What to Do After a Car Accident

Although a common experience, you may feel stunned and unsure what to do after a major car accident. The incident may have been a simple rear-end collision resulting in minimal property damage or it could have been a catastrophic crash involving multiple vehicles. No matter the type of accident, there’s certain procedures you should do to ensure your interests are protected. In addition, if you’re harmed, you’ll want to ensure certain steps are taken so you have a chance at recovery with the insurance company later on.

If you fail to follow the proper procedures, then the insurance company may refuse to payout. Plus, you could face potential fines and administrative consequences if you fail to follow these steps as you are legally bound to some of them such as calling law enforcement to get a report. Being aware of these steps will not only help you when interacting with officers at the scene, but it will also prepare you for filing for compensation with the insurance company or the driver who is responsible for the collision.

Bellingham Car Accident Lawyer, WA | What Do I Do After a Car Crash?

If you have been involved recently in a car accident, do not speak to the insurance company until you’ve secured experienced legal representation. A skilled attorney like the legal team at PNW Trial Lawyers can assess the situation, collect evidence, and file a claim on your behalf. To learn more about the process and to speak to a qualified Washington attorney, call PNW Trial Lawyers.

Schedule your first consultation by calling us at (360) 483-5201 or simply submitting an online contact form. PNW Trial Lawyers has offices in Bellingham and accepts clients throughout the greater Skagit County, Whatcom County, and Snohomish County, Washington area.

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Mistakes to Avoid After a Car Accident

Drivers unfortunately find themselves in a bad situation due to the fact they engaged in several key mistakes after the accident occurred. Listed below are the top mistakes one should avoid after an auto collision so they can ensure they’re not held legally liable for damages.

  1. Leaving the Scene of an Accident – Never leave the scene of an accident if property is damaged or an individual was injured. Drivers must stop and exchange information including insurance details so the driver hit can file a claim if needed.
  2. Admitting Fault – It’s important you never admit fault after an accident even if you believe it’s your fault. Even saying simple statements like apologizing to the other driver could be construed as admitting fault. Be extremely careful when negotiating with the insurance company as well as they may try to deny or reduce the value of your claim due to a statement you made over the phone.
  3. Failing to Gather Evidence – If you’re physically able to, then it’s important you collect as much evidence as you can of the scene. Taking photos, getting statements from eyewitnesses, taking videos, or keeping an injury progression journal are all simple ways you can collect proof of your injury.
  4. Failing to Get Medical Attention – It’s important your injury is documented if you are harmed after the accident. This is especially critical for soft tissue injuries such as whiplash. Go to a doctor even if it doesn’t feel medically necessary. Get a full assessment from them and their report can be utilized as evidence for your case.
  5. Accepting the First Offer – One of the biggest mistakes made by those involved in a car accident is accepting their first offer from the insurance company. Insurance companies will almost always offer a settlement way below market value. The value of your claim is likely much more than their initial offer and it’s important you have legal representation by your side to ensure you accept an offer that’s fair and equitable.
  6. Failing to Hire an Attorney – It’s a common error, but it’s important you hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An experienced car accident attorney can safeguard you from low-ball offers, act as your best advocate in negotiations, and litigate the issue in court if necessary.

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You Must Report a Car Accident in Washington State

One of the most important steps you must take after a car accident is to report the accident to police. According to Washington law, you are legally required to report an accident to the Department of Transportation (DOT) if it causes injury, property damage valued at $700 or above, and death. The report must be conducted within four days of the accident occurring.

You must also call law enforcement if the accident is severe or blocks the road from oncoming traffic. You will not need to file a separate report later if a police officer attends the scene. Minor accidents do not require the police, but if you fail to report the accident on your own then your license could be suspended as a result. In addition to all of this, the police report you file or filed by the officer who came to the scene can be compelling evidence in your case.

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Seeking Compensation After a Car Accident

Washington State is by no means a no-fault state. It is considered a “tort” or “at-fault” state, meaning that when an accident occurs the party responsible for the event will pay for the injured party’s damages. Both law enforcement, insurance companies, and you and the other driver’s attorneys will gather all available evidence to determine who is at fault. The injured plaintiff can then file a claim against the at-fault party, which they can contest.

It’s important to note that in Washington “fault” can be prescribed to multiple people. Washington State has adopted the comparative negligence stance when it comes to fault. That means multiple parties can be assigned a percentage of liability depending on the circumstances of the crime. The plaintiff must be less than 50% at fault in order to file legal action against the other driver(s).

When filing a claim, the plaintiff will be obligated to prove several elements including:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a certain duty of care
  • The defendant breached that duty of care
  • That breach was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
  • The plaintiff suffered emotional, physical or financial damages due to the injury

If the plaintiff is successful, then they’ll be able to secure a settlement or monetary award. The award or settlement will reflect any and all economic and non-economic losses the plaintiff suffered since the injury. Listed below are some damages an injured plaintiff may recover.

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment for life
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium

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Additional Resources

Accident Report Rules in Washington – Visit the official website for the Washington State Legislature to learn more about their traffic rules regarding accident reports. Access the site to read the statutory language on traffic reports, how they should be filed if it’s a minor accident, procedures for law enforcement, and more.

Washington Traffic Safety Commission – Visit the site for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to read their data on motor vehicle collisions, distractions, and much more. Access the site to learn more about their Traffic Safety Programs, statistical information on impaired drivers, and the current programs provided by Washington State such as Target Zero.

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Auto Accident Washington Attorney | Bellingham Car Crash Firm

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact PNW Trial Lawyers to learn your legal options. Our experienced Bellingham car crash lawyers can examine the facts of the case and develop a strategy to help you recover. They can then negotiate with adjusters or litigate the issue further in court—whatever is needed to get you the compensation you need to finally recover.

Call PNW Trial Lawyers today at (360) 483-5201 to set up your first consultation. PNW Trial Lawyers has a location in Bellingham, however we accept clients throughout the greater surrounding Skagit County, Whatcom County, and Snohomish County, Washington area. 

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