Washington Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

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 What Is the Leading Cause of Car Accidents?

In most cases, car accidents are caused by irresponsible driving behaviors. Statistics show that around 98% of car accidents involve one, single distracted driver.

Examples of the most common causes of car accidents include:

  • Rubbernecking, which involves slowing down a vehicle to watch what is going on outside the vehicle, for example, a wreck;
  • Drivers using cellular phones while driving to make calls or send texts;
  • Driver fatigue;
  • Passenger distractions;
  • Looking at scenery; or
  • Adjusting the radio or other vehicle controls.

The leading cause of car accidents is rubbernecking. This practice can also cause major traffic delays.

In recent years, states have been enacting laws that limit or even eliminate the use of cell phones while driving. In some states, it is illegal for an individual to have a cell phone in their hand for any reason while driving.

One other common cause of car accidents is negligence. When a court is determining if a driver was negligent, it will examine several factors, including:

  • Driving above or below the speed limit;
  • Failing to signal;
  • Ignoring weather conditions;
  • Ignoring traffic conditions;
  • Disobeying traffic signs; or
  • Driving under the influence.

Washington Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

If an individual is involved in a car accident, there are several measures they may take to obtain compensation for their injuries, if necessary. Many times, an individual can settle with their insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company.

In some cases, however, insurance companies will not provide an injured driver with a reasonable settlement. In these types of cases, it may be necessary for the injured driver to file a lawsuit.

There are time limits, called statutes of limitations, that limit when individuals can file certain types of lawsuits, including personal injury lawsuits. In Washington State, the statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury claim is 3 years.

However, it is important to note that this may be extended if, at the time of the event, the individual’s injury was not apparent. If an individual has been involved in a car accident in Washington State and needs assistance, a Washington car accident attorney can help.

A car accident attorney can be a valuable resource to help the individual manage all of the tasks related to obtaining compensation for their injuries, whether that includes negotiations with the insurance companies or filing a lawsuit.

A Washington car accident attorney will be familiar with the laws that apply to these types of cases in the state and will know the necessary procedural requirements to follow when filing a claim. A car crash attorney can also assist an individual with gathering evidence, such as police reports and medical records.

A Washington car accident attorney can help an individual with much more than just providing representation in court. They will also conduct investigations, prepare important legal documents, and communicate with insurance companies, so that the injured individual can focus their attention on getting medical assistance and taking care of their loved ones after an accident.

Why Is it Important to Have a Car Accident Attorney?

Having a car accident attorney can be an extremely useful resource for individuals who are involved in car wrecks. An experienced attorney can:

  • Advise an individual of their options for legal resource;
  • Devise strategies for their case; and
  • Prepare and file a claim against other drivers involved in the accident.

An attorney can help an individual recover damages resulting from the accident, such as those resulting from:

  • Medical costs;
  • Lost wages, and
  • Auto repairs.

In the alternative, if an individual is being sued for causing a car accident, it is in their best interests to hire an attorney to defend them. Their attorney can determine whether there are any defenses they can raise and ensure that their rights as a defendant are adequately protected.

It is especially important for a defendant in a serious car accident to hire a lawyer because losing the case or failing to raise an available defense can lead to having to pay a significant amount in damages. All of the parties involved in an accident should consider hiring attorneys to handle their insurance issues as well.

It can be stressful and overwhelming to negotiate with automobile insurance companies. An individual will be required to interpret the confusing terms and conditions found in car insurance policies.

On top of those issues, insurance companies typically employ a team of highly skilled legal professionals that will try to limit damages. If an individual does not retain a car accident attorney to represent them, they may end up recovering less in damages than they are actually owed.

Washington Statute of Limitations for Car Injury

Under Washington State car accident laws, in order to file a lawsuit, the injured individual must comply with the applicable statute of limitations law. In other words, a plaintiff must file their claim within a certain amount of time after an accident occurs.

If the plaintiff tries to file their claim outside of that period of time, they will be barred by the court and will not be able to recover damages. Under the Revised Code of Washington, Section 4.16.080, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is three years.

This 3 year period begins on the date of the injury. In addition, under Section 4.16.080, for injury to personal property, the statute of limitations is 3 years from the date of injury.

This section will apply if there was only damage to an individual’s vehicle during the car accident.

Washington Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases Caused by Car Accident

If a car accident results in the death of a victim, the statute of limitations is longer. The statute of limitations for car accidents in Washington State involving wrongful death, under Section 4.20.046, is 3 years from the date of death.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim that may be brought by a family member of a deceased victim against the individual who caused their death. Although the laws of each state vary regarding which individuals are permitted to bring this type of lawsuit, it is typically an immediate family member, such as a spouse or parent, of the deceased who files the claim.

In addition to being filed against an individual’s defendant, a wrongful death lawsuit can also be brought against a:

  • Business;
  • Government agency; or
  • Other types of organizations.

Because a wrongful death action is a civil case, the standard of proof for these types of claims is lower than in a criminal case. In other words, it may be easier to prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit than it would be to obtain a conviction in a criminal case.

It is important to note, however, that wrongful death actions and criminal prosecutions are not mutually exclusive. An individual can be sued for wrongful death in a civil court and may also be prosecuted in a criminal court.
If this occurs, typically, the civil lawsuit is filed after the criminal matter is concluded.

Contacting a Lawyer in Washington State

If you have been in a car accident in Washington state and have suffered injury or property damage, it may be helpful to consult with a Washington car accident lawyer. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence and file your claim.

If you delay too long in contacting an attorney, you risk missing the filing deadline as well as losing any evidence that you may potentially collect. If you are being sued in connection with a car accident, it is important to have a lawyer represent you to ensure that you pay a fair amount in damages.

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