Until 1973 Washington followed a rule of contributory negligence under which is an injury victim was partially at fault, even partially, this was a complete defense to the injury claim. This lead to many harsh results and exceptions to the rule.[1]

A comparative negligence statute went into effect in 1974 that eliminated the contributory negligence rule of a complete bar to recovery and replaced it with a rule that the plaintiff’s claim is lowered by the proportion of the plaintiff’s fault.[2]

In 1981 the comparative fault rule was expanded from “negligence” to encompass “fault”, a broader concept [3].

The injured plaintiff’s negligence does not reduce the award if the defendant’s acts were intentional.[4] However, among multiple defendants damages must be segregated between damages caused by intentional acts and damages caused for non-intentional acts.[5]

As juries are inclined to place most blame on those committing intentional acts and insurance policies virtually always exclude intentional acts an injured plaintiff’s claim may be largely unrecoverable.


[1] See, for example, Stokes v. Johnstone, 47 Wn.2d 323, 287 P. (2d) 472 (1955)(The last clear chance doctrine not applied when the defendant blinded by plaintiff’s headlights).

[2] RCW 4.22.101(repealed), 4.22.010 (repealed).

[3] RCW 4.22.050.

[4] Honegger v. Yoke’s Washington Foods, Inc., 83 Wn.App. 293, 921 P.2d 1080(1996); Welch v. Southland Corp., 134 Wn.2d 629 (1998).

[5] Tegman v. Accident & Medical Investigations, Inc., 150 Wn.2d 102 (2003).