people assigning blame in Washington car accident

Washington is not a no-fault state. When a car accident happens, there needs to be a determination of who was at fault for the accident. You may wonder: How is fault determined in a car accident?

In some cases, this can only be determined by context. In other cases, fault is assumed by the kind of accident that occurred.

In addition, Washington is a comparative fault state. That means some of the fault can be assigned to both drivers.

To understand comparative fault, let’s take this example, for instance. An individual sustained $10,000 worth of damages but is only 20% at fault for the accident. That means the other driver is 80% at fault. The other driver would owe $8,000 or 80% of $10,000.

Please don’t hesitate to call our Washington state auto accident lawyers at (509) 866-4166 or send an online message today. We offer free consultations.

Proving Fault or Negligence in Washington Auto Accident Cases

Most personal injury claims rest on the question of negligence. If you are suffering from injuries, you are probably wondering how to determine fault in a car accident.

In a traffic accident claim, the other driver’s insurance company has an incentive to evaluate their client’s negligence as lower than it probably should be. The majority of cases are settled before litigation occurs, but sometimes, if the insurance company thinks it has a case, they will allow the process to go into litigation or even to trial.

In order to prove negligence, a plaintiff must show the following:

  • The defendant had a legal duty to exercise a standard of care
  • The defendant failed to exercise this standard of care
  • That failure led to injuries

Rear-End Collisions

There are some types of accidents in which the court will often assume one driver is at fault regardless of what the circumstances are. One of those accidents is a rear-end collision. In this case, the court may assume a driver took their eyes off the road or was tailing the other driver too closely.

The driver who is assumed to be at fault has a right to rebut the presumption that they were negligent. In the majority of cases, the best this driver can do is claim that the other driver was partially at fault. One instance where a comparative fault claim is likely is when the leading driver’s brake lights aren’t working.

Our personal injury lawyers are ready To help. Please contact our attorneys by filling out the form below.

Lane-Change Accidents

In the majority of cases, the driver who was changing lanes is responsible for the accident.

The most common causes of a lane change accident are:

  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to look before leaving a lane
  • Driver impairment
  • Low visibility caused by weather

There are, however, some instances in which the driver in the other lane may be partially at fault. For instance, a driver has a responsibility to slow down to avoid an accident if they see someone changing lanes.

T-Bone Accidents

T-bone accidents are commonly found at intersections where one driver was attempting to beat a red light or did not notice that the light was red. In all instances, the driver who violated traffic law will be responsible for the accident.

Right Turn Crashes

One issue that might point to the fault of a driver is their failure to yield. This is true across the board, but it is particularly problematic when people choose to turn right at a red light. If there is a car on the street that you want to turn onto or there is oncoming traffic from that lane, you must let cars pass first before turning. Furthermore, soon, there may be potential limitations on turning right at a red light in Washington state.

Left Turn Collisions

If a driver makes a left turn after the light turns red, they could be responsible for any resultant collision. Drivers also should not jump into traffic coming their way to make a left turn. If they do, this might signify at least some fault on their part. If you have any additional questions, contact our dedicated attorneys today.

Drunk Driver Accidents (DWI or DUI)

If there was an impaired driver in an accident, this, of course, is a key component to determining fault. Showing that the other driver was intoxicated will not automatically allow you to succeed in your claim. Nevertheless, this showing typically proves at least some of the elements of negligence.

Pedestrian Accidents

In a pedestrian collision, the driver is usually at fault. Nonetheless, drivers are not liable in every instance of a pedestrian-car crash. If the pedestrian was jaywalking, this might suggest some responsibility on their part. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, analyzing liability can get complicated, but the attorneys at Kapuza Lighty Accident Injury Lawyers are here to guide you.

Bicycle Accidents

Like the other types of accidents mentioned above, figuring out who was at fault in a bicycle accident can be a thorny issue. One of the most common scenarios involves a turning car hitting a bicyclist. The driver might be responsible if they were not paying attention to the road.

However, the bicyclist might have also been negligent and breached their duty of care. One instance where a cyclist might be liable involves failing to have lights and reflectors on their bike. If a bicyclist inadequately maintains their bike, this could also result in some fault for the cyclist.

What Evidence Helps Determine Fault?

You might be asking yourself, How is fault determined in a car accident? It is critical to know how to determine fault in a car accident when filing a claim. Several kinds of evidence can aid in evaluating car accident fault. This evidence will be a major part of determining your compensation. 

Surveillance Videos

If there was video footage of the car accident, this would be useful for examining who was at fault. You will need to try to find this footage as quickly as you can after a car crash because you don’t know how long before someone discards or tapes over critical footage.

An experienced attorney at Kapuza Lighty Accident Injury Lawyers is here to guide you through this process. Some kinds of video footage include traffic cams, dash cams, police body cams, or local businesses that have security footage of the area.


Any information you can gather from witnesses will be critical for analyzing the fault in a car accident. Ensure that you write down the names and information of any witnesses at the crash if you are physically able. Try to get witness names, email addresses, and phone numbers. And try to take note of a brief description of what the witnesses observed. 

Police Reports

police report is another critical category of evidence that can aid in determining liability. Police officers examine the accident scene and note down details. These notes may include any statements from drivers or witnesses. Information may also include a description of any injuries and property damage.

Police reports are crucial because they can incorporate the officer’s opinion regarding who was at fault. This is strong evidence that will be significant when filing your injury claim. 

Physical Evidence

Injuries and vehicle damage, amongst other physical evidence, can help ascertain fault. One example of physical evidence would be noticing skid marks in a photograph. Adjusters can examine these skid marks and use them to analyze the speed of a vehicle in an accident.

Airbags can also aid with understanding what took place in a car crash.

What If There Is a Dispute of Fault?

If there is a dispute regarding fault, there are a few different options that you have available. One step you can take is to request that police officers amend your police report. You should also inform your insurance company that you disagree with their decision. To do this, you must provide additional reasoning for your disagreement and possibly more evidence.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington Car Accident?

If so, call the skilled Yakima, Washington auto accident attorneys of Kapuza Lighty PLLC at (509) 866-4166 or contact us online today for a free consultation.

Our accomplished lawyers can help answer questions about who is at fault in a car accident. Our firm’s practice areas include car accident claims, truck accident claims, and various others. We will get the evidence you need to ensure that you’re not short-changed by the insurance adjuster.


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