Legal Issues

How Does Washington’s Pure Comparative Fault Rule Affect Your Claim?

What is comparative negligence? Comparative negligence, as practiced in Washington, allows plaintiffs in personal injury cases to ask for compensation, even if they share part of the fault for their accident. This means that if a claimant suffered $100,000 in damages and 30% of the responsibility for their injuries, they could be awarded $70,000 from the party liable for 70% of their damages. 

In 1975, according to the outcome of Godfrey v. State, 84 Wash. 2d 959,965,530 P.2d 630, the defendant was responsible for proving negligence by the plaintiff. If the defendant can prove the claimant is at least somewhat negligent, they may save themselves at least some percentage of the money they would otherwise have to pay out. 

No Threshold Required

Washington law does not require a certain threshold of fault must be met by the plaintiff to file a claim. In an exaggerated example, suppose that a plaintiff was nearly completely at blame for their accident, with 98% of the responsibility falling to them. They could still file a claim and recover 2% of their damages under this system.

Many states require the plaintiff to be less than 50% or 51% to blame to collect damages. Washington’s system is a fair approach to the plaintiff being able to recover compensation no matter their level of culpability. 

Determining Negligence in Washington State

Negligence means providing reasonable care to prevent harm from coming to others. If that duty of care is violated, it is negligence. For example, motorists have a duty of care to other drivers and their passengers to drive on their own side of the road. They are violating that duty of care by driving on the wrong side of the road.

The driver driving on the wrong side of the road is acting negligently. Their behavior is used to prove negligence in a personal injury case. 

Elements of a Personal Injury Suit

Several elements must be proven in a personal injury lawsuit. They are as follows: 

  • The defendant had a duty of care.
  • The defendant behaved negligently by breaching that duty of care.
  • The negligence was a proximate cause of the injury.
  • Substantial damages were sustained by the plaintiff.

Typically, negligence means the defendant in an accident is negligent if they violated a law, rule, or ordinance. The state of Washington uses different standards to evaluate liability.

Code of Washington §5.40.050 Revised

This code revised Washington law’s approach to determining negligence. A breach of duty assessed by administrative rule, ordinance, or statute is not alone negligence. But, it is a portion of the information that the trier of fact as evidence of negligence. 

This revision does not apply to electrical fire safety, smoke detectors, needle sterilization, and driving under the influence (DUI). 

Washington State Accidents

If an accident you are involved in was totally the fault of the other driver, then their insurance company must pay your damages and the damages of the driver they insure. But, if the amount of responsibility is disputed, your insurance company may have to pay a portion of your damages. 

To ensure you are fairly treated following an accident caused by negligence, speak to a Washington Injury Lawyer about your concerns.  

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