record.
Liabilities Of Government Organizations In Washington
If you make a personal injury claim against a local or state government employee or entity, there are limitations and rules that apply. You need to file a claim with the government organization or person involved, which is three years.
After you have made the claim with the government entity, you may not file a lawsuit until 60 days after the claim is filed.
Make sure that you give your personal injury attorney plenty of time to file a case against a government organization, as these cases can be complicated.
Get Legal Help With Washington Auto Accident Laws
A car accident is an upsetting event, but you can make things easier if you’re prepared. Now that you have more information about the auto accident and personal injury laws in Washington, you’ll know what to do if you have an accident there.
The most important thing to remember is to get medical assistance right away if you are injured. Also, get an attorney involved if the accident involves serious injuries and property damage. Any injury that involves more than a week or so of recovery, or any length of hospital stay, should probably have an attorney involved on your side.
Lawsuit Info Center can assist you in finding a skilled personal injury attorney in Washington, as you may be due compensation for your physical and emotional injuries. Use our site to find a Washington auto accident lawyer today.
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