Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

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Tactics Employed To Weaken Washington Auto Accident Claim

Posted Monday, July 11, 2016 by Chris Thayer

Insurance companies play a big part in any personal injury lawsuit. Whether you are injured in an auto accident or sued as a result of an auto accident, you can reasonably expect to deal with an insurance adjuster or an insurance company’s attorneys when negotiating a settlement. It is not unusual that an insurance company or the opposing party will assert defenses to your claim to avoid liability or try to lessen the amount of any payout. Understanding the defendant’s arguments is essentially in developing a strong case. Knowing your case’s weaknesses is advantageous because your attorney can spin those weaknesses in a favorable light.

Two Categories of Defenses

Defenses to an insurance claim or lawsuit generally fall into two categories: legal and factual. Legal defenses refer to a situation in which a claim is prohibited because of a law or rule. Factual defenses depend on the facts of the case, the degree of fault by the parties, and whether the injured party took action to lessen the effects of the damages from an auto accident.

Common Legal Defenses In A Washington Auto Accident Claim

Common Factual Defenses In A Washington Auto Accident Claim

The facts of your case determine how your case will be handled.

Plaintiff was Negligent:This refers to the degree of fault by both parties in an auto accident case. It is often the case in car accidents that both parties bear some responsibility for the accident and any fault or monetary award is apportioned between the parties. Pursuant to Washington RWC §4.22.005, you are entitled to recover your damages less the proportion of your fault. For example, the jury finds you are 60% at fault and awards you $100,000 for your injuries and loss. Your award is reduced by 60% so your take home award will be $40,000.

Intervening Act:This refers to a situation where there is another act that actually (1) causes the accident that was neither the fault of the plaintiff or the defendant, or (2) causes or worsens the plaintiff’s injuries. An example would be if a truck topples over on the freeway due to the truck driver’s negligence. The defendant swerves to avoid hitting the truck and runs into the plaintiff’s car. Metal from the toppled truck hits both the plaintiff and the defendant’s cars and causes the actual injuries to both parties. In this situation, defendant’s liability for plaintiff’s injuries could be either zero or significantly reduced since the truck driver’s negligence was the main cause for the accident.

Superseding Act: This refers to an unforeseeable situation that occurs after an auto accident whereby the superseding act causes most or all of the damage to plaintiff. For example, defendant is driving on a residential street, changes lanes too fast and bumps plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff and defendant pull over to exchange insurance information. A few minutes later, a third car runs a stop sign and side swipes plaintiff’s legally parked car causing damage to plaintiff’s car and both the plaintiff and defendant. In this situation, the third party’s act likely caused most or all of the damage and the defendant would likely have less or no liability.

Plaintiff failed to mitigate damages: Every injured party has a duty to lessen any damages incurred as a result of an auto accident if they can. If an injured party fails to do so, that could be a valid defense to a legal claim. For example, plaintiff and defendant are both driving. Defendant’s car hits plaintiff’s car, breaks a window, and cracks the plaintiff’s windshield. The parties both pull over to exchange insurance information and there are visible cuts on plaintiff’s hands from the broken glass. Plaintiff does not seek medical attention and those cuts become so infected that plaintiff’s hand is permanently damaged. In this example, it would be difficult for plaintiff to recover the full amount of any physical damages since plaintiff could have sought medical attention but failed to do so, thus worsening plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant would have little or no liability if the plaintiff’s injuries were attributed to the plaintiff’s failure to act.