Washington – Can I get money damages if I was partially at fault in a car crash?

April 2018

Personal injury cases can be tricky and involve many different types of laws. Keep in mind that each state has their own set of laws that apply to car crashes and other personal injury cases. Before you pursue a claim, be sure to speak with an attorney to understand the potential risks and rewards of filing a personal injury claim. In this meantime, this is should give you a very basic idea of what to expect.

Generally, to pursue a personal injury claim, you have to meet 4 requirements:

  • Someone owed you a duty of care;

  • That person breached that duty of care;

  • the breach was a proximate cause of your injury; and

  • you suffered damages.

If you are missing just one of those things, your case will fail.

So let’s translate that into a car crash scenario. You and all of the drivers on the road owe a duty of care to all other drivers, passengers and pedestrians to be responsible while driving. If someone rear-ends you because they were texting, they have breached that duty of care. That breach, their car hitting yours, was a proximate cause of whiplash. You should be able to recover for the damage to your car and body. Now, if you broke your arm slipping in the doctor’s office parking lot when you went to the doctor for whiplash, that broken arm would not be covered because the car crash was not the proximate cause of that injury. I mention this because sometimes you might think “well, I wouldn’t have had to go to the doctor if I hadn’t been in a car crash, and if I weren’t on the way to the doctor, I wouldn’t have slipped and broken my arm.” Unfortunately, the law does not work that way.

That all may seem pretty straightforward. But what happens if you were partially at fault in the car crash? In Washington, we use a system called comparative fault. This means that plaintiffs can recover compensation even if they are partially at fault for the crash. If you were to sue the defendant, the defendant would have to prove that you were partially at fault. Let’s say the defendant proves that you were 50% at fault in the crash. That means the judge will reduce your monetary damages by 50%. Our system even allows a plaintiff to recover if they were 99% at fault.

But imagine if your 99% at fault, is it worth recovering 1% and potentially being on the hook for 99% of the defendant’s injuries, should they choose to countersue? This is why you’ll want an experienced attorney review your claim and counsel you on the best way to move forward.

Think you might have a personal injury claim? Give us a call today and we’ll walk you through the process.