Washington is a contributory-comparative fault state. Click here to see what that means for your accident and how sharing fault can reduce your claim.

How does the comparative fault law affect my case?



There are three types of fault laws that pertain to collisions: no-fault, contributory negligence, and comparative negligence.

  • No-fault. Some states follow a no-fault rule when it comes to car accident liability. No-fault doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no one to blame; rather, it means that when it comes to insurance policies, fault is ignored. Your individual insurance policy will cover your own damages, and the other party’s insurance will cover his damages, regardless of who or what caused the accident.
  • Contributory. Contributory negligence asserts that more than one party was at fault for the collision and is therefore responsible for partial liability. If partial liability can be proven by the defendant, the plaintiff may be totally barred from recovering damages or have his awarded damages drastically reduced to reflect his negligent contribution toward the accident and resulting damages.
  • Comparative. Comparative negligence also asserts that more than one party was at fault, and is actually a subcategory of contributory fault law. The difference lies in how damages are calculated. Under the traditional view, if a person had contributed to the accident in any way, he would not be entitled to compensation for his injuries. Comparative fault determines damages based on the ratio of fault. Washington state law follows the comparative form of negligence.

Comparative Effects

When determining who was at fault for an accident, you must look at the negligence of both parties. Negligence is defined as a failure to use reasonable care which then results in damage or injury to another person or object. Therefore, if one driver ran a red light than he’d be considered negligently at fault if he collided with another driver. However, if the other driver didn’t look to make sure the path was clear before he moved, he too, could be considered negligent and therefore partially liable.

Keeping this delicate balancing act in mind, a judge must determine the percentages of fault that each participant had in causing the accident. This is decided by weighing the evidence you and your lawyer provide as well as witness statements, and accident reconstruction can help show the ratio of fault.

Once the judge decides how much liability each driver had in the accident, the awarded damages will be calculated based on the comparative negligence pure approach. If the judge determines that you were less than 51% responsible for the accident, the amount agreed upon for damages will be adjusted based on your liability percentage. For example, if the damage amount was $100,000 and the judge found you to be 30% at fault, you would be allowed to collect $70,000 (the original $100,000, discounted by 30% to yield $70,000).

Securing a Fair Recovery

Considering the fact that your settlement is directly proportionate to how a judge deems your involvement in a collision, the best way to secure a fair settlement is by being able to convince him that you weren’t negligent.

What’s the best way to convince him of this? With a good lawyer.

A seasoned attorney can utilize all evidence available—a copy of the accident report, statements from witnesses, pictures, and additional resources that you may even know exist—to decrease any chance of your being blamed for even a fraction of the accident. Secure your rightful claim now by scheduling your free consultation. Simply pick up the phone and dial or fill out our convenient contact form to set up your appointment. Remember, recovering from your injuries isn’t going to be 30% easier just because a judge said you were 30% at fault, so why should you accept a 30% decrease in damages? When we fight for you, we fight for the maximum compensation available.