Personal Injury: Washington Statute of Limitations
A “personal injury” is any form of injury including physical, financial, or psychological that affects an individual. When an individual or group of individuals experiences a personal injury because of the negligence of another person or business, a personal injury case may be filed. Personal injury damages can be recovered for a wide range of injuries caused by everything from car accidents to wrongful death to defective products. Personal injury laws are complicated and vary from state to state. If you have been injured, it is in your interest to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. Most attorneys provide a free case evaluation and a contingency fee plan. A contingency fee plan means that you will pay your attorney with a percentage of the damages you win but you will not owe any fees if you do not win any damages. Damages are a sum of money claimed or awarded in compensation for a loss or an injury. It should also be noted that personal injury cases have a statute of limitations.
Statute of limitations defined
A statute of limitations is a type of federal or state law enacted by the legislature that restricts or extends the time within which legal proceedings may be brought after a personal injury occurs. Courts are generally not given the authority to extend a statute of limitations and it is considered unconstitutional if it immediately curtails an existing remedy or provides so little time that it deprives an individual of a reasonable opportunity to start a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations actually date back to Roman law and are designed to prevent fraudulent or old claims from being made after the evidence or facts have been lost over the passage of time or the faulty memory, death, or disappearance of a meaningful witness.
Typically, the statute of limitations is used by the defense team to try and defeat an action from a plaintiff after the state’s statute of limitation has elapsed. The defendant must plead this defense immediately upon responding to the plaintiff’s complaint. If the defense is not made at that time, it is noted that the defense has waived their right to use it in any subsequent proceedings.
Statute of Limitations Washington State
You have a limited amount of time to file your personal injury claim in Washington. Washington statute of limitations laws may differ from those of other states.
Washington State statute of limitations for personal injury claims:
- Negligence claims have a three year statute of limitations; these include slip and fall accidents, workplace accidents, car accidents, toxic torts, etc.*
- *Exception: If the injury is incurred by a minor child, the child may have three years from their 18th birthday to file a claim.
- A Medical Malpractice case has a three year statute of limitations from the date of the act or omission or a one year statute from the date the injury should have been discovered (the Discovery Rule), whichever is later. Under no circumstances may a medical malpractice claim be brought more than eight years after the act or omission.
- A Wrongful Death case has a three year statute of limitations.
- A Products Liability case has a three year statute of limitations.
- A Strict Liability case has a three year statute of limitations.
- An Assault or Battery case has a two year statute of limitations.
- A Defamation case has a two year statute of limitations.
It is always recommended that you do not wait until the last minute to file a personal injury claim. You risk damaging your claim in the following ways by waiting:
- Notification. Even if you don’t plan to file a civil suit, it is precarious to wait too long to notify a liable party of your injury. Failure to notify within a reasonable or set timeline may nullify a claim you file in the future.
- Lost evidence. The longer you wait after an injury has occurred to hire an attorney and file a suit, the more risk you have that evidence will be lost. In many cases, a personal injury attorney will work with an investigator who takes accident scene photos. If too much time has passed there may be a missed opportunity to capture skid marks on the road or damage to vehicles involved in the accident, for example.
- Witness problems. A personal injury attorney will contact witnesses who may be able to provide eye witness accounts that support your case. If you wait too long to contact an attorney then witnesses may be lost as they move, forget the incident, or even pass away.
- Memory fades with time. Depositions require knowing many facts about the accident and subsequent injury. Over time, our memories fade which could make it difficult to provide the information requested of you. The closer to the event, the clearer your memory is likely to be.
- Multiple injury cases. If there is an accident where more than one person is injured, there is a risk that only the first person to file a suit will be eligible for damages. This applies when the negligent party has limits to their insurance coverage.
- Documenting treatment. After an accident and injury occurs, the first thing we should do is seek medical treatment. A personal injury attorney will advise you on how to document your treatment and keep medical records for use in your case so hiring an attorney early on is extremely beneficial.
If you have been injured in an accident, hiring a personal injury attorney may be crucial to getting the financial compensation you deserve. When hiring an attorney to represent you in your injury claim you should look for:
- A lawyer that has expert knowledge and experience with injury cases and all parties involved in resolution including judges and insurance companies.
- A lawyer that has a network of respected specialists in the areas of accident reconstruction, medicine, psychology, and engineering. These types of experts often serve as key witnesses in personal injury cases as they can offer insight into the extent of your injuries, both physical and financial.
Disclaimer: State and federal laws in the United States change on a regular basis. Any information provided in this guide is meant solely for informational purposes and should not take the place of the advice of a lawyer. Only a qualified attorney can assess the merits of your case and provide an effective plan for counsel.
Seek the help of a Washington State personal injury lawyer
If you or a loved one is dealing with an accident or injury, you have enough on your plate. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a lawyer. Call the competent Bellingham personal injury attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County and surrounding areas since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!