Washington Car Accident Compensation Laws

Washington’s “At Fault” and “Pure Comparative Negligence” Laws

Washington State’s negligence laws require that you give proof that another person was at “fault” for the car accident so you can recover damages for injuries sustained as a result of the incident.

Thankfully, for drivers who could potentially be at fault at least partially, Washington follows the pure comparative negligence law, which gives most injured parties to recover at least partial damages for their injuries. This guideline makes the court attribute percentages of fault to each driver involved in an accident and then reduce any damages accordingly. The primary component of pure comparative negligence is that if a driven is at 99% fault for a car accident, they can still recover 1% of that driver’s damage award.

If you sustained minor injuries, know that the State legislature requires mandatory arbitration of all claims less than $15000, and in certain counties, the limit is raised to $50,000.

The table below provides a more technical approach to Washington Car Accident Compensation Laws:


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)
Damages Limits
  • 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)
Other Limits
  • Pure Comparative Negligence (RCW § 4.22.005)
  • Mandatory arbitration of claims less than $15,000 ($50,000 in select counties) (RCW § 7.06.020)

source: FindLaw

Types of Damages

Washington defines economic and non-economic damages by law. Economic damages are “objectively verifiable monetary losses” and include, but not limited to, medical expenses, loss of earnings, burial costs, and cost of replacement or repairs. Washington also defines non-economic damages as subjective, nonmonetary losses, including pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, injury to reputation and humiliation, and destruction of the parent-child relationship.

Examples of car accident damages are:


  • Emotional distress
  • Car repairs
  • Loss of earnings
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of consortium

Washington State’s Limits on Damages

Washington caps non-economic damages to an amount equivalent to the average annual wage multiplied by the life expectancy of the injured party, with the life expectancy never being lower than 15 years. Washington is one of the few states that does not allow the court to award any punitive damages in personal injury cases. However, if your car accident was the result of the willful or malicious act of a minor, know that you may recover damages from that minor’s parents, but your compensation will be capped at $5,000.

Multiple states have deadlines or statutes of limitations which requires the injured party to wait a certain amount of time before filing a lawsuit. Washington’s statute of limitations is three years, meaning you must submit a claim within three years of the date of the accident, regardless if you’re trying to recover compensation for an injury to real property like your house, or personal property, like your car, or to a person, like a broken arm.

Washington in addition to requiring a claim submission within three years if the party is injured by a government entity, requires a mandatory waiting period of 60 days before any action begins.