Frequently Asked Questions
- Page 2
What should I say to the other party involved in the accident or their insurance adjuster?
If you are involved in a Washington motorcycle accident, it is a good idea to not say anything too specific about the accident. Many times, in the moments following an accident, people say things that may not necessarily be true. A potentially incorrect admission of guilt can severely impact your accident claim.
The at fault person's insurance adjuster will likely want to talk to you as soon as possible. The insurance adjuster will also want to record their telephone conversation with you. This is never a good idea and you should always refuse to engage in a phone conversation with the at fault person's insurance adjuster. You can politely tell the insurance adjuster that you will be happy to call them back just as soon as you speak with your attorney. The main reason the at fault insurance company wants to talk to you immediately and record the conversation is to find evidence to use against you.
Insurance companies do all they can to minimize your claim from the very start. That's why it's important to get educated by reading the 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Washington Motorcycle Accident Case or schedule a free consultation with Scott so you know how to move forward.
How much money is my Washington motorcycle accident case worth?
Your case is worth either what you agree with the insurance company it's worth or the amount of a money award granted by a judge and jury. There are no hard and fast rules for making this determination. We examine all of the conditions surrounding your Washington motorcycle accident case in order to arrive at a figure that we believe the insurance company must pay for your injuries.
Generally, the dollar value is dependent upon the type and extent of your injuries. Other factors influencing the dollar value of your motorcycle accident case are the amount of medical bills, length of treatment, frequency of treatment, future medical bills, permanent disabilities and any other damage that can be documented.
A sad truth and sobering reality of the insurance business these days is that many insurance companies use a computer program to determine the value of your injury case. Insurance companies try to put a number on everything, plug it into their computer, and pop out a number that does not take into account any of the uniqueness of you as a person and your injury recovery. Each person is different, you heal differently, you suffer differently, your body reacts differently to treatment, and you are affected differently by a traumatic motorcycle accident. Treating your case like some kind of Pez dispenser is not how anyone should be treated.
How long will it take to get a fair and reasonable settlement offer?
Washington motorcycle accident cases can vary in length from weeks, months, even to years in some instances. Typically, you will not start the settlement process until after you have healed from your motorcycle accident injuries and have been released by your doctor. This is the best way you can be assured that you will receive full value for your injuries.
You want to make sure you have fully recovered from all your injuries before thinking about settlement. The last thing you want to have happen is a few months after you settle your case you find out that you have much worse injuries than first thought, and you require extensive additional treatment that will cost thousands or ten of thousands more. Once you settle your case it is over; you cannot come back later and ask for more. That's why it's important to wait until you have fully healed and you are able to resume all activities that you did before you were in the motorcycle accident.
We want you to be fully compensated for all of your injuries, so we advise that you wait until treatment is completed before telling the insurance company how much your motorcycle accident case is worth. The length of time it takes you to recover from your injuries is one of the main factors in determining how long your case will take. Once your case is ready to begin settlement discussions, the process of obtaining a fair settlement offer can take as little as several weeks to as much as 18 months or more. The key word is "fair." You will likely get an "unfair" offer from the insurance company fairly quickly, the real work is getting the insurance company to settle your case for what you consider fair.
The complicated issues surrounding when to settle and when to fight are the key reasons why it is often necessary to retain an attorney for your accident case. I encourage you to contact us for a free consultation to assure you get the representation you deserve.
Why do I need to enlist the help of an experienced Washington motorcycle accident lawyer?
The more knowledge and expertise your lawyer has with regards to motorcycle accident laws, the higher your chances of getting compensation. A more experienced lawyer within this field will be able to exercise specialist knowledge and skill to ensure that your chances of success are maximized. He or she will aim to get you as much compensation as possible by making sure your case is organized and put together as solidly as possible.
How many people are injured or killed in the United States in motorcycle accidents?
It is estimated that injury or death are the outcome in nearly 80 percent of all motorcycle accidents in the United States. Included in this startling statistic are the nearly 2,000 motorcyclists who die each year as a result of an accident and the staggering 50,000 who are injured in collisions. About 45% of fatal motorcycle accidents are single bike crashes. The most deadly injuries are head and chest injuries. Injury severity and likelihood of a fatality generally increase with speed, alcohol involvement and motorcycle size.
What is the main cause of death in Washington motorcycle accidents?
