What To Do if You’re in a Car Accident Without Insurance But Not at Fault in Washington

Driving without car insurance can be a costly offense in Washington—and if you’re involved in an accident, you’re looking at a three-year license suspension.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
The consequences associated with being in a car accident when you don’t have car insurance are pretty harsh in Washington state. Not only will you incur a fine, but you’ll also have your license suspended for three years—even if you were without fault. 
No one ever wants to be in a car accident, and most people do their best to keep their insurance up to date. But sometimes life happens, and if you find yourself in a car accident while uninsured in Washington, there are a few things you need to know!
Here to keep you safe and fully informed is
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that you can depend on. We'll go over what you need to know, what you’ll need to do, and how to lower the costs of your
Washington car insurance
—even if you’ve had a ticket or two. 

What to do if you’re in a car accident without insurance in Washington and not at fault

It’s a crime to drive without car insurance in Washington, and if you’re involved in an accident while you’re uninsured, the situation is going to be even worse. But if it does happen, here’s what you need to know.
First things first: Stay at the scene of the crash. Even though there are severe consequences for being in an accident while uninsured, you’ll be much worse off if you leave the scene. A hit-and-run (even if you’re not at fault) is a serious crime in Washington, and the punishment depends on the details and outcome of the accident. Here’s how the law breaks it down: 
  • Unattended vehicle: misdemeanor; punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up $1,000 in fines
  • Attended vehicle, no injury: gross misdemeanor; punishable by up to one year in jail and $5,000 in fines
  • Injury: class C felony; punishable by up to 5 years in jail and $10,000 in fines
  • Death: class B felony; punishable by up to 10 years in jail and $20,000 in fines
So no matter what, keep calm and stay where you are. You don’t want to make an already bad situation worse! If you can, move your car to a safe location out of the way of traffic.
Make sure you and anyone else involved is uninjured, and call 9-1-1 and/or give first aid as needed. Exchange all required information with the other driver, and get as much documentation of the accident as possible.
If you weren’t at fault and the other driver is insured, you can file a claim with their insurance company for any medical bills or vehicle damage that you have, even though you’re uninsured. Additionally, you can also file a personal injury lawsuit for any other kinds of damage, like pain and suffering or emotional distress.

Who decides fault in a car accident in Washington?

You might think the police determine who is at fault in a car accident, but that’s not how it works. The police can issue citations and make a report about what caused the accident, but the insurance companies are the ones who assign fault
This is why it’s crucial to get through documentation of an accident to prove that you weren’t at fault. Make notes and talk to witnesses, take copious amounts of pictures, and gather as much evidence as you can. The police report is useful to have, but you don’t want to rely on it as the sole source of information about the accident.

Do you need to report a car accident in Washington? 

Not always. If there is no injury or death and less than $1,000 worth of property damage, you don’t need to report it, but you do still need to stay at the scene or risk a hit-and-run charge. 
If the accident caused more than $1,000 of damage and someone was injured or killed, you are required to notify law enforcement. If the police officers take a report, you don’t need to submit any further reports. But if for some reason they don’t, you have four days to notify the Washington DMV. 
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What if you’re at fault?

If the accident was your fault, then things are going to get pretty hairy. Because Washington is a pure comparative negligence state, you’ll be financially responsible for your portion of the other driver’s damages, and that driver can file a lawsuit against you to recover these damages if you are without insurance. 
On top of that, your driver’s license will be suspended for three years if you are found to be uninsured after an accident. 

What if you’re hit by an uninsured driver in Washington?

If you do have insurance but the other driver doesn’t, then what? If the uninsured driver was at fault, you’ll have to take the lawsuit route to recover any of your damages, and that can be tedious, time-consuming, and possibly expensive. 
However, you can avoid this unsavory scenario by having
uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
. This coverage isn’t required to have in Washington state, but insurance companies are required to offer it in the following minimum amounts: 
  • $25,000 bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 bodily injury per accident
  • $10,000 property damage per accident
Just like with liability insurance, you can up these limits if you choose. If you don’t want uninsured/uninsured motorist coverage, you’ll need to decline it in writing. But if you can swing it, it can save you a lot of headaches, hassles, and expenses if you’re in an accident caused by an uninsured driver. 
Another option for protection is to have
medical payments (MedPay)
coverage. With this coverage, your hospital bills are paid through your car insurance (up to the policy limits). Washington insurance companies are also required to offer
Personal injury protection (PIP)
in the amount of at least $10,000.
This covers a variety of things like medical bills, lost wages, and the cost of things like child care and household upkeep that you may be unable to do if injured. Like uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, PIP must be declined in writing. 
How important is it to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in Washington? Pretty darn important! According to a 2019 study by the Insurance Information Institute (III), slightly more than 21% of Washington drivers were uninsured.
This means 1 out of every 5 drivers you see on the road in Washington is uninsured. This makes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage an exceedingly smart choice to make. 

Penalties for driving without insurance in Washington

If you are caught driving without car insurance in Washington, then you are subject to a fine of around $500. Failure to pay the fine or set up a payment plan can result in the suspension of your driver’s license. 
If you’re uninsured and involved in an accident, things escalate quickly. In this case, your driver’s license is suspended for three years on top of the fine. And once you get your license back, you’ll be required to provide additional proof of financial responsibility for at least three years. 
This proof can take a few forms. You can
file an SR-22
from an approved insurance company, or you can get a liability bond or certificate of deposit for at least $60,000. But one thing is for sure—it’s not going to be cheap, no matter what route you go. 
If you did have insurance at the time but just didn’t have the proof on you, then you’ll be okay as long as you show that you were insured at the time within 60 days of the accident date. There may be a small administrative fee, but you’ll avoid license suspension. This is one of the reasons that it’s vital to keep your current
proof of insurance
in your car! 
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Minimum required car insurance in Washington

So how much insurance do you need to avoid all this unpleasantness? In Washington, you’re only required to carry
liability coverage
in the following minimum amounts: 
Keep in mind those are the minimum requirements. Given the cost of healthcare in the U.S., most experts recommend upping those limits to $100,000/$300,000/$100,000, respectively.  
Another thing to keep in mind is that liability insurance only protects other drivers. We’ve already mentioned uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, but there are a few other additional policies that are wise to have as well.
Collision coverage
pays for damages to your car caused by any kind of collision, and
comprehensive coverage
covers losses caused by things like severe weather, theft, or vandalism. 

Driving without insurance can increase premiums

In addition to the fines and possible license suspension, getting
caught driving with no insurance
has another unpleasant result: You can expect to have to pay more for your coverage for several years after the violation. While it eventually drops off your record and your rate may go back down in time, you’ll be paying the consequences for several years. 

How to find cheap car insurance in Washington

So, the TL;DR version here? It’s a bad idea to drive without car insurance in Washington state. If the cost of coverage has put you off getting your policy up to date,
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