Accident Guide in Washington

What to do After a Car Accident in Washington

If you're involved in a car accident, there are certain procedures to follow, contingent, of course, on the extent of the collision.

  • Don't flee. Gather your wits and assess. Try to move your vehicle from the road. This helps prevent another accident and allows emergency vehicles easier access.
  • Stay to the side of the road. You were already involved in one accident, you don't need another.
  • Turn the engine off, if it's still running.
  • Avoid all urges to smoke. Spilled fuel combined with a discarded match makes for a volatile situation.
  • If you collided with a telephone pole be alert to the possibility of downed electrical wires.
  • Try to alert approaching traffic. Flares work best.
  • If you slammed into an unoccupied vehicle, try to locate the owner. If unsuccessful, leave a note. But just don't write "sorry." Include your name and contact information. Then report it to the local authorities, so if the note blows away, you won't be charged with a hit-and-run.
  • Exchange information with all involved drivers. Be sure to get name, address, phone number, license number, and insurance information.
  • Get names and numbers of witnesses.
  • If you're carrying a camera, snap photos of damage to all involved vehicles. This will help in the event of an insurance claims dispute.
  • Do not attempt to move the injured. Removing a person from a burning vehicle or other imminent danger is the lone exception.

When to File a Collision Report

If law enforcement investigates your accident, you are not required to file a collision report. Otherwise, you MUST file a report within four days of the accident. Get a blank accident report from your local police department, sheriff's office, or the Washington State Patrol.

Collision Report Information on Your Driving Record

The Division of Licensing (DOL) will add a collision report to your driving record only if the accident involved injury or topped the $700 mark in damages.

No fault or cause of accident will be listed to your record. Instead the DOL will add: date of accident, number of vehicles involved and whether they were moving or parked or had occupants, and whether any injuries or deaths resulted from the accident.