Head and brain injury occurs in a large portion of motorcycle accidents and are the primary cause of death in most fatal motorcycle accidents. This is not to say however, that all head injuries suffered by motorcyclists will be fatal. The number of those who die as a result of a motorcycle accident are a small fraction of the total motorcycle injury accidents. That's why it is so important to wear a helmet and why Washington state law requires all motorcycle riders wear a helmet.
What if I am involved in a motorcycle accident that was not my fault?
Motorcycles face a higher risk of being hit by another vehicle than most vehicles. Motorcycles can be difficult to see because of their size, particularly for drivers of larger vehicles such as semi-trucks, buses, and even SUVs. There are many situations on the road that can result in an accident occurring through no fault of your own.
The first thing to do is seek medical assistance for any injuries. If you're able to do so, get the other driver’s name and insurance details as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses. Often times this is not possible because of the severity of your injuries and being taken to the hospital immediately from the accident scene. If that is the case, then it is important to make sure a prompt accident investigation is completed. If you are laid up in the hospital or at home you may not be able to do this. That's when it's a good idea to seek legal assistance.
As a bike rider you know that there is a bias against motorcyclists and the insurance company may try to place some or all of the blame on you for the accident. The police may even issue you a traffict ticket for the accident. That's why it is important to fully investigate and document the accident as quickly as possible, especially when serious injuries or fatalities are involved.
What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance?
Built in to many car insurance policies is a form of health insurance called by various names, including Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or med-pay. PIP insurance is available to the driver and any passengers of a vehicle for injuries suffered in an accident regardless of the fault of the driver, provided PIP insurance was purchased.
PIP insurance covers the medical bills and some wage loss of the people hurt in a certain vehicle. It is important to note that in most situations the at fault party's PIP insurance does not pay for the injuries of people in the car he/she hit. (Liability insurance covers this instead, but usually only when a final settlement or jury verdict is reached, not as medical bills are incurred.)
PIP benefits are limited to the driver and passengers in the insured vehicle. The injured person looks to his/her own insurance policy or the policy on the vehicle in which he/she was a passenger for PIP or med-pay benefits. The exception to this general rule applies to pedestrians and bicyclists. In Washington pedestrians and bicyclists may be covered by PIP benefits of the car that hits and injures them.
Depending on the state, lost wages from missing work due to your injuries may be covered by PIP insurance. There is often a two week waiting period before lost wages will begin to be paid at a reduced rate. Insurance policies with med-pay benefits ordinarily do not include reimbursement of lost wages.
The amount of PIP, med-pay, or lost wages benefits available is determined by reference to the policy limit for that particular type of coverage. In Washington PIP insurance policy limits are often $10,000 but can be as high as $35,000.
PIP insurance is required under Washington state law. In Washington all auto liability insurance policies must (unless you sign a waiver declining it) carry at least $10,000 in PIP benefits to cover medical bills, lost wages or any combination of the two.
What is Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist (UIM) insurance?
What would you do if you were injured in a Washington state car accident only to find out that the driver who caused the accident had no or not enough automobile insurance? Uninsured/Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is a way for you to protect yourself and your family against irresponsible drivers who drive without insurance or without adequate insurance coverage.
UIM insurance covers you in the event that a person who causes a car accident in which you are injured has little or no liability insurance. UIM insurance is designed to take the place of the at-fault person who had no insurance or not enough insurance.
Washington state requires drivers to have automobile insurance. Drivers are only required to have $25,000 in liability insurance. Many people look no further than what the monthly premiums will be for the minimum insurance needed.
If you're seriously hurt in a car accident your medical bills can quickly add up to ten, twenty, thirty thousand dollars or more depending on surgeries needed or other serious type of injuries. If the person at fault only had $25,000 in insurance coverage, there may not be enough to pay your medical bills, let alone your lost wages or fairly compensate you for any permanent injuries that may linger on for the rest of your life.
However, for example, assume you're seriously injured and have $30,000 in medical bills and have missed six months of work losing $25,000 in wages. If you have UIM insurance with a limit of $300,000 and the at-fault driver only had $25,000 of liability insurance, then the at-fault driver's insurance will pay its policy limits of $25,000 to you. At that point your UIM insurance will step in and be responsible for paying the remaining medical bills, lost wages, other out-of-pocket expense, and fairly compensate you for your injuries.
