The state of Washington is currently seeing one of its deadliest years on record for car accidents. In spite of an increased law enforcement presence and efforts from major cities to design safer spaces, the nationwide increase in traffic crashes isn’t sparing the Evergreen state.
Read on to learn more about accident trends in Washington, important legal concepts for those involved in crashes, and how a Washington car accident attorney can help.
Experts predict that the number of miles driven will reach 977 million in 2022 in Washington. That’s a 2.2% increase compared to last year, and it’s slightly higher than the national average.
Remote work has remained a common practice post-pandemic, but commuting is still a popular option, a factor that contributes to the high number of cars on the roads. In Seattle, 43% of inhabitants work from home, but 26% are still driving to work, a number consistent with pre-pandemic levels.
Washington has a well-developed public transit network with several options available to riders, including the largest vanpool program in the U.S. However, ridership numbers are down compared to pre-pandemic levels, another factor that could contribute to the uptick in traffic crashes.
Washington Car Accident Trends and Statistics
Washington is seeing an exceptionally deadly year for car crashes. Factors like distracted driving and other unsafe practices are unfortunately contributing to this tragic trend.
Crashes are on the Rise
Police have reported over 35,000 car crashes so far this year for the state of Washington. While a majority of these accidents didn’t result in an injury, there were 382 fatalities and more than 1,500 severe injuries.
Compared to 2021, accidents are becoming more frequent and deadlier. Last year, police reported a total of approximately 103,000 crashes, with 583 fatalities and approximately 2,500 serious injuries. The year is far from over, but current numbers suggest 2022 will establish new records.
This increase in crashes isn’t a new trend. In 2021, fatalities went up 16% compared to 2020, and law enforcement reported the deadliest year on record for the past 20 years.
Types of Accidents
Data from 2021 reveals that 44% of crashes involve multiple vehicles. This trend could contribute to the higher number of deaths and severe injuries.
A majority of crashes involve cars, SUVs, or trucks, but pedestrians are at risk, too with 76 deaths so far in 2022. There were a total of 702 crashes involving pedestrians so far this year, a number that reveals the need for safer road designs.
Bicycles accounted for 14 deaths and over 950 crashes last year, while over 1,800 accidents involved motorcycles. Law enforcement reported 90 motorcycle deaths.
Distracted driving is a major issue in the Evergreen state. Police reported four fatalities linked to cell phone usage in 2021, but close to 900 accidents could result from people calling or texting behind the wheel.
Speeding has also increased since the pandemic. It was a factor in 31% of traffic fatalities reported in 2021. This percentage corresponds to 205 deaths, which is the highest number of speed-related deaths in recent Washington history.
Other unsafe driving practices are contributing to the sharp increase in crashes we’re seeing. In 2021, lane departure was a factor in 308 fatalities. Crashes happening at or near intersections led to 145 deaths. These trends could indicate that high rates of distracted driving are causing drivers to make serious mistakes.
Alcohol is another non-negligible risk factor, with 95 related fatalities reported in 2021. Data shows that more than 5,800 crashes involved impaired driving last year, which is troubling since these accidents are easily preventable.
Another report shows that cannabis use and impaired driving are widespread issues, with close to one in five fatalities reported since 2014 involving cannabis consumption.
Lastly, there are external factors contributing to the rise in traffic crashes to some extent. Last year, collisions with wildlife didn’t cause any fatalities but did result in 19 serious injuries and close to 1,700 crashes.
Some age groups seem more at risk than others. Data shows that fatal crashes involve more 21- to 25-year-olds than any other age group, followed by the 26 to 30 age group.
Teen drivers are also at risk. More than 14,000 accidents involved teens last year, with 60 fatalities.
Data also shows that 23% of drivers involved in a fatal collision had been in accidents before. This percentage suggests that reckless behaviors behind the wheel are an ongoing issue for some drivers.
Certain times are also more dangerous than others. More crashes take place between 6 and 9 P.M., followed by the 3 to 6 P.M. time window. Plus, Fridays and Saturdays see higher rates of crashes compared to the rest of the week.
