Frequently Asked Questions
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What should I do after a car accident?
If you have been injured in the accident, make sure to call 911 or have someone call 911 for you. The most important thing after an accident is to make sure that you are safe and not at risk for further injury. If you are still in your car, only move if you are not feeling lightheaded or feeling any pain. If you are able to, get as many details about the other party as possible such as their name, insurance information, contact information, as well as other important pieces of information. See here for more details on how to go about doing this.
Again, if you are able to without risking further injury, take pictures of the scene of the accident as well as of any injuries to you, your passengers, or damages done to your vehicle. Accident scenes are cleaned up fairly quickly once the police arrive so this is your only opportunity to document this information before everything has been cleaned. If there are witnesses to the accident, ask them for their contact information as they can be very helpful to your case later on.
At the time of the accident avoid making any comments that might place the blame on you. Stick to the facts of what happened and let the responding officer determine if there is any fault.
If you feel you have sustained injuries following your accident it is probably in your best interest to seek legal representation to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact me for the help you need.
I didn't call the police for my accident, what do I do?
One of the most important things any individual in a car accident should do is contact the police to document the events of the accident and have them fill out a police report. However, in the event you are in a minor accident and don’t feel either of you want to call the police (or for some reason the police won’t come to the accident) then it is critical you take down the other driver’s following information to assure a quick handling of your accident case:
- Date of birth,
- Driver’s license number,
- Address and telephone number,
- License plate number of the car,
- Insurance information (insurance company name and policy number),
- Importantly, have them show you their driver’s license to verify the information!
A quick method to get all of this information without worry about errors or potential deception on the other driver’s part is to simply use your cell phone camera to take a picture of their driver’s license and insurance card. Make sure the photo of the license is legible. This information is crucial for tracking down the other driver in the future should litigation be necessary.
If you've been in an accident and feel that you wish to retain an attorney for your accident, consider contacting us for a free consultation regarding your case.
HANDLING CAR REPAIRS: I was injured and my car was damaged in a Seattle car accident. How do I get my car fixed without hurting my injury claim?d
When it comes to Washington car accidents, you are generally dealing with two types of claims: property damage and personal injuries. These are independent claims and usually do not affect one another. This means that if you accept money to repair your vehicle it will not affect your injury claim. Often times there are even different insurance adjuster assigned to handle each type of claim. Insurance companies like to process property damage claims quickly, so it should not take long for you to get the funds to repair your car.
You also have the option to have your car insurance company repair your car if you have "collision" coverage on your policy. This at times can be even faster. However, you may have a deductible that you must pay. Your insurance may waive it or they receive it when they go after reimbursement from the at fault driver's insurance company instead.
For more information, order a copy of our book, The Guide To Washington Injury Cases or contact us for a free consultation.
ADJUSTER CLAIMS THERE'S A TIME LIMIT : After my recent car accident the insurance adjuster sent me a letter saying that if I don't call back within the next 14 days they will close my case and consider the matter concluded. Can they do this?
You have three years from the date of the car accident in Washington State. Don't fall for this common tactic used by insurance adjuster to rush you into accepting a low ball settlement. The letter is basically meaningless.
What is my Seattle car accident case worth?While this question may seem very simple, the answer and calculation is actually very complicated. The bottom line is that there is no simple formula or process to predict the amount of money that a Washington injury accident case may be worth.
However, in a nutshell, a Seattle car accident injury victim is entitled to compensation to pay for all medical bills (both past treatment and future treatment that is reasonably anticipated) caused by the accident, loss of past earnings, loss of future earning capacity, and general damages (typically referred to as "pain and suffering" damages).The biggest factor in determining the value of an injury accident case is the total cost, extent, and length of medical treatment. Not only are the medical bills subject to reimbursement through a settlement or judgment, they are the primary measure used by insurance companies and jurors to award general damages.
The best way to get a range of what your Seattle injury accident case may be worth is to talk to an experienced, knowledgeable attorney--one who only represents injury accident victims--contact Scott McDonald And Associates by calling them at 425-822-5700 or contacting them online here.
What if I wasn't wearing my seat belt and I was injured in a Washington car accident?
A recent mini-van accident near Snoqualmie Pass illustrates this point well. Six people in a minivan were all ejected from the van when it rolled over. The passengers suffered very serious injuries and the driver died at the scene of this Washington roll over accident.
Under Washington law, RCW 46.61.688, seat belts are required to be worn in vehicles like cars, trucks and vans. If you were injured in a Washington car accident and suffer injuries due to another driver's negligence or carelessness causing the accident your failure to wear a seat belt does not mean you lose your injury claim. In fact most times your failure to wear a seat belt is not admissible as evidence in the trial of your injury case.
You still have a valid injury claim despite not wearing a seat belt and possibly suffering greater injury because of no seat belt. However, as a passenger it was not your fault for causing the accident, so Washington law says the other driver does not get a free pass for his negligence even though technically you were not complying with the seat belt law. The same principle is true for the driver of a vehicle when another car is at fault for causing the accident.
There are times when the facts of the accident will disclose that you weren't wearing a seat belt, like being ejected from a vehicle. Most jurors will know that you weren't wearing your seat belt given that fact. If a jury knows that they may reduce the amount they award in a jury verdict because you weren't wearing your seat belt. However, what goes through a jurors mind and reasons they use to decide are secret and you may never really know if that was a factor or not. For that reason it's important to make sure you follow all rules of the road or you may find your injury claim value will suffer as a result.
Plus, seat belts save lives. The driver in the mini-van accident likely would have lived and the passengers would have suffered less severe injuries if everyone had been wearing their seat belts.
Buckle up, it may save your life!
Who has the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection in Washington?
When an intersection does not have a traffic light, stop sign, or other traffic control device who has the right of way? Washington car accidents happen because drivers don't know the answer to this question. Sometimes with tragic results. Here is a clip with the Seattle PD at the scene of such an accident.
Washington state law under RCW 46.61.180 says "When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right."
In the video clip accident, the driver of the van had the duty to yield to the car. He was negligent in failing to do so and is now liable for the all damages caused to the car and its passengers. The car had two adults, the 3 year-old child, and another child of unknown age. Three of the car passengers suffered life threatening injuries. Hopefully, the van had adequate insurance to cover the serious injuries suffered by the car passengers.
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.
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 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.