Insurance Buying Tip:
Review your own automobile insurance policy. You will find a "declarations page" which lists the various types of insurance coverage you have along with the premiums you are paying for each. If you cannot find your declarations page, call your agent and get her/him to send you a copy.
The two most important items on that page are the limits of the liability coverage and the uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM / UIM) coverage. It will usually say something like $25,000/$50,000 or $100,000/$300,000 or $300,000/$500,000.
Liability coverage is that amount of money your insurance company would pay in the event that you caused a car accident which resulted in an injury to another person. This coverage protects your personal assets. We strongly recommend that your liability coverage be at least $300,000. In today's world of soaring medical costs, a serious collision can cause injuries with medical bills in excess of $100,000 which is the policy limit many people tend to carry.
In hard financial times some people carry insurance in amounts less than $100,000. Call your insurance agent. You may be surprised to learn that the cost of increasing your coverage to $300,000 or even $500,000 is not that much.
What is a Personal Injury Case?
I have been asked on many occasions to explain what kind of case qualifies as a personal injury case. Lots of people have heard the term "personal injury," or even been told by a lawyer that he handles “personal injury cases” or “car accident cases,” but what does that mean?
A personal injury case in general is any type of claim where a person has been injured or sometimes even killed due to someone else’s fault. There are legal terms and rules in determining "fault" but let's just assume we know who the person is that's 100% responsible for causing the injury you suffered. Injury cases can be car accidents, semi-truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accident, or other injury or even death causing accidents.
Any time you are injured because of someone else's actions you may have a personal injury case. To have a personal injury case you must have an injury to your body. For example in car accidents, when the damage is solely to your car you do not have a personal injury case. However, if your car was damaged you have a property damage claim. In many car accidents your car will be smashed up and you will be injured, in these cases you have both a personal injury and property damage claim. When this happens, the insurance company will usually, but not always, fix your car without too much trouble to you. Personal injury cases focus on the injuries to your body and the insurance companies are oftentimes much less cooperative when it comes time to discuss resolving your injury case.
In the most serious accident sometimes a person's injuries are so bad that a death occurs. When an injury accident causes a person's death a “wrongful death” claim may arise. I truly hope that you never find yourself in this situation, but if you do I recommend you find an attorney who understands the complexity of Washington wrongful death laws.
If an insurance adjuster calls me after my accident to ask me questions, can I talk to her?
You can, but I don't recommend it following a serious accident. The insurance adjuster is calling to get you to make statements (usually in a recorded call) about the events leading up to and including the accident. They will also ask you about your injuries and whether you went to a hospital or a doctor following the accident. They will ask how you're doing and if you missed work. She will be looking for ways to limit your claim based on your answers.
The inherent problem with talking to an adjuster following a serious accident is that they're probing and trying to make a record of your statement. They can then use it against you at a later time should you bring a lawsuit against the driver or owner of the other car involved in your accident
If an insurance adjuster calls to talk to you, tell them you'll be happy to speak to them, after you speak with your attorney. Or better yet order my free book "The Guide to Washington Injury Cases" by clicking here. The book will give you some good information before you speak with that nosy insurance adjuster.
A friend was in a car accident and broke his leg. He got a lot of money. Will my case be worth as much as his?
Each Washington car accident case is different. Each injury affects a person differently. Even if you both broke the same bone, your pain tolerance might be different. You might need surgery to correct the problem, whereas your neighbor didn't. Your neighbor might be a football player for the Seattle Seahawks, and as a professional athlete his broken bone means he lost months of work. Your situation is probably different.
It's important to know how your injury has affected your daily life. Has it impaired your ability to do your daily tasks like tying your shoelaces, taking a shower, making breakfast, going to the bathroom, holding groceries and similar activities?
If you were to ask me when you should try to resolve your injury claim, like nearly every one of my clients asks when they hire me, my recommendation is that you shouldn’t begin the process of trying to resolve your injury case until you have fully healed and recovered from all of your injuries, or your injuries have reach a point of maximum improvement and will not likely get any better in the future. Once you’ve reach this point, the value of your case is based upon all of your damages. So if your broken leg injury was so severe that you now will walk with a limp for the rest of your life that has more value than if your leg healed without any permanent limp. This is just one example of the kinds of factors that go into establishing the value for your car accident injury case.
