In King County, there were 91 traffic fatalities in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In many of these cases and other serious car accidents, personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are necessary to ensure that one party does not bear the burden of another party's wrongdoing.
While there are many legal avenues to compensate drivers who are injured as a result of negligent behavior of other motorists, the process of winning a claim is not a guarantee, nor is it straightforward. Injured parties in Seattle can protect themselves by proactively guarding their legal rights through proper evidence collection to establish fault and damages, knowing how to talk to insurance adjusters and even by securing help from a car accident lawyer.
What legal options are available to car accident injured parties?
Personal injury and wrongful death are the two most common claims brought upon by injured parties after car accidents. In personal injury cases, the plaintiff shows that the defendant was negligent in his behavior by proving four elements: 1) a duty of care between the parties; 2) a breach of duty; 3) that the breach caused the accident; 4) and the accident was damaging to the plaintiff.
One type of wrongful death claim, a survival action, is essentially a personal injury case that a decedent's estate brings for damages the decedent suffered. The other type of wrongful death claim is brought to the benefit of parents, children or a spouse for the damage they suffer through the loss of their loved one.
In personal injury cases, plaintiffs can seek economic damages like loss of wages, medical expenses and property damage, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and punitive damages. The at-fault driver, the driver's insurance company and other parties responsible for the accident can be named as defendants if they are responsible.
Negligence Per Se in Washington State
The legal doctrine of negligence per se states that a party is automatically negligent in a case if their actions violated a state statute, administrative rule or regulation. This might help avoid a lengthy argument over whether a party broke an accepted duty of care in a personal injury case.
In Washington, however, the state legislature restricted the scope of negligence per se: "a breach of a duty imposed by statute, ordinance, or administrative rule shall not be considered negligence per se but may be considered by the trier of fact as evidence of negligence" in all cases except electrical fires, use of smoke alarms, sterilization of needles and driving while under the influence (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. Sec. 5.40.050). What this means is that even if a driver violated a known traffic law in a case, that violation does not make the driver automatically liable for the accident and injuries.
Thus, you must establish the other driver’s breach of duty by compiling and presenting proper evidence. This might include photographs of the accident scene and your injuries, eyewitness statements, police reports and more.
What to Do If You Think You Have a Case
As with any situation that may lead to legal action, make sure you document any expense you incur from the accident. Insurance companies often interview people immediately after an accident in an attempt to get a party to admit fault to an accident or to downplay injuries. Because of Washington's negligence per se rules, these interviews become crucial. An insurance company may use something you say in the interviews to discredit you in front of a jury during trial. Speaking with a lawyer early in the process can help you protect your rights and maintain your credibility when dealing with insurers.
Max Meyer Law, P.C. will deal with the tricks insurance companies play and protect your rights to fair compensation. Contact our offices at 425-242-5595 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a FREE consultation.