Washington is a large and beautiful state, from our lush rainforests to our awe-inspiring mountains. Our state holds plenty of natural and man-made wonders for anyone to come and visit. Already, our state welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year to come and explore what we have to offer.
While this attention stimulates our economy, it also adds to the risks on the road. More drivers on the roads means more potential for accidents, especially if the out-of-state drivers do not know our laws well. You very well may find yourself in a collision with one of these tourists, perhaps suffering severe injuries in the process. While the driver may not be from the same state as you, there are still steps you can take with the help of a Vancouver WA car accident attorney to ensure that you are not only compensated for your damages and injuries, but also the cost of any medical treatments and lost income.
How does accident compensation work?
If you are in a car accident with an out-of-state driver, you should know that Washington State is a pure contributory state. A pure contributory state means that even if someone is 40% responsible for an accident that caused them harm, they can still receive compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit; however, the total amount of the compensation that they may recover will be reduced by 40 percent.
Other states, such Idaho and Oregon, follow contrasting compensation laws. Both states follow modified comparative negligence laws. Under these laws, if a victim is found to be at least 50% liable for the accident, then they cannot receive compensation at all. What this means for you is that Washington has more lenient negligence laws than its border states, barring you from receiving compensation only in the event you are 100% at fault.
How to file a claim against an at-fault driver
Filing a claim against an out-of-state driver is very similar to filing a claim against an in-state driver. Generally, in a claim, the process is handled by you, your attorney, and other driver’s insurance company. It’s very possible that after the accident, you may actually never see the other driver again. Most of the focus of your claim will be directed toward the insurance company. Insurance laws vary from state to state, with Washington making it illegal to drive without a minimum amount of car insurance – at least $25,000 for injuries or death to another person.
Motorists from outside the state may have to meet different minimums for their car insurance requirements, and as they may not match yours, it would be prudent to also have an uninsured/underinsured policy as well. This type of policy protects you when the at-fault driver does not have any or enough insurance to cover the cost of your injuries and losses.
Insurance companies are often difficult and complicated to deal with, as these for-profit businesses seek to bolster their profits by paying accident victims as little money as possible for their claim. This is why you should have an attorney with you when dealing with these companies. Attempting to file a claim on your own may only have the insurance company delaying your coverage, offering too little to cover your injuries, and possibly attempting to blame you for the collision. An attorney by your side will work to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
What are common injuries from car accidents?
Car accidents are nothing to be overlooked. They may be common (relatively), but in 2021, there were 663 car accident fatalities in Washington alone; In the United States of that same year, 42,915 died in car collisions total. If you are in one of these accidents and you are fortunate enough to survive, you may very well still suffer from severe injuries such as:
- Traumatic brain injuries. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a severe injury because damage to the brain can be fatal if not treated immediately. When the head is hit by a strong enough force, it can cause abrasions and bruises to the brain, leading to swelling and internal bleeding.
- Spinal cord damage. Like TBIs, spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are severe injuries. When damage is done to the spine, it disrupts the body’s main thoroughfare for information sent from the brain. A spinal cord injury can leave you fully or partially paralyzed, requiring help with your mobility possibly for the rest of your life.
- A traumatic amputation can happen at the site of your accident or later at the hospital. This happens when a limb is damaged so extensively that it is severed immediately, or cannot be saved later when examined by doctors.
- Broken bones. While broken bones may be a common injury, that does not mean that they are easy to deal with. Some fractures can take weeks or months to heal, and may leave you unable to work and collect an income.
- Burn injuries. As cars are combustible, automobile accidents can lead to severe burns. These burns can vary from first to third degree, with third degree being the most injurious. These types of burns leave victims in agonizing pain during the long and risky healing process. Burn injuries are far more susceptible to dangerous infections, and often leave the victim with disfiguring scars.
In the worst-case scenario, should a loved one die due to a car accident, the surviving family members – on behalf of their beneficiaries – have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault parties.
We don’t want tourists to stop coming to our wonderful state. The revenue they bring helps to fund our beautiful state parks and small businesses. What we do want are safer roads. Make sure to drive carefully this summer as out-of-staters drive along our highways and rural roads. However, if you are ever in an accident with an out-of-state tourist, don’t hesitate to call Philbrook Law Office. Our experienced car accident attorneys will ensure that your pain and suffering will not go unnoticed. We can help. To schedule an appointment, call us at 360-695-3309 or use our contact page. We proudly serve the communities of Vancouver WA, and Battle Ground.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.