Leaving the scene of an accident that involved injuries is not permitted in Washington. Unfortunately, drivers who are involved in wrecks may react negatively due to confusion, fear, or guilt. This is especially true if the driver was operating the vehicle without a valid license, was driving while impaired, or felt responsible for the crash. However, leaving the scene of an accident can have several negative consequences.
Any car accident case can be challenging. If you or a member of your family was hurt in a collision that involved a driver who fled the scene, pursuing the compensation you deserve can be more difficult.
The car accident lawyers at Fuller & Fuller, Attorneys PLLC may be able to help. Our firm has served clients in Washington for over 50 years. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources needed to investigate the available facts in these cases.
The answer to whether or not you can sue someone who left the scene of an accident depends on the circumstances involved. Below are some of the key considerations.
To Sue, You Must Be Able to Show that Someone Else’s Negligence Caused You Harm
In order to sue, you must be able to show that someone else caused you harm. Even if someone did something they shouldn’t have (i.e., leaving the scene of an accident), this doesn’t automatically mean that you have a right to sue.
This is based on the law of negligence. Under Washington law there are four basic elements to a claim for negligence:
- Duty – Your lawsuit must arise out of a legal duty that someone else owed to you under the circumstances presented.
- Breach – The person you are seeking to sue must have violated their duty in some manner.
- Harm – You must have suffered physical harm.
- Causation – You must be able to prove that person’s breach of duty caused your physical harm.
Now, let’s consider a situation in which someone leaves the scene of a car accident. Do you have a claim for negligence?
Drivers in Washington Have a Duty to Remain at the Accident Scene and Render Assistance
In Washington, drivers have a legal duty to remain at the scene of any accident that results in physical injury. Section 46.52.020(1) of the Revised Code of Washington provides:
“A driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury . . . shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to, and in every event remain at, the scene of such accident until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (3) of this section . . .”
Under subsection (3), a driver who is involved in an accident must:
“render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person or on his or her behalf.”
Even if you can’t sue the other driver for leaving the scene of the accident, you may still have a negligence claim based on the accident itself. In most cases, drivers flee the scene because they know they were at fault and they want to try to avoid liability. If you have a lawsuit based on the accident itself, you can seek to recover compensation for all of the costs you incur.
Regardless of what happened, if you were involved in a car accident and the other driver fled the scene, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. You may be entitled to financial compensation on various grounds. An experienced car accident lawyer may be able to help identify the parties involved and pursue damages on your behalf.
If you were hurt in a wreck, the experienced car accident lawyers at Fuller & Fuller, Attorneys PLLC may be able to help. We encourage you to contact our office for a FREE, no-obligation consultation.
Contact Fuller & Fuller, Attorneys PLLC today online or at (800) 570-4878. We serve clients in Olympia, Tacoma, and other areas throughout Washington.