Is Washington a No-Fault State?

Several states across the country use a no-fault system to handle vehicle accident claims, which means that each party will typically turn to their own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to recover compensation after the accident. However, the state of Washington is not a no-fault state. Accidents in our state are handled using a tort system, which is also referred to as a fault-based system. Here, our Seattle car accident lawyers want to briefly define a no-fault system and then discuss how liability is handled in Washington.

What is a Fault-Based System (Tort Claims)?

In the state of Washington, as with most other states around the country, vehicle accidents are handled on a fault-based system. This means that the at-fault driver will pay compensation to injury victims and property damage victims.

In a fault-based system, there will need to be an extensive investigation into the incident in order to determine liability. This investigation needs to show that the alleged negligent driver breached their duty of care to others around them and that this breach of duty led to the damages others sustained.

Under this type of system, there is also a modified comparative negligence rule that applies when multiple parties are at fault. Individuals can still recover compensation if they are partially at fault, but not if they are 50% or more responsible for the incident. Individuals less than 50% responsible for causing their own injuries could still recover compensation, though the compensation will be reduced depending on their percentage of fault.

For example, if a person sustains $10,000 worth of medical bills but is found to be 20% of fault for the incident, then they would only receive $8,000 in compensation.

What are the Downsides to This Type of System?

There are benefits and downsides to both a no-fault system and a fault-based system. Under a no-fault system, one of the main benefits is that individuals can recover compensation quickly and regardless of which party was at fault for the incident. However, in a no-fault system, individuals are limited with the types of compensation they can recover, and they are typically prevented from filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for total expenses, including emotional and psychological non-economic damages.

A fault-based system allows individuals to file a civil personal injury lawsuit at any time, which opens up the opportunity to recover non-economic damages. However, this type of system often means it takes longer for individuals to recover compensation because an investigation must be completed first. Multiple parties could dispute the findings of fault percentages, which could delay the ultimate payout.

Do You Need an Attorney for Your Claim?

Individuals who sustain injuries or property damage in a vehicle accident caused by another party should work with an attorney very soon after the incident occurs. A skilled personal injury lawyer can investigate the entire incident, push back against allegations of fault, and negotiate with insurance carriers to recover compensation for their client. An attorney will even fully prepare the case for a personal injury trial if the insurance carrier or at-fault party refuses to offer a fair settlement.