Personal Injury FAQs


Seattle injury Lawyer | Personal Injury FAQs

We provide answers to frequently asked questions concerning Washington personal injury law for your convenience. The contents of this website are general information and never a substitute for legal advice. For information about your circumstances contact our Seattle injury Lawyer for a free personal injury case evaluation.

General Personal Injury Questions

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Can we just settle out of court? Do we have to go to court?

Unfortunately this is not entirely within your control. It takes two to tango. Insurance companies quite often make unreasonable offers. Offers that do not even repay medical bills. Or, no offer at all.

I love being a lawyer. I love what I do. But, I also know lawsuits are no fun for clients. We make every reasonable effort to settle cases before and also after they are filed in court. Some cases settle without a lawsuit ever being filed. Some settle on the eve of trial. Most will settle before trial, but many will not.

See our more complete discussion of factors that can keep your case from settling.

The at fault insurance company wants me to authorize them to obtain my medical records. Should I sign this? Do I have to give them this information?

No. Do not sign a medical records authorization without consulting with an attorney. The insurance company will use this to dig through your medical history to find any excuse to lower or deny your personal injury claim, even things that are simply embarrassing and/or have nothing to do with the injury claim.

Do I need an attorney?

To you, you are just asking for what is fair for your personal injury claim.

To an insurance company, your personal injury claim is a business expense and nothing more.

A former insurance adjuster for a major insurance company was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying “I ripped off a lot of people and I feel bad about that….My goal at the time was to save [the insurance company] money, not settle claims for what the case was worth.”

From the very first moment they work on a claim the goal of the insurance adjuster is to find ways to minimize the amount the company will pay for your personal injury claim, zero being optimum. That is what the adjuster is trained to do and paid to do.

You have a lot to lose by not seeking the advice of a personal injury attorney, and nothing to lose by getting a free personal injury case evaluation.

Maybe.

In most situations you must reimburse your insurance for medical bills and other benefits paid on your behalf if you collect on a personal injury claim from the third-party who was at fault.

Personal injury attorney fees are contingent on the outcome – you do not owe the personal injury attorney a fee unless the case is successfully resolved. Still, in the end the fees come from your settlement money. And, costs can up to a lot of money, too – especially if the case is litigated.

Meanwhile, your insurance company benefits from the efforts of the personal injury attorney who has been working on your behalf. Your insurance company gets paid out of the same personal injury settlement. It is only fair that your insurance company also contribute to the attorney fees and the costs. Under most circumstances they do have to.

In Washington this rule was established in a case called Mahler.

Be sure to ask any personal injury attorney about Mahler and and whether it – or other similar rules – apply in your case.

Be sure to also ask what happens to the money. Personal injury attorneys have different fee agreements with different terms.

Contact us for more information.

What is the statute of limitations on personal injury claims in Washington?

Generally three years, but the statute of limitations is not something to mess with. You should not wait until the three years is almost on you to start a personal injury lawsuit.

A lot can happen in three years. Witnesses move, and their memories fade. The at-fault party might move, and then be hard to serve. Some people who wait until the last minute to contact an attorney find it may be too late to find and correctly serve the the at-fault party. The legal documents that start the lawsuit cannot just be posted on the door or left with a house-guest.  Service must meet legal requirements, and even if the documents are actually received by the  at-fault party this may not be enough.

The personal injury claim is lost forever if the case is not both properly filed and properly served within the statute of limitations.

We always try to settle out of court both before and after filing a personal injury lawsuit. But, if we are within six months of the statute of limitations – we file and serve. If you call us with less time than that left we may consider accepting the case, but we sometimes refuse on this basis alone.

Do not delay. Seek a free personal injury case evaluation right away.

If I make a personal injury claim will my whole medical history be disclosed?

