How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington State?

by | Dec 14, 2023 | Personal Injury

Suffering any injury can upend your life in several unexpected ways. Suddenly, you face a long and painful physical recovery, and you may wonder how you will be able to afford the costly medical bills, lost wages, and other financial impacts associated with your accident.

Fortunately, Washington state allows injured parties to file personal injury claims to recover compensation from the party responsible for the accident. Taking this step holds the responsible party liable for their reckless or negligent actions that caused your painful injuries. Whether the accident involved a distracted driver, a negligent medical provider, or another party whose negligent behavior put your health and safety at risk, you may be able to file a personal injury claim to recover the compensation you need to get your life back on track.

It’s best to enlist the guidance of an experienced Seattle personal injury attorney who can assess the specifics of your case and identify the most strategic path forward. Your attorney will answer your questions, address your concerns, and work hard to prepare a strong case to maximize your settlement offer so you can receive the compensation you deserve.

However, it’s essential that you understand Washington’s statute of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits—if you wait too long to act, you may lose your chance to recover the compensation you need to support your recovery. Let’s look at how personal injury lawsuits work in Washington, how long they typically take, and why you should consider working with a dedicated and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to help you navigate this legal process.

Understanding Personal Injury Claims in Washington State

First, it’s helpful to understand the factors involved in a personal injury claim. Not every accident entitles the injured party to recover compensation. Many accidents are just that—random events that occur but are not anyone’s fault. However, when a person or party acts with negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct, the injuries caused by these behaviors leave the offending party legally and financially liable. If you sustained an injury because of another party’s recklessness or negligence, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against them to recover compensation that will support the costs of your recovery. When you prepare your claim, you will need to provide evidence that the other party acted with negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct and that such behavior directly caused your injuries.

Demonstrating Negligence

Negligence occurs when a person, business, or other entity fails to uphold their duty of care. A person must act as an ordinary, reasonable individual under similar circumstances. For example, drivers should observe and obey all the rules of the road (i.e., stopping at stop signs, traveling at the posted speed limit, keeping their eyes on the road, etc.) when they are behind the wheel. When someone fails to act reasonably, their negligence can cause an accident that injures others. If a driver was texting behind the wheel and their distracted behavior led to an accident that injured you, consult with a knowledgeable Seattle personal injury lawyer to discuss your options for pursuing a claim. You can use documents like the police report and the other driver’s cell phone records to establish their negligence behind the wheel, which led to the accident. Your attorney will help you identify the evidence you need to prepare a strong and compelling personal injury claim against the negligent party.

Establishing Recklessness

In some cases, a person’s negligence rises to the level of recklessness. This means that an individual behaves in such a way that intentionally disregards the risk they create to the safety of others. For example, someone driving at a speed of 100 miles per hour on a road with a posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour is not only acting negligently but also greatly endangering the safety and lives of others. This reckless behavior can lead to serious consequences, such as catastrophic injuries or fatalities. If you believe that you suffered injuries because of someone else’s reckless actions, discuss your legal options with a seasoned and compassionate personal injury lawyer who can help you file a successful personal injury lawsuit against the reckless party. Not only will you be able to recover the compensation you need to rebuild your life after the accident, but you can hold the reckless party responsible for their dangerous behavior and prevent them from harming others in the future.

Proving Intentional Misconduct by a Healthcare Provider or Other Professional

When a healthcare provider or other professional violates their duty of care, their actions can lead to considerable harm and lasting damage to others. If you were hurt because a doctor, surgeon, or other professional acted intentionally or maliciously, you have the right to seek compensation. While these cases are rare, they can cause serious trauma and harm when they do happen. If you were the victim of intentional or harmful behavior at the hands of a trusted professional, contact a dedicated and empathetic personal injury and medical malpractice attorney to discuss your options for obtaining the support you need to heal and recover from this harrowing experience.

Recovering Personal Injury Damages

It’s natural to wonder what types of damages you may be able to recover from the negligent or reckless party whose behavior caused your injuries. In Washington state, victims of negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct may recover compensation for physical, emotional, and financial injuries. The legal term for the compensation awarded to the injured party is “damages.” Since the details of each accident vary considerably from case to case, it’s best to discuss your claim with a seasoned Seattle personal injury attorney who can provide a clearer picture regarding the compensatory damages you may be entitled to recover from the at-fault party.

Depending on the nature and extent of your injuries, you may be able to seek compensatory damages for any past and future medical bills, lost wages, physical disfigurement, permanent or temporary disabilities, reduced earning potential, pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, impaired quality of life, property damage, and loss of consortium (in other words, the loss of a marital relationship, life partner, or close family member). If you are ready to hold the at-fault party responsible for the harm they have caused you, reach out to a skilled personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Washington

The days, weeks, and months following an accident can be chaotic and disorienting, especially when you are facing a long and complicated physical recovery. As you focus on attending doctor appointments, physical therapy sessions, and other recommended treatments, it’s natural to put off thinking about filing a personal injury claim until you have the capacity to do so. However, it’s essential to recognize that Washington’s statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is three years. Neglecting to file a personal injury claim within three years from the date of the accident means that you are likely forfeiting your legal right to seek compensation from the at-fault party. When the statute of limitations expires, the Washington courts will not recognize any subsequent personal injury claim as valid. However, there are certain exceptions to the three-year statute of limitations, so it’s best to discuss the specifics of your case with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.

Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice claims arise from injuries caused by a medical professional’s negligence. When a patient suffers injuries because the doctor acted negligently, the victim has the right to seek compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim. For the most part, Washington’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims is also three years. However, some patients may not experience symptoms or negative effects triggered by the provider’s negligence until years later. If this is the case, the law allows you to file a lawsuit within one year of the date of discovery of the negligence–even if the original three-year statute has already expired. Your personal injury attorney can help you identify the most strategic path forward to win you the compensation you deserve.

Lawsuits Involving Minors

Another exception to the three-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims is when the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the accident. Once the victim reaches the age of 18, they have three full years in which to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party, even if the date of the accident was several years before the victim turned 18. If this exception applies to your situation, contact a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your options for pursuing and securing the damages you need to support your path to recovery.

If you need help pursuing compensation after suffering an injury due to someone else’s negligent or reckless actions, the dedicated team at Menzer Law is here to assist you. Contact our Seattle office today at (206) 903-1818 for a complimentary review of your potential claim.