Aerial view of two cars involved in a collision, with one upside down

How Washington Determines Fault in Car Accident Claims

How do you tell who is at fault for a car accident? Some cases seem obvious, but others are more complex. Determining fault in a car accident is like many other things in life—there is a gray area. The details associated with assigning fault are subjective.

Comparative Fault State

Washington State is a comparative fault state, meaning insurance companies determine what percent fault each driver held in the crash. Damage awards are based on contributory fault law. This states that a person receives damages compensation based on the percentage of fault they contributed to the accident.


A collision may involve two or more drivers. Each of the drivers involved could be pointing the finger of blame at the other. This can result in major complexities.

An insurance company will work to determine who or what caused the accident. This is so they know who will have to pay for the resulting damages.

Each insurance company handles claims and coverage differently. They will also have their own method of determining fault. There is not one single set of requirements or standards in the United States used to determine fault. It is common for proving fault to be a challenge.

Degree Of Fault

An investigation may determine that both parties are partially liable for an accident. An insurance company may agree to 60 percent of the damages and the other insurance company may agree to pay the remaining 40 percent.

Comparative fault can help insurance companies. This makes it possible for them to share the burden of a claim rather than being required to pay the full cost of the damages involved in an accident.

Pure Comparative Fault Rule

Washington follows the pure comparative negligence theory. It is also known as the pure comparative even when found 99% at fault for the accident. However, the award will be decreased in proportion to the degree an injured party is determined to be at fault.

For example, if a driver is found 99% responsible for a case worth $100,000 in damages, they would only receive a $1,000 settlement.

Proving Fault

Proving fault can be a challenge. Certain things must be established in order to prove fault.

  • Legal Duty of Care – It must be established that a driver did or did not operate their vehicle using the standard for a legal duty of care.
  • Duty Breached – It must be established that the driver who caused the accident breached their duty of care and this is what prompted the collision.
  • Breach of Duty Resulted in Injuries – A connection must be made between a driver's negligence and a direct or proximate cause of an accident. It must be established that the accident would not have occurred if the driver had been operating their vehicle within a legal duty of care.

Damage Limitations

In Washington, there are generally no limitations on the damage awards given to compensate for personal injuries. This reimbursement can cover such things as lost wages, medical expenses and more. Estimation for damages projected for the future must be reasonably certain. This could cover future lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses.

Statute Of Limitations

This is a state law that provides time limits for which an accident victim has to bring a lawsuit. In the state of Washington, drivers involved in an accident must file a legal claim within three years from the date of the accident.

Should someone attempt to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed, the court will dismiss the suit. After this, an accident victim will have no legal recourse.

Should you experience a vehicle accident, you should immediately contact the Dore Law Group. Our team can review your case and determine the best way to proceed. Our legal professionals know how to obtain the best possible result for the victims of a vehicle accident. Don’t hesitate—contact our firm with your case right away.

Dore Law Group is ready to assist you with your personal injury claim. Contact us today at (253) 236-3888 to learn more.


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