Suffering an injury that could have been prevented is not only painful, but it is also frustrating. Many people who have a personal injury caused by someone else have to deal with the ripple effects of the incident in multiple areas of life, affecting a person’s quality of life physically, emotionally, and mentally. Fortunately, there are statutes in Washington state law that work on behalf of those with personal injuries.
Read on to learn about suing for personal injury in Washington state.
What Qualifies as Personal Injury in Washington State?
Many situations fall under the umbrella of personal injury in Washington state law. From getting injured in a car accident to suffering as a result of medical malpractice or defective drugs and products, personal injury takes many forms and requires different legal approaches based on your situation.
Before suing for injuries, it’s helpful to understand an important term in personal injury cases — negligence.
Negligence is defined as “failing to exercise the care expected of a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances.” When it comes to legal definitions, it’s important to understand how Washington state views liability in personal injury cases.
In a small percentage of personal injury cases, the person’s suffering was caused by an intentional act. However, it is usually the case that some failure to act or improper action led to the unfortunate harm, injury, or death. In these situations, proving negligence is key to recovering damages.
Contributory fault refers to a situation in which both parties (you and the other individual/group) are at fault for the injury that occurred. Even if you are partially responsible for your injury, you can still file a claim and recover damages.
Washington state law covers that “any contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as compensatory damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.”
In short, claiming damages is possible whether or not you had some responsibility for the injury. Below, we’ll discuss what suing for personal injury involves.
Personal vs. Bodily Injury
Personal injury is a legal term typically used in civil court settings to refer to any type of injury that happened as a result of an accident. It includes physical, emotional, and mental damage. On the other hand, bodily injury is commonly used in criminal court proceedings to refer to injuries sustained by a person who has been a victim of another crime, like assault.
In addition, personal injury implies you have a legal claim, whether for medical treatment, financial compensation, loss of use, lost wages, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, or more. Bodily injury only discusses physical damage to a person.
How to Sue for Personal Injury in Washington State
To form a personal injury case, you (the person seeking damages) must prove:
- You were owed a duty of reasonable care.
- The negligent party did not act reasonably or breached their duty of care.
- The breach was the cause of your injuries.
- The other party acted knowing the risk of injury.
- You were injured.
It is the responsibility of the injured party to prove that negligence occurred. For instance, the Revised Code of Washington, Section 4.24.290 deals specifically with medical professionals’ negligence. This specifies that you:
“…shall be required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the [other party] failed to exercise that degree of skill, care, and learning possessed at that time by other persons in the same profession.”
In other words, the injured party must demonstrate the lack of care and skill with which the other person or group handled the situation that led to the personal injury.
Whether your injury happened in an accident on the street, at work, in a medical setting or other location, a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can examine your case and determine the best line of attack to prove negligence and recover damages.
Settlements in Personal Injury Cases
It can be hard to pin down an average amount for a personal injury settlement as the value will depend on the damage and losses incurred from the accident. Some settlements close at a five-digit number while others can run up to millions of dollars. A seemingly simple slip-and-fall accident, for instance, can go over $1 million if the victim ends up with a spine or traumatic brain injury. The settlement amount can also depend on the at-fault party’s insurance coverage and available assets.
Insurance companies will be quick to offer the lowest possible settlement value for a personal injury. And without an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that you get the maximum compensation you deserve, you might find yourself agreeing to a settlement amount of $100,000 when, in fact, your claim could go as high as a million.
How Long Can You Wait to Sue for Personal Injury?
When considering how to sue for personal injury, it’s crucial to understand the time frame that is available for filing a lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
In Washington state personal injury law, an individual has three years from the date of the accident to take action.
The Revised Code of Washington, Section 4.16.080 lists the actions that fall under the limitations of the three-year statute. The section specifies that “an action for taking, detaining, or injuring personal property, including an action for the specific recovery thereof, or for any other injury to the person or rights of another not hereinafter enumerated” is subject to the three-year limit.
After the time specified by the statute of limitations has passed, attempting to file a lawsuit against the person or entity that injured you will be difficult. At that point, the individual or group can file a motion to dismiss the case altogether.
Statute of Limitations for Unique Situations
Because there are many different types of personal injury cases, the statute of limitations may differ in specific situations. For example, when suing for medical malpractice, there is an exception to the three-year rule when the injured party discovers the injury after the three years, they have one year from the date of the discovery to file a claim.
To understand how the statute of limitations applies in your unique situation, consult with a skilled personal injury attorney. That way, you have sound legal advice about how to sue for personal injury.
What Steps to Take After Suffering an Injury
Finding an attorney that cares about you and will fight for the best possible outcome is key to presenting a compelling case. At Will & Will Law Firm, we have a proven track record for handling accident claims, and it is our mission to always provide top-tier legal services that bring about results.
As an award-winning firm, we ensure that we continue to live up to our reputation. Our team of lawyers and case managers are experts in Washington state personal injury law and work hard to ensure that clients get the outcomes they want. Whether taking on insurance companies on your behalf and claiming the highest possible amount for your injuries or taking your case into the courtroom and increasing your claims exponentially, we are with you every step of the way.
Contact Will & Will to learn about your options in suing for personal injury today.