Washington State Car Accident Laws: Who’s at Fault?

washington state car accident laws
After a car accident, you need to know what your legal options are. These Washington state car accident laws will arm you with the facts you need.

The Washington State Department of Transportation reports that 111,599 car accidents took place in 2019. Whether the cause was distracted driving, disregard for traffic laws or other factors, over 30,000 of these collisions resulted in injuries to one or more individuals. 

If you experienced physical or property damage due to a car accident, there are legal steps you can take to obtain compensation. Before filing a suit, it’s important to understand the Washington State car accident laws that apply to your situation. Read on if you have questions about:

  • Washington State car accident laws
  • The statute of limitations for Washington State car accidents
  • Rear-end accident laws Washington State
  • Who is at fault in a car accident in Washington State 

Washington State Car Accident Laws

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) offers information about Washington state auto insurance laws and car accident laws. Below are some of the relevant statutes that may play a role in your situation. 

Contributory Fault in Washington State   

What if you were partially responsible for the car accident? The contributory fault doctrine in RCW 4.22.005 explains that in situations where both parties hold some responsibility for the accident, the option to recover damages still stands. Rather than receiving full compensation, the amount you’re awarded will be diminished based on the percentage of fault that is ultimately attributed to you. 

To better understand contributory negligence, imagine the following scenario:

Cameron and Alex get in a car accident. The accident was mainly Alex’s fault since he attempted to pass another car in a no-pass zone. However, at the same time this was happening, Cameron was distracted by his phone. The court rules that Alex is 80% responsible for the collision while Cameron is 20% responsible. In this case, Cameron’s compensation will be decreased by 20%. 

Recovering Damages in Washington State 

Washington State car accident laws also address the amount of compensation that you can claim for personal injuries that arose as a result of the accident. RCW 4.56.250 states that the maximum claim amount is “determined by multiplying 0.43 by the average annual wage and by the life expectancy of the person…” 

This limit applies to injuries that the law classifies as “non-economic damages.” However, you may still be able to pursue compensation for economic damages, including:

  • Loss of income
  • Medical expenses
  • Verifiable monetary losses
  • Cost of replacement or repairs 

Rear-end Accident Laws in Washington State

In the case of a rear-end collision, the driver who was following the other car will likely be held responsible. This is because, in most cases, a rear-end collision results from distracted or overly aggressive driving. 

There is no law in the Revised Code of Washington explicitly stating that the rear-end collision is automatically the following driver’s fault. However, RCW 46.61.145 discusses what “following too closely” entails, stating that: 

“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”

Washington State Insurance Requirements 

Washington State drivers must obtain liability insurance, according to RCW 46.29.090. The minimum requirements for coverage are:

  1. $25,000 for cases of injuries or death to one individual 
  2. $50,000 for cases of injuries or death to two or more individuals
  3. $10,000 for the destruction of property 

If you are injured in a car accident, the other driver’s liability insurance kicks in to cover medical expenses and other damages that arise. But the insurance company may offer less than what you deserve. This is one of the instances when getting an attorney after a car accident is the best course of action.

Statute of Limitations for Washington State Car Accidents

The statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time an individual can wait before bringing forward a suit. 

Revised Code of Washington section 4.16.080 makes it clear that there is a three-year window for car accident claims. In other words, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim. 

While three years may seem like ample time, it is safer to prepare early on. Often, individuals believe that their insurance company will take care of the claim. Unfortunately, insurance companies have an interest in protecting their bottom line. In fact, research shows that these companies routinely underpay those involved in car accidents.  

By the time you realize that your insurance company is not working on your behalf, your window for filing a suit may be closing. Rather than rushing to file a claim after being let down by your insurance company, find a personal injury lawyer skilled in car accident cases. That way, you can file before the deadline arrives and get the best compensation possible. 

What to do if You’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident 

Don’t settle for the meager compensation that insurance companies offer. Partner with an attorney who has a deep knowledge of Washington state car accident laws and can form a winning strategy.  

At Will & Will, we understand that the damage inflicted from a car accident goes far beyond vehicle repairs. The physical injuries and financial strain caused by a collision can have detrimental effects on your professional and personal lives. That’s why we fight tirelessly on your behalf. With over 35 years of combined experience, we’re a legal team that gets results.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you. 

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