Since everyone is different, and injuries affect each person differently, the value for each case is different. What I can tell you is if the insurance company calls you right after the car accident and offers $500 to settle your broken leg injury claim, $500 is nowhere close to the true value of your case.
Anyone who suffers a serious injury in a car or other vehicle accident should get the advice of an experienced Washington injury attorney as soon as possible. Or better yet, order my free book for Washington residents “The Guide to Washington Injury Cases.” The book has information for you to use before speaking with an insurance adjuster or meeting with an attorney.
I have been involved in a Seattle car accident and the medical bills are mounting. The insurance company for the driver who hit me says they will pay my medical bills and give me a "little something" for pain and suffering. They have asked me to sign a release. Should I take them up on their offer?
No, especially if you are still under the care of the physician. Once you settle with the insurance company, that will be the end of your claim, even if your injury gets worse. Your medical bills will not be paid by the driver of the car that hit you as they are incurred. The other driver's insurance company will only agree to pay your medical bills in exchange for a release of all claims, which ends any further payments of your medical bills or otherwise.
There may be other sources available to pay your medical bills while your claim is pending. You may have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance on your own car insurance, which is specifically designed for paying your medical bills in a car accident regardless of whose fault the accident was. My previous post on PIP insurance explains this insurance more fully. Another source is your health insurance. Your health insurance will pay for your medical bills from your car accident. If you have either PIP or Health insurance these are the people you need to contact to get your medical bills paid while you are actively treating your car accident injuries.
I often hear people say "Why should my insurance pay when the accident was the other guy's fault? I don't want my rates to go up." Don't fall into this trap. Your PIP and health insurance was purchased for the very purpose you are now facing after suffering injuries in a car accident. I can't say with absolute certainty, but in my experience I have not seen any of my client's car insurance rates increase for making a PIP claim.
Both PIP and health insurance companies will eventually be repaid when you do settle your injury case. They have a repayment right called a "subrogation interest" against your accident claim. If you hire an injury attorney to handle your car accident case he will negotiate and handle this repayment for you. If you don't have an attorney the insurance companies generally talk each other and work out repayment themselves. All you generally need to do is give the PIP adjuster or health insurance the name, address and phone number of the insurance adjuster for the at fault driver. I know this can sound complicated, but you can handle it with some patience and asking a few questions, or you can hire an attorney to take care of these details for you.
An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to help you understand your rights. My advice to you is that if an insurance adjuster calls you requesting you to sign anything, tell them mail the form to you and you'll be happy to review it with your attorney.
Or better yet order my free book "The Guide to Washington Injury Cases" by clicking here. The book will give you some good information about the whole car accident injury claim process before you speak with that pushy insurance adjuster.
The insurance company for the driver who hit me says they need me to sign a document (medical records release) before they can pay my medical bills. Should I sign the medical release?
You should never, ever sign the medical release that is sent to you by the at-fault driver's insurance company. While releases are sometimes important to the claim every release that I have ever seen from an insurance company is overbroad: contains no time limit, can be sent to anyone at all, and allows the insurance company to re-release the information to others. There is no requirement that you sign their release.
While you're still going to the doctor treating your accident injuries there is no good reason for the at-fault driver's insurance company to be monitoring your medical records. The only reason they want to see your medical records is so they can look for things to use against you and ways they can weaken your injury case. I can't count the number of times I've been called and told me the at-fault driver's insurance adjuster is telling an injury victim that they should have been healed by now and they weren't really hurt that bad in the car accident. Don't fall for this tactic. Your doctor is the expert on the severity of your injury and how much treatment you need to recover.
My advice to you is that if an insurance adjuster calls you requesting you to sign anything, tell them to mail you the form and you'll be happy to review it with your attorney.
Or better yet order my free book "The Guide to Washington Injury Cases" by clicking here. The book will give you some good information about the whole car accident injury claim process before you speak with that pushy insurance adjuster.
I'm on a jury for a personal injury case. Are all medical bills covered by insurance?
In Washington, as in most states, evidence about whether or not a plaintiff’s medical bills have been paid by insurance is kept from a jury during a trial. There are many reasons for this law. Sometimes, however, juries attempt to account for the fact that insurance has paid the medical bills and adjust their award accordingly.
