When you or a loved one becomes incapacitated after a severe injury, the resulting loss of income can lead to serious financial difficulties. If third-party negligence contributed to the injury, you can seek monetary damages for the associated costs, including medical bills, lost wages and lost enjoyment of life. 

These are the answers to the most common questions about recovering personal injury damages in Washington.  

How does the court determine fault? 

Personal injury suits require the injured party to prove that another party acted negligently and that this negligence directly contributed to the injury. The state defines negligence as the failure to meet an expected level of care, either by acting or failing to act. For example, if a store owner knows about a spill but does not wipe it up and a customer falls, he or she did not meet the required degree of care. 

What is comparative negligence? 

Washington uses the comparative negligence approach when assigning fault in a personal injury case. The judge will review the evidence and determine responsibility for the accident, which can be solely attributed to one party or shared between several parties including the plaintiff. The court reduces your monetary award by your fault percentage. For example, if your damages are $50,000 but you were 20% at fault, you will receive $40,000. 

When should I file a lawsuit? 

Personal injury claims are subject to a state statute of limitations of three years from the date of the injury. The court will dismiss lawsuits filed after the expiration date and you will be ineligible for financial recovery. 

Washington does not limit financial recovery in a personal injury lawsuit. You can seek damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, current and future lost wages and actual costs such as medical bills. If you receive an insurance settlement offer that does not cover your costs, you do not have to accept the offer and can instead pursue legal remedy.