Washington Personal Injury Law

Perhaps you had surgery a few years ago and have developed a consistent ache near the place where you had surgery done. You have the area X-rayed to find a surgical instrument accidentally left in your body.

You definitely have the makings of a medical malpractice lawsuit, but there are a variety of factors that may complicate it like the medical malpractice statute of limitations. Going into a lawsuit unprepared with knowledge about these legal details could prove more harmful than helpful.

If you've been injured in Spokane, Seattle or Tacoma, use LawInfo's Washington personal injury articles to learn about the laws surrounding your case and to find a qualified attorney.

What to Do After a Car Accident in Washington

A car accident can be a jarring experience. It can be easy to forget to collect information that will be critical later on if you become involved in a personal injury lawsuit. Here are a few tips for what you should do at the scene of an accident after you've ensured that you and the other driver are out of harm's way:

  • Call emergency services if anyone has been physically injured. Unless the emergency dispatcher provides you with specific first-aid instructions, do not attempt to administer first-aid yourself. You could be held liable for further unintentional injury.
  • Call the police to report the accident. If an officer shows up to the scene, give him all of the details pertaining to the accident without admitting or accusing fault.
  • Never accuse the other driver of fault or admit fault to the other driver. Let the car insurance companies and the court decide who's at fault later on.
  • Write down details about the accident and take photos of the damages and injuries.
  • Talk to any witnesses and ask for their contact information so they can corroborate details in a lawsuit later.
  • Keep all receipts and invoices for your economic losses suffered as a result of the accident, such as medical bills and repair costs.

Washington Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations limits how much time after an injury occurs that a plaintiff has to pursue legal action against a defendant. Once the statute "runs out," a lawsuit cannot be pursued. Washington's civil statute of limitations includes:

  • Two years for personal injury.
  • Three years for fraud.
  • Three years for wrongful death.
  • Three years from the injuring incident or one year from discovery for medical malpractice. The reasonable time between injury and discovery cannot exceed eight years.
  • Three years for injury (or damage) to property.
  • Three years for oral contracts.
  • Six years for written contracts.

Proving Negligence in Washington

Negligence is a key deciding factor in most Washington personal injury cases. If a defendant's negligence in the injuring incident caused the plaintiff's injury, the defendant can be held liable to pay compensation in the form of damages.

Proving a defendant's negligence in court is a complicated process. There are many principles and rules to consider, among which are the "reasonably prudent" person and the four elements of negligence.

The reasonably prudent person is a standard of conduct the court uses to determine whether the defendant's actions were irresponsible or law-breaking. If a reasonably prudent person would do one thing in a similar situation when the defendant did another, the defendant may have been negligible.

The four elements of negligence measure the extent of a defendant's negligence and their liability to compensate the plaintiff's injury. The four elements are:

  1. Duty—Did the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff? If so, to what reasonable extent? (I.e. what injuries could be foreseen and what actions could be taken by the defendant to prevent them?)
  2. Breach of Duty—Did the defendant fail to do what was necessary or reasonable to prevent the plaintiff's injury?
  3. Causation—Were the defendant's actions responsible for the injury or could the plaintiff's or a third party's negligence be at fault?
  4. Damages—Does the plaintiff's injury constitute an actual damage that can be financially compensated?

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney

Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.

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