Important Legal Concepts for Car Crashes in Washington
The following legal concepts shape how insurance companies and courts approach car crashes in Washington. If you were involved in an accident, a Washington car accident lawyer could help you understand and navigate these important concepts as you seek compensation.
Ordinary Negligence and Negligence Per Se
Negligence is an important concept for any personal injury case, including car accidents. In these cases, the defendant rarely causes the accident on purpose. Crashes are largely the result of mistakes.
Even though the defendant didn’t mean for the crash to happen, they are still responsible for it since the event stems from them not being careful enough. Had the defendant driven more carefully, the accident could have been avoided. This is where a Washington car accident attorney can use the concept of negligence.
There are different degrees of negligence, as some mistakes are more severe than others. When working on a personal injury case, a Washington car accident lawyer will have to determine if ordinary negligence or negligence per se applies.
Ordinary negligence happens when a person puts others in danger through their lack of care. They might commit a minor traffic infraction or fail to notice another driver.
While everyone has to follow a few rules to stay safe on the roads, the standards that apply to commercial drivers are typically higher. Something that a judge would consider a minor mistake for a non-commercial driver might lead to more severe punishment for a commercial driver, and a Washington car accident lawyer might help you obtain a larger compensation.
Negligence per se applies when a defendant commits a more serious offense. A Washington car accident attorney would invoke negligence per se if the defendant caused an accident by breaking the law.
For instance, in 2019, 37% of deadly crashes in the state of Washington involved alcohol. If a driver causes a crash because they’re driving under the influence, negligence per se will apply since they’re breaking the law.
It’s an important distinction because punishment is more severe for negligence per se cases. A judge will typically award a larger compensation to the plaintiff, and negligence per se is more difficult for the defendant to disprove.
Duty of Reasonable Care
Duty of reasonable care is an important concept for understanding negligence. The duty of reasonable care is the idea that a person should behave in a way that doesn’t put others in danger. When driving, you can fulfill your duty of reasonable care by following the rules of the road and watching out for other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
Your duty of reasonable care extends to checking other parties for injuries in an accident and calling 911 if needed.
When a Washington car accident lawyer works on a case, one of the first things they often do is define the extent of the defendant’s duty of reasonable care so they can determine if the defendant failed to perform it.
Breach of Duty
Except in some rare cases where external factors cause a car accident, most crashes result from a driver breaching their duty of reasonable care. A breach of duty means that a driver had a duty to act in a certain way but failed to do so. They might engage in unsafe driving practices or fail to pay adequate attention.
A Washington car accident lawyer will prove that a driver breached their duty of reasonable care, often by using police reports and testimonies from witnesses.
Cause and Damages
After proving that a breach of duty happened, a Washington car accident lawyer has to show that there is a connection between this failure to meet one’s duty of reasonable care and the crash.
A Washington car accident attorney will also help assess the extent of the damages. After a car crash, damages often include personal injuries and property damages. An attorney will use medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost wages, and more to show the full extent of the damages.
When negotiating directly with an insurance company, an insurance adjuster will determine the amount of the award based on the damages sustained. A Washington car accident attorney can make a difference by using evidence and testimonies from witnesses to show the full extent of the damages, so the plaintiff gets fair compensation.
Collateral Source Rule
Collateral source rules protect victims in case they receive compensation from a source that isn’t the liable driver. For instance, car crash victims sometimes receive compensation in the form of medical coverage from their insurer for injuries that result from the accident.
If a state has a no collateral source rule, the victim will receive a reduced compensation to reflect the fact that their insurer already covered a part of the damages.
Washington uses a collateral source rule. The victim can get compensated for the full amount of the damages regardless of other payments. If an insurer covers a part of the damages, the victim will receive an excess payout as a windfall. This rule ensures that at-fault drivers don’t benefit from a reduced liability.
Dram Shop Laws
Dram shop laws are important for drunk-driving cases. These laws hold establishments that serve alcohol liable.
