Serious car accident injuries can be life-altering. The Washington Car Accident Guide was created by Edmonds personal injury attorney Cheryl Ferrish to help residents obtain their maximum settlement benefits.
Even if you are a cautious, defensive driver, accidents will still happen. You can’t control everyone on the road, and a collision may be unavoidable. When a crash occurs, you may have legal options to help you get money damages for the losses you experience from the accident. Learning about those options may seem overwhelming, especially with an insurance company urging you to settle your claim right away. You don’t have to make hasty decisions; take the time to evaluate your case with the help of an Edmonds car accident attorney.
Some car accidents are severe enough to affect you for the rest of your life. You need a knowledgeable Washington car accident lawyer to walk you through your options and help you prepare your case so you can present it in the best light possible to an insurance company, judge, or jury. You don’t have to go through this alone – let us put our experience to work for you.
Basics of Washington Car Accident Law
Washington is a “fault” state. That means that when a car accident occurs in Washington, it’s the other driver that caused the accident who is legally responsible for your losses and injuries caused by the collision. Unfortunately, getting the other driver to admit fault and pay for the full value of your losses is rarely easy. Thankfully, having a car accident lawyer on your side can significantly increase your chances of getting the money damages that you deserve after a car accident.
Every driver in Washington is required to have liability insurance coverage. That means that when you are in a crash, it’s really the insurance company that pays for your damages, up to the value of the insurance coverage. However, you may also have insurance coverage of your own that applies as well, such as:
- No-fault coverage;
- Med-pay; or
- Coverage just for property damage.
No fault coverage allows you to turn to your own insurance company to pay you for your losses first. However, even if your insurance company should be paying you, that doesn’t mean that they automatically will. In some situations, your insurance company can be just as challenging to work with as another driver’s company.
It’s important to keep in mind that every insurance company really has one goal: to make money. They make more money when they pay you less on your claims, regardless of whether you are their insured or someone who was hurt because of their insured. To guarantee that an insurance company doesn’t take advantage of you or your situation, you need a personal injury lawyer who has experience dealing with cases like yours.
Money Damages Available in a Car Accident Case
You may experience significant losses and injuries after a collision. In fact, you may not realize right now just how much this accident will affect the rest of your life.
The law can never really make up for the injuries and losses you experience. There is often nothing that can completely heal your wounds. Washington law allows you to collect money damage for your losses, even for those losses or damages that you cannot quantify, such as your pain and suffering.
Potential damages available to you after a car accident may include:
- Medical expenses
- Reimbursement for prescriptions and medical equipment
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
Any reduction in the quality of your life is something that should be included in your lawsuit as well.
Insurance companies try to settle car accident claims right away for a couple of reasons. First, they want to conclude the case as fast as possible because it gets the potential loss off of their books. Second, many car accident victims don’t know or understand the extent of their injuries right away after a collision.
For example, you, and even your medical provider, may not know how you will react to certain types of medical treatment. If you don’t respond well, additional treatment and added expense may be necessary. You may also miss more work than you anticipated while you recover as well. It is difficult to predict how some damages or losses will affect you for years to come. Getting a car accident lawyer will help you get the right information you need to determine the compensation you need to adequately address your losses and damages.
How an Washington Car Accident Attorney Can Help You
Many people make the mistake of thinking that they can handle their car accident case themselves. While you can take on an insurance company on your own, you are far more likely to be completely compensated for your losses if you have a Washington car accident attorney. Insurance companies not only deal with car accident claims every day, but they also have experienced lawyers on call to defend claims like yours. You can even the playing field by getting your own highly experienced attorney to help you with your case.
Your car accident lawyer will help you:
- Gather information about the other driver and his or her insurance company
- Talk to witnesses
- Get police reports and speak with the officer involved
- Negotiate with the insurance company
- Navigate the often-confusing legal process
- Present your case to a judge or jury
- Arrange for experts to recreate the accident or estimate the value of your damages
Having an attorney takes a lot of the stress and confusion out of your personal injury case. Your lawyer acts as your advocate and protects your interests throughout the entire process. Having an experienced lawyer lets you focus on recovering after your accident, instead of stressing about your legal case.
