A plaintiff must prove the following to bring a successful claim for negligence in Washington state court: (1) the existence of a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff; (2) breach of that duty; (3) the plaintiff was injured as a resulting of the defendant’s breach of duty; and (4) the breach of duty was the proximate cause of the injury to the plaintiff.
Pure Comparative Negligence
According to RCW 4.22.005, Washington follows a pure comparative negligence standard in negligence actions which means a plaintiff is able to recover from a defendant whose negligence contributed to his injuries, regardless of whether the plaintiff is found to have contributed to his own injuries. A plaintiff’s contributory negligence does not bar his recovery altogether, but does serve to reduce his damages in proportion to his apportioned fault. Thus, while the doctrine of comparative fault considers the plaintiff’s negligence when determining and apportioning liability arising from an injury, it abandons the all-or-nothing approach of contributory negligence.
For example, if a plaintiff’s negligence was found to be even as high as 99% ,and a defendant’s fault was found to have been 1%, the plaintiff will still be able to recover 1% of the total damages award.
Joint & Several Liability
RCW 4.22.070 states that Washington only holds multiple tortfeasors jointly and severally liable for a plaintiff’s damages award if the plaintiff was not at all at fault for their injury or the tortfeasors were acting in concert. Joint and several liability means that a plaintiff is able to collect the full amount of a damage award from either defendant.
Where one defendant has paid more than their proportional share of liability that defendant has the right to seek contribution against any other joint defendant who has not paid its proportional share.
Otherwise, the general rule in Washington is that a judgment shall be entered against each defendant and that the liability of each defendant shall be several only, meaning that each defendant is only responsible for their apportioned percentage of fault.
Compensatory damages are awarded by a court to compensate the plaintiff for injuries suffered as a result of the negligence of the defendant(s). The award is meant to restore the plaintiff – as much as possible – to the condition they were in prior to the injury occurring.
Actual damages are meant to reimburse the plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses for items such as medical expenses. General damages may also be awarded for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of opportunity, and loss of future income.
Washington law generally does not allow for a punitive damages award in civil actions unless there is authorization for such an award expressly provided by statute. The court in Spokane Truck & Dray Co. v. Hoefer, 2 Wash. 45, 56, 25 P. 1072 (1891) stated that, “punitive damages are against the strong public policy of this state…. An unbroken line of cases…and the history of unsuccessful legislative attempts to enact punitive damages, make it clear that in this state the doctrine of punitive damages is deemed unsound in principle, and unfair and dangerous in practice.”
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Washington State. Should you have a question/concern specific to Washington State law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Washington State.