Spokane Lawyers and Washington Negligence Law

Spokane Lawyers can help you understand Washington negligence law and all the pertinent regulations. Washington negligence law requires that an individual provide a reasonable amount of care to all others.

A person who fails to provide a reasonable amount of care to others, thus resulting in injury to another, is said to be negligent.

Negligence may result from an individual’s actions if the individual fails to provide due care for others during the course of those actions. Alternatively, under more limited circumstances, negligence may result from an individual’s inaction. To prove liability resulting from negligence, Spokane lawyers must prove four elements:

Duty – Breach – Causation – Damages

Duty- negligence law provides that persons have a duty to provide “reasonable care” to all “foreseeable” persons and property.

CommentUnlike contract law, where an individual must enter into a contract to be liable under contract law, every human being is capable of committing a tort. Note: jurisdictions may specify a minimum age under which a child is incapable of committing a tort.

The existence of a duty is determined using the following definitions:

Reasonable care – the requirement of reasonable care specifies that every human being owes a duty of “reasonable care” to all others.

Reasonable care is the standard used by a finder of fact (i.e. jury) to determine if a negligent act has been committed. The standard requires a determination of “whether a reasonable person in a similar situation would have acted in a similar manner.”

Example– Chad leaves his skateboard on the stairs that lead to the basement of his home. Biff, a visitor in Chad’s home, is injured when he steps on the skateboard.

The reasonable care issue is whether a reasonable person would have removed the skateboard from the stairs, or taken some other precaution to avoid the injury. Other precautions could include notifying Biff that the skateboard was on the stairs or closing off entry to the stairs.

Malpractice– malpractice is a heightened standard of reasonable care.

Malpractice refers to a standard of care owed by professionals (Spokane lawyers are also held to this standard). The law holds lawyers, doctors, and other professionals to a higher standard of care because of the specialized training they receive.

The difference between ordinary negligence and malpractice is that when Spokane lawyers determine reasonableness the ordinary negligence standard compares an individual’s activity to a reasonable person in the whole population, whereas the malpractice standard compares a professional’s activity to a reasonable professional in the field (e.g., the actions of a doctor are compared to what other doctors would do). Thus, under malpractice standards a professional is held to a higher standard.

Foreseeability- the requirement of foreseeability specifies that every individual is only required to provide reasonable care to prevent “foreseeable injuries.” Before liability for negligence can occur, a finder of fact must determine whether a reasonable person would be able to anticipate the injury that has occurred to the plaintiff.

That is, would a reasonable person in a situation similar to the defendant’s situation, have been able to foresee that an injury similar to the defendant’s injury would occur. If the injury is not foreseeable, then Spokane lawyers would probably conclude that the defendant is not liable for the plaintiff’s injury.

Example– Chad leaves his skateboard on the stairs that lead to the basement of his home. Biff, a visitor in Chad’s home, is injured when he steps on the skateboard. The foreseeability issue is whether a reasonable person could foresee that someone could be injured due to the skateboard being left on the stairs.

Example– Al decides to dry his laundry outside in the fresh air. Al hangs a line ten feet off the ground. Bill comes to visit Al on his novelty bicycle that is eight feet high and is injured when he is entangled in Al’s laundry. Al has not failed to provide reasonable care because it was not foreseeable that somebody would ride an eight-foot bicycle onto his property.

CommentSome Spokane lawyers, some professors (and some Washington courts) approach the issue of reasonability from an economic perspective. To determine what is reasonable, this approach considers the amount of foreseeable damages (in dollars) that could result from the defendant’s activity; call the foreseeable amount of damages “L” (for liability).

Next, consider the probability that such damages will occur; call the probability P. According to this approach, a reasonable individual should take all precautions that cost less than P x L. Please note that this approach is very idealized. It is very often difficult, if not impossible, to place meaningful values on P and L.

Example– Consider the following scenario. Jimmy is backing out of his driveway. Foreseeable injuries include hitting a pedestrian and hitting a car. For the sake of argument, assume that the maximum amount of injury that could result is $1,000,000. Also, for the sake of argument, assume that the chance of a $1,000,000 injury occurring is 1%. Therefore, P x L is $10,000 (that is, 1% times $1,000,000).

Now consider precautions that Jimmy can take to avoid injury. He can look before he proceeds; the cost of looking is much less than $10,000. Therefore, it is reasonable for Jimmy to look before exiting his driveway. If Jimmy fails to look both ways and this results in an accident, Jimmy will have failed the duty of reasonable care (i.e., he is negligent) and will be liable for the resulting damage.

Another option for Jimmy to take in order to avoid injury to others is that he could build his car out of foam rubber. (Note, although this option is humorous, it makes the point.) The cost of designing and building such a car is considerably greater than $10,000. Therefore, in a jurisdiction that employs the economic approach to reasonableness, it is not reasonable to require Jimmy to build his car out of foam rubber (some Spokane lawyers will argue that it is reasonable). That is, failure of Jimmy to make his car out of foam rubber is not negligent behavior, and Jimmy would not breach his duty of care if he injured a pedestrian because he failed to make his car out of foam rubber.

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See our articles about this area of law:
Overview of this area of law
Washington negligence law
Negligence: Duty and Breach
Negligence: Causation
Negligence: Remedies and Damages
Defenses to Negligence
Spokane car accidents
Washington products liability
Bodily injury, fault, and other issues
Personal injury claims
Types of Liability Claims
Dealing with insurance companies
Intentional Injuries
Going to trial – overview

Washington State Legal Resources

Revised Code of Washington
Washington Attorney General
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Legal Research Database and Books
Spokane Bankruptcy Attorney