Frequently Asked Questions | Washington Car Accident Guide
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Seriously Injured in a Car Accident?
If you’re seriously injured in a car accident in Washington, what you should do while you’re still at the scene is collect as much of the evidence as possible. That would include taking photographs and collecting the other driver’s insurance information, which is very important. It’s much harder to track that down after the fact. Call the police. If it’s a serious wreck, you definitely want to get that documented. If there are witnesses, be sure you get their name and contact information. If you’re injured, most importantly, seek medical attention. You want to be sure that if you don’t need an ambulance to come to the scene, that you do that within 24 hours. Go to a walk-in clinic and be sure that you document what’s hurting and that you’re hurting because of a crash.
What Mistakes Should I Avoid After a Car Accident?
We see a couple of mistakes that car accident victims in Washington commonly make. One would be making a recorded statement to the insurance company. From the outset, you’re going to probably get a call within a day or two of the crash and your answer to even common questions will be used against you later. Don’t take that call if you don’t need to, and definitely don’t provide a recorded statement to the insurance company.
The second most common mistake that we have is people not documenting their injuries. If you come to us two months after the crash and you’ve been hurting that entire time, but you never saw a doctor for your injuries, your case is very difficult. The third thing that we see people making mistakes on in personal injury claims in Washington is not consistently following your doctor’s instructions. If you go to the doctor and your doctor says you should seek massage two times a week and instead you’re going once every month, that’s a problem. Be sure that you’re following your doctor’s instructions and that you’re doing all you can to get better, because that’s going to build not only a stronger case, but improve your chances for making a physical recovery.
How Do I Choose The Best Car Accident Attorney For My Case?
In Washington, if you’re looking at selecting the best personal injury attorney for your claim, you want to be sure that you do your research, so pick an attorney that’s experienced in personal injury law. What you want to look for is a firm that handles only personal injury cases. A lot of firms dabble in personal injury and you don’t want a lawyer that just dabbles in your type of law. It’d be like going to an orthopedic surgeon who dabbles in brain surgery. That’s not the doctor you want for your brain surgery, and that’s certainly not the lawyer you want. Be sure you have the right attorney with the right expertise.
The other thing you want to look at is that attorney’s track record. Is this an attorney that goes to court? Is this an attorney that goes to trial? Insurance companies keep track of all of that and if you have an attorney that actually will take your case to trial, the insurance company will pay more value on your case than they would an attorney who caves in every time your case gets difficult.
The other thing that you want to look for is an attorney that’s the best fit for you. I always recommend that you talk to a couple of attorneys by phone and that when you decide on the attorney that you like, that you meet them in person. This is a long-term relationship you’ll have with someone, and you want to be sure that it’s the right fit.
Should I Speak To The Insurance Company After My Accident?
If you’re involved in a car accident in Washington, it is never a good idea to provide a recorded statement to the insurance company. It is okay to touch base with the insurance company to find out who your claim adjuster is, and to confirm that there is coverage, but you’re definitely not required to provide them with a recorded statement. If you hire an attorney early on, which you should, then an attorney would handle all of that communication for you.
What Is Personal Injury Protection Insurance?
Washington, we have this great coverage called personal injury protection, or PIP, which is mandatory coverage that’s required to be on every vehicle, unless you explicitly signed away your right to this coverage. Check your policy because most likely, you have this coverage
What PIP does is it pays for your medical benefits regardless of who’s at fault. If you’re at fault for a crash, your medical bills get paid. If somebody else is at fault, your medical bills still get paid. The benefit of having PIP coverage is that you get treatment without a co-pay or a deductible, so you don’t have to worry about going to the ER and getting stuck with a huge bill afterward. You can get the treatment that you need and those bills will get paid.
The minimum coverage in Washington is $10,000, which is what most people have, and you’ll probably know from seeing an ER bill that that coverage can get wiped out pretty quickly. There are options to continue coverage after that, usually through your own health insurance or through providers treating you on what’s called the lien, meaning that they wait until your case settles to get paid. That’s something that an experienced personal injury attorney can help you walk through.
What Should I Do After a Ridesharing Accident?
