Comparative Negligence

Legal Definition Under Washington State Law

Comparative negligence is a system that is used to determine the percentage of damages when more than one party is at fault. If the plaintiff as well as the defendant are both to blame for an accident, then each party will pay their percentage of fault for the other person’s damages.

In Washington State personal injury cases, comparative negligence allows an injured party to recover compensation following their auto accident. Even if they are each partially at fault for the accident. This means that in Washington an injured person has no threshold of fault they need to be under to bring a claim. An example of this would be a plaintiff that was 99% responsible for her accident could still recover 1% of her damages.

Before comparative negligence was passed into law, a plaintiff wasn’t able to receive compensation for any damages unless the other party was found to be 100% at fault. This was true even if they were only partially at fault for a car crash. Now because of comparative negligence, plaintiffs are able to make a claim even though may be partially responsible for an accident.

What Does Comparative Negligence Mean For My Auto Accident?

Well let’s put it this way. Imagine that you were driving straight on a country road. You’re speeding a bit but not too much and there are no other cars around you. Suddenly another driver pulls out of a driveway in front of you. You don’t have enough time to slow down. He doesn’t have enough time to speed up. You crash into him. This was their fault for pulling out in front of you, but because you were speeding you couldn’t slow down quick enough. If you were going the speed limit, there’s a chance the accident could have been avoided.  In this example, you could be found to be partially at fault for the auto accident for speeding.

If more than one person was at fault in your auto accident, then comparative negligence could also come into play. A judge or jury will then decide what percentage of fault each party bears for the injured party’s damages.  In the above example, if you were ruled to be 10% at fault for the accident, then your recovery would be reduced by the percentage you were found to be at fault. For example, if you had $50,000 in damages, you would only receive $45,000 because 10% ($5,000) would be reduced. Comparative Negligence allows you to receive the majority of your damages, even if you were partially at fault.

Were You Partially At Fault For An Accident?