Every day, people in Washington are involved in auto accidents. However, most do not know what to do at the scene. Only by properly handling the scene of an accident can you put yourself in the best position if another driver makes a claim against you, or if you need to make a claim against another driver.

At the scene of the Washington State auto accident

  • Call for assistance. Call 9-1-1 and report the accident. Ask for the police to come to the scene.

  • Assist the injured. Call for an ambulance if necessary. If you are qualified to give medical aid, then do so to the extent necessary.

  • Find witnesses. Be sure to get the contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. Witnesses can be crucial to your case later on.

  • Exchange information. Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone involved in the accident, along with insurance company names and insurance policy numbers. Also give your information to the other driver(s).

  • Record information. Write down the year, make, model, and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved. The more information you can gather, the better off you will be.

  • Document the scene. Be sure to take pictures of the scene of the accident. Pictures should include the layout of the area, the positions of the vehicles, the damage to the vehicles, and anything on the roadway such as skid marks or debris from the accident.

  • Don't jump to conclusions. Do not make any statements admitting fault. Those statements may be used against you later, even if the accident is not your fault.

  • Get medical help. If you have been injured in the accident, get to a hospital by ambulance, or immediately after leaving the scene.

Being proactive about the accident

Completing the above steps will make your life easier when dealing with your own insurance company and the other driver's insurance company.

You will not get another opportunity to collect some of the information that is only available at the scene of the accident. Do not assume that someone else is going to get the necessary information; you must do it yourself. For example, don't assume that the police will find all of the witnesses. Most of the time it is not necessary for a police officer to do a completely thorough investigation of a traffic accident. However, if the case ends up being disputed later on, having an eye-witness can make the difference in who is determined to be at fault.

Additional resources:

Washington State Department of Transportation

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Laws/Regulations

Related Legal Guides:

Vehicle-Accident Injuries

Getting Medical Coverage after an Auto Accident

Handling Vehicle Damage after an Auto Accident