Tacoma Injury Attorneys Explain Washington State Negligence Laws
What you need to know about your right to compensation for an accident
It’s a very old legal principle that people have a duty under most circumstances to act carefully so as not to harm others. If a person acts carelessly and injures someone as a direct result of that carelessness, the careless party must pay compensation to the injured party. “Negligence” is the legal term for carelessness that causes injury. Negligence creates liability, which is the legal responsibility to make amends for the harm. Since 1959, the personal injury attorneys at Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler, L.L.P. have helped injured parties understand their rights under Washington’s negligence laws and fight to obtain the compensation to which they are entitled.
Proving the legal elements necessary to establish negligence and liability
- Duty — The defendant in the legal action owed the injured party a duty to act with care. This is obvious under many circumstances, such as the relationship between a surgeon and a patient, but it is less certain in the relationship between a landowner and a trespasser. The relationship of the injured party to the party who allegedly caused the injury is the key to establishing whether a duty existed.
- Breach of duty — The person who had a duty to act with care was careless, sloppy, hasty or incompetent. Attorneys for plaintiffs establish that a breach occurred by comparing the performance of the defendant to the establish standards of performance for a particular industry, or by applying a reasonable person standard. A defendant who did not perform up to the standards of the profession or act as a reasonable person would have under the circumstances is negligent. It is worth noting that a court might also find that a defendant was reckless, malicious or strictly liable.
- Causation — The defendant’s negligent act caused injury to the plaintiff. Often, a defendant acts negligently but another intervening event causes the injury. For instance, a surgeon may make an incision error, but the patient may die from a reaction to anesthesia. In some cases, the plaintiff’s own negligence can cause or contribute to an accident. This is known as contributory fault or comparative negligence, which may lessen the amount of compensation the plaintiff receives.
- Damages — The plaintiff must have suffered real harm. This harm can be economic or noneconomic and often includes lost wages, medical bills, physical pain and emotional suffering.
When your personal injury attorney builds a persuasive case for each of these elements, you have an excellent chance of settling your injury lawsuit or prevailing at trial.
Contact our Tacoma attorneys with questions about Washington negligence laws
If someone’s negligence has harmed you or a loved one, you have a right to seek compensation. A seasoned trial attorney at Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler, L.L.P. can explain how negligence laws operate in Washington. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation, call 253.250.4516 or contact our Tacoma office online.