Like every other state, if you’ve been injured as a result of the carelessness and negligence of somebody else, the State of Washington allows you to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your damages. Certain time limits apply, though. The general rule in Washington is that you must file your lawsuit against anybody who you claim to be responsible for your injuries within three years of the date of the occurrence. In cases involving assault and battery or defamation, the period could be as short as two years. If your case involves the State of Washington or any governmental entity or agency in the state, certain strict notice provisions also apply. If you fail to comply with those notice provisions, your case can be dismissed forever, even if your lawsuit is timely filed.
Types of personal injury cases in Washington
Most of the personal injury cases filed in Washington involve the law of negligence arising out of motor vehicle collisions, premises liability, product liability and wrongful death. To prove liability in these cases, the claimant must ordinarily prove that:
- The person who they claim to be liable for their injuries owed them a duty
- There was a breach of that duty
- The breach of that duty caused the claimant’s injuries and damages
- The injuries and damages claimed are legally recognized
If the person who claims injury through negligence fails to prove any one of those elements, the entire case falls.
Sometimes the person alleged to be responsible for a claimant’s injuries alleges that the claimant was also careless and negligent. That’s called the law of comparative negligence, and if proved, the percentage of negligence attributable to the claimant is deducted from his or her gross damages award. For example, if the gross award is $100,000, and the claimant was determined to be 30 percent at fault, his or her net award would be $70,000. The law of personal injury is highly complex, especially if it involves medical negligence or when a person claims to have been injured by a dangerously defective product.