How Long Does a Car Accident Stay on Your Record?
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How Long Does a Car Accident Stay on Your Record?

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Posted on May 1, 2024

If you experience a car accident in Washington, it’s important to understand your obligations under the law and the impacts of the accident on your driving record. For instance, after the dust settles and the initial trauma of a car accident eases, many car accident victims worry about the effects of the car accident on their insurance premiums. How does a car accident report work, what does it do to insurance, and how long does the report remain on your record? These are all important questions to anyone who has experienced a car accident.

Do I Always Have to Report a Car Accident In Washington?

You do not have to report parking lot fender-benders with little or no damage in Washington; however, you are required to exchange insurance information with the other driver and may not legally leave the scene without leaving your contact information if the owner of another involved vehicle isn’t present.

For accidents with property damage and/or injuries, it’s critical to remain at the scene and call the police. Washington requires residents to report any accident with $700 or more in property damage to the police or any accident with injury victims.

For accidents with property damage or injuries, the police make out a report and send it to the insurance company so car accident victims do not have to make the report themselves, only sign it at the scene if they aren’t injured, or sign it later after they’ve recovered from their injuries.

However, for minor accidents that don’t require the police, you must still report the accident to the DMV and your insurance company. Failing to report the accident could result in license suspension.

What Happens If There’s an Accident on My Record?

It shouldn’t impact your insurance rates if you were not at fault for a car accident. If you were involved but not the cause of the accident, the report sent to your insurer will indicate that someone else caused the accident. If you were the at-fault party in the accident, your insurance premiums are likely to increase.

An accident report remains a part of your record in Washington for five years for drivers of non-commercial vehicles. Commercial drivers of trucks or buses are held to higher standards. The report on a commercial driver’s record remains for ten years.

How Do I Clear My Washington Driver’s Record?

Periodically checking your driving record after an accident is a good idea. If your accident remains on the record for over five years, notify the DMV that the five-year time limit has passed and they should remove it.

You may also be able to remove the accident from the record sooner than five years by submitting a request for expungement and agreeing to take a driving class or attend traffic school. It’s a good idea to periodically check your record after you’ve completed the required driving class to ensure the DMV has cleared your record. If the accident remains on your record, contact the DMV and request that they remove the infraction since you’ve met the qualifications for expungement.