Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Seattle Personal Injury: Negligence Laws Defined

Washington State Negligence Laws at a Glance

Negligence Defined: Negligence is the failure to exercise an expected degree of care, leading to another individual's injuries. For example, a motorist who fails to wear her glasses (as required by her driver's license) and then causes an injury accident may be found negligent and thus liable for the other party's injuries. Most torts -- such as medical malpractice and slip-and-fall claims -- are based on negligence.

Washington Negligence Laws: Contributory Fault
While state negligence laws are generally the same, as they are based on common law, they often differ with respect to fault. In Washington, for instance, contributory fault diminishes in proportion to the amount of damages, but does not bar recovery.

For instance, a plaintiff may only claim 70 percent of her damages for injuries if the court determines that she was 30 percent responsible for the incident. A few states don't allow recovery at all if the plaintiff is partially responsible, but most have moved away from this and now recognize degrees of contributory fault.
What are the Elements of a Negligence Claim?
In order to demonstrate a defendant's negligence, the plaintiff must prove the following 5 elements:

1.        Duty - The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, either to act (or refrain from acting) in a certain way, as would be expected from a "reasonable" person. A duty ALWAYS exists to act in a reasonable fashion.

2.        Breach of Duty - The defendant acted (or failed to act) contrary to his or her duty to the plaintiff. (ie. Rear ended a vehicle, ran a stop sign, etc.)

3.        Cause in Fact - The defendant's breach of duty in fact resulted in the plaintiff's injuries (would the injury have occurred without the defendant's alleged negligence?).

4.        Proximate Cause - The defendant's actions or inactions were within the scope of known risks; the defendant "should have known" an injury could occur. Sometimes this is obvious like if the plaintiff was injured in a car accident, but sometimes its not as obvious.

5.        Damages - The plaintiff in fact suffered injuries, physical or otherwise, as a result of the defendant's negligence. In an auto accident, the damages could be anything from medical bills, lost wages and other damages including pain and suffering. For more information on Washington Personal Injury Damages, please see our previous blog here.

For more information on your rights in an Auto accident, consider contacting a Kirkland Auto Accident Attorney. 

Our Firm:
520 Kirkland Way, Ste 103
Kirkland, WA 98033
(425) 889-9300