Bars, taverns, and other places with a liquor license have a reasonable duty of care. These businesses have to protect patrons and others by not serving anyone under 21 and not serving people who are already inebriated.
If a business breaches this duty of care and a drunk driver causes an accident, the business could be liable for the damages.
Washington state has legislation regarding not serving inebriated patrons. A Washington car accident attorney can use this legislation to seek compensation from a business that fails to exercise the required level of care.
Pure Comparative Fault
Comparative fault rules determine who can seek compensation after a car crash. These rules also affect how much a driver can get based on their degree of responsibility.
Washington is a contributory fault state. This means that two or more people involved in an accident can share liability. Insurance companies and courts use a percentage system to indicate each party’s share of liability. While it’s possible to receive compensation for the full amount of the damages if a driver isn’t responsible for the crash, plaintiffs often qualify for an educed award based on their degree of responsibility.
For instance, if a person is 20% responsible for a crash, they can receive compensation of up to 80% of the damages.
A Washington car accident attorney can help by using evidence to show how the different parties involved sharing the blame. Determining this percentage is up to the discretion of an insurance adjuster or jury. A lawyer can ensure that this percentage is fair by using evidence to reconstruct what happened.
While some states have limitations regarding who can seek compensation, Washington is a pure comparative fault state. Drivers can seek compensation regardless of their share of the blame.
For instance, a driver who is 90% at fault can still seek compensation for 10% of the damages.
There are situations when a victim can seek compensation from more than one party. For instance, a passenger can receive compensation from the two drivers involved in the crash.
Top 5 Cities for Car Crashes in Washington
Last year, the most dangerous roads were state roads, which accounted for 730 reported fatalities. County roads and city streets came next, followed by interstates. Highways were less dangerous than city streets, indicating that congestion and urban planning are likely playing an important role in the high levels of car crashes Washington is seeing.
Whether you live in Washington or plan on visiting, you should be aware that these five cities are some of the worst spots for crashes.
With 11 deaths so far in 2022, Seattle has become a hotspot for car accidents. Last year, law enforcement reported a total of 548 fatalities in King County.
The most dangerous spots include the major North-South traffic axes that run through the city, including Interstate 5 and Lake City Way.
The city has a Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths by 2030. The city government is working on reducing the average of 10,000 car crashes annually by reducing speed limits and taking steps to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.
Interstate 5 is one of the most dangerous roads in Seattle, but it also goes through nearby Tacoma. Last year, the area within a one-mile radius of the South 84th Street exit saw six deaths.
The city is currently working on adopting a Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities.
With 145 crashes reported in Clark County last year, Vancouver is another spot where drivers should exercise care. Data reveals that I-5, I-205, and US Route 14 are some of the most dangerous axes for accidents.
According to local law enforcement, distracted driving is the number one reason for traffic crashes in Vancouver.
Fifty-seven people died on Spokane County roads last year. According to police, speeding was a contributing factor in a third of these fatalities, and impaired driving is another consistent issue.
East Trent Avenue is one of the most dangerous spots, with four deaths so far this year. The section of I-90 that leads into the city is another risky axis, and six fatal crashes happened on North Nevada Street or at nearby intersections.
Located in central Washington, Yakima isn’t as populated as the West Coast cities. However, it’s a city where fatalities doubled between 2018 and 2021, and officials believe 2022 will be the worst year yet.
In 2021, there were 15 traffic-related deaths within a 10-mile radius around the city, including four deaths in the Washington Park neighborhood.
How a Washington Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
As car crash rates continue to rise, 2022 could be one of the worst years on record. To turn this trend around, it’s more important than ever to exercise caution when driving or seek alternatives, such as using public transit.
For those involved in car crashes, there are legal resources available. Washington law protects victims and allows everyone to seek compensation under the pure comparative fault rule.
Working with a Washington car accident lawyer can make a difference. A legal representative can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, represent you in court, and ensure that you receive fair compensation.
Accident.com can help you find an experienced Washington car accident attorney.