State Negligence Laws Overview
Negligence is the term used for when you fail to practice an appropriate level of care, resulting in injuries to another person. When a motorist doesn’t wear their glasses, which is required by their driver’s license, and causes an accident that injured another individual, this would be considered negligent driving. Most claims, such as medical malpractice or personal injury, are primarily based on negligence.
Typically state negligence laws are the same because they’re based on federal law, however, they usually differ when it comes to fault. In Washington State, for example, contributory fault lowers in correlation to the damages amount but does not bar recovery.
For example, a plaintiff could only claim 70% of their damages for injuries if the court finds that they were 30% responsible for the accident. Some states don’t allow recovery at all if the plaintiff is even partially responsible, but they are slowly moving away from this and are now considering levels of contributory fault.
What are the Elements of a Negligence Claim?
To prove a defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff must demonstrate the following five elements:
- Duty – The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, either to act (or refrain from acting) in a certain way, as would be expected from a “reasonable” person.
- Breach of Duty – The defendant acted (or failed to act) contrary to his or her duty to the plaintiff.
- Cause in Fact – The defendant’s breach of duty, in fact, resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries (would the injury have occurred without the defendant’s alleged negligence?).
- Proximate Cause – The defendant’s actions or inactions were within the scope of known risks; the defendant “should have known” an injury could occur.
- Damages – The plaintiff in fact suffered injuries, physical or otherwise, as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
The jury or judge has to decide whether these elements are there to determine negligence.
The basics of Washington negligence laws are listed below.
|Code Section||4.22.005 to 925|
|Comparative Negligence||Contributory fault diminishes proportionately the amount of damages but does not bar recovery.|
|Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff’s Recovery||–|
|Contribution Among Tortfeasors||Yes; §4.22.040|
|Uniform Act||Yes; 4.22.005 to 925|