With Uber and Lyft becoming more common ways to travel in our society, one question you may have is, “What do I do if I’m involved in a car accident in Washington while I’m in an Uber or Lyft?” A couple of things to keep in mind. One is that, typically Uber and Lyft drivers will be covered by higher levels of coverage than the average Joe driving on the street, so you should be well-covered, in most cases, up to a million dollars.
The second thing to keep in mind is that Washington recently passed a law providing no-fault coverage for Uber and Lyft drivers. What that means is that your medical bills, if you’re a passenger in an Uber or Lyft, would be covered by the Uber or Lyft insurance company. The third thing to keep in mind is that, if you are involved in an Uber or Lyft case, you really need an attorney. This is one of the most difficult insurance companies to reach, and so you’re probably going to have to put dozens of phone calls out there before anybody returns a call. This is the reason why you hire an attorney to advocate on your behalf.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Claim in Washington?
Here’s a couple of things that you should know. First is that the statute of limitations in Washington is three years. That means that you need to either settle your case, or file a lawsuit before that three-year deadline. The second thing to keep in mind is that, if your case involves a governmental entity, you may have less time, so you want to get on that sooner rather than later.
The third and most important thing to keep in mind is not to wait until the last minute. We need to work on cases while they are still fresh. If you’re going to hire an attorney, you should do that sooner rather than later, while witness recollection is still fresh, and while evidence is still easy to track down. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is for an attorney to assist you with your case, because it is harder to track down evidence.
Do I Have a Claim If I Was Hit By An Uninsured Driver?
Occasionally, we have a car accident client in Washington who comes to our office and they’re in the unfortunate situation where the person who hits them has no insurance or very limited insurance. What we do in those circumstances is explore whether there may be other coverage. A mandatory coverage in Washington is called “under-insured motorist coverage” or “UIM” which would be coverage that steps into the shoes of the person who hits you. It’s very important to review your policy, or take your policy to your attorney, to be sure that that extra coverage is explored, because you may have coverage that will cover your injuries in the event that the person who hits you doesn’t have insurance. That would be the same if the person who hits you has very little insurance, and you could stack this type of coverage on their insurance so that you have a bigger pool of money to pull from.
How Much is My Car Accident Case Worth?
When meeting with new clients, one of the most common questions that we get about car accident cases in Washington is, “What is my case worth?” That’s a really difficult question to answer at the outset of a case because there are a number of factors that will determine your case value, and many of those factors aren’t known until you’re done with treatment.
There’s going to be three primary factors that determine the value of your case. The first is what your injuries are. Again, you don’t typically know the full extent of your injuries within a week of the crash, so it’s going to take weeks, if not months, to get a full picture of what your injuries are. Generally speaking, the more severe your injuries, the more your case is worth.
The second thing that will determine the value of your case is your treatment and medical bills. Generally speaking, the greater your medical bills, the more your case is worth. I’d give a caveat there that the type of treatment you get matters. A $20,000 chiropractic bill is not going to be weighed as heavily as a $20,000 surgical bill, for example.
The third thing that’s going to determine the value of your case would be the type of recovery you make. If you make a full recovery and at the end of treatment you’re feeling great, just like you did before the crash, then that’s fantastic, but that means your case is worth less than, for example, somebody who treats and never fully recovers from their injury. What a personal injury attorney will do at the end of your treatment is assess all of those factors and give you a settlement range, so they’ll tell you your case is worth between X and Y and help you make a decision about how to best get you into that range.
How Long Will It Take for My Car Accident Case to Settle?
What gauges the length of case takes is the time you’re going to need to treat. An attorney cannot settle your case while you’re still being treated. If you settle your case today, it’s not going to cover your medical bills next week or next month.
An attorney needs to be sure that all of your treatment is complete before they look at settlement. The longer you treat, the longer your case takes. As a general rule, what you’re looking at in most cases is that from the date you stop treatment, a settlement should take place within three to five months of that, depending on how quickly we can collect the evidence related to your case.
Contact Our Office for Guidance
Contact the team at Certa Law Group in Edmonds, WA to learn more about what we can do for you. You can schedule a free case evaluation to meet your potential attorney and our team. We want to be sure we are the right fit for your needs before we get started, and our consultation process is a no-obligation way to learn more about your legal rights and options after a car accident in Washington. Call today for more information.