Personal injury claims are complicated. In some cases, multiple parties may share the culpability for the same accident. Washington is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. In effect, this means that each defendant will be liable for the proportionate share of the blame for an accident. However, there are some circumstances in which one defendant may not be able to pay.
While these create some serious challenges for injured victims, there may be options available. In a personal injury claim with multiple defendants, the legal concept of joint and several liability can come into play. Here, our Spokane personal injury attorney explains the key things that injured victims should know about joint and several liability and the legal claims process in Washington.
Joint and Several Liability: Defined
The Cornell Legal Information Institute defines joint and several liability as a legal doctrine that holds that when two or more parties share legal responsibility for an incident they can be held “independently liable for the full extent of the injuries stemming from the tortious act.” Put another way, when implicated, joint and several liability means each party may be held fully responsible for an injured victim even if they are each only partially responsible for the accident.
Joint and Several Liability is Not Applicable to Every Personal Injury Claim
It is important to emphasize that joint and several liability is not applicable in every personal injury claim in Washington State. There are limitations. Indeed, Washington’s comparative negligence law (RCW 4.22.070) holds that liability for an accident is “severable”—meaning that joint and several liability does not apply unless one of the listed exceptions is met. Here are some key exceptions listed in the statute:
- Defendants Acting in Concert or as an Agent: Joint and several liability applies when both the defendants were acting in concert or one defendant was acting as the agent of the other party.
- Plaintiff is Free From Any Fault: Joint and several liability applies in Washington in all cases in which the plaintiff (injured victim) is free from fault.
The second exception listed above is crucial: If you were injured in an accident in Eastern Washington and you bear no fault, then all defendants in your case bear joint and several liability. If one defendant cannot pay for your damages, the other defendant is independently responsible for the full extent of your accident—even if they were found to be only partially at-fault.
Call Our Spokane, WA Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
At Albrecht Law PLLC, our Spokane personal injury lawyers fight aggressively to help our clients get the best outcome in their case. You deserve full financial compensation. If you have any specific questions about joint and several liability, we are here to help. Reach out to us by phone or contact us online to set up a no cost, no obligation. Our attorneys advocate for the rights of injured victims all over East Washington, such as in Spokane Valley, Opportunity, Veradale, and Airway Heights.