Question: What exactly is Personal Injury Law?
ANSWER: It is the body of law set forth by our courts and our legislature governing acts and omissions that cause harm to third parties. In Washington, it is the law that if you are injured because of someone else’s wrongdoing, you are entitled to be compensated to put you as close as possible to where you were before you were injured.
There are two common categories of damages available in most personal injury cases in Washington:
Actual or “Special” Damages: medical bills, lost wages, repair and/or replacement costs for damage to property, etc.
General Damages: these damages cover areas that cannot be documented in precise figures, such as mental distress and suffering, damage to or loss of relationship(s), disfigurement, etc.
It should be noted that in Washington, “Punitive Damages” (damages intended to punish defendants for intentional or reckless misconduct) are not generally allowed in personal injury cases. However, in special circumstances where defendants violate consumer protection laws, damages can be “trebled” or multiplied in order to punish defendants for egregious violations.
Question: I have heard that people are getting rich off of filing lots of frivolous lawsuits these days. Is this true?
ANSWER: No. The insurance industry and “big business” love to perpetuate this myth by falsely claiming that people are filing and winning lots of frivolous lawsuits. However, our civil justice system has in place many rules and procedures, as well as financial disinsentives, to discourage the filing of frivolous lawsuits. The reality is that insurance companies are forcing people to file lawsuits and even people with legitimate cases are losing in front of juries because of the harmful myths that are perpetuated by insurance companies and large corporations to create bias and suspicion in the jury pool.
Question: I do not want to be involved in a lawsuit. If I hire an attorney to handle my injury case, will I have to go to court?
ANSWER: Most cases settle before a lawsuit is ever filed. Furthermore, most cases in which a lawsuit has been filed settle before trial. Very few cases ever make it to an actual “trial.” However, to get a fair value for your case, you must have an attorney on your side that is experienced and willing to take your case to trial, or your injury claim will have no credibility with insurance companies.