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.



Here Are Washington State’s Negligence Laws

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.

Contributory Fault

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Breach of Duty – The defendant acted (or failed to act) contrary to his or her duty to the plaintiff.
  3. 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?).
  4. Proximate Cause – The defendant’s actions or inactions were within the scope of known risks; the defendant “should have known” an injury could occur.
  5. 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

source: Findlaw

How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Awarded After a Car Accident?

Were you injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence? If so, you could be entitled to earn financial compensation for injuries followed by a car accident including hospital bills and vehicle repair costs. Be aware that the amount of compensation given can highly differ based on the accident’s jurisdiction and how the accident transpired. Continue on to discover the process of a car accident claim.

Different Kinds of Damages

In multiple jurisdictions, injury suits create damages which are split into two distinct categories: special damages and general damages. Special damages refer to damages distinguished by economic harm like wage losses from missed work, vehicle or property damage, and medical bills. However, general damages blanket “non-economic damages” which include:

Pain and suffering
Physical disfigurement or impairment
Potentially shortened lifespan
Mental anguish
Loss of reputation
Loss of companionship
Loss of enjoyment of life
Emotional distress
Calculating Car Accident Pain and Suffering Damages

Damages like property harm or hospital expenses are usually simple to determine as they can easily be proven via receipts for medical costs or quotes from a vehicle repair shop. However, pain and suffering caused by a car accident are a lot harder to prove in comparison to the previous damages tangibly. There is little tangible evidence that can permit someone from assessing the amount of pain and suffering the victim is going through or how much money should sufficiently compensate the victim for their suffering.

In legal practice, there are several factors that courts use to determine what damages should be awarded to the victim for pain and suffering, they are:

Severity of the injury
Location and nature of any scarring or disfigurement
Recovery time needed
Potential for ongoing consequences
Amount claimed in special damages
Socio-economic or political factors
Personality and charisma of the injured party
Personality and charisma of the attorney
State damages caps
The ‘Multiplier’ Method

Some lawyers utilize the multiplier method to determine pain and suffering damages. This method requires a lawyer to use a multiplier on the total special damages. The idea is to use easier to account for injuries such as hospital bills and property damage and weigh them more than the harder to calculate damages that result in injuries. While this is frequently the case in the majority of car accidents, there are two issues this method has that is often critiqued.

  1. Arbitrary multipliers: Commonly, lawyers will use a variety of multipliers with this method. One lawyer could triple the special damages whereas a different attorney could only double them. Neither choice is incorrect, but with the different variety of multipliers between calculations typically results in inconsistencies.
  2. Possibly misleading results: A clothing model who was disfigured as a result of a car accident could have lower medical bills than a computer engineer who broke some bones. Their injuries, however, could potentially result in significantly more emotional and psychological trauma, primarily because models heavily rely on their physical looks to earn their wages.

As evident from the above, the multiplier method isn’t always perfect, however, it does provide a start to determining how much a car accident victim should be awarded for pain and suffering damages.

Get Legal Assistance Now

Objectively presenting car accident pain and suffering damages can be incredibly difficult, this is where an experienced car accident attorney can make a huge difference in how much compensation you may recover in a claim. A Vancouver car accident lawyer can review and provide crucial information regarding your case and can level with insurers and local juries if you decide to make a claim. Contact CCRS Law today to learn how you can begin taking the necessary steps in earning financial compensation for injuries caused by another driver’s negligence.

How Personal Injury Law in Washington State Can Affect You

Although it’s always better to avoid bodily injuries, it’s impossible to control or account for every potential outcome. If you’ve been harmed in Washington state, it’s in your best interest to understand how personal injury laws work.

What Is Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury laws are designed to help victims recover following an injury incident. They can facilitate various actions, such as paying for medical bills that you incurred as a direct result of the injury or offsetting the wages that you lost due to being unable to work while you’re injured. By filing a lawsuit against the party or parties that you believe are at fault for your injury, you may be able to win monetary compensation, also known as damages.

Proving Liability in Washington State

Liability is an important concept in the world of personal injuries. Being liable means having contributed to the incident in a manner that somehow resulted in the victim getting hurt. The burden of proof, or responsibility for proving that someone else was liable, rests on you.

In Washington, different kinds of injury circumstances may have different requirements for determining liability. For instance, if you’re harmed by a health care provider, you have to prove that your injury was the result of treatment you didn’t agree to, that your caregiver failed to meet accepted professional standards or that you were promised that the injury wouldn’t occur. On the other hand, if you were hurt by a rescue volunteer or emergency worker who was trying to aid you, courts may be legally prohibited from finding that individual liable if they acted in good faith. The nuances of each circumstance affect the steps you’ll need to take to establish liability.

The Importance of Legal Representation

As you’ve probably figured out by now, there’s no single personal injury law in Washington state. Instead, the rules are defined in some separate statutes and codes that apply to different circumstances and forms of harm.

Before filing an injury lawsuit, you need to know which of the laws apply and what kinds of damages you’re allowed to pursue. For example, if you contributed to an incident where another motorist negligently caused you harm, you may be limited to claiming a certain fraction of the damages.

