I Have No Idea Who Hit My Car in Seattle. Now What?
One of the scariest three-word hyphenates in the English language has to be “hit-and-run.” And being a Seattle driver or passenger in an accident is just as scary as it sounds. But if everyone walks away injury free, and you take the proper steps and have the right car insurance, you’ll get through it just fine.
Your main concern should always be for your own safety and that of others in your vehicle. Only after that do you need to figure out how to settle with an insurance company to get any damage repaired as quickly and cheaply as possible.
It’s a little complicated, so let’s unpack the issue of hit-and-run car accidents in Washington and what you should do in the event of one.
Why a Seattle Hit-and-Run Car Accident Is Such a Hassle (or Worse)
Like most other states, Washington is an at-fault car insurance state. What that means is that the driver or (preferably) the insurance company of the driver who’s at fault for the accident pays for the damages of all parties. Sounds fair, right?
But what if the other driver immediately leaves the scene of the crime (yes, it’s considered a gross misdemeanor in Seattle punishable with up to one year in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both) and is never found? Ah, now you see the first complicating factor of hit-and-run accidents. As the innocent party, you fully deserve to receive a claim settlement, but … good luck with that.
Fortunately, if you have full coverage, your insurer will pay for all damages beyond your deductible. More on that later.
5 Things to do if You’re Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident in Seattle
There’s no way to pretend you’re not having a very bad day. However, if you follow these steps, you’re likely to make the best of it.
Some hit-and-runs occur while your vehicle is sitting unattended in a parking lot or elsewhere. In that case, you obviously don’t have to worry about injuries. But most of the other advice here still applies.
1. Stay Calm, Analyze Your Situation, and Take Action
Was anyone hurt? That’s the first question to ask yourself and all passengers. Is your vehicle out of the way of traffic? If not, can it be moved to the shoulder of the road or other safer nearby spot? If not, put on your hazards and leave the vehicle when it’s safe to do so.
2. Call 911
Seattle police will respond to all hit-and-run accidents. If anyone is injured, this is the first and most urgent information to provide the dispatcher.
3. Document Everything
Unless you have to actively care for injured parties, use the time before emergency responders show up to document everything that just happened. You can use the note pad on your smartphone or the audio recorder to review everything you remember: a description of the other vehicle, how the collision unfolded, and all other recalled details.
Get the names and contact information of witnesses, if there are any.
If you had a chance to snap a photo of the offending vehicle (especially the license plate), this would be particularly valuable. Also use your camera to take photos of the damage to your own vehicle as soon as you’re able to do so. That might be after the police have shown up and secured the location to make it safer to navigate.
4. Get a Police Report
This will show that you were not the at-fault party and make it easier to settle with your insurance company.
5. Call Your Auto Insurance Agent
This is the first thing you should do after making sure everyone is safe and getting a police report. Your agent will be able to tell you what you do next to start the claims process. Make sure your agent knows you have photos of the damage to your vehicle.
What Kind of Car Insurance Coverage Do I Need?
As mentioned earlier, it’s generally the responsibility of the driver at fault to pay for Seattle car accidents. But you might have a couple of obstacles. First, at the time of the collision, the at-fault driver is unknown. That’s basically the definition of a hit-and-run accident.
If the driver is eventually found and has an auto policy, that insurer should pay your claim. But if it turns out to be an uninsured driver (don’t be surprised; that might be why they took off), you’re still out of luck.
Unless, that is, you’re properly insured.
Full coverage auto insurance includes benefits for hit-and-run collisions and accidents due to uninsured Seattle drivers. An underinsured driver is one who has coverage, but their limits are lower than what it will cost to repair your vehicle.
It can be tempting to only buy liability coverage because it’s your cheapest option. However, liability only protects other parties if you are at fault for an accident. It won’t cover the damage to your own vehicle.
Of greater importance to this case, liability also won’t cover damage caused by hit-and-run, uninsured, or underinsured drivers. This is just one more reason why you need to upgrade to a full coverage policy.
First, contact an independent agent. An agent who works for one company can only offer you a policy available from that single carrier. In contrast, independent agents have access to multiple carriers. Therefore, they can go shopping for the best deals for you, both in terms of cost and coverage.
Find the Most Affordable Car Insurance in Seattle
The fewer costly surprises you have while behind the wheel of your car, the better, especially in the event of a collision. Call a Vern Fonk independent insurance agent at (800) 455-8276 for affordable full coverage car insurance. You can also visit an independent Vern Fonk agent at a Seattle location near you or, get a quick quote online.
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