What is Comparative Negligence in Washington?

When an injury incident happens, and there are multiple parties responsible for causing the incident, the issue of comparative negligence is going to arise when victims file claims to recover compensation. However, states throughout the country handle comparative negligence claims in different ways. In Washington, we use a “pure comparative negligence” system, which differs from how other states handle shared fault.

How is “Pure” Comparative Negligence Different

The vast majority of states in the US use some sort of comparative negligence system when multiple parties share fault for an incident. However, most of these states prohibit individuals from recovering compensation if they are 50% or more responsible for causing their own injuries. However, a few states use the “pure comparative negligence” system, which allows individuals to recover compensation regardless of how much fault they have for their own injuries.

As with other comparative negligence states, injury victims will receive less compensation if they do share fault for an incident, and the total amount less will be comparable to their level of fault. Perhaps an example with simplified numbers can best show how this works.

Suppose Driver A gets rear-ended by Driver B. In this scenario, let us assume Driver A sustains $100,000 worth of economic damages. However, let us also assume that during the trial, a jury discovered that Driver A was 40% at fault for the incident because two of their three rear brake lights were not functional. In this scenario, Driver A would receive $60,000 instead of the full $100,000 to account for their 40% of fault.

Under a pure comparative negligence system, Driver A would be able to recover compensation even if they were more than 50% at fault. Let us suppose that a jury found them to be 70% responsible for causing the incident. In this scenario, the driver would still be able to receive at least $30,000. In a more comparative negligence state, a driver in this scenario would not be able to recover compensation because they were more than 50% at fault.

A few states in the country use a “contributory negligence” system. This type of fault system prevents anyone from recovering compensation if they share any responsibility at all for causing the incident, even just 1%.

Talk to An Attorney About Your Claim

If you have been injured due to the negligent actions of another individual in Washington, turn to an attorney immediately. A Seattle personal injury lawyer with experience handling complex claims involving comparative negligence can walk you through what to expect as you move forward with your case.

Unfortunately, insurance carriers or other parties involved could make unfounded accusations of shared fault. In fact, they may even try to place all of the blame for the incident onto you, the accident victim. This is a tactic designed to limit how much compensation they pay out or even help them get the claim dismissed. However, when you work with a skilled attorney, you will have an advocate ready to complete a full investigation into the incident to adequately determine levels of fault. An attorney can take your case all the way to a jury trial if needed.