Not all personal injury claims in Washington State are legitimate. In fact, you could face penalties if you file what is considered a “frivolous” lawsuit in this state because it’s considered a waste of the court’s time. This is one of several reasons you need to speak to a car crash lawyer before you file in court; he or she will review your case and make sure it’s valid before you waste your time and your money on filing fees.
Before you move forward with your personal injury claim, here’s what to know about legitimate claims versus frivolous cases in Washington.
What Is a Frivolous Lawsuit?
In general, the courts have defined lawsuits as frivolous when the case isn’t supported by reasonable arguments supported by the facts of the case or the law. In short, if your personal injury case doesn’t make any sense factually or in a legal sense, it’s very likely frivolous.
How Do I Know If My Claim Is Valid?
In Washington, there is a set of rules known as the Superior Court Civil Rules that tell people how to comply with the state’s laws when filing a civil lawsuit such as a personal injury claim. Rule 11 of the set says that people filing a lawsuit must ensure that any papers filed in court are supported by both the law and the factual evidence in the case. People who are filing are expected to do a “reasonable inquiry” and ensure that the filing meets Rule 11. An inquiry is viewed as reasonable if it’s what the majority of people would do under the same set of circumstances.
Are There Examples of Frivolous Lawsuits?
There are many examples of lawsuits found to be frivolous by the court. One very clear example is the case of Richard Overton. In 1991, he filed a lawsuit against a beer company for false advertising. At the time, the company was running ads that showed the beer could make beautiful women appear on the beach. Overton sued the beer company for psychological and emotional distress because he did not have the visions depicted in the commercials. The case was later dropped, but it was frivolous because no reasonable person would believe a clear fantasy ad was a valid promise from the company about the effects of its products.
Another example is the case of Karen Norman. Her parents sued a car manufacturer after she was not able to release her seat belt when her car ended up in the water and she drowned. While this sounds legitimate on the surface, Norman had a very high blood alcohol level at the time of the crash and should not have been driving in the first place, and her passenger was able to swim to safety. This pointed to inebriation as being the likely reason for her trouble with the seat belt and not the way it was designed or made.
What Are the Consequences of a Frivolous Lawsuit?
Both the person filing and his or her attorney can get into trouble when a frivolous lawsuit is filed in Washington. The court can order the person who brought the claim to pay the reasonable expenses of the sued party, including legal fees, if it finds no reasonable cause for the lawsuit. The party who was sued can ask the court for these fees when the case is dropped or thrown out of the court, and the judge will go over the evidence and decide. The request for fees must be filled within 30 days of the order to dismiss the case.
Speak to a car crash lawyer before you file your case to avoid being part of a frivolous lawsuit. Even people with good intentions and a genuine case could make their claim look frivolous if they do not apply with all procedural requirements and provide the right documentation to the court. If you haven’t talked to an attorney about your case, do so as soon as you can. In Washington, all personal injury claims must be filed before three years from the injury date passes. If you don’t meet this deadline, you will not be able to receive compensation in court – even if your case is incredibly solid.