Personal Injury Basics: Car Crashes and Beyond

Our firm focuses on Worker’s Compensation, Personal Injury, and Social Security Disability cases. 

You or a friend may have been rear-ended, bit by a dog, or slipped on a grocery store floor, and wondered if you had a valid “personal injury” claim.  As with most things legal, the safest answer is “it depends.”

Time Constraints 

Washington law imposes a 3-year statute of limitations on most negligence claims.  This means that most claim must be brought and settled, or filed in court, within 3 years of the defendant’s negligent act.  After 3 years, any un-filed potential case simply evaporates into the ether.  By contrast, for intentional torts like assault or fraud, that period shortens to 2 years in Washington. Other states may have shorter or longer statutes of limitations.  


Fault, aka liability, negligence, or responsibility for a harm is usually analyzed as “comparative” in Washington.  In the simplest cases, as with most rear end collisions, one person has been hurt by the negligence of the “at fault” person. However, more complicated situations often arise, bringing up the concept of “Comparative Fault.”  An injured Plaintiff might be a little at fault, perhaps as apportioned by a jury. That plaintiff’s money damages would be reduced by his or her proportionate percentage of fault. Thus, a $100,000 total award may become a $70,000 net award if the Plaintiff is deemed 30% at fault.   

Several persons, entities or companies might be partially at fault for an injury or loss.  If an injured person is fault-free, the various at-fault entities may be deemed “jointly and severally liable.” The injured person who is fault-free can collect their damages from all or any one of the responsible negligent parties. 

Protecting Your Possible Claim 

It is important to preserve any information as soon as possible following an injury.  Of course, prompt medical attention is crucial.  Additionally, witness contact information, police reports, photos of the location or vehicles involved, and any other data should be collected as soon as possible following a mishap.  This is especially important where such information might be lost or destroyed, such as video evidence. Your attorney can remind you what they need to form a viable case, but this may be weeks or months after the fact. 

When to Seek Counsel 

If it appears that the injury is more than minor, you may benefit from a free consultation with a personal injury firm.  We regularly meet with injured people to answer their questions, assess the viability of the possible claim, and balance whether the person would be better off with legal representation or handling a claim on their own.  We usually recommend avoiding settlement discussions with the insurer for at least the first six months following an injury.  Each injury is unique, and the fallout may not be apparent for quite some time.   

Of course, insurance adjusters would like to settle every case early and cheaply, before the case becomes a big deal.  Normally this is a bad idea for the injured party. 

We Can Help 

Feel free to reach us by email, phone, or live appointment with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys. You will be pleased by our no-pressure approach to best answer your questions and optimize your potential claim.  If the claim has problems, we will be candid with you.  If you eventually decide to hire us, you will only pay a percentage attorney fee when the case resolves successfully.  Our goal is to take the pressure off you, deal with the annoying parts of the claim, allow you to heal and move forward with your life, and to hopefully get you a better outcome in your case than you could otherwise obtain. 

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