Fault is a critical element of car accidents, and its proof is necessary before a victim can be compensated for property damage or medical bills. Sometimes, more than one person is at fault, and that can further complicate matters. In fact, the victim filing a claim could have contributed to the accident in some way, and when that happens, it affects the total sum of compensation. So, fault in car accidents in Washington State is important to understand because it determines how much a victim may receive.
At Law Offices of Paul L. Schneiderman, our car accident attorney will review your case and follow up on any allegations of fault on your part. We take these matters seriously because we want to make sure you receive full and fair compensation for all the damages you suffered. Contact us today at 206-464-1952 to schedule a free consultation today.
Finding Fault: Elements of a Car Accident Claim in Washington State?
There are two different types of insurance systems when it comes to claims following a car accident: fault and no-fault.
Most states use a fault-based insurance system. This means the driver who caused the accident (or their insurer) is financially responsible for the other party's losses.
While negligence laws vary between states, to establish fault in a car accident you generally need to show four elements:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care.
- The other driver breached that duty of care.
- This breach caused your injuries.
- You suffered losses as a result of your injuries.
Evidence such as witness statements, police reports, photographs, medical reports, and receipts may support your claim to an at-fault driver's insurer or personal injury claim in court.
How Is Fault Used as a Defense in Washington State Car Accident Claims?
The issue of fault in a car accident is often not a black-and-white one. Both parties' actions may have contributed to it.
When you make a claim against an at-fault party's insurer or file a personal injury claim in court, insurance companies often allege your negligence contributed to the accident. This is to reduce their financial liability or even bar you completely from receiving any compensation.
Insurance companies do this by raising either contributory or comparative negligence. The defense available to them depends on the law of the relevant state.
Comparative fault, or comparative negligence, is a partial defense used in personal injury cases. If both parties were at fault for an accident, the court allocates their responsibility in terms of a percentage and apportions the damages accordingly.
For example, one driver changes lanes suddenly without looking and is hit by a speeding driver. Both drivers are at fault. If the first driver files a personal injury claim and the court finds their actions contributed 40% to the accident, then their damages are reduced by 40%.
Contributory negligence is a full defense to a personal injury claim. Under the contributory negligence rule, a plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages if they contributed to the accident in any way. So even if a judge or jury finds the accident was only 1% the plaintiff's fault, they can't recover any of their financial losses.
What Types of Car Accidents Require a Finding of Fault
All types of car accidents require a finding of fault. That includes any type of auto accident involving:
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Commercial vehicle accidents
- Rideshare accidents
- Public transit accidents
Do You Need a Car Accident Lawyer in Washington State?
You're not legally required to have a personal injury or car accident attorney in Washington State represent you when either making a claim against an insurance company or filing a personal injury lawsuit following a car accident.
However, it can be helpful to do so, especially where you sustained significant injuries as a result of the accident or the other side is arguing contributory or comparative negligence.
A lawyer can assist you to prepare your claim, including collecting the necessary evidence to prove the other driver was at fault. When allegations of contributory fault are made against you, a lawyer will work to disprove those allegations. They can also help you negotiate a settlement that adequately compensates you for your losses, and when that doesn't happen, they can take the matter to court.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Washington State Today
As you can see, fault can help you or work against you. Make sure it works for you. If you have been involved in a car accident and suffered damages, whether in the form of property damage and/or bodily injuries, you are entitled to compensation.
At Law Offices of Paul L. Schneiderman, our car accident lawyer in Washington State will review your case and move forward with a strategic plan to get you the compensation you deserve. To find out how specifically we can help your car accident case, contact us today by either filling out our online form or calling us at 206-464-1952 to schedule a free consultation.