A hit and run accident, where a driver flees the scene without providing identification or offering assistance, can leave victims in a state of shock and distress. Such events not only harm the victims but ripple through families and communities, deepening the trauma and quest for justice. Washington is committed to deter drivers from fleeing accident scenes, which is why it upholds a series of strict hit and run laws.
Washington Laws Require Drivers to Stop After a Collision
In the state of Washington, the law is unambiguous about the responsibilities of drivers involved in collisions. When involved in an accident with an unattended vehicle, it is the duty of the driver to halt and make every effort to identify and notify the vehicle’s owner or operator. This includes providing the owner with his or her name and address.
If efforts to locate the owner or operator prove unsuccessful, the driver is mandated to leave a written notice with his or her details in a spot easily noticeable on the unattended vehicle. It’s vital to understand that neglecting these duties is a misdemeanor offense known as hit and run unattended.
Washington law further elaborates that if a vehicle causes damage to stationary property, such as a fence or mailbox, the driver should take similar steps. They must try to notify the property owner or, failing that, leave a written notice on the damaged property.
Penalties for Hit and Run in Washington
Washington takes hit and run offenses seriously. Those found guilty of a hit and run unattended can face up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. However, it’s crucial to note that this is the maximum penalty, and many offenders do not receive such stringent punishment. Some may not serve any jail time but may be mandated to pay fines or adhere to probation conditions.
For drivers holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL), the repercussions of a hit and run conviction can be more severe. Even if the incident occurred in a personal, non-commercial vehicle, a conviction could lead to a CDL disqualification. Insurance premiums could also rise, adding financial stress to the legal consequences.
What to Do If You Are Hit by a Fleeing Driver
If you become a victim of a hit and run accident, prioritize your safety. Move to a safe spot if possible and contact the police immediately. Do not attempt to chase down the driver—this can be very dangerous. Instead, try to remember as many details as you can and relay them to the 911 dispatcher.
Document the scene, take pictures of damages, and gather eyewitness accounts if available. Seek medical attention even if injuries seem minor, as some might not be immediately apparent. Then, contact a Redmond car accident lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Can You Recover Compensation After a Hit and Run Accident?
Unlike other types of car accident claims where the driver is known, you cannot pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit against an unknown perpetrator. However, if you possess uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), you might be eligible to file a claim for compensation.
In these situations, hiring a Redmond personal injury attorney can be invaluable. A Washington hit and run accident lawyer can help in potentially identifying the fleeing driver, guiding you through the complexities of insurance claims, and advocating for your rights. Seek legal counsel as soon as possible to learn about these avenues and initiate your claim.