How fault works in Washington personal injury cases

Sep 28, 2020 | Serious Injury

An injury can have devastating consequences, from lost wages to long-term disability and resulting medical costs. When an accident results from the negligence of another person or business, the injured person can seek financial restitution in court.

Individuals struggling with the monetary impact of a serious injury should review the laws that govern fault in Washington personal injury cases.

Fault determination

The plaintiff in a personal injury case must show that the defendant failed to live up to the duty of care a reasonable person would expect. They must also prove that this negligence caused the injury, which directly resulted in financial damages.

Comparative negligence

The court can decide that both parties share fault for the injury. With this concept, called comparative negligence, the judge can reduce the plaintiff’s financial award by his or her fault percentage. For example, in an accident in which the defendant was speeding, the judge may find the plaintiff 10% at fault because of a missing headlight. Instead of $50,000 in damages, the plaintiff would receive 10% less, or $45,000.

Available recovery

Injured individuals can seek damages for monetary costs of the injury, such as medical bills and lost wages. Washington also allows unlimited damages for loss of life enjoyment and for pain and suffering.

Washington has a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. An injured party who files a lawsuit after that deadline will not be eligible to collect damages. When the lawsuit names a city or state agency as the defendant, the plaintiff must give official notice 60 days before filing a legal claim.