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Washington Negligence Laws

State Negligence Laws at a Glance

Negligence is the failure to exercise an expected degree of care, leading to another individual's injuries. For example, a motorist who fails to wear her glasses (as required by her driver's license) and then causes an injury accident may be found negligent and thus liable for the other party's injuries. Most torts -- such as medical malpractice and slip-and-fall claims -- are based on negligence.

Washington Negligence Laws: Contributory Fault

While state negligence laws are generally the same, as they are based on common law, they often differ with respect to fault. In Washington, for instance, contributory fault diminishes in proportion to the amount of damages, but does not bar recovery.

For instance, a plaintiff may only claim 70 percent of her damages for injuries if the court determines that she was 30 percent responsible for the incident. A few states don't allow recovery at all if the plaintiff is partially responsible, but most have moved away from this and now recognize degrees of contributory fault.

What are the Elements of a Negligence Claim?

In order to demonstrate a defendant's negligence, the plaintiff must prove the following five elements:

  1. Duty - The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, either to act (or refrain from acting) in a certain way, as would be expected from a "reasonable" person.
  2. Breach of Duty - The defendant acted (or failed to act) contrary to his or her duty to the plaintiff.
  3. Cause in Fact - The defendant's breach of duty in fact resulted in the plaintiff's injuries (would the injury have occurred without the defendant's alleged negligence?).
  4. Proximate Cause - The defendant's actions or inactions were within the scope of known risks; the defendant "should have known" an injury could occur.
  5. Damages - The plaintiff in fact suffered injuries, physical or otherwise, as a result of the defendant's negligence.

The jury or judge is tasked with deciding whether these elements are present in order to determine negligence.

The basics of Washington negligence laws are listed below. See Negligence: Background to learn more.

Code Section 4.22.005 to 925
Comparative Negligence Contributory fault diminishes proportionately the amount of damages, but does not bar recovery.
Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery -
Contribution Among Tortfeasors Yes; §4.22.040
Uniform Act Yes; 4.22.005 to 925

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Washington personal injury attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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