What To Do After A Car Accident With No Insurance In Washington State

Being involved in a car accident can be stressful enough on its own. It becomes even more challenging if you or the other driver were uninsured at the time of the collision. Most states, including Washington, require all motor vehicles operated on public roads to have active auto insurance.

Driving without valid car insurance is illegal. And it leaves you financially vulnerable if an at-fault accident happens.

So what should you do after a car accident with no insurance in Washington? This guide covers the state laws, steps to take, and how to minimize the impacts if you or the other motorist did not have an active policy.

Washington State Laws On Mandatory Auto Insurance

Before diving into the specifics of handling an uninsured accident, it helps to understand Washington’s mandatory insurance requirements.

Here are some key facts:

  • All vehicles must be insured – Washington is a “compulsory insurance” state. All private passenger vehicles driven on public roads must be covered by a liability insurance policy.

  • Minimum coverage amounts – The state requires:

    • Bodily Injury Liability: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident

    • Property Damage Liability: $10,000

  • Penalties for no insurance – It is a misdemeanor crime to drive uninsured. Penalties include:

    • Fines up to $550

    • Possible jail time

    • License/registration suspension

  • SR-22 requirements – After an at-fault accident with no insurance, you will need to get a special SR-22 form filed by an insurer to reinstate your license.

  • No insurance = liability – Drivers who cause accidents without insurance are personally liable for damages and injuries.

With the legal context covered, here are the proper steps to take after an uninsured accident in Washington.

What To Do At The Scene Of An Uninsured Accident

If you are involved in any collision, there are important actions to take at the scene:

1. Stop immediately – Failure to stop is considered a hit-and-run, which leads to severe criminal penalties. You should pull over in a safe location.

2. Check for injuries – If anyone seems hurt or complains of pain, call 911 immediately. Provide medical assistance if you can.

3. Call the police – All accidents in Washington should be reported to law enforcement. This is required by law when damages exceed $750.

4. Exchange information – Get the other driver’s name, contact details, license plate, and insurance information.

5. Document the scene – Take photos of damage, skid marks, and any debris/evidence on the roadway.

6. Get witness info – If there were any witnesses, ask them to stay to provide their account to police. Get their contact information.

7. Give a statement – When the officer arrives, give them an honest statement about what happened. Stick to just the facts.

8. Get a copy of the report – Request a copy of the police report documenting the accident. This will be key evidence for insurance claims.

Following these steps protects your rights and establishes an official record of the collision, even if one or both drivers were uninsured.

Reporting The Accident Without Valid Insurance

Interacting with law enforcement gets trickier if you or the other motorist did not have active auto insurance. Here are some tips:

  • Be cooperative, but avoid admitting fault or accepting blame
  • If uninsured, do not lie if asked – admit you do not have coverage
  • The officer may cite you for driving without insurance at the scene or later
  • Police will note in the report which drivers did not provide proof of insurance

Having the lack of coverage documented by law enforcement starts the process. But you will need to take further action after leaving the scene.

Next Steps For The Uninsured At-Fault Driver

So what happens if you caused an accident without required liability insurance in Washington? Here are important next steps:

Report The Accident Within 24 Hours

Even if police filed a report, uninsured drivers must complete their own accident report within 24 hours. You can pick up a form at any police station. Fill it out completely with all details about the collision.

Expect License Suspension

The Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) will suspend the license of any at-fault uninsured driver when:

  • Bodily injury occurred, OR
  • Property damage exceeded $1,000

This happens even if damages are fully paid. The DOL will send a suspension order within 180 days along with steps to challenge it.

Provide Settlement Funds

To reinstate your license, you must provide evidence of settlement to all victims – either payment receipts or release of liability forms signed by the other driver(s).

This demonstrates you have accepted financial responsibility. Minimums are $25,000 per person for bodily injury and $10,000 for property damage.

Get SR-22 Insurance

Before the DOL will lift a suspension following an uninsured accident, drivers must obtain a special SR-22 certificate of insurance from a provider.

This high-risk policy proves you now have active insurance. It must be maintained for several years.

