Understanding Washington State’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims

Statute of limitations sign, book and gavel - personal injury statute of limitations concept

If you were injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to file a personal injury action. However, it’s important to understand that you only have a limited amount of time to bring a legal action to recover your damages. While most negligence claims in Washington must be filed within three years, it’s vital to be aware that there are various exceptions to the personal injury statute of limitations. There are also other administrative deadlines to be aware of — such as those involved in Workers’ Compensation matters, if you have an L&I claim.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

Every state imposes a statute of limitations on different types of legal actions. This refers to the maximum amount of time you have to initiate a legal proceeding. After the deadline, you would no longer be able to file a lawsuit unless an exception applies.

Statutes of limitation are implemented to ensure lawsuits are handled in a timely manner. They also prevent the facts surrounding the lawsuit from becoming obscured — and help to ensure evidence and witnesses are still available. In addition, statutes of limitation are meant to prevent people from filing drawn out lawsuits solely for harassment purposes and to protect defendants from being subjected to the constant threat of a lawsuit.

What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Washington?

In Washington, the personal injury statute of limitations for most cases involving negligence is three years. This means you have three years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit against the party (or parties) who should be held accountable for your injuries. The deadline applies to car accidents, slip and falls, trip and falls, pedestrian knockdowns, truck wrecks, premises liability cases, wrongful death matters, and other personal injury actions. Generally, if you do not file a claim within the statute of limitations, you will lose your right to seek compensation through the civil system.

Notably, Washington’s three-year statute of limitations does not apply to all types of personal injury cases. The deadline for filing a lawsuit for certain intentional torts is two years. This can apply to legal actions for assault and battery, false imprisonment, and defamation. In addition, the medical malpractice statute of limitations is three years from the date the malpractice occurred, or one year from the date you discovered the injury caused by the malpractice — whichever is later.

What are the Exceptions to Washington’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims?

In some cases, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury action in Washington can be extended. There are a number of exceptions that may apply, depending on the facts of your case. For instance, exceptions to Washington’s personal injury statute of limitations include the following:

  • Claims involving minors — In Washington state, a parent can file a claim on behalf of their child within three years from the date of the accident. However, an individual who was a minor at the time of the accident can file a claim on their own up to three years past their 18th birthday.
  • Claims involving the government — If your personal injury action is against the state or a local government, there are different procedures involved. First, you must give the government written notice of your claim before you can file a lawsuit. You then must wait at least 60 days before you file a lawsuit in court.
  • Cases where the defendant is absent from the state — The personal injury statute of limitations might not run if the defendant in the case leaves the state or goes into hiding.
  • Claims involving incapacitation — If the plaintiff is incapacitated for the three years of the statute of limitations, it may be “tolled” and the clock would stop running during that time.

Every personal injury case is unique and it’s essential to have a skillful personal injury attorney by your side who can best advise you regarding the statute of limitations in your matter. But you should not wait until the last minute to seek counsel — your attorney will still need time to investigate your claim, collect the necessary evidence, and prepare your lawsuit.

Contact an Experienced Washington Personal Injury Attorney

If you were hurt due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit. It’s best to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side who can help ensure you comply with the applicable statute of limitations and your rights are protected. With locations in Burien and Bellevue, Herron Law Office, PLLC is dedicated to recovering the maximum compensation to which you’re entitled for your injuries. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation to discuss your case by calling (425) 600-2580.