Spokane sees a significant number of car accidents each year. Traffic congestion, changing weather conditions, and driver negligence can all contribute to these incidents.  The consequences can be serious, ranging from minor property damage to severe injuries or even fatalities. If you have been injured in a vehicle accident in Spokane, WA, you likely have questions about insurance, determining fault, and your legal options. That is where understanding laws relating to vehicle accidents in WA becomes crucial.

This article dives into the complexities of vehicle accident cases in Spokane, and how a Spokane auto accident lawyer from Craig Swapp & Associates can be your guide through this challenging time.

Washington’s Legal Process Following an Auto Accident in Spokane

Immediately after an accident, your first priority should be safety and seeking medical attention for any injuries. Once the immediate needs are addressed, the following steps outline the typical legal process in Washington State:

  1. Seek Medical Attention – Even if you do not think your injuries are severe, get a medical evaluation. Some injuries, like whiplash or internal damage, may not manifest immediately. Medical records are vital pieces of evidence when seeking compensation.
  2. Contact the Police – A police report serves as an official record of the accident. It will contain details about the date, time, location, vehicles involved, and the statements of those present. This report is often essential for insurance claims and legal proceedings.
  3. Exchange Information – Collect the following from all drivers involved:
  • Name, address, and phone number
  • Insurance company and policy number
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number
  • Vehicle make, model, and color
  • If possible, take pictures of the vehicles and the accident scene.
  • Get the contact information of any witnesses.
  1. Notify Your Insurance – Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible, even if you believe you were not at fault. Be mindful that deadlines for reporting exist, and failure to comply could affect your claim.
  2. Avoid Admitting Fault – It is easy to feel flustered after a vehicle accident. Refrain from apologizing, making statements like “I did not see you,” or taking any blame. Insurance companies might use such statements to minimize your compensation. Simply exchange information and allow the investigation to determine fault.
  3. Consider Consulting an Attorney – A Spokane auto accident lawyer can provide immediate guidance, explain your rights, and evaluate the strength of your potential case. They can protect you from missteps that might jeopardize your ability to get full compensation.

The aftermath of a vehicle accident can be stressful and confusing. Following these steps helps ensure that your rights are protected and that you have the necessary documentation to pursue a legal claim if needed. Remember, an experienced Spokane auto accident lawyer can be your greatest ally in navigating these complex legal waters.

Washington State’s “At-Fault” System

Unlike “no-fault” states, Washington uses an “at-fault” system for vehicle accidents. This means that the driver deemed responsible (at fault) for causing the accident is financially liable for the damages incurred by other parties.

This is where things can get complicated. Proving fault usually involves demonstrating that another driver was negligent. Negligence entails these elements:

  1. Duty of Care – All drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely.
  2. Breach of Duty – This could be speeding, running a red light, texting while driving, etc.
  3. Causation – The breach of duty directly caused the accident.
  4. Damages – You suffered injuries or losses as a result of the accident.

Washington also follows the rule of “pure comparative negligence.” This means that even if you were partially at fault for the accident, you may still be able to recover damages. Your percentage of fault would reduce your compensation.

Insurance Claims Post-Accident in Spokane, WA

Your insurance policy, as well as the insurance of the at-fault driver, are designed to provide compensation for vehicle accident injuries and damage. However, the insurance company’s primary goal is to protect its own financial interests.

The initial step often involves an intricate dance of documentation, where victims are required to present a comprehensive account of the accident, substantiated by police reports, medical records, and any other evidence that can support their claim. This phase is critical, as the strength of the evidence presented can significantly influence the outcome of the claim.

However, it is during the negotiation phase that the true complexities emerge. Insurance companies, driven by the motive to protect their bottom line, often engage in tactics aimed at reducing the payout amount. These tactics can range from disputing the severity of injuries to questioning the necessity of certain medical treatments.

Common Legal and Procedural Challenges in Vehicle Accidents

The legal path following a vehicle accident can be laden with challenges. Some typical hurdles victims might face include:

  1. Establishing Fault – This is often the most contentious aspect of a vehicle accident case. Multiple drivers may disagree about who is to blame. Each party (and their insurance companies) will try to minimize their share of responsibility.
  2. Evidence Gathering – Building a strong case relies on solid evidence. Photos of the accident scene, vehicles involved, and your injuries are important. Witness statements can be crucial if fault is disputed. Medical records meticulously document your injuries and treatments.
  3. Determining Damages – It is essential to get a full picture of your losses. This includes economic and non-economic damages. Your attorney will work to ensure you are justly compensated for both economic and non-economic losses.
  4. Comparative Negligence – It is not uncommon for each party to claim some degree of fault falls on the other. Washington’s comparative negligence law means your percentage of fault can reduce your compensation.
  5. Statute of Limitations – You have limited time to file a personal injury lawsuit related to a vehicle accident in Washington State. The statute of limitations is generally 3 years from the date of the accident. Failing to file within this timeframe could bar your right to claim compensation.

These legal and procedural hurdles highlight why it is crucial to have an experienced Spokane auto accident lawyer on your side after a Spokane crash.

The legal aftermath of a vehicle accident in Spokane, WA can be overwhelming.  The experienced legal team at Craig Swapp & Associates understands the legal intricacies of Spokane vehicle accidents. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you get back on the road to recovery.

Written By: Ryan Swapp     Legal Review By: Craig Swapp