Car, Crash, Claim Form, Expertise, Insurance - comparative negligence concept

If you file a lawsuit because you were hurt in an accident that was caused by another person’s negligence, they may try to argue that you were partly to blame for your injuries. Importantly, Washington State follows the doctrine of comparative negligence. Under this rule, a victim may still be entitled to recover compensation — even if they share some fault for the incident. Whether you suffered injuries in a car crash, slip and fall, or any other type of accident, it is essential to understand how comparative negligence can play a role in your personal injury claim.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a partial defense to liability in a personal injury case. If a plaintiff sues someone for causing them injuries, they may raise this defense and claim the plaintiff was partly responsible for the harm they suffered. If the defendant is successful, the plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

How Does Comparative Negligence Work in Washington?

There are a number of factors a court will take into consideration when determining the outcome of a personal injury case. However, one of the most crucial components that must be established is negligence. Without being able to demonstrate that another party should be held liable for the injuries they caused, a plaintiff would not prevail. Specifically, in order to have a viable personal injury case, a plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant’s failure to use reasonable care resulted in their damages.

In some states that follow comparative fault, a victim must be able to prove that the defendant is at least 50% or 51% liable — or they would not be entitled to recovery. However under Washington’s pure comparative negligence rule, a victim can receive compensation even if they are 99% at fault for the accident. The amount of recovery they would be entitled is reduced by their percentage of blame. The proportion of a plaintiff’s fault would be for a judge or jury to decide.

Examples of Comparative Negligence

The defense of comparative negligence can be used in any personal injury matter where the defendant can show that the plaintiff was partly responsible for causing their injury. Notably, the defense of comparative negligence can be raised in a wide variety of cases. While the facts surrounding every accident are unique, comparative negligence is commonly raised in the following scenarios:

  • Car crashes — There are many ways a defendant might raise comparative negligence in a car accident lawsuit, depending on the facts of the case. For instance, they might argue that the plaintiff should have been more attentive or failed to hit the brakes in time.
  • Bicycle accidents — Comparative negligence in bicycle accidents may be raised if the plaintiff did not have a reflector on their bicycle, was wearing headphones and did not hear the other vehicle honk, or failed to give a clear signal when turning.
  • Pedestrian knockdowns — In a pedestrian accident case, a defendant might assert that the victim failed to use a crosswalk or did not have the right of way.
  • Slip or trip and falls — When it comes to using the defense of comparative negligence in a slip or trip and fall case, a defendant may try to argue that the victim was wearing improper footwear or failed to look where they were walking.
  • Dog bite cases — Comparative negligence may arise in a dog bite case if a plaintiff did something to provoke the dog’s behavior.
  • Motorcycle collisions — In a motorcycle accident, a defendant might raise comparative negligence by arguing that the plaintiff was driving recklessly or failed to operate their vehicle properly.

It is vital to conduct a thorough investigation of the accident scene to prove that the defendant should be held entirely to blame. Police records, medical records, witness testimony, photos, video footage, and other evidence can help to establish a defendant’s liability. A skillful personal injury attorney will know how to collect the evidence necessary to build a solid case for an accident victim and ensure they obtain the maximum compensation available.

Contact an Experienced Washington Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been involved in an accident, it is essential to have an attorney by your side who can maximize the other party’s fault — and your compensation — in your personal injury case. The Bellingham personal injury attorneys at Robinson & Kole provide dedicated counsel to accident victims throughout Washington State and work diligently to obtain the maximum compensation to which they are entitled. We welcome you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 800.640.5616 or by using our online contact form. Se habla Español.