If you are on a jury in a personal injury case you should not do this. The reason is that insurance is not simple and different insurance "rules" may apply to the claims at hand. In most cases the plaintiff has to pay back her insurance company out of any award, so she really was not insured at all! Almost all insurance policies require the injured person to pay back any amount the company paid for the medical bills if the plaintiff wins her lawsuit.
Insurance policies differ and not every insurance policy requires this type of reimbursement. What the courts have done, however, to make the issue fair for everyone, is to simply take insurance out of the consideration of the jury.
If you're a juror please don't discount a plaintiff's damage award because you think the medical bills have already been paid. In almost all of my cases my clients have to repay the insurance company that paid the medical bills. Insurance companies would love this to happen, but it really only hurts the injury victim.
If you're called for jury duty please go. The justice system in Washington and all other states depends on citizens showing up for jury duty when called. I know it’s a pain and you get paid peanuts, but I need you and my clients need you. We need jurors like you to fight the greed of the insurance companies that force their customers to file lawsuits to get the insurance benefits owed.
How often do you "win" your cases?
We would love to tell you that we win every case, but we don't. As in life, there are no guarantees - even with a very good case. As most trial attorneys will tell you, there are cases that should be won at trial, and are not, and there are cases that should be lost, and are won.
Each case is different based on the specific facts involved in each situation. Your case may be similar to another of my client's but not exactly the same in every way. Different impact speeds, different type vehicles, angle of impact and many other factor go into the mix to cause your injury. You also have a unique body that is injured and healed in its own unique and individual way. As you can see many factors affect an injury case.
In addition, there are many cases where a confidential settlement has been reached that my clients would definitely consider a 'win' but I cannot publicize the details of the case.
I was injured in a rear-end collision but there was little damage to my car. The other drivers insurance company says theres no way I couldve been injury when theres little damage to my car and theyre refusing to pay for my medical bills. What do I do now?
We hear this more and more these days from people who call looking for some advice following a Seattle area car accident. Many insurance companies have a policy to outright deny or only offer very small amounts to settle car accident claims when the vehicle damage is less than a certain amount such as $1,000.
Insurance companies do this despite having no credible scientific support for the suggestion that injury likelihood can be determined by the amount of vehicle damage. They hire so-called “experts” (we call them “hired guns”) to help them spread the myth that low vehicle damage equals little or no injury. If you’re in this situation here are a few tips.
1. Take your car to a body shop of your choice and have them give you an estimate of the damage. Often times the bumper may look fine, but the damage is hidden underneath the bumper where there can be significant damage. The bumper may need to be removed to find this damage.
2. Document everything surrounding the car accident. Get the estimate of the damage on your car, take photos of your car damage, take photos of the accident scene, getting the names addresses and phones numbers of all witness, and completing an accident report. You can get a blank accident report from your local police department if the police did not respond at the scene of the accident. If the police did respond – make sure you get the officers business card with the incident report number on it.
3. It may not be a good idea to repair the car or accept a vehicle damage settlement until you have spoken with an experienced Washington car accident attorney. You should hire an experienced attorney because a lawsuit will in all likelihood be necessary to get you a fair recovery for your injuries from the car accident.
I settled my Seattle car accident case with the at-fault driver's insurance company. Do I have to pay taxes on my injury settlement money?
Many of our clients ask us about taxes when we start getting close to a settlement with an insurance company. The short answer in Washington is generally no taxes are owed on money received in settlement of a personal injury claim.
Restitution for a loss is not considered income for tax purposes. According to current IRS law, if an injured person obtains a settlement from an at fault third party (for example, from the at fault driver who hit you), that settlement money is not taxable.
Of course there are always exceptions, nothing in the law seems to be black and white. The IRS generally taxes punitive damages. What are punitive damages? Punitive damages are money that a defendant is ordered to pay over and above the full value of a case. They serve as an additional punishment given to a defendant in cases of outrageous conduct. However, in Washington State punitive damages are not usually available for injury claims.Oftentimes when you hear about huge verdicts in the media from car accidents the case is from another state that allows punitive damages in injury cases.
If you are thinking about accepting an insurance company's settlement offer it might be a good idea to give an experienced Washington injury attorney a call to review your rights and make sure you're doing the right thing.
Another option is order my free book for Washington residents “The Guide to Washington Injury Cases.” The book has good quality information for you to use in handling your injury claim.