Your chances of winning a court case depend on how you formulate your legal arguments. Working with a personal injury attorney is vital to avoiding mistakes that might get your case thrown out or delay a judgment. In addition to helping you overcome potential pitfalls, legal representatives play a vital role in managing your lawsuit so that you can focus on healing.

Understanding Personal Injury Laws in Washington State

If you have been injured in the state of Washington, you will have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. It is imperative that you contact an attorney right away to ensure that you do not miss the date that you need to file your claim.

The Statute of Limitations

The time that you can file your lawsuit is called the “statute of limitations,” and it is different for various types of claims. If you fail to file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, you forfeit your right to sue the at-fault party forever. For example, if you suffered an accident that is the fault of another, you have three years in Washington to file your claim. If you fail to file the lawsuit within the three-year period, you will never be able to take the guilty party to court in the future.

Pure Comparative Negligence

Washington law uses “pure comparative negligence” in determining who is at fault. This means that you can be assigned a portion of the blame for your injuries. The court will determine how much the plaintiff will be ordered to pay you, but it will be reduced by the amount of blame that you receive. For example, the jury may decide that the at-fault party deserves 65% of the blame for the accident and that you deserve 35%. Your award will, therefore, be reduced by 35% to account for your portion of the blame.

The Damages

If the jury determines that the plaintiff truly is at fault for your injuries, the court will determine how much the guilty party must pay you in damages. Damages are the amount of money that you receive to compensate you for the accident. For example, you may have missed work because you were too injured to work, and may also have medical bills to pay for the injuries that you suffered. Your vehicle may have been damaged and must be repaired. You may need some rehabilitation to recover fully from your injuries. The damages that you are awarded can be used for all of these things.

Alternatives to Court

Some people prefer not to take their personal injury cases to court because it is so expensive and time-consuming. You do have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit in small claims court, but you will need to receive the judge’s permission to have an attorney with you. You may also avoid court in the state of Washington by having your case heard at the Washington State Dispute Resolution Center.

Get in a Vancouver car accident? Keep it off social media!

If you get in a car accident, don’t post about it on Facebook. It should stay off Twitter, too.

I know that is hard. Because when something interesting happens to a person, most will tell other people about it. Get a job? Tell everyone. Land a record Steelhead? Brag about it to everyone you see.

The same impulse exists when you are in a car accident. Why? Because it is interesting! There is twisted metal, broken glass. You also get to complain about someone else’s boneheaded driving, which feels good. As far as topics go, a car accident is always interesting.

Despite that, it is a bad idea to post anything on social media that relates to a car accident in which you are involved. Pictures, status updates, location check-ins, everything can be used against you in some way or another.

How? In court! This stuff is admissible.

Now, this isn’t necessarily bad. If, for example, you post, “Got rear-ended and now my neck hurts so bad,” or, “Guy ran a stop sign and slammed into my car,” that wouldn’t necessarily cause you any problems. But this is not what people do on Facebook. On Facebook, you embellish. You crack jokes. You vent your anger. You insert cutesy icons or use antagonistic hashtags. In other words, Facebook is where you express yourself in ways that you never would in court.

In other words, you cannot “unsay” “Got rear ended – nbd tho #superman.” If you delete the post, you can be punished for hiding evidence.

The best way to avoid this problem is to simply resist the urge to broadcast this stuff over social media.

Hip fractures after a fall: more than just a broken bone

As a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver, Washington, I have seen my fair share of broken hips. A broken hip occurs when the femur breaks at or near the hip joint.

They can be caused by different things. By far, the most common cause of hip fractures is a fall, with 95 percent of hip fractures occurring as a result of a sideways fall. Car accidents also cause hip fractures in large numbers.

They vary in severity, as well.

One thing they all have in common, however, is that they are more than just a broken bone. For the elderly especially, a hip fracture can lead to a whole host of health problems, many of which are preventable. Proper recovery requires work and dedication.

When dealing with the legal aspects of a hip fracture, the same is true. It is not enough to focus merely on the fracture itself. Proper legal representation when someone breaks another person’s hip requires attention to the effect on the person as a whole. What other health problems became worse after the hip fracture? Did the person’s aging process accelerate due to the immobility that occurs after a hip fracture? These are all things that must be considered, among others.


How To Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer

Not All Personal Injury Lawyers Are The Same!

Recent conversations with Washington and Oregon insurance adjusters who specialize in automobile accident injury claims left me stunned. It is obvious that most of the people holding themselves out as capable personal injury lawyer are not. They are not ready to try a case. They are not willing to try a case and, they are not able to try a case. The insurance companies know this and they use it to full advantage. “We are seeing jury verdicts with hardly any damages for pain and suffering” one adjuster told me. Who is trying these cases? What are they doing wrong when instead of a multiple of the medical bills the verdict for mental and physical pain, suffering, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life are fractions of the monetary damages incurred? Have we really reached a point where human suffering has no value? No, we have reached a point where anyone can claim to be a personal injury lawyer, training and experience not required.

