Frequently Asked Questions
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Legal matters can be confusing, especially during a stressful or painful situation. Here are answers to some of the most common questions we get about personal injury law, hiring a lawyer, and what to do when you've been involved in an accident. If you still have questions or have a specific legal matter you'd like to discuss with us, please contact us today for a free consultation.
Personal injury law 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.
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.
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.
Whenever you are in an auto accident, call the police immediately and let them investigate. Aside from finding out if everyone is okay, and exchanging insurance information, you should not speak to the other driver about what happened, as statements made after the collision are often used against you if the case has to go to court (even a polite “I’m sorry” can be considered an admission of fault by the court). If there are witnesses to the collision, make sure you get their name and contact information, just in case they leave before the police arrive.
The most important thing to do after a collision is to make sure that you and anyone else in your vehicle get proper medical attention, whether at the emergency department of a local hospital, or at your primary care physician’s office by appointment. When seeing a doctor, mention everything that is bothering you so that all of your potential injuries can be addressed.
If you are dealing with an insurance company for an at-fault driver, keep in mind that the insurance company is looking to pay the very least amount possible for a claim. More importantly, insurance companies have teams of lawyers to help keep claim costs low. Therefore, in most cases, those who have been injured in an accident need an attorney of their own just to even the odds. They need an accident attorney who knows their rights, knows what damages to which they are entitled, and knows how to get insurance companies to pay a fair value for a claim.
While attorneys are not allowed to advertise “specialties” or “expertise” in any area of law, they are allowed to limit their practice to certain types of cases. Don’t just look for a firm that advertises in the “personal injury” section of the phone book. Look for attorneys who have dedicated their practice to representing the injured against insurance companies and corporations. If you were diagnosed with a serious medical condition, you would likely seek out a physician who has dealt with that same condition on numerous occasions. Likewise, if you are dealing with an insurance company on an injury claim, you want an accident attorney who has spent their entire career making insurance companies pay a fair value for a claim. In such cases, experience is critical.
In Washington, those who have been injured in a collision with an uninsured/underinsured motorist can make a claim against their “underinsured motorist” insurance policy and recover damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, inconvenience, and disability. If you find yourself in this predicament, an accident attorney can assist you with your claim.
No. If you are still being treated by a physician, do not settle with the adjuster. Settling your case involves giving up your rights to make a claim in the future and if your medical future is uncertain you don’t know what is fair to settle your claim. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you on your rights and on all of the possible ways to get your medical bills paid while your injury claim is pending. Moreover, even if you are done with treatment and are feeling back to “normal,” you should still be aware of all of the claims for damages available to you in your particular case. A personal injury lawyer can advise you on this.
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