If you live in Washington State and have been injured in an accident, you may wonder about your rights to recover damages and how state law will impact your case. Personal injury laws vary by state, so it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities after you’ve been injured.
Even if someone else was responsible for your harm, it’s essential that you avoid doing anything that can adversely impact your case. Further, there are several things you can do to protect your rights.
Personal Injury Laws Vary from State to State
Personal injury is governed by state law, so where you live plays a role in how your case is handled. For example, some states have different time limits for filing claims, will treat your case differently if you were partially at fault in the accident, and place limits on potential monetary awards.
If your injury occurred in Washington, this is a state that follows the rule of law regarding negligence. This means that, if another party owed you a certain duty of care, and their breach of that duty caused your accident and injuries, they could be held liable for damages.
Washington also uses a doctrine known as contributory fault to address blame when apportioning damages. If you were partially at fault in the accident, your damage award would be reduced by that degree of fault. For example, if the total damages were $100,000 and you were found to be 20% at fault, you’d only be able to collect $80,000.
Washington also has a strict liability rule when it comes to dog bite/attack cases. In some states, owners are given a pass of sorts for a first-time injury to someone else, but this doesn’t happen in Washington. Animal owners in this state are strictly liable for any injuries that their dogs inflict on another party.
Statute of Limitations and Caps on Monetary Awards
In Washington, you have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury claim. There is a statute of limitations that applies to different types of cases. In cases involving negligence, products or strict liability, or wrongful death, you have just three years from the date of the accident to file your case.
The statute of limitations is generally three years from the date of the provider’s error for a medical malpractice case, or one year from the date the issue should have been discovered, whichever is later. The time limit is two years for assault or battery and defamation cases.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to claim certain damages. These include:
- Reimbursement for medical care and lost wages
- Reimbursement for property damage or loss of use of property
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Injury to your reputation
- Punitive damages
While some states put a limit on damages in personal injury cases, Washington does not. There may be limits in certain situations, which you can discuss further with an attorney. Punitive damages in these cases are rare, but there are exceptions.
What to Do After an Injury in Washington State
If you’ve been injured in an accident and it wasn’t your fault, what you do immediately after can make or break your case. No one is injured and immediately thinks that they’re going to sue someone, but it’s essential that you protect your right to collect full and fair compensation by taking the following steps:
- See a doctor. Even if you don’t feel hurt just after an accident, get medical attention anyway. Some injuries don’t become obvious until hours or days after a traumatic event. It’s important that you see a doctor to document your injuries and for your own well being.
- Document everything. Now is the time to document as much as possible before evidence is forgotten or disappears. Get the names of other parties involved and any witnesses. Take photos and begin keeping your own file of accident documentation.
- Contact a lawyer. Personal injury cases can be complex, and this is not something you should leave to chance. Speak with a qualified personal injury attorney that can advocate for your rights with the insurance companies and other providers while you concentrate on getting well.
Experienced Tacoma Personal Injury Attorneys
Whether you were injured in a car or truck accident, on someone else’s property, hurt by a defective product, or some other event, you have rights under Washington’s personal injury laws. If your injuries were due to the careless or negligent acts of another party, you might be entitled to compensation.
At AB Law, we have experience protecting the rights and financial future of accident victims throughout the Tacoma area. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.