Pay Fines

Expect hefty fines upwards of $550 for driving without insurance. Also plan to pay fees for license reinstatement and the SR-22 filing.

By following these steps, the DOL can eventually lift your suspension. But resolving the accident still takes cooperation from the victim(s).

Dealing With Damages As The Uninsured Driver

Liability for damages falls on uninsured drivers who cause accidents in Washington. Here are some options:

  • Work out a payment plan – Negotiate affordable monthly payments with the other driver(s) until all repairs and medical bills are paid. Get signed release of liability agreements.

  • Borrow money – Take out a personal loan to cover the full settlement amounts demanded. Pay this back on a monthly basis.

  • Use a credit card – Charge settlement payments if possible. This spreads payments over time.

  • File bankruptcy – Declaring Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy limits your liability for the accident debts incurred. But this damages your credit.

Ideally, try to settle outside of court. But be aware the victims can sue you directly for damages not paid.

Having insurance would route claims through your policy. Without it, you are personally on the hook.

What Uninsured Accident Victims Should Do

If you were the victim of an accident caused by an uninsured driver, take these steps to recover losses:

File a claim with your insurer – If you carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, report the accident to your provider immediately to start a claim.

Document evidence – Gather police reports, photos, medical records and bills, repair estimates, and witness statements to support the severity of damages.

Send a demand letter – Have an attorney send a letter to the at-fault driver demanding payment of a specific settlement amount on a set timeline.

Negotiate a settlement – Be prepared to negotiate if the driver makes a reasonable counteroffer and is willing to arrange installment payments. Get any payment plan agreed to in writing.

Request arbitration – If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your provider will try to negotiate a settlement on your behalf and may enter into arbitration if needed.

Pursue legal action – Sue the at-fault driver directly in civil court if they refuse to pay damages demanded. This legal process can achieve a court-ordered judgment.

It takes diligence to recover losses from an uninsured at-fault driver. Having your own insurance coverage makes the process much simpler.

What To Do If You Were Uninsured But Not At Fault

The steps are far easier if an uninsured driver hits you, but they caused the accident. Here is what to do:

  • File a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer demanding they pay for repairs, medical bills, etc.

  • Send evidence to support your losses, including photos, police reports, and witness statements.

  • Consult an attorney if their insurer denies your claim or drags its feet on paying. The lawyer can help negotiate or file a lawsuit against the liable policyholder.

  • Take the at-fault driver to small claims court if damages are under the limit and their insurer won’t pay.

  • Use your own collision coverage or health insurance if you have them. Then seek reimbursement from the liable driver rather than direct payment.

The other motorist’s liability coverage should pay as long as you can prove they were at fault and you document legitimate losses. This is better than filing with your own insurer, which could raise your rates.

How To Avoid Accidents When Uninsured

Given the severe consequences, it is always best to avoid driving without insurance in Washington. But if you absolutely must drive an uninsured vehicle:

  • Stick to low speeds and limit trips to necessities only.

  • Drive very defensively, yielding to other cars.

  • Avoid peak traffic times when accidents are more likely.

  • Make sure lights, signals, brakes are in top working order.

  • Leave ample stopping distance between you and other vehicles.

  • Delay driving in bad weather when visibility is lower

What Are You Supposed to Do if You’re Hit By a Driver with No Insurance?


What happens if you get in an accident without insurance in Washington state?

Driver’s license suspension per this statute is a civil remedy. Also, within the criminal justice system a police officer can write you a ticket for no insurance. If you are not at fault-but have no insurance, you can still collect from the at fault driver or their insurance.

Is Washington state a no-fault accident state?

No, Washington is not ano-fault state for auto insurance. Washington is an “at-fault” or “tort” state, which means the person who is at fault for a car accident is responsible for paying for other people’s injuries and property damage resulting from the accident.

Do insurance rates go up after a no-fault accident in Washington state?

Your rates usually won’t go up if the accident wasn’t your fault or if you have accident forgiveness.

Can you sue an uninsured driver in Washington state?

Washington’s financial responsibility law requires uninsured drivers and vehicle owners to be responsible for collision damages if there is a reasonable possibility that a court will make a judgment against them.

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