Is Washington a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?
Individuals experiencing a car accident in Washington state often find themselves wondering who was responsible for the accident. After all, determining fault for an accident will eventually determine responsibility for damages incurred as the result of the accident, such as medical bills, missed wages, and emotional distress. How does Washington determine fault in a car accident case?
Does Washington Adopt a No-Fault Policy for Car Accidents?
Currently, twelve states in the United States have insurance laws described as “no-fault laws”. Those states – Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah – uphold the same basic fault laws with a few variations. Drivers in these states must purchase additional, personal injury protection, or PIP, insurance; some states, such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Kentucky, allow drivers to opt out of the coverage.
After a car accident in a no-fault state, each injured party must rely on personal injury protection insurance to cover his or her own medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who caused the accident. Most states allow victims suffering serious injuries – determined by statutes in each state – to pursue litigation against another driver that caused the accident, but only if the injuries meet the threshold of severity. Otherwise, PIP covers minor injuries and all or some expenses unless the victim pursues compensation from the at-fault driver.
How Does Washington Assign Fault?
Washington is not a no-fault state for car accidents. Instead, Washington uses comparative negligence rules for personal injury cases. Unlike no-fault laws, which dictate that you must cover your own medical expenses regardless of who caused the accident, comparative negligence states determine the person at fault in all accidents, affecting your claim. In addition, the courts can assign fault to more than one party in the case, and responsibility for any damages incurred in the accident determines the percentage of the total damages each driver must repay.
For example, if another driver crashes into another while both drivers exceed the speed limit, the fault may rest on both drivers. If the courts determine the other driver is 80% at fault, the driver must compensate you for 80% of the damages incurred in the crash; the remaining fault and damages are your own. Alternatively, in a multi-car accident, other drivers may share fault and each holds responsibility for his percentage of the damages. You can learn more about Washington car laws here.
What to Do After a Car Accident in Washington
After an accident in Washington state, you must first ensure that you are safe – pull off to the side of the road as much as possible. Then, ensure that you:
- Record the scene of the accident. Take notes, photos, and any other documentation necessary to preserve the scene.
- Obtain insurance information. Speak with the other driver or drivers involved and obtain their insurance information for future reference.
- Contact the authorities. If your injuries are severe, or if you have significant property damage, you should involve the police or emergency services.
- Contact insurance. In most cases, you will want to report the accident to your insurance company. However, you do not need to claim fault or indicate fault at any time. In addition, you may need to file a report with the DMV if either party has injuries or damages exceeding $1000.
- Contact an attorney. Depending on the severity of your injuries, the extent of your property damage, and the fault assigned, you should contact an attorney.
Why You Need a Seattle Car Accident Attorney
A Seattle car accident attorney can help you determine fault and negligence in your case, and advise you regarding what sort of compensation you may obtain for your damages. If the other driver is at fault, they must compensate you for expenses related to medical bills, lost wages, and future lost wages. Your attorney can assist you in navigating the insurance companies as well as with filing litigation if an acceptable settlement does not occur.