Navigating through personal injury claims requires understanding several key aspects: the statutes of limitations that dictate the time frame for filing a lawsuit, the inner workings of a lawsuit, and the invaluable role of a personal injury attorney in these situations. Keep reading to learn more about these aspects.
The Three-Year General Rule For Personal Injury Claims
According to RCW 4.16.080, there is a limited period during which you can take legal action for personal injuries. If you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident, experienced a slip and fall, or suffered any other type of personal injury due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful action, you have three years to initiate legal proceedings. The countdown starts from the day the injury occurred. Recognizing and acting within this time limit is essential to protect your legal rights and to ensure you can pursue the compensation you’re entitled to.
Statute Of Limitation For Certain Crime Victims
RCW 4.16.100 outlines a tighter timeframe for cases like assault and battery or false imprisonment. If you’ve been a victim of these particular crimes, it’s important to note that you have only two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit.
Childhood Sexual Abuse Cases
According to RCW 4.16.340, if you’re a victim of childhood sexual abuse, you have the right to file a lawsuit within three years after either the occurrence of the abusive act or within three years of realizing that the abuse caused your injury. Importantly, this timeframe is extended until you reach the age of 18. The timeframe begins when you become aware of the last act of abuse by the same perpetrator, not necessarily from the date of each incident. If you were a minor at the time of the abuse, the knowledge of your parent or guardian about the abuse doesn’t impact your right to take legal action.
Cases Involving Medical Malpractice
Under RCW 4.16.350, if you’ve suffered injuries due to professional negligence by a healthcare provider, such as doctors, nurses, therapists, or even healthcare facilities, there are specific timelines to comply with. You must start your lawsuit either within three years of the incident or within one year from when you discovered or should have reasonably discovered that the injury was caused by the provider, whichever is later. However, there’s an absolute limit of eight years after the incident for filing the lawsuit, barring cases of fraud, intentional concealment, or instances where a foreign object was left in your body. In these exceptional circumstances, you have one year from the discovery of the issue to initiate legal action.
Suing Washington State Government Entities
If your injury was caused by the government (e.g., a car accident caused by a pothole that the government neglected to repair), you need to first file a claim with the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) Office of Risk Management. Following the submission, there’s a mandatory 60-day waiting period, during which the government reviews your claim and may offer a settlement. If no settlement is reached after 60 days, you are then allowed to file a lawsuit, but this must be done within three years of the date of the accident. Notably, the 60-day waiting period is not included in the three-year timeframe.
Tolling Of Statutes Of Limitations
Tolling the statute of limitations means pausing or extending the time you have to file a lawsuit under certain circumstances.
Under RCW 4.16.180, if the person you need to sue is out of the state, a non-resident, or is hiding, the clock on your time limit stops. It only starts again when that person returns to Washington or is located.
If you’re under 18, have certain disabilities, or are imprisoned, the time limit to sue is paused until these conditions change. However, under RCW 4.16.250, a disability must exist when your right to sue first arises, and the disability has to affect your ability to understand the legal proceedings.
Finally, under RCW 4.16.200, if you have the right to sue but pass away before the time limit ends, your legal representatives get an extra year after your death to start the lawsuit, provided the type of lawsuit is one that can continue after death.
How A Personal Injury Lawsuit Works
In Washington State, pursuing a personal injury lawsuit involves several key steps, especially when seeking justice for injuries caused by another’s negligence or wrongful actions. The process often begins when you, as the victim, contact a personal injury law firm. These lawyers specialize in representing individuals who have suffered due to various types of accidents or intentional harm.
Once you engage a lawyer, they will first assess the specifics of your case. This includes understanding the incident, determining the extent of your injuries, and identifying the party responsible for your harm. If the lawyer takes on your case, they will file a complaint in court, officially starting the lawsuit. This complaint details your injuries and how the other party’s actions or negligence caused them.
The next stage is the discovery process, where both sides gather evidence. This might include medical records, witness statements, and other documentation supporting your claim. During this phase, there’s often an opportunity for both parties to negotiate a settlement. Settlements are common in personal injury cases as they provide a faster resolution compared to a trial, and they allow for a certain degree of control over the outcome.
If a settlement isn’t reached, the case may proceed to trial. Here, your lawyer presents your case in front of a judge or jury, who will decide if the defendant is liable for your injuries and, if so, the amount of compensation you should receive. This compensation, or damages, can cover various losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs.
How A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works
In Washington, a wrongful death lawsuit is a legal way to seek justice when someone dies because of another person’s wrongful act, neglect, or failure to act. According to RCW 4.20.010, if this happens, the deceased person’s personal representative, like a family member or an executor of their estate, can file a lawsuit against whoever caused the death. This lawsuit aims to get compensation for both financial losses and emotional damages that the deceased person’s family members (like spouse, children, or parents) have suffered due to the death.
The compensation can include money for economic losses, like lost income from the deceased, and non-economic damages, which are for the pain and suffering or emotional distress the deceased experienced before death and the family’s emotional pain due to the loss. A judge or jury decides the amount of compensation that’s fair.
Summary of Key FAQs
What is the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Washington? You have three years from the injury date to file.
Is the timeframe different for assault victims? Yes, the statute of limitations for assault and battery is only two years from the incident date.
How long do childhood sexual abuse victims have to file a lawsuit? Three years after realizing the abuse’s impact, extended until age 18.
What are the time limits for medical malpractice lawsuits? Three years from the incident or one year from discovery, with an eight-year absolute limit.
What types of losses can personal injury damages cover? Medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and related costs.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
If you are a personal injury victim in Washington, it’s time to take action and fight for the compensation and justice you deserve. Contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Russell & Hill, PLLC, for a free consultation about your legal options. We stand ready to advocate for your rights and will work tirelessly to secure the best possible outcome. Reach out to Russell & Hill, PLLC at (800) 529-0842 or fill out the form on our home page for a free consultation.