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Washington Auto Accident Laws & Resources

The population of Washington state grew by 126,000 people from 2016 to 2017, which is the strongest growth since 2006. With this growth in population, more car accidents are occurring. If you live in or visit this state, it is a good idea to be familiar with Washington’s auto accident laws, statistics and resources.

If you’ve been a victim of an auto accident, the Washington car accident laws provide options for redress. With the help of a reputable lawyer, you can file a claim for any loss incurred (injuries, pain and suffering) as well as damage to your vehicle.

In case your loved one was a victim in a fatal crash, the Washington car accident statute of limitations allow sufficient time to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-guilt driver.

Dealing with the shock of an accident and a loss is traumatizing enough the last thing you want is having to handle the legal side of the issue yourself. Please start by talking to a lawyer so that they shoulder the legal burden for you.

Washington Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a law that prohibits plaintiffs and prosecutors from bringing forth a case whose events happened more than a certain number of years ago.

The Washington car accident statute of limitations follows the Revised Code of Washington section 4.16.080 which specifies that as a victim, you should bring a lawsuit to court against the at-guilt driver within three years. The statute of limitations applies whether you want to file a car accident injury claim (injuries, pain and suffering) or you simply want the damage to your vehicle repaired.

In case it’s your loved who was involved in the accident and they unfortunately pass away, the Washington car accident statute of limitations still gives you three years to file the suit. However, the clock starts ticking on the day they die, not the day of the accident. In which case you can proceed to file a wrongful death claim against the other driver.

Statistics and Notable Washington Car Accident Settlements

As of 2015, Washington state had 5.5 million licensed drivers and 6.2 million registered vehicles, with 59.7 billion vehicle miles traveled that year. Given so much driving and traffic in this growing state, it is not surprising that there were plenty of motor vehicle accidents.

Statistics: What Do the Latest Figures Say About Auto Accidents in The State of Washington?

  • There were 111,597 crashes in Washington in 2019. 500 of them were fatal, 1,945 caused serious injury while 7,374 caused minor injury.
  • Out of all the victims of road accidents in Washington, 2,279 were pedestrians while 1,302 were bicyclists and passengers. A total of 102 of those pedestrians and 9 bicyclists and passengers lost their lives.
  • The four most common types of accidents in the Evergreen State are run-off-road crashes, head-on collisions, intersection-related accidents and lane-departure crashes.
  • Washington ranks 4th nationally among states whose drivers are the most distracted. The primary culprit for distractions? That would be cell phones. Eating, smoking, grooming and reading come a distant second, third fourth and fifth.
  •  With 10,464 attributed crashes, driving while distracted is the leading cause of accidents in Washington State. It resulted in 64 deaths in 2019. Drunk driving came in second with a total of 7,757 cases (122 fatalities). In third place was distracted teen drivers (1,112 cases and 7 fatalities) and cell-phone involved crashes (648 cases and 5 fatalities) wrapped up the top 4 causes of accidents.
  • Washington’s section of the I-5 is not only the busiest road in the entire state, but it is also an accident black spot. It records over 25 fatal crashes each year.
    washington auto accident laws

As in most states, the areas with the most accidents in Washington state are the most populous ones. King County is the most populated county in the state. As of 2014, King County had the highest collision rate with 235.6 collisions per 100 million vehicle miles. Meanwhile, Lincoln County is the fifth least populous, and it had the lowest collision rate with 68.8 collisions per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Seattle alone had 13,971 accidents that year, which is the highest in Washington state.

Statistics from 2014 also noted the following reasons for accidents and the number of incidents:

  • Inattention and driver distraction: 43,485 incidents
  • Inattention: 31,910 incidents
  • Failure to yield: 17,252
  • Following too closely: 16,835 incidents
  • Unknown driver distraction: 6,515 incidents
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol: 5,895 incidents

Given the high number of accidents in the state in recent years, it is not surprising there have been personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in Washington. For example, a crash that killed three people on Highway 522 in Monroe, Washington led to two wrongful death lawsuits. There also were allegations that the state had not properly maintained a dangerous part of the road for decades. WSDOT reports there were 100 crashes and three deadly ones on that same stretch of road between 2006 and 2010.

Washington Car Accident Settlement Calculator:

Have you been involved in a motor vehicle accident or otherwise injured in Washington? Find out how much financial compensation you may be legally entitled to in just minutes with our free online Injury Settlement Calculator.

Washington Accident Settlement Taxes

Washington state does not have a state income tax, so a personal injury settlement is not usually taxable as income at the state level.

