Personal Injury Liability in Washington

Who is at fault?  That question is one of the cornerstones of personal injury law.  If you’ve been involved in a personal injury car accident, one of the first things you’ll think about is who was at fault in the accident.  You’re not the only person worried about this question.  If you talk to a personal injury attorney about taking your case, it is one of the first things they will consider as well.  Whether it was an auto accident or a slip and fall case, figuring out personal injury liability (who was at fault) is a vital component of a good personal injury claim.  No personal injury lawyer wants to take a case unless they are sure their client is not at fault.  Deciding fault is fact intensive, so it pays to gather as much evidence regarding liability as possible.  Depending on the type of personal injury case you have, personal injury liability analysis can change.  Here are a few guiding principles.

Who Was At Fault in My Car Accident?

Car accident liability depends on traffic laws.  In Washington, traffic laws are codified in the Revised Code of Washington.  Whether your auto accident was a rear end collision, a side swipe, or a T-bone crash, you have to look at the traffic laws to determine personal injury liability.

Every driver in Washington has a duty to avoid an auto accident.  However, the disfavored driver always has the primary duty to avoid crashing into a favored driver.  A favored driver is one who enjoys the right of way.  In most cases, the driver with the right of way may assume that all disfavored drivers will yield to them.  Where an accident occurs between a favored and disfavored driver, the disfavored driver has the burden of proving contributory negligence by the favored driver.  For example, if driver A runs a red light and strikes driver B, driver A will almost always be found to be 100% at fault.  Driver B might also be partially to blame in a scenario where driver B was driving 100 miles per hour as well.  In that case, because driver A was the disfavored driver, driver A would have the burden of proving how fast driver B was going to avoid being wholly liable for the accident.

Car Accidents at Intersections

When two vehicles approach an intersection at the same time, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right.  The driver on the right may assume that the driver on the left will yield and need not expect negligence by the driver on the left.  Even so, the favored driver must look to make sure that the other party will yield.