How Pure Comparative Negligence Operates in Washington State
Tacoma attorneys explain the effect of contributory fault on your case
While personal injury cases usually pit an injured plaintiff against an allegedly negligent defendant, it’s sometimes true that the plaintiff has also been careless and must share some responsibility. For this reason, the state of Washington recognizes contributory fault in injury cases. A finding of contributory fault can severely limit the amount of compensation an injured party can collect. Since 1959, personal injury attorneys at Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler, L.L.P. have protected our clients against charges of contributory fault to help ensure they receive the full benefits of their injury claims.
How does comparative fault impact a plaintiff’s recovery in Washington?
Under comparative fault, a judge or jury assesses the percentage of total responsibility each party must assume. Imagine this motor vehicle accident: Motorist A entering freeway traffic fails to yield to Motorist B traveling in the far-right lane. Motorist A violated a safety regulation and is liable for the collision. But evidence reveals that Motorist B was entering data into a GPS device and, if not for that driving distraction, might have maneuvered to avoid Motorist A. So, Motorist B is also negligent.
The judge or jury must then determine how much responsibility each driver has for the accident. Suppose 80 percent of the blame is assigned to Motorist A and 20 percent to Motorist B. If Motorist B sustained $200,000 in losses due to the crash, Motorist B can collect $160,000 but must absorb $40,000 in losses.
Does comparative fault in Washington ever bar a plaintiff from recovering?
In some states that practice comparative fault, a plaintiff must prove that one or more defendants are at least 50 or 51 percent liable or the plaintiff cannot recover anything. That is not the case with Washington’s pure comparative fault. A plaintiff can recover damages even if the defendant is 20 percent or even 10 percent liable. There is no limit, other than zero, that would disprove liability entirely.
Ask our Tacoma attorneys about comparative negligence in your injury lawsuit
Even if you prove someone else caused your accident, you can lose most of your potential recovery if that defendant shows you were also at fault. Talk to a seasoned trial attorney at Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler, L.L.P. about trial strategies that address the threat of comparative negligence. To schedule a free consultation, call 253.250.4516 or contact our Tacoma office online.