Washington Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline

From the Puget Sound to Mount Rainier, Washington State has stunning countryside, sophisticated cities, and some of the best craft beer in the world. The same things that make the Evergreen State so attractive can also contribute to an accident, however, and if you are involved in a Washington car accident you probably have questions about the settlement process. The following article provides an overview of some of the considerations involved in this process and the timeline for resolution.

Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Washington?

Unless a report is made to a law enforcement officer, a driver involved in a car accident in Washington that results in injury or death of any person or damage to property of any one person greater than $1,000 must make a written report of the accident to the chief of police, county sheriff, or state patrol within four days of the incident. This obligation arises under Washington Revised Code, Section 46.52.030 and the monetary threshold is periodically set by the Washington State Department of Licensing. The statute also authorizes law enforcement to compel the submission of supplemental reports by drivers of vehicles involved in accidents where they deem it necessary.

Washington Car Insurance Laws

Washington requires that motorists maintain evidence of their financial security in the form of car insurance or a bond deposited with the state. Insurance policies, pursuant to Washington Revised Code, Section 46.29.090, must cover the following minimums:

  • $25,000 for injury or death of a single person in a single accident;
  • $50,000 for injury or death of two or more people in a single accident; and
  • $10,000 for damage or destruction of property in a single accident.

How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Washington?

Insurance settlement negotiation is a more informal process than a court case, but there are some typical features in nearly every settlement process. First, you submit a claim with the insurer that provides evidence of your damages. The insurer typically conducts an investigation that involves an examination of the claims and evidence available. The insurer may then make an offer of settlement. If you accept this offer you will waive the possibility of future claims against the company relating to the accident.

If, on the other hand, you do not agree with the insurer's offer you can submit a counteroffer and evidence supporting your claims. There may be many rounds of offers and counteroffers as you attempt to reach a figure that both parties find agreeable. If no agreement can be reached you will need to file suit in civil court to seek a judgment.

What is The Average Car Accident Settlement in Washington?

An average settlement amount is almost impossible to provide since the property damage and personal injuries involved in an accident are different in every case. There are other factors that will affect the amount you can recover as well, such as the wages you lost as a result of the accident, the pain and suffering you experienced, and the amount of the insurance policy covering the incident. A personalized assessment of your case by a qualified attorney will provide a much more useful estimate of the amount of recovery you can expect.

How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Washington?

In Washington a lawsuit relating to damaged property or personal injury must be commenced within three years of the incident pursuant to Washington Revised Code, Section 4.16.808. If you don't file a lawsuit during this time period you will be barred from filing suit later under most circumstances. Without the ability to sue you have very little leverage to negotiate a settlement with an insurer, so this deadline is very important.

Get a Free Initial Claim Assessment

Making the wrong decisions following a car accident can cost you dearly. Juggling reporting requirements and court filing deadlines while also negotiating with insurers can be daunting. The assistance of a lawyer can help ensure your compliance with the various regulations while also pursuing fair compensation on your behalf. Contact a local attorney to schedule a free case review to learn more.

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