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What is the statute of limitations in Washington state for personal injury cases?

What is the statute of limitations in Washington state for personal injury cases?

what is the statute of limitations in washington state

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, slip and fall, or suffered any other kind of personal injury in the State of Washington, you only have a limited time to file a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party. For most personal injury cases, it’s three years from the date of the accident.

At first, three years might seem like a lot of time, especially if it’s only been a couple of days since the accident. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to relax—not by a long shot.

Three years might be the deadline to file your claim. But, there’s a lot of work that needs to happen beforehand to make sure your case is as strong as it can be, and you have the best chance at a fair settlement or jury verdict.

Just like in school, work, or any other important deadline in life, waiting until the last minute can have catastrophic consequences. In this case, that could be a significantly smaller settlement, or even permanently losing your ability to collect anything at all. In this post, we take a closer look at the personal injury statute of limitations, and why you don’t want to wait too long to file.

what is the statute of limitations in washington state

What is the statute of limitations (and what happens if I miss it)?

statute of limitations washington state

The statute of limitations is a set time period after a specified event (for example: car accident, personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death) in which you can file a lawsuit against the people or parties that hurt you in order to recover financial compensation (called damages).

Again, the Washington statute of limitations is three years for almost all types of personal injury cases. There are a few rare exceptions where the time limit can be extended—such as medical malpractice that isn’t discovered right away—but in most cases it’s a very hard deadline.

If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit or collect any compensation, regardless of whether or not the other party was at fault, and regardless of how expensive your care might be.

RELATED: The three biggest mistakes people make after a car accident

statute of limitations washington state

People we’ve helped

If you want to maximize your chances at a great settlement, you have to move quickly

personal injury cases

For example:

  • Physical evidence at the scene of an accident might only be around for a few hours. If you don’t take pictures or get a police report, that evidence will be gone for good.
  • Eyewitnesses can quickly leave the scene, or their memories might become hazy if you wait too long to follow up with them. (Ideally, your personal injury attorney is the one contacting witnesses to secure their testimonies).
  • If you’re involved in a truck accident, the trucking company only has to hold certain evidence (such as data from the onboard computer) for a short period of time before they can legally destroy it. You might have only a few months at most.
  • Any security camera footage that might have captured the accident could be wiped. Most businesses wipe security footage regularly—often monthly, if not more frequently.
  • The longer you wait to pursue legal action (especially if you are unrepresented) the greater the risk that the insurance company will take advantage of you by getting you to give statements that harm your case, accept a settlement that’s far below fair, or by collecting their own “evidence” to argue that you aren’t really as injured as you say you are.

All this is to say that, if you don’t get the ball rolling on your case as soon as possible, you will only weaken your position. Memories get hazy, it gets harder to prove that your injuries were linked with the accident, and insurance companies that put their own needs ahead of yours will have more time to cover their tracks.

personal injury cases

Building a strong case takes time

statute of limitations for personal injury case

Very few cases are as simple as they appear at first glance. Even when it seems completely obvious who was at fault, that doesn’t mean you can just file a personal injury claim and expect to get a fair settlement offer from the insurance company.

For example, do you know how much you should claim in damages? You can claim economic damages, such as your health care bills and lost wages—not only those you’ve already incurred, but those you are likely to incur in the future, too. But you may also be able to claim non-economic damages like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. In some cases, there may even be punitive damages to punish an at-fault party who engaged in particularly reckless behavior.

Considering all these factors to calculate a “fair” settlement amount is complicated. It not only requires detailed record-keeping, but in many cases also requires thorough evidence gathering, speaking with expert witnesses, and more. Meanwhile, you can be sure the insurance company is going to try to get you to settle for the lowest amount they can.

Instead of thinking of the statute of limitations as a “deadline,” think of it as a window. Some cases are relatively simple, and we can file a personal injury lawsuit within a few weeks or months of the accident. Others are incredibly complex and may require more than a year of careful preparation before we’re ready to file. By starting the process as soon as possible, you can take as much time as you need to gather all the evidence and make sure you uncover all potential sources of damages you can claim before the lawsuit is filed.

RELATED: What to expect from your personal injury claim

statute of limitations for personal injury case

An experienced personal injury attorney like Zach Herschensohn can help you get the settlement you deserve

The best time to call a personal injury lawyer is within a few days of your injury—ideally, even before you speak with a claims adjuster from the insurance company.

Insurance companies will not hesitate to take advantage of injury sufferers who are not represented by an attorney. They may try to get you to give statements admitting fault or provide you with a quick settlement offer that’s far less than what your case is worth. Don’t take the bait. Once you settle, you permanently lose the ability to sue for more later.

Hiring a lawyer with extensive experience with similar kinds of cases will protect you from insurance company gamesmanship and give you a much stronger negotiating position. You can focus on healing, while your lawyer can focus on gathering and protecting key evidence, making sure you file all court documents in a timely manner, and standing up to the insurance company on your behalf.

Zach Herschensohn has a strong reputation in the Seattle metro area for fighting for his clients and helping them achieve great settlements from the insurance companies. If you or a loved one have been injured in an incident that wasn’t your fault, reach out today for a free case evaluation. Just call (206) 596-4964, or use our online contact form to get started.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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When you request your free consultation, Kent personal injury attorney Zach Herschensohn will listen to you, answer your questions, lay out your legal options, and give you down-to-earth legal advice.

When you work with our law office, there are no obligations, hidden fees, or fine print. It’s that simple.

Request your free case evaluation

We’ll meet with you to help you understand your legal options and what to do next.

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We’re proud to fight—and win—for injured people in Kent, Washington. View our case results to learn more.

References

  1. Texas Department of Transportation. (2020, April 15). Texas Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Facts Calendar Year 2019. https://ftp.txdot.gov/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2019/01.pdf
  2. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (2019, December). Fatality Facts 2018, Large Trucks. Retrieved from https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/largetrucks

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as
legal advice on any subject.