Personal injury defense attorneys and insurance companies are not allowed to contact treating physicians except through formal discovery processes, or as agreed by the parties.  There are two reasons for this – 1)  to promote proper treatment by facilitating full disclosure of information from patient to physician and 2) to protect the patient from embarrassment or scandal which may result from revelation of intimate details of medical treatment.[1]  (more…)

A minor caused my injury. Do parents and/or their insurance have to pay my claim?

Many assume that parents and their insurance carriers must pay for any personal injury caused by minor children. It is not a given that parents or their insurance will be responsible to pay for injures caused by minor children. Whether the parents and their insurance company will have to pay your personal injury claim will depend on the details of your case. It is best to consult with an attorney.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Car Accident

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What about the property damage to my car?

Get you own estimates. Many people accept a property damage offer only to find that it will not fully cover repair to their vehicle. If an insurance company offers an amount differing from your estimates they must fully disclose the reason or reasons for the difference and must thoroughly document the circumstances in the claim file.

An insurer is required to repair the vehicle to pre-accident condition and to make a good faith effort to honor a claimant’s request to have their vehicle repaired at their shop of choice.

If your insurance company pays you and then pursues a property damage claim against the other driver’s insurance company, your insurance company must keep you reasonably informed. This means that the insurer must contact you within sixty days after the start of the subrogation process, and no less frequently than every one hundred eighty days until the insured’s interest is resolved.

There have been at least two important appellate court decisions recently in Washington concerning property damage issues.

Having said all that, if fault is not contested the property damage claim is usually settled while the injury claim is pending.

 

 

By personal injury attorney Travis Eller

The other driver was cited by police. Doesn’t that mean he is automatically responsible? Or: I was cited by police. Doesn’t that mean that I have no claim?

Although an important consideration, law enforcement citation at the scene does not end the inquiry as to fault.

Law enforcement is trying to determine if a traffic rule was violated, not whether or which party or parties were negligent. Law enforcement officers are not judges, and do not have the final say on any legal issues. And, fault may be apportioned between the parties in any percentage that adds up to 100 regardless of whether any or none of the parties were cited for violations of the rules of the road.

So, it is erroneous to assume that the outcome of a personal injury case has been determined once an officer cites one of the drivers.

Does the at fault person’s insurance company pay my medical bills while the case is pending?

No.

The at fault insurance company will not pay medical bills while the case is pending. They will pay one lump sum for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. There may be an exception if you were injured as a pedestrian.

You are responsible for your medical bills unless and until the at fault party’s insurance company settles the claim. If the insurance company denies the claim or makes an offer that is just too low you will have to sue the at fault party.

In the meantime your medical bills might be covered by Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This is coverage on an auto policy that pays medical bills incurred as the result of an accident. Unless you waived this you have $10,000 in coverage. If you were injured as a pedestrian and the driver has PIP coverage then the PIP coverage extends to you.

If you do not have PIP or your own health insurance then you will be responsible for all medical bills. You may need to seek a payment plan or ask if they will accept a lien on your personal injury claim.

If your medical bills are paid through insurance provided through employment then federal law known as ERISA applies. This law may work serious consequences to your rights and ability to recover monetary compensation for your personal injury claim.

These issues can get quite complicated. This is general information and not a substitute for legal advice. Contact us about a free personal injury case evaluation.

I was rear-ended by another driver. Doesn’t that mean the other driver’s insurance will have to just pay up?

Even when liability is clear insurance companies often look for ways to resist claims. They may question how badly you were insured. They quite often question the amount of treatment, or how much your medical provider charged you for their services–even if you were simply faithfully following medical advice.

Generally a following driver is disfavored under the law. If, however, there was a sudden emergency, the following driver may be relieved of some or all of their responsibility for the injury. Also, the other driver’s insurance may claim you are to blame in whole or in part. The other driver may claim you cut them off, for instance.

Someone was is injured in a rear-end auto accident usually has a strong argument the following driver was at fault. Sometimes that may not be clear. Even if fault is clear in a rear-end accident, the insurance company may resist paying a fair settlement amount.

It is always best to seek a free personal injury case evaluation early.