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How to file a tort claim in Washington State

A gavel is sitting on a desk in a legal office, on a blog about how to file a tort claim

What’s a tort claim anyway? 

Tort, I prefer raspberry. Wait, that’s a tart. So what’s a tort, then? Tort is the area of law concerning personal injury, which includes things like motor vehicle accidents, premises and product liability injuries, and even the civil side of assault cases. In short, a tort claim is made by an injured party (plaintiff) against the party allegedly having caused the injury (defendant). 

What is the difference between a tort and a personal injury claim?

Personal injuries are a type of tort claim. Tort law is, with respect to personal harm, injury, damage, etc., just the civil side of the law rather than criminal. Let me use a hypothetical example: Let’s say a football player in the 90s — we’ll call him Apple Drink Sampson, was accused of murder. At his criminal trial, his defense attorneys were able to cast enough “reasonable doubt” (the burden of proof) to make a jury decide they could not convict him of the crime. 

However, in civil court, the burden of proof is lower than that of a preponderance of evidence. Basically, that burden is whether the jury finds that the defendant is more likely than not the cause of the harm alleged. In our example, the criminal jury didn’t think there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but the civil jury did decide that our defendant was more likely than not the cause of the death. So, he didn’t go to jail, but Apple Drink Sampson had to pay the victim’s family money.

Types of torts

  • Personal injuries
    • Motor vehicle accidents
    • Injuries from slip and fall (depending on the location of the accident)
    • Products liability cases
    • Personal assaults (civil, not criminal)
  • Property damage claims
    • Damage from negligent driving (Someone zigs when they should have zagged and parks their Subaru in your living room)
    • Damage to your car caused by the at-fault driver after a motor vehicle accident

Filing a tort claim in Washington State

Often in Washington State, a tort claim is filed with the tortfeasor’s (at-fault party’s) insurance company. If the tortfeasor is underinsured (or has no insurance at all), or if the insurance company is not cooperating or refusing to pay, a claim can be filed in Superior Court (subject to the Statute of Limitations). Either party can timely appeal the Superior Court decision to the Court of Appeals, and ultimately the Supreme Court of Washington.

What happens after I file my claim? 

After filing a claim with an insurance company, be prepared to wait. First, the insurance company will ask about the damages you are alleging, and any medical or property repair expenses incurred. Then they may reject your claim outright — or have an in-house adjuster determine the extent of damages. They may also try to offer you a very small sum of money to get you to go away (the lowball offer).

The different avenues this process can take are many but count on the fact that the insurance company won’t be cutting any reasonable checks without a fight. 

After filing a claim in Superior Court, be prepared to wait. The judicial system isn’t known for being fast; civil matters generally take a backseat to criminal cases. Therefore, you’ll likely get pushed if the criminal docket is full and cases take longer than expected. 

The important thing to remember here is that the Statute of Limitations is satisfied with the filing, so even though it’s hard to wait for your day in court, rest assured that once you’ve filed, the clock is no longer running on that timeline.

Tort claim frequently asked questions

What are some common tort claims?

  • Personal injury 
  • Property damage 
  • Product liability 
  • Intentional torts 

How long does it take to file a tort claim?

In some cases, a tort claim can be filed relatively quickly, within a few weeks or months of the incident. However, the process may take longer in more complex cases involving extensive investigations or negotiations, sometimes stretching out over several months or even years.

Handle your claim with Carlisle + Byers  

If you or a loved one have experienced a personal injury in Washington State and believe you have a valid tort claim, don’t hesitate to take action. Filing a tort claim can be complex, but with the right legal support, you can seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses. 

At Carlisle + Byers, our team of experienced personal injury attorneys is dedicated to providing exceptional legal services and guiding you through every step of the process. Contact us for a free consultation today, and let us help you fight for your rights.