First, many of these folks are not even members of the trial lawyers association much less active members. They don’t understand basic principles of personal injury law such as “when does my client have to pay back medical payments for injuries sustained in the crash?”

Second, many of these folks are not working for the client. They have concluded in advance that the best they can do is collect most of the medical bills. They are collecting for chiropractors, personal injury protection carriers and health insurers not representing clients with personal injuries. They are happy to take a third of the medical bills, which often exceed the settlements they get. These attorneys do no one a favor when they roll over for the insurance companies.

The next time I hear an adjuster say “but we settle cases like this for that amount all the time”, I won’t have to ask “who actually takes these offers?” I will open the nearest Vancouver or Clark County Washington phone book and turn to the personal injury lawyer ads. I can tell who takes those inadequate settlements by looking at the phone book because I know who does not try cases.

If there is one question you have to ask before you hire a personal injury lawyer it is “how many personal injury cases have you tried?” Make them tell you.

Ask about the seminars that lawyer has attended while you are at it. Have they been to any of the advanced trial practice seminars such as the TLC, AAJ College of Advocacy or Ball-Keenan?

If you are in an auto accident, have a personal injury claim, are injured by a defective product or premises do yourself a favor and hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, not someone fishing for a case they can settle quick and cheap.

Deadly Distraction: Car accidents and Cell Phones

As a Vancouver, Washington personal injury lawyer, you might be surprised to hear how often I see injuries caused by cell phone use. No – I don’t mean overuse injuries caused by excessive gabbing. I mean rear-end collisions caused by people who are using their cell phones while they are driving.

I know – we always post about this, and you always read about it in the news.

But that is because it is a really, really big deal. Last week, an 89-year-0ld woman in North Dakota was killed by a driver who, according to police, was using Facebook on her cell phone when the collision occurred. Read about it here. 

The CDC says that 9 people per day die as a result of distracted driving.  As many as one quarter of all car accidents involve cell phones, according to another group. 

So if you are tired of hearing us talk about it, you can imagine how tired we are of seeing lives ruined by it.

As a lawyer, I have two bits of advice: while you drive, do not touch your cell phone. If someone hits you with their car, call a lawyer who can help you investigate the collision – including facts relating to cell phone use – and inform you of your legal rights.

Car accidents in Vancouver: Make sure you are covered

I probably get five calls a week from people in Clark County who have been injured in a car accident and who lack the financial resources to recover from the collision. Medical bills, wage loss, property damage, rental cars – these things add up quickly. Indeed, as a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver, Washington, I am daily reminded that a) car accidents are expensive and b) people often lack the money they need to get lives back on track after a collision.

My advice – across the board, 100 percent of the time – is to make sure that you have sufficient insurance coverage in case someone else hits you with their car. No, it does not matter how good of a driver you are. Let me explain why.

Insurance is a service that allows all drivers to equally share the risk of driving. Since everyone who drives faces the same amount of risk, the logic goes, we should share the risk of driving. That is why almost every state (except for Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Virginia) requires all drivers to have liability insurance. For Washington, see RCW 46.30.020.

Under liability insurance, you pay a monthly premium to your insurer. When you cause someone else injury or death with your car, or if you damage another person’s property with your car, your insurance company pays for your liability in that situation.

Seems simple, right? Well, it gets more complicated. Your insurance company pays for your liability only up to your policy limits. A policy limit is the maximum amount of money that your insurance company will pay under your insurance policy.  In Washington, every driver must have policy limits of at least $25,000 for bodily injury liability (with a total of $50,000 in case two people are injured). See RCW 46.29.090.  These laws, when taken together, means that every driver in Washington should be automatically ready to pay for $25,000 for injuring another person with a motor vehicle.

There are two main problems with the scheme. First, not everyone buys liability insurance. In fact, Washington has fairly high level of uninsured motorists, with anywhere from 16-30 percent of motorists failing to purchase sufficient coverage. Second, car accidents routinely cause more bodily injury than $25,000. If this happens, and if you’re the at-fault party, you’re probably on the hook for the excess judgment. Believe me, you would be surprised to know how often a person lacks sufficient coverage to cover the damage and injury they cause with their motor vehicle. 

If you are not the at-fault party, luckily, liability coverage is not the only kind of coverage. All motorists  can (and should – that’s my advice 100 percent of the time!) buy uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage (frequently referred to as “UIM” coverage). You buy these policies from your own insurance company in addition to your liability coverage. With this coverage, if you get injured by a person who lacks sufficient insurance coverage, your own insurance company covers whatever that driver cannot (up to the policy limits, of course). Additionally, personal injury protection or “PIP” coverage must be offered by all insurers, and provides easy access to quick money for some costs associated with a motor vehicle collision, including medical expenses, lost wages, etc. For more information on these policies, see Bill Robison’s post from last year, which can be seen here.

In the end, my message is simple: make sure you have full insurance coverage! If you get hit by an uninsured or undersinsured driver, you will need it.  Money – easy, quick access to it – can give you the flexibility to lessen the impact that a motor vehicle collision has on your life.