Washington Hit-and-Run

If you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run in Washington, file a police report and submit an insurance claim right away.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
If you commit a hit-and-run offense in the state of Washington, you could be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. Penalties can include license revocation, up to ten years imprisonment, and fines up to $20,000.  
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run in Washington, stay calm and make sure you and anyone else involved is okay. Try to obtain and record as much information as you can, and call the police right away, even if the accident was very minor.  
Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in all 50 states, but each state has slight differences in the laws surrounding hit-and-run crimes. Here, we’ll examine the laws in Washington. 
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What is a hit-and-run? 

Washington law defines a hit-and-run as the failure to stop and stay on the scene
after a car accident
, regardless of how minor the damage may be or who is at fault. Washington also stipulates that any driver who strikes the body of a deceased person is required to stop and stay on the scene. 
It doesn’t matter who is at fault—leaving the scene of an accident will make you guilty of a hit-and-run, which is a criminal offense.  No matter what, always remain on the scene and provide all the information that’s required to law enforcement officers and the other people involved. 

What happens if you commit a hit-and-run in Washington?

If you get into a collision, don’t panic, and don’t leave the scene of the accident. Washington state law requires that you stay and provide your information to the police and/or the other people involved. 
You are also required to provide reasonable assistance to anyone who is injured and move your vehicle from the road if possible.
Failure to do so will result in a hit-and-run charge.

Is a hit-and-run a felony in Washington? 

A hit-and-run can be either a misdemeanor or a felony in Washington, depending on the circumstances. 
If the accident only results in property damage, then it’s most likely to be a misdemeanor. If a hit-and-run results in any injury or death of another person, that’s considered a felony offense

What is the punishment for a hit-and-run in Washington? 

The punishment for a hit-and-run in Washington depends on a few factors, including the amount of property damage and whether anyone was injured or killed. 
A hit-and-run that only results in property damage is a misdemeanor. A hit-and-run that results in any injury is considered a felony and can be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Here’s the breakdown of possible consequences for a hit-and-run in Washington:
Result of accident
License revocation
Property damage—unattended vehicle
Up to 90 days
Up to $1,000
Property damage—attended vehicle
Gross misdemeanor
Up to 1 year
Up to $5,000
1 year
Striking a dead body
Gross misdemeanor
Up to 1 year
Up to $5,000
Class C felony
Up to 5 years
Up to $10,000
1 year
Class B felony
Up to 10 years
Up to $20,000
1 year
Committing a hit-and-run while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can also result in
DWI charges
on top of hit-and-run charges, which would almost certainly result in very severe penalties.

How to avoid a hit-and-run charge

Washington Revised Code 46.52.020
, you are legally required to do the following if you are involved in a car accident of any kind:
  • Immediately stop at and remain on the scene
  • Provide your name, address, insurance company and policy number, vehicle license number, and driver’s license number to anyone involved in the accident
  • Give reasonable assistance to anyone who may require it, including calling an ambulance if requested
It’s also imperative that you provide any and all of the above information to the officers at the scene before you leave. 
Failure to follow these steps can result in a hit-and-run charge, even if you are not at fault. If you are at fault, then what may have been just a fender bender can turn into something much more serious. 

What should I do if I experience a hit-and-run in Washington? 

If a hit-and-run happens to you, stay calm and think safety first. Gather and write down as much information as you can, and call the police immediately. 

At the scene

Do not attempt to follow the car that hit you. First make sure that you, your passengers, and any bystanders are uninjured. Call 911 to report the crime. 
If possible and safe to do so, move your car off the road or highway to a location that is not impeding traffic. 
Write down your recollection of what happened in as much detail as soon as possible while it’s still fresh in your mind. Memory can fade quickly, so make note of:
  • The circumstances of the crash
  • A detailed description of the other car—make, model, color, etc.
  • The license plate number of the other car—even partial digits can be useful
  • Descriptions of the driver and/or any passengers
  • What direction the other car was driving
  • Anything unique about the car—stickers, aftermarket accessories, contents of the car, etc.
If it’s safe to do so and you are comfortable doing so, talk to and exchange information with people who may have witnessed the accident. Take pictures of your car and the scene of the crash. Keep an eye open for anything that might be useful as evidence, like debris from the other vehicle. 

After you leave the scene

Follow up with law enforcement to make sure that a report has been filed. Even if the damages were minor, it’s still important to have an official report. 
One, it helps in catching the culprit. Two, it’s an important piece of evidence that you’ll need for your insurance claim. 
Don’t wait to file an insurance report. Make sure you contact your insurance company
within 24 hours of an accident
If fortune is in your favor and the other driver is found, that’s great news. Washington requires drivers to carry
bodily injury liability
property damage liability
, so the other driver’s coverage should cover the damage to your car and help with any medical expenses you might have. 
If the driver isn’t found or lacks insurance coverage, then things can get a little more complicated. This is one of those scenarios where it’s beneficial to have more than the minimum legal insurance coverage. In this case, damages from a hit-and-run may be covered by
personal injury protection (PIP)
collision coverage
, or
uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

What insurance covers a hit-and-run?

Insurance type
Will it cover a hit-and-run?
Collision coverage
May need to meet deductible
Uninsured motorist coverage
Check with your insurance company for details
Liability coverage
Depends on circumstances, check with your insurance company
Personal injury protection (PIP)
Can also cover lost wages and other related expenses

How to find affordable insurance for collisions and more 

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If you have committed a hit-and-run or any other type of traffic infraction, you are likely to see an increase in your insurance. This is especially true in the case of felony hit-and-runs, or ones where there may be extensive property damage. If you’re the victim, it’s unlikely to affect your insurance rates.
It’s a good idea. A hit-and-run is a criminal offense, and seeking professional legal help is strongly advised.
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