Pure Comparative Negligence Laws in Washington State

The big issue in any motor vehicle accident is who is liable for the damages and injuries. Liability for accidents in the state is based upon a pure comparative negligence standard. This means that any person who is caused an accident with another person is responsible for any damages and injuries. However, if the plaintiff in a legal action shared part of the fault, their damage recovery will be reduced as a percentage of their fault for the accident.

For instance, let’s say there is an accident with Driver 1 and Driver 2 each responsible for 50% of the damages. Driver 1 had $100,000 in injuries and damages. Driver 1 can sue Driver 2 for $100,000, but he is only eligible to recover $50,000 because the amount that Driver 1 can recover has been reduced by 50%.

The State of Washington uses the comparative negligence law when ruling on auto accident liability. Under this law, the parties involved share the liability based on their amounts of blame.

It follows that if the other driver is fully at fault, they will be mandated to compensate you for your injuries, suffering and pain as well as vehicle damage. That compensation should be 100%.

If you are partly to blame for the accident, the settlement that you will receive will be less the amount of your blame as assigned by the jury. Let’s say, for example, that a jury finds that your total damages award should be $100,000. At the same time, the jury determines that you are 20% responsible for the crash.

In that case, the amount payable to you will be the total less your blame; i.e. 100,000 – (20/100 x 100,000) = $80,000. In other words, your blame is calculated financially and deducted from the award money.

Auto Insurance Requirements in Washington State

Because of the financial obligation that comes with car accidents, every motorist in Washington is legally required to carry auto insurance. The policy protects other people who may be injured in case you cause an accident. It requires that you take out:

  • $25,000 for death or injury to one person
  • $50,000 for injuries or death to more than one person
  • $10,000 for property damages

Can you recover damages from your own insurance policy in Washington state? It depends upon the insurance you have. Washington does allow you to have no-fault coverage. If you have this type of policy, no matter who was at fault in the car accident, your policy will handle your damages – up to the maximum limits of the policy, that is. But if you have a regular auto insurance policy, you must file an accident claim with the insurance company for the at-fault driver. That could be you or another driver.

You also can skip making an insurance claim and just file a personal injury lawsuit to recover financial damages. However, bear in mind that in Seattle and King County, all lawsuits that claim less than $50,000 or less in damages are subject to the state’s mandatory arbitration program. Even if the lawsuit is for more than $50,000, there may be some type of required alternative dispute resolution before the case goes to court. Many people opt for mediation prior to trial because it is non-binding, whereas arbitration is legally binding.

Furthermore, you are legally required to report any accident that results in death or injury to a person and/or damage to property worth at least $1,000.

Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Washington State

A statute of limitations is a law that limits how long the plaintiff must file a personal injury lawsuit in the court system for that state after an accident or loss. The statute of limitations in Washington says that a legal action must commence within three years from the date of the loss or injury. Remember that the clock begins to run on that three years from the day of the accident. But if a person died from the accident, a wrongful death lawsuit must be started within three years of the date of death of the person. This could be different from the date of the car accident.

You always are wise in all states to commence a legal action as soon as possible after the accident. It is important to give yourself plenty of time when you begin negotiations with the insurance company. If talks break down, you have the option of filing a lawsuit – if the statute of limitations has not expired.

Washington State Car Accident Resources

After a car accident, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the number of things you must handle. Talking to insurance companies, dealing with police and possible litigation can be very stressful when you are dealing with painful injuries. But the Lawsuit Info Center can team you with an experienced Washington state personal injury attorney. Please call 877-205-4877 to schedule a complimentary consultation. If you are uncertain if you need a lawyer, here are some helpful car accident resources to explore:

  • If you are in a minor accident, you can report the incident via Collision Report with the Washington State Patrol. But if there is damage over $1000, the accident must be so reported.
  • If you have been in a car accident and wonder what your claim might be worth, please review our guide on car accident settlements. This page will shed light on how a car accident claim is valued.
  • If you cannot get auto insurance in Washington, have your car insurance agent contact the Washington Automobile Insurance Plan.


  1. https://remoteapps.wsdot.wa.gov/HighwaySafety/Collision/Data/Portal/Public/
  2. https://www.seattlepi.com/local/seattlenews/article/Study-Washington-ranks-4th-in-nation-for-states-15068086.php
  3. https://www.autoinsurance.org/best-drivers-in-the-us-by-state/
  4. https://www.geotab.com/the-most-dangerous-highways-in-america/

When you think you are ready to file your car accident claim, our guide on car insurance companies could help you to prepare your claim.