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  • Writer's pictureRachel Scott

Single-Vehicle Accidents: Unraveling Liability and Legal Rights in Greater Seattle

Car accidents are an unfortunate reality for many people. Even the most attentive and cautious drivers can find themselves rear-ended by another driver, seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes, inclement weather conditions can negatively impact the safety of traveling along Washington roadways, leading to vehicle collisions. When most people hear the term “car accident,” they assume that the incident involves at least two vehicles. However, there are times when a driver loses control of their car or truck and collides with a guardrail, snow bank, or other structure on the side of the road. These incidents are called single-vehicle accidents, and it’s commonly assumed that the driver’s negligence or recklessness caused the collision. The reality is that many drivers involved in a single-vehicle accident are not at fault for the collision—factors like hazardous road conditions or vehicle defects may be responsible for causing the accident. This post will explore liability issues in single-vehicle accidents and provide some guidance on how to pursue compensation following such an event in the greater Seattle area.



Washington is a Fault-Based Accident State

Like many states, Washington is considered an “at-fault” accident state. This means that the party responsible for causing a vehicle collision is financially responsible for any damages incurred by their negligent or reckless actions. For example, if the driver of another car was texting behind the wheel and ran a red light because they were distracted (colliding into your vehicle), they would bear responsibility for the accident. You would have the right to seek compensation from the at-fault party for any medical costs, lost wages, and other damages associated with the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident. Single-vehicle accidents follow similar procedures for determining fault; sometimes, the driver’s actions may be to blame, but there are times in which other parties (or factors) may be responsible for causing the accident.


Common Examples of Single-Vehicle Accidents in Washington

By definition, single-vehicle accidents involve only one motorist. There are several reasons that a driver may crash their vehicle, such as driving under the influence (DUI), engaging in distracting behaviors (like texting or taking their eyes off the road), or exceeding posted speed limits and losing control of the vehicle. While these are all examples of reckless or negligent drivers, many other factors beyond the driver’s control can cause a single-vehicle accident. For instance, poor visibility or inclement weather conditions like ice and snow can interfere with the driver’s ability to maintain control of the vehicle. Some drivers may experience a sudden loss of engine power or another vehicle defect that jeopardizes the safety of their car. If a pedestrian or other object suddenly appears in the road, the driver may have to swerve to avoid hitting the obstacle, causing them to collide with a guardrail or barrier. In some cases, a medical emergency like a heart attack or stroke can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.


Determining Liability in Single-Vehicle Accidents

If you suffered an injury in a single-vehicle accident that was not your fault, you have the right to pursue compensation to support the financial aspects of your recovery (i.e., medical bills, lost wages, physical therapy costs, medications, etc.). However, you will need to prove that another party is responsible for causing the collision, which can be challenging to establish without the assistance of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. Your lawyer can help you investigate the collision and gather evidence to demonstrate that another party is liable for the incident, therefore entitling you to secure compensation from the at-fault party. In single-vehicle collision accidents, the at-fault party may be a reckless pedestrian, a government entity that failed to keep the road safe and free from hazards, or a vehicle manufacturer that produced the defective car that caused your accident. According to RCW 4.22.015, fault encompasses “unreasonable failure to avoid an injury or to mitigate damages.” Your attorney will assess the specifics of your case to identify the at-fault party and compile evidence illustrating this party’s liability.


How to Recover a Settlement From the At-Fault Party

Essentially, a successful single-vehicle accident claim needs to prove four facts for the individual to recover a settlement. First, you must demonstrate that the at-fault party owed you a duty of care. For example, an auto manufacturer must produce safe, fully-tested vehicles for consumers. Next, you will need to show that the at-fault party breached the duty of care, like failing to inspect the make and model for safety defects. Then, you must show that the at-fault party’s breach of duty caused your accident. For instance, the defective vehicle made driving hazardous and caused the car to crash. Finally, you need to establish that the collision resulted in damages that you may collect in your lawsuit against the at-fault party. It’s critical to provide ample and compelling evidence to support your claim, so consider enlisting the guidance of a knowledgeable Seattle personal injury attorney to maximize your chances of recovering the compensation you deserve.


A Successful Claim Starts at the Scene of the Accident

You can take specific actions at the accident scene that lay the groundwork for a strong and successful auto accident claim. Even if you are the only driver involved in the accident, it’s important to contact the police to report the incident. The responding officer can compile a police report, which will serve as an objective account of the factors involved in the crash (including weather conditions or other hazards). Seek medical attention as soon as possible so a doctor can document your injuries. The medical records created by this visit will help to quantify the physical and financial fallout from the accident. It’s also best to contact a trusted and experienced attorney as soon as possible so they can get to work investigating the incident and identifying the party responsible for the collision.


If you need help pursuing compensation after sustaining an auto accident injury in the Seattle area, call Scott & Scott, PLLC, today at (206) 622-2200 to discuss your options with a dedicated and experienced personal injury attorney.


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