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When navigating the complexities of personal injury or wrongful death cases, it’s crucial to understand the legal defenses available. One such defense is outlined in RCW 5.40.060, which pertains to cases involving intoxicating substances. Let’s break down this statute to better understand its implications.

Key Provisions of RCW 5.40.060

RCW 5.40.060 deals with cases where the person injured or killed was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. It has two primary subsections:

1. Complete Defense in Certain Circumstances

Under subsection (1), if a person is injured or killed while under the influence of intoxicating substances, and this condition is a proximate cause of their injury or death, the statute provides a complete defense to the action. However, there are key conditions:

  • The person must be found to be more than 50% at fault for their injury or death.
  • The standard for determining if they were under the influence is aligned with RCW 46.61.502, the same standard used in criminal convictions.

2. Limitations of the Defense

Subsection (2) limits this defense. It specifies that if the injury or death is caused by a motor vehicle driver who was under the influence, the defense in subsection (1) does not apply if the injured or killed person’s condition was not a proximate cause of the incident.

For Defendants

This statute provides a potential defense in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. If it can be proven that the injured or killed individual was significantly impaired and at fault, a defendant may be absolved of liability.

For Plaintiffs

For those seeking damages, this law highlights the importance of proving fault. If the victim was under the influence, plaintiffs must demonstrate that this was not a significant factor in the incident, especially when the defendant was also impaired.

Understanding and applying RCW 5.40.060 requires careful consideration of the evidence, particularly regarding the role of intoxication in the incident. The interplay between this statute and other relevant laws (like RCW 46.61.502) must be navigated adeptly.


RCW 5.40.060 introduces a nuanced layer to personal injury and wrongful death cases involving intoxicating substances. It underscores the importance of fault and intoxication in determining liability. Both plaintiffs and defendants must understand the potential impact of this statute on their case outcomes. As always, consulting with a legal professional for personalized advice is recommended.

You can read the text of RCW 5.40.060 here:,death%20and%20that%20such%20condition

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About Blanford Law:

We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us