Washington Car Accident Settlement and Lawsuits
An overview of Washington laws that could affect your legal options after a car accident, including statutory time limits for filing a lawsuit in Washington court.
Drivers, passengers, and others who have been involved in a car accident in Washington will want to have an understanding of the different car insurance requirements and state laws that could affect any claim or lawsuit over the accident. This page provides a summary of the Washington-specific resources available on All-About-Car-Accidents.com, plus links to more detailed information.
Washington Car Insurance Requirements
Washington requires vehicle owners to demonstrate financial responsibility in case their vehicle is involved in a car accident. Most vehicle owners meet this requirement by carrying adequate car insurance coverage on any vehicle owned and operated in the state. The following minimum amounts of coverage are mandatory in Washington:
- $25,000 for the injury or death of a single person (a passenger, another driver, pedestrian, etc.)
- $50,000 total for the injury or death of multiple people in a single accident
- $10,000 for property damage (such as damage to another vehicle), and
For more details on car insurance for vehicles in the state, including other ways that vehicle owners might comply with Washington's Financial Responsibility Requirement, check out our companion article Washington Car Insurance Laws.
Washington Car Accident Laws
If you decide to file a lawsuit after a car accident in Washington -- or even if you’re only making an insurance claim for the time being -- there are a few state laws to keep in mind, beginning with the time limit for getting a car accident lawsuit started (this is a state law called a “statute of limitations”).
In Washington, the statute of limitations that applies to car accident lawsuits gives a prospective plaintiff three years to go to court and get the case started, whether you’re claiming personal injury or vehicle damage from the accident. (You can see the full text of this law at Revised Code of Washington section 4.16.080.)
If you don’t get your lawsuit filed before the deadline passes, it’s safe to assume that the court will refuse to hear your case when you do try to file. So it’s crucial to pay attention to the deadline, and that’s true even if you think your case is going to settle out of court. You always want to leave open the option of filing a lawsuit, not just for leverage in settlement negotiations, but also to make sure you can turn to the court system for a remedy if the settlement process isn’t promising a satisfactory solution.
Get details on other Washington laws that could impact your car accident case in our article Car Accident Laws in Washington.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Washington
You might not find it necessary to hire a lawyer for every car accident claim you decide to file. For example, in a situation where the other driver’s insurance carrier isn’t disputing that its insured was at fault for the car accident, and you suffered only minor injuries, it’s probably fine to handle that kind of claim yourself as long as you’re comfortable with the process.
But what if the other driver’s insurer is saying that you caused the car accident? Or what if you suffered serious injuries and the insurer is balking at the extent or the costs of your medical treatment? In those situations, things can get complicated (and contentious) very quickly, and it may be time to discuss your situation with a local car accident lawyer in Washington. Remember that most lawyers will take a car accident case on a contingency basis, meaning that the lawyer only gets paid a percentage of any successful settlement or court award.
A good attorney knows how to successfully navigate not just the back-and-forth of settlement negotiations with car insurance adjusters, but also the car accident lawsuit process if your case proceeds to Washington civil court.