Determining Fault WA State

Determining Fault in Personal Injury Cases: Washington State

When a person is injured in an accident and a claim is made, insurance companies must first decide who is at fault in the accident. If the case is brought to trial, a jury will be assigned the task of determining fault. In some cases, the injured party will be assigned a certain degree of fault.

Fault Determination

In Washington, fault can be shared in a personal injury case. Damages are awarded based on contributory fault law which says that you may only be awarded damages proportionate to the percentage of fault contributed by the defendant and nothing for the amount of fault that you contributed.

Caps on Personal Injury Awards in Washington

Washington has no cap on personal injury damages despite efforts by the insurance industry. A statutory cap on non-economic damages has been deemed an unconstitutional infringement of the right to a trial by jury by the Supreme Court of Washington making Washington a fair state for personal injury claims.

Although there are generally no limitations on damages received to compensate for personal injuries such as reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages, some limitations exist in certain situations. Your estimation of damages must be reasonably certain, especially for those damages projected for the future, such as future medical expenses or future lost wages.

Serious Injury Threshold and Fault

Washington State has no serious injury threshold which means that insurance companies pay for an injury based on the claimant’s degree of fault in the accident, rather than the severity of the injury. Washington is one of the “fault states”. Specifically, Washington follows the Pure Comparative Fault Rule (also called the pure comparative negligence theory), which allows a damaged party to recover even if it is 99 percent at fault but where the court or adjuster will diminish the award in proportion to the degree of fault of the injured party. In other words, the recovery is reduced by the damaged party’s degree of fault. A person involved in a car accident in Washington State has the right to file suit for uncompensated economic damages such as lost wages and medical expenses and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

Washington also follows the theory of Joint and Several Liability. This means that each defendant is liable for his share of the monetary award unless the plaintiff is not at fault at all, in which case each defendant will share in the responsibility of all liable defendants.

Proving fault and liability for injuries and damage due to an accident are vital to your personal injury case. Proving fault in an accident can be straightforward but it may not be in every case. A person must prove three points to show liability in a car accident case:

1. A legal duty was owed

When driving a car, we owe a legal duty to everyone else on the road to operate our vehicle with a reasonable standard of care.

2. A duty was breached

In the case of a car accident, the plaintiff must prove that the person who caused the accident was not operating within their legal duty of care. The “reasonable person standard” is used to compare the actions of the defendant to what a reasonable driver would have done in the same situation. If it is decided that a reasonable driver would have acted more carefully, then the defendant can be considered negligent and at least partially at fault for the accident. If the driver was also cited for traffic violation in relation to the accident, that can help strengthen the case that a duty was breached.

3. The breach of duty led to injuries

Proving negligence is not enough to make a person responsible for an accident or injuries. The connection must be made that the driver’s negligence was the direct or proximate cause of the accident and therefore would not have happened had a reasonable driver been there in his place.

Steps to take if you are involved in a Personal Injury in Washington State

After You Are Injured

  • Seek appropriate medical care for any injuries
  • Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer
  • Document all injuries and any damage to property (gather copies of accident reports, take pictures of injuries and the scene of the accident, keep medical receipts and invoices, keep notes of new symptoms, document time off from work, etc.)
  • Get contact information from witnesses and gather their statements
  • Open a claim with the other person’s insurance company
  • Do not give any statements to anyone other than the police before speaking with a lawyer
  • Do not sign any releases of liability or potential claims before speaking with a lawyer

Disclaimer: State and federal laws in the United States change on a regular basis. Any information provided in this guide is meant solely for informational purposes and should not take the place of the advice of a lawyer. Only a qualified attorney can assess the merits of your case and provide an effective plan for counsel.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!