Washington is full of natural wonders. From the Puget Sound to the Palouse, Washington's beauty attracts travelers from far and wide. But Washington offers more than serene vistas – swift winds, hail, snow, and dense fog are all highly likely to greet drivers on Washington's roadways. If your travels in the Evergreen State did not go quite as planned, you will be thankful that Washington car accident compensation laws are generally quite victim friendly.
Washington's “At Fault” and “Pure Comparative Negligence” Laws
Washington negligence laws provide that you must prove that another driver was “at fault” for the car accident in order to recover damages for your injuries.
Fortunately for drivers who may be partially at fault, Washington has adopted pure comparative negligence, a law that allows most injured parties to at least partially recover damages for their injuries. This rule requires the court to attribute percentages of fault to each driver involved in an accident and then reduce any damages award accordingly. The key feature of pure comparative negligence is that even a driver 99% at fault for a car accident can recover 1% of that driver's damage award. For example, if that driver suffered $10,000 in damages, that driver could still recover $100.
If you suffered minimal injuries, be aware that the State legislature requires mandatory arbitration of all claims less than $15,000, and in select counties the limit is increased to $50,000.
For more information on Washington Car Accident Compensation Laws, take a look at the table below.
Statute of Limitations
- 3 years for personal injury or personal property injury (RCW § 4.16.080)
- 3 years for an action against a government entity (RCW § 4.16.160)
- 60 days between serving a government entity and starting proceedings (RCW § 4.96.020)
- Non-economic damages limited to an amount equaling the average annual wage by the life expectancy of the injured party, not less than 15 years (RCW § 4.56.250)
- $5,000 recovery from a minor's parents for willful or malicious acts (RCW § 4.24.190)
- Pure Comparative Negligence (RCW § 4.22.005)
- Mandatory arbitration of claims less than $15,000 ($50,000 in select counties) (RCW § 7.06.020)
Washington defines examples of both economic and non-economic damages by law. By law, economic damages are "objectively verifiable monetary losses" and include, among others, medical expenses, loss of earnings, burial costs, and cost of replacement or repair. Washington also provides examples of non-economic damages, which the state defines as subjective, nonmonetary losses, including but not limited to pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, injury to reputation and humiliation, and destruction of the parent-child relationship.
Typical car accident damages include:
Damages Limits in Washington
The State of Washington limits non-economic damages to an amount equal to the average annual wage multiplied by the life expectancy of the injured party, with the life expectancy being no less than fifteen years for the purposes of this calculation. Washington is one of the few states that does not permit the court to award any kind of punitive damages in personal injury cases. However, if your car accident was the result of the willful or malicious act of a minor, be aware that you may recover damages from that minor's parents, but your recovery will be limited to $5,000.
Many states impose deadlines, or statutes of limitations, that limit the amount of time an injured party can wait before filing a lawsuit. Washington requires you to file your lawsuit within three years, whether you are looking to recover for an injury to real property, such as your house, or personal property, such as your car, or to your person, such as a broken leg.
Washington adds a twist to deadlines for government lawsuits by not only requiring parties injured by a government entity to file within three years, but once a claim has been served to the entity, the injured party must wait an additional sixty days before any action may actually commence.
Learn How Washington Car Accident Compensation Laws Affect You: Talk to a Lawyer
If you were injured touring the natural wonders of this Northwestern gem, Washington's pure comparative fault laws may help you recover damages for your injuries. But if a government entity was at fault for your car accident, Washington's complicated waiting time requirements may make it tough to navigate a car accident lawsuit all on your own. Get in touch with a local car accident attorney today to discuss your case and find out what compensation may be available to you.