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.
Statistics and Notable 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.
According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, 2015 state car accident data showed the following:
- A crash happened in Washington state every 4.5 minutes
- A personal was killed in a crash in the state every 16 hours.
- A person was hurt in a crash in the state every 11 minutes.
- A motorcyclist was hurt or killed in a crash every four hours.
- A bicyclist or pedestrian was in an accident every 2.5 hours.
- A bicyclist or pedestrian was killed in a car accident every hour days.
- A speeding driver caused an accident every 27 minutes.
- A person was killed by a drunk/impaired driver in Washington state every 1.5
Also, on Washington state roads in 2015:
- The most crashes happened on Fridays.
- The lowest number of crashes happened on Sundays.
- The most common time for crashes was between 5 and 6 pm.
- The fewest number of crashes occurred from 3 to 4 am.
- The most crashes in Washington state were in December – 401 per day.
- Inattention and driver distraction was the most common cause for all accidents in the state. It was estimated by WSDOT that there were 112 fatalities due to driver distraction in 2013.
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.
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%.
Auto Insurance Requirements in Washington State
All drivers in the state must carry auto insurance. The minimum coverage you must carry is as follows:
- $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.
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.
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.