Drunk driving is on the rise in Washington. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 2022 was the deadliest year for drivers in over 30 years. And even when crashes aren’t fatal, they can cause significant injury. If you are injured by a drunk driver in Washington, you have the right to seek damages through a civil claim. Possible monetary damages include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and more. But every civil claim has a time limit, known as a statute of limitations. Learn more about Washington state’s drunk driving statute of limitations and how Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner can help you recover.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time someone has to initiate legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal. The length of time the statute allows you to bring legal action varies based on the jurisdiction and the nature of the claim. Usually this time starts ticking on the date of the incident leading to the claim, but there are some exceptions.
- Minority. If the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin to run until they turn 18.
- Discovery rule. Sometimes, a victim doesn’t experience or recognize symptoms of an injury until after the accident. The discovery rule allows the victim to delay the start of the statute of limitations running until the date they discovered the injury.
- Evading justice. If the defendant intentionally evades justice, the statute of limitations can be paused. A common example is the defendant leaving the state to avoid being served.
If you think one of these exceptions applies to your situation, contact a Washington personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Drunk Driving Cases in Washington?
Washington State has a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. Unless an exception applies, a victim has three years from the date of the incident to initiate legal action. If you were injured by a drunk driver, you generally have three years from the date of the accident to file your claim. If you lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, you have three years from the date of the victim’s death to file.
Driving under the influence or DUI charges are criminal and have a different statute of limitations than a personal injury claim for a drunk driving car accident. In some cases, a DUI victim may be asked to testify in court.
Proving Liability in a Washington Drunk Driving Accident
In Washington State, drunk drivers are considered to be negligent per se or negligent as a matter of fact. This makes proving liability easier than with other personal injury cases.
Drunk driving laws were created to keep everyone safe, so violating Washington’s DUI law is automatically considered negligent under the law. Instead of proving that the driver’s actions were negligent, a victim needs to demonstrate only that the driver violated the law and that their actions caused the victim’s injuries. If the police were involved after the incident, this can be easy to prove. Even if the police did not charge the driver with DUI, the victim can still present evidence to argue that they were in fact driving drunk. This can consist of video evidence, witness statements, dashcam footage, and more.
Recoverable Damages in a Drunk Driving Case
A drunk driving victim can generally recover a range of compensatory damages. Compensatory damages include:
- Medical bills,
- Lost wages,
- Loss of earning capacity,
- Future medical needs,
- Property damage,
- Emotional trauma,
- Physical pain, and
- Reduced quality of life.
This list is not exhaustive. Unlike other states, Washington State does not allow for punitive damages in drunk driving accidents. The state believes that compensatory damages are sufficient.
Trust Our Attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner
If you were injured in an accident by a drunk driver, it can be a scary time for you and your family. At Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, we have built our reputation on the belief that an injury claim is a major event in a client’s life. With over 50 years of experience and millions collected on behalf of those we represent, we provide honest and dedicated representation to those injured in accidents throughout Washington State. If you have a question about the drunk driving statute of limitations, we have the experience and expertise to help. To schedule a consultation, call one of our six offices statewide, or fill out our online contact form to get started today.