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How Long Do I Have to Report a Car Accident in Washington?

Posted On: May 19, 2023

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, there were over 103,000 car crashes in the state in 2022, and that number is only expected to increase in the coming years. If you are the unfortunate victim of a car accident, knowing the legal reporting procedures can ensure you can remain in good legal standing and have proper documentation for an accident claim, whether done through your insurance company or a personal injury lawyer.


Why You Need to File a Police Report After a Washington Car Accident

According to Washington state law, any individual involved in a car crash must file a report if there is greater than $1,000 in total personal or property damage or a fatality. Even if it seems like a minor accident, medical bills, car damage, and other property damage can add up fast, so it is in your best interest to file a report even if the damage seems minimal.

Aside from it being the law, fully documenting your car accident can help you when filing an insurance claim or if circumstances require that you pursue the at-fault driver with legal action for additional costs not covered by insurance companies.


Car Accident


Timelines and Deadlines for Filing a Car Accident Police Report in Washington

If you are filing a crash report for an accident that you were involved in, you must complete a report within four days. You can do so online through the Washington State Patrol website or obtain a paper copy through local law enforcement agencies which you can fill out and mail in.

However, if a police officer was present to take a report of the accident, it can take up to two to four weeks before the report is available in the system online.

Here are some other key deadlines to know if you are in a car accident:

  • Get a medical evaluation within 72 hours to assess any bodily injury sustained during the accident. Any later than that and an insurance company may try to deny an injury claim by arguing that your injuries weren’t that severe or weren’t actually caused by the car accident.
  • The statute of limitations, or deadline to file a claim, is three years from the date of the accident. That means any claims or lawsuits related to the auto accident must be filed within that time period, or your case is no longer covered by the law.


Legal Requirements for a Police Report in Washington

If a police officer comes to the scene of the accident and files a report, they are required to report on all of the material facts of the accident and will include information such as:

  • Location, date, and time of the accident
  • An account of what happened and the people involved
  • Conditions existing at the time (weather, traffic, etc.)
  • Vehicle, registration, contact, and insurance information for all vehicles and people involved
  • Personal injury or death
  • Amount of property damage claimed
  • Number of vehicles involved and what state they were in when the accident took place (parked legally or illegally, in motion, occupied)
  • Whether any driver was distracted or intoxicated (eating, changing the radio station, talking on the phone, under the influence, etc.)
  • Statements of parties involved and witnesses

If an officer indicates that they will submit a report, you are not required to file an additional report for the accident. However, if you would like to dispute any parts of the report or check on the status of the report, you can do so through the Washington State Patrol in person in their office, by phone or through email.

If you must file an accident report yourself, be sure to take note of all of the above information as well so the report is as comprehensive as possible. It can help you to get the contact information and names of all witnesses, too, so that your lawyer can follow up to get legal statements as part of a legal suit for damages against an at-fault driver.


Auto Accident Report


Consequences of Failing to File a Police Report on Time

According to Washington state law, you must file an accident report within the four-day window or risk having your driver’s license or permit suspended.

Not filing within the designated time limit could have other unfortunate consequences, such as:

  • A delay in your case evaluation with your insurance provider or personal injury attorney
  • A risk that you lose or misplace key information from the accident


How to Obtain a Police Report After a Car Accident in Washington

You can request to obtain a police report after a car accident through the Washington State Patrol — either by email, phone or by going to their physical address. Keep in mind that it costs $10.50 to obtain a copy of the report, and it may take up to four weeks for the report from an officer to be uploaded and available in their system.


How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Navigating the reporting and claims process for motor vehicle accidents can be lengthy and overwhelming, especially if you’ve suffered a personal injury as a result. While it’s common to think that insurance companies will help you navigate the complexities, the reality is that they want to pay out as little as possible as part of the claims process. By hiring a qualified personal injury attorney, you can ensure you get the fair compensation you deserve.

At the law offices of Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler PLLC, we have over sixty years of experience fighting for justice and winning for our clients, and we’re ready to do the same for you.

Contact us here or call us today at 253-242-2606 and let us fight for you.



How long do I have to report a car accident in Washington?

If a car accident results in a fatality or injury and damages costs of more than $1,000, you must report it to the Washington State Patrol within four days.

What happens if I don’t report a car accident in Washington?

Failure to report a car accident that meets the criteria could lead to suspension of your driver’s license.

Should I file a police report for a minor car accident in Washington?

Yes. Since the cost can quickly exceed $1,000 once medical bills, property and vehicle damage are assessed, it’s in your best interest to report and document even minor accidents.

How long do I have to report a hit-and-run in Washington?

A hit-and-run should be reported within the same four-day time period as other vehicle accidents. Although you may not have information on the other driver or car, you still want to report all other circumstances and collect possible witness contact information.

How do I report a car accident in Washington if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

You will follow the same reporting procedure if you get into an accident with an uninsured motorist. Be sure to collect their contact information, driver’s license, car year, make, model and color.

Your auto insurance policy may cover uninsured or under-insured motorists — if not, you may personally pursue the at-fault driver through a lawsuit. If that’s the case, having a trusted law firm on your side will help build your case and get you compensation, even if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance to cover motor vehicle accident expenses.