WA State Drivers have a Legal Duty to Act with Reasonable Care on the Road – Automobile Accidents Legal Blogs Posted by Michael John Tario


In Washington state, drivers have a legal duty to act with reasonable care on the road. The standard of care is important for determining fault/liability and proving negligence in car accidents. In personal injury claims the following four elements must be proved for a successful claim:

1. A duty to exercise reasonable care existed
2. This duty was breached through negligent action(s)
3. Injuries were caused by the negligent action(s)
4. Actual damages were suffered such as pain and suffering and medical bills

The Legal Duty to Act with Reasonable Care on the Road in Washington State


Whether you’re a commercial driver or a parent driving your kids to practice, you have a legal obligation to every other driver, passenger, cyclist, motorcyclist, and pedestrian on the road every time you get behind the wheel. The actions that a driver takes leading up to a car accident may be assessed for whether they met the standard of a “reasonable person” in a similar situation. For example, if a driver runs a red light and crashes into traffic driving through a green light, it may be deemed that the driver acted negligently and failed to act with reasonable care on the road.

If it is determined that a driver’s actions deviated from the behavior that would be expected of a reasonable person in a similar circumstance, then that driver may have acted negligently. Car insurance companies will use any evidence they can find to show that it was not their client’s negligence that led to the accident. Experienced car accident lawyers have the skills to overcome arguments made by insurance companies. In a personal injury lawsuit, it is up to the jury to decide whether a person violated the standard of care.

What is reasonable care?

While the term itself may sound vague, it is actually fairly simple to come up with a list of driving behaviors that fall outside the standard of care. Here are some examples:

• Driving while intoxicated
• Speeding
• Street racing
• Running a red light
• Failing to stop at a stop sign
• Making a lane change without looking or yielding the right of way
• Aggressive driving behaviors such as tailgating and weaving in and out of traffic without using turn signals

Some accidents involve driving behaviors that don’t obviously fall under the category of a failure to act with reasonable care. In situations where it may be more difficult to determine liability, it is even more important to seek the help of a qualified car accident attorney.

How personal injury lawyers use the standard of reasonable care to fight for a fair settlement

A standard of reasonable care is established and car accident lawyers gather evidence such as police reports, witness statements, and expert testimony to show how the at-fault driver violated the standard of reasonable care, how the violation caused the accident, and prove that damages resulted from the accident.

In addition to the evidence they gathered, personal injury lawyers come prepared to the negotiating table with a calculation of all the injuries and losses suffered by their client so they can negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement. If a fair settlement cannot be negotiated out of court, the lawyer will represent their client in court where a jury will decide what a fair settlement will be.

Seek the help of a car accident lawyer

If you or a loved one was injured in a collision because of the negligence of another, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights. Let an experienced car accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a lawyer. Call the personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!

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