TBI law basics for plaintiffs with brain injury cases

If you are filing a lawsuit for a brain injury, there are a few basic things you need to know about TBI law (or, the law as it applies to traumatic brain injury claims).

Quick tip: If you are looking for a start-to-finish overview, see Steps in a Brain Injury Lawsuit first.

TBI law is personal injury law

TBI law falls into the general category of personal injury law.

Personal injury is the umbrella term for injuries and damages caused by the bad conduct or wrongful acts of another person/company.

Most of the brain injury cases we see are the result of a truck or motor vehicle crash. These are civil – not criminal – cases, filed against the person or company that caused or contributed to your traumatic brain injury.

The laws applied will depend on the jurisdiction, or the state and specific court with which your case would be filed. Here, we will be referencing Washington State law, as outlined in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).

Brain-injury-Info-TBI Law-Washington

The statute of limitations

statute of limitations is a law (statute) limiting the time an injured person has to file a lawsuit.

In Washington State, most personal injury claims must be filed within 3 years of the date of the incident. There are some limited exceptions based on the type of injury, the age of the victim, disabilities, or other factors.

The plaintiff is the injured person. The defendant(s) are people or companies who caused or contributed to the injuries.

In some situations, the plaintiff has a limited amount of time to give notice of their intent to file a lawsuit. “Notice of intent” may be required in cases that involve a government entity, for example. Without a thorough investigation, you may not even know who or what caused or contributed to your brain injury. And that is why most attorneys recommend that you consult with someone familiar with brain injury law as soon as possible after a crash or event.

Understanding fault and liability

“Fault” as a legal term includes the acts or omissions that are negligent or reckless, and caused the crash or event that resulted in your injury.

If you were hurt in a truck or car crash, the other driver may be the only person at fault. There are specific failures or omissions, under the traffic laws of the state of Washington, that include things like:

  • Failure to operate a car in a safe manner;
  • Failure to yield the right of way;
  • Inattentive driving, or
  • Improper use of electronic device.

Or, there could be multiple parties at fault. There could be a second driver who swerved for example. There could be a mechanic who failed to secure the car’s tires, or a car manufacturer that made a defective part. Or, a city employee who mistimed a stoplight.

You can’t know all of the possibilities without an investigation.


“Liability” is the legal responsibility for the acts or omissions. A driver who is at fault for a crash is liable for the harm and damages that they caused.

In terms of TBI law, the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant(s) are at fault, and are legally liable for those failures.


There is no way to un-do the acts that caused your brain injury, so our civil justice system is set up to provide you with monetary compensation for your injuries. “Damages” is the legal term for this monetary compensation.

Economic damages

Economic damages include your direct medical expenses: emergency room bills, hospital bills, rehabilitation and ongoing care. Depending on the extent of your injury, it can also include ongoing and future medical needs, household help, nursing care and similar expenses.

If you were unable to work after your brain injury, then you could also be compensated for your past and future lost wages.

Non-economic damages

Washington State law recognizes that a key element of damages in a personal injury claim is the pain and suffering that a person has experienced.

In a brain injury case, non-economic damages might include compensation for mental suffering, post-traumatic stress, or other conditions. Disability and loss of enjoyment of life are additional and separate elements of damages: the impairment of an injured person’s ability to lead a normal life.

Thank you for your interest in TBI law. We recommend you read Steps in a Brain Injury Lawsuit to learn about the process, step by step.

The information outlined here is for reference purposes only, and may not apply to your specific situation. Talk to an attorney who is licensed in your state. If you have questions, call my office at 206-826-8200 for a free consultation. 

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