VANCOUVER AUTO ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS
Every year, thousands of people are injured in the State of Washington due to car accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of another driver, you have certain legal rights that must be protected or your ability to seek compensation for your injuries may be lost forever. To learn more about how our Vancouver auto accident attorneys can assist you, contact The Scott Law Firm, PLLC today for a free consultation!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT AUTO ACCIDENTS IN WASHINGTON
What should I do if I’m injured in an auto accident?
If you were injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, below are some helpful tips you may wish to follow.
- Contact Law Enforcement. If anyone is seriously injured in the collision, immediately dial 911 and tell them an ambulance is needed. Do not move the injured person unless it’s absolutely necessary to avoid further injury. If law enforcement isn’t called to the scene (or doesn’t respond) and there are injuries or property damage exceeding $700, you MUST file a traffic collision report. You can obtain a traffic collision report here, or by contacting your local police department, sheriff’s department, or the Washington State Patrol. The traffic collision report must be completed within 180 days of the collision and mailed to: Accidents, Department of Licensing, P.O. Box 9030, Olympia, WA 98507-9030.
- Obtain a Statement from the Adverse Driver Admitting Fault. If the police are not called to the scene or unable to respond, obtain a written admission of fault from the driver who is responsible for causing the collision. Have them write the date, time, and location of the collision in their statement, as well as the parties involved, and have them sign the statement before giving it to you. Be sure to obtain the driver’s contact information—including their full name, address, telephone number, and date of birth—as well as the names (and contact information) of any witnesses who are present at the scene.
- Contact Your Own Insurance Company. Contact your own insurance company to report the collision within 24 hours. Tell them what happened and give them the names of any people who were involved in the collision (including the names and contact information of witnesses). Ask them to open up a Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) claim to help pay for your medical bills and other expenses.
- Obtain all Reasonable & Necessary Medical Treatment. If you are injured, seek medical treatment for your injuries as soon as possible. Injuries left untreated may become worse over time, and if you delay treatment for too long the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim may suspect that you were not injured in the collision. Follow the recommendations you receive from your healthcare providers and obtain all reasonable and necessary medical treatment.
- Do Not Attempt to Settle Your Own Claim if Seriously Injured. Just as you would not attempt to treat your own injuries following a major car accident, it is generally unwise to settle your own personal injury claim without first consulting with an attorney. Contact our firm to receive your free consultation today!
How do I get my vehicle repaired?
- Make a claim with the other driver’s insurance company (a.k.a. 3rd party claim). In order to file a property damage claim against the driver who hit you, the first thing you will need to do is contact their insurance company. The insurance company will then set up a claim number and assign an adjuster to the claim. After the claim has been set up, you will need to wait for the insurance company to complete their investigation and determine whether they will accept or deny your claim.
- -OR- Make a claim with your own insurance company (a.k.a. 1st party claim). If the adverse driver’s insurance company denies your claim or is taking too long to investigate your claim, you can opt to have your vehicle repaired using your own insurance company. The first thing you will need to do is contact your insurance company and pay your deductible. After your deductible is paid your vehicle is repaired, you can then attempt to recover the expense of your deductible from the other driver’s insurance company.
Do I have to use one of the insurance company’s “approved” auto repair shops?
No. If your claim is accepted and the cost of repairs does not exceed the value of your vehicle, you are entitled to have your vehicle repaired at an auto body shop of your choosing. The insurance company is then required to return your vehicle to the same condition it was in before the collision occurred. Keep in mind that if your vehicle is several years old, the repair shop may use reconditioned (a.k.a. “non-OEM”) parts.
What is a “diminished value” claim?
You are entitled to any reduction in the value of your vehicle due to the collision (a.k.a. “diminished value”). Frequently this occurs when you have a relatively new car that sustains moderate to significant proprety damage in a collision. This may also occur when a rare automobile such as a high performance or vintage automobile is damaged, thus affecting the vehicle’s appraised value. When this occurs it may be useful to examine appraisal figures before and after the collision to determine the vehicle’s reduction in value.
Does the insurance company have to pay for my rental car, towing and storage?
You are entitled to a rental car for every day you are unable to use your vehicle. The rental car should be equal in value to the vehicle damaged in the collision. For example if someone rear-ends your new BMW, you are entitled to a rental car of equal value (e.g. Acura, Cadillac, Mercedes) while your vehicle is in the repair shop.
What happens if my vehicle was totaled?
If your vehicle is “totaled” (i.e. the repairs exceed the total value of your vehicle), you are entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle, which must be paid within 30 days of making your claim. Fair market value is determined based on a variety of factors including make, model, options, mileage, and condition. If you are unsure about the fair market value of your vehicle, check with Kelly Blue Book. Searching for used car sales in your local classified ads or craigslist can also be helpful. You may also elect to keep your vehicle, but your settlement check for fair market value will be reduced by the salvage value of your vehicle.
What happens if my vehicle was modified or customized?
If your vehicle was modified or customized (e.g. performance upgrades, custom paint, after-market stereo, etc.) you should provide this information to the adjuster who is handling your property damage claim along with receipts. If you do not have receipts, you can estimate the fair market value of custom parts that were damaged in the collision using local classified ads (such as craigslist).
How do I settle my property damage claim?
Once the insurance adjuster handling your property damage claim has completed their investigation, they will offer you a check to settle your property damage claim. Before accepting this check, make sure you are satisfied with the amount offered. Examine the property damage estimate and any other items warranting your attention. Also make sure the check includes the cost of transferring your tags, plus any prorated annual tax and/or registration fees. If you are unable to settle your property damage claim on your own, you may wish to seek advice from an attorney.
Do I need a lawyer?
Not in every case, but it is always helpful to at least speak with an attorney before attempting to settle your own claim. Consultations with our firm are 100% free, and there are no obligations when you schedule an appointment to meet with our attorneys. Many people find that after their free consultation, they are in a better position to successfully resolve their claim. Contact us to receive your free consultation today!
How can an attorney assist me with my personal injury claim?
People who hire an attorney receive more money than people who represent themselves. This is true in most cases even after your attorney’s fees have been paid. [FN1] [FN2]
An attorney can also assist with getting your vehicle repaired and obtain a rental car while your vehicle is in the repair shop. This can be especially helpful when all of your time and energy is focused on getting the medical treatment you need rather than dealing with the insurance companies.
There is also a time limit in which you have to file a personal injury claim. This time limit (referred to as the “statute of limitations”) may vary depending on the facts in your situation. Once this time limit expires, you will no longer be able to receive compensation for your injuries. Therefore, it is extremely important for you to at least consult with an attorney who can properly identify the applicable statute of limitations in your case.
FN1. A 1999 study funded by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that, on average, people represented by a personal injury attorney received 3.5 times more money than those who didn’t hire an attorney.
FN2. Allstate’s training manual instructs adjusters to discourage individuals from hiring an attorney because Allstate’s data shows that people represented by an attorney receive 2-3 times more money than individuals who choose to represent themselves.
Disclaimer: Web content is not legal advice. Using this website and/or any of the information contained herein does not establish an attorney-client relationship. You may not rely upon, nor should you act on, the information contained on this website without first consulting with an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the appropriate jurisdiction and is familiar with the facts in your individual situation. To learn more about how The Scott Law Firm, PLLC can assist you or a friend with a legal matter, contact us today for a free consultation!