The first step that people usually need to take after a Washington car crash is to contact the local authorities. Washington state law mandates that people notify the local authorities that a collision has occurred when there is at least $1,000 in property damage and/or injury to others.
Having a police report is also typically necessary if someone wants to file an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit after a collision. However, a police report will often lead to a ticket for the person at fault for the wreck, and many people are desperate to avoid citations or large insurance claims. Drivers who cause crashes don’t want to face increased insurance costs or lose their driver’s licenses. As a result, some people will propose a private or under-the-table settlement for a car crash in Washington. They promise to pay for damages or medical expenses.
Although agreeing to such suggestions may seem like the amicable thing to do, that choice can actually put a crash victim in a very difficult legal position.
There’s no way to enforce a private agreement
When someone promises to settle car crash costs with someone outside of court, the other party has to trust that they will follow through with that promise. Many people do not have the resources to cover collision costs with their own assets. Even if they do, they may retract their promise later or seek to limit how much they will pay the other party involved in a crash.
If there isn’t any official record of the collision, the people coping with injuries and major property damage costs will have a hard time holding the other driver accountable. Insurance companies and the civil courts typically expect there to be a police report affirming that a crash occurred and designating one of the drivers as the party at fault for the wreck.
Even though people may promise to compensate the individuals affected by a crash, it is a very risky decision to agree to an under-the-table or private settlement without notifying the authorities at all. The choice to handle matters privately leaves the person who didn’t cause the crash at a disadvantage if the other party does not follow through with their promises.
Recognizing how important a police report is can help people better protect their interests in the wake of a major collision. So can seeking legal guidance as proactively as possible.