Drivers must obtain liability insurance. As explained by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner for Washington State, all motorists are required to have minimum mandatory insurance coverage. However, many drivers fail to comply. The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that a shocking 21.7%of drivers in Washington were uninsured/underinsured in 2019.
This raises an important question: Can you still recover compensation if you are hit by an uninsured motorist? The answer is ‘yes’—but your claim could be more complicated. It is crucial that you know how to protect your rights. In this article, our Seattle motor vehicle collision attorneys explain what you should do if you are hit by an uninsured driver in Washington.
Four Steps to Take If You are Hit by an Uninsured Driver in Washington
- Stop Your Vehicle, Collect Information, and Report the Collision
In Washington, all drivers are required to stop their vehicle and remain at the scene of a collision, unless they need to seek emergency medical attention. As noted by the Washington State Office of Attorney General, failure to stop at a collision/leaving the scene of a crash could be a criminal offense. If you are involved in a crash with an uninsured driver, make sure that you follow through with all of your obligations. Make sure you get as much information from the other driver as possible, including their name, vehicle make & model, and license plate. The collision should also be reported to the police.
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention for Any Injuries
Nothing is more important than your health and well-being. If you were hurt in a crash with an uninsured motorist, it is imperative that you seek immediate medical attention. Many common collision injuries occur with a delayed onset—it can take up to 72 hours to feel the full effects of soft tissue damage, a back injury, a concussion, or other impairments. Make sure you get yourself evaluated by a licensed medical professional. You will not be able to bring a personal injury claim if you do not have medical records that support the existence and severity of your injuries.
- Notify Your Insurer—But Do Not Agree to Accept Fault for the Crash
In general, auto insurance policies require drivers to notify the company promptly after a collision. It is especially important to notify your insurer after a collision with an uninsured motorist as you may be required to pursue a legal claim through your own policy. In the immediate aftermath of a crash, you simply need to tell your insurance provider that a collision occurred; you are not required to give a recorded statement.
Do not admit to or agree to accept blame for the crash at this time. It is not your duty to determine how and why a collision occurred. As Washington is a comparative negligence state for motor vehicle collisions, accepting even a small amount of blame for a collision could take money out of your pocket. Let a Washington lawyer deal with the issue of fault.
- Know Your Options for Pursuing Financial Compensation
Finding out that the driver who hit you lacks adequate auto insurance coverage can be deeply frustrating. The good news is that you still have options to pursue compensation for your damages. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, you may be able to recover financial compensation from:
- The Uninsured Driver (Personally): An at-fault driver can still be held legally responsible for a collision even if they do not have auto liability insurance coverage. You could pursue a claim against them personally. That being said, this is often not a viable option. With some exceptions, most uninsured drivers in Washington lack assets to cover your damages.
- Your Own Insurance Company (UM/UIM Coverage): Many drivers carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage. If you have such a policy, you can pursue financial compensation from your own insurance company.
- A Negligent Third Party: In some cases, the uninsured driver who hit you is not the only party liable for your crash. A third party—another driver, a trucking company, a vehicle manufacturer, etc.—may also bear partial fault for your crash. You have a right to pursue compensation against these defendants.
Call Our Washington Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Case Evaluation
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Seattle attorneys have the professional skills and legal expertise to handle personal injury and uninsured motorist claims. If you or your loved one was hurt in a crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver, we are more than ready to help. Call us now or connect with us directly online to set up your free, no obligation initial consultation. From our law offices in Seattle and Everett, we are well-positioned to handle uninsured motorist claims throughout Western Washington, including in King County, Pierce County, Kitsap County, and Snohomish County.