Washington State's Personal Injury Laws

Although nobody anticipates suffering a serious or debilitating injury in an accident or because of another party’s wrongdoing, accidents and injuries happen all the time.

When you sustain an injury in Yakima or the surrounding area, it is important to consider filing a personal injury claim in order to seek financial compensation for your losses.

Compensation can range from economic damages like hospital bills or lost wages to noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. Before you begin the process of filing a lawsuit, it is important to learn more about Washington State personal injury law.

Statute of Limitations in Washington State Personal Injury Lawsuits

The first thing to know about personal injury law is that you only have a limited amount of time to file a claim. The Washington State personal injury statute of limitations for most types of claims is three years from the date of the injury.

This means that the law requires you to file a lawsuit within this specific time window, and the clock starts ticking for most people on the date that the injury occurred.

If you do not file a claim before the statute of limitations runs out, then you will have what is known as a “time-barred” claim. Once you have a time-barred claim, you are no longer eligible to obtain financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

By speaking with a Yakima personal injury attorney as soon as possible, you can make certain that your claim is filed on time.

Washington State Personal Injury Law: How to Prove Liability

To recover financial compensation through a personal injury claim, a plaintiff must be able to establish the defendant’s culpability. Unsurprisingly, defendants are not always eager to admit their responsibility for an accident — in fact, many defendants will aggressively challenge liability for an accident, sometimes even to the point of giving false or misleading information to insurance companies or to a Washington court.

If you were hurt in an accident in Washington, you need a lawyer who knows how to hold defendants legally accountable for their actions. Most personal injury claims in Washington are based on negligence. Establishing liability requires satisfying the following four legal elements:

  • The defendant owed a duty of care to the victim;
  • The defendant breached the standard of care;
  • The defendant’s wrongful action contributed to the
    victim’s injuries; and
  • The victim suffered actual harm in the accident.

What constitutes negligence depends largely on the specific circumstances of the case. A driver who is distracted by a cell phone and causes a serious crash is negligent. A nursing home administrator that fails to conduct proper background checks on staff members thereby allowing abuse to occur is negligent. A commercial trucking company that does not properly inspect its trucks leading to a horrific wreck after a tire blowout is negligent. Regardless of the circumstances of the case, all personal injury claims require an in-depth investigation.

Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington

Proving negligence is not sufficient to recover full and fair financial compensation for your losses. Under Washington state law, injured victims must prove their damages. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you are probably wondering what kinds of damages you may be eligible to receive. In most personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs are seeking “compensatory” damages.

This is a type of damages award designed to compensate a plaintiff for his or her losses. Generally speaking, compensatory damages fall into one of two categories:

  • Economic damages, which Washington State Law considers monetary losses, including medical expenses and loss of earnings, among others; and
  • Noneconomic damages, which are considered subjective, nonmonetary losses, including, but not limited to pain, suffering, inconvenience, and mental anguish.

Understanding Contributory Fault in Your Washington Personal Injury Case

Plaintiffs often want to know: can I still recover monetary damages if I am partially at fault? The answer to this question is yes. Under Washington’s contributory fault law, a plaintiff’s contributory fault does not bar recovery. Instead, the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by his or her portion of fault. This is true whether the plaintiff is only 1 percent at fault or as much as 99 percent.

The system works this way because Washington is a pure comparative fault jurisdiction. Under state rules, each party will be held legally liable for their share of the blame for the accident. For example, if you suffered $24,000 in damages in a car accident and two other drivers were deemed to be equally at fault, then each of those defendants would be liable for 50 percent of your damages, or $12,000.

Of course, a finding that you were partially at fault for your own injuries will reduce your recovery. Under the same example, if you were deemed to be 40 percent at fault for your wreck, the $24,000 in accident damages would be reduced by $9,600. It is imperative that you avoid being hit with an unfair share of the blame for your own accident. Being found partially liable for your injuries could take thousands of dollars out of your pocket.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Washington State

At Kapuza Lighty, PLLC, our top-rated Yakima personal injury attorneys are dedicated to getting justice and maximum financial support for injured victims. Do you have questions about filing a claim? Our experienced Washington personal injury attorney is ready to assist you with your case. For more information or to set up a free, no-obligation consultation, please contact us today.

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