The Department of Licensing (DOL) could suspend your license if the accident injured anyone or caused at least $1,000 in property damage. You can read the law about this at RCW 46.52.030 and WAC 446-85-010.
The DOL will send you a suspension notice if it decides within 180 days of the accident that a court might hold you responsible for the damage.
The notice will say:
- DOL intends to suspend your license in 60 days.
- How to avoid the suspension.
- Your right to appeal the suspension.
To stop the suspension, you can:
- Deposit security and get future insurance. You can deposit with the DOL the amount it estimates you owe because of the accident, and provide proof of insurance. You can read the law about this at RCW 46.29.070 and .250. An SR-22 insurance certificate is proof of insurance.
- The suspension notice states how much you must deposit. Ask DOL for forms and instructions on how to deposit security. DOL will return the deposit if no one sues you within three years of the accident.
- You can give the DOL a written statement signed by all the other parties releasing you from liability (responsibility) for the accident. The list of who must give this statement is in a Contact List that comes with the suspension notice.
- Reach written agreement with the others involved in the accident. You and everyone else in the Contact List must sign the agreement. Give the DOL a copy (RCW 46.29.140).
Usually, you will admit owing money and sign an agreement to pay, either one payment or in installments. If you need a payment plan, try to set payments you can afford to make. If the DOL finds out you missed a payment, it will issue a new suspension notice.
- File for bankruptcy. A bankruptcy will discharge the debts you owe because you were uninsured at the time of the accident.“Discharge” means you no longer owe the debt and the DOL can no longer suspend your license solely based on that debt.
- Some debts are not dischargeable, like traffic tickets or damage caused by drunk driving.
Even after a bankruptcy, you must still show "financial responsibility" (that you have insurance) before you can get a license.
After an accident, you must show proof of SR-22 insurance, an expensive, high-risk type of insurance. In most cases, you must provide proof of SR-22 insurance for three years from the date you are eligible to reinstate your license.
Make sure DOL has your current address.
If you move and you do not update your address:
- You may not get the notice.
- You may not learn that DOL suspended your license.
- You may lose your appeal rights.