PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS IN VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON
Have you been injured or suffered the loss of a loved one? If so, the weeks and months ahead can be one of the most difficult times in your life. Dealing with finances and the insurance companies is only half the battle. Your life has changed. Fortunately, there are people who understand what you are going through and want to help.
Here at the Scott Law Firm, PLLC our Vancouver personal injury attorneys understand people value their lives, not their injuries. That is why we do everything possible to relieve the uncertainty that surrounds an injury or loss, so you can focus on getting the treatment you need to get better.
If you or someone you know has been injured and would like to speak with a personal injury attorney in Vancouver, Washington, contact us by filling out our online form or simply give us a call and our attorneys will be happy to speak with you. After-hours and weekend appointments are available upon request. Personal meetings and house calls can be arranged for clients with disabilities and/or difficulty traveling.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PERSONAL INJURY CASES IN WASHINGTON
- What types of personal injury cases do you handle?
- What should I do if I’m injured in a car accident?
- How long do I have to make a claim for my injuries?
- What information do I need to prove my claim?
- Is making a claim with the insurance company different than filing a lawsuit?
- Can I settle my own claim with the insurance company?
- Who is the “insurance adjuster” assigned to the claim?
- What is a “demand letter?”
- What happens if the insurance company won’t offer me any money?
- What types of damages are available in personal injury cases?
- Are punitive damages available in Washington?
- How can I get my vehicle repaired?
- What if the driver who hit me doesn’t have insurance?
- How long will it take to resolve my claim?
- Should I accept a settlement offer from the insurance company?
What types of personal injury cases do you handle?
Below are common examples of personal injury cases our office handles.
- Auto Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Workplace Injuries
- Wrongful Death
- Dog Bites
- Slip & Fall Injuries
- Elder Care Abuse
- Dangerous & Defective Products
- Insurance Bad Faith
What should I do if I’m injured in a car accident?
Every year thousands of people are injured in the State of Washington due to car accidents. If you are 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 long do I have to make a claim for my injuries?
Washington provides strict rules limiting the amount of time you have to make a claim for personal injuries (referred to as the “statute of limitations”). This time limit is usually three years from the date of injury, but may vary depending on the facts in your case. Once this time limit expires your ability to make a claim for your injuries is lost and you will no longer be able to seek compensation for your injuries. Therefore it is extremely important to identify the applicable statute of limitations in your case.
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What information do I need to prove my claim?
The common law elements needed to prove a claim for negligence are below. Each element must be proven on a “more likely than not” basis.
- Duty – Did the defendant owe a legal duty to plaintiff?
- Breach – Did the defendant breach that duty?
- Causation – Did the defendant’s breach cause the plaintiff to suffer harm?
- Damages – What is the amount of harm suffered by plaintiff?
Is making a claim with the insurance company different than filing a lawsuit?
Yes. Making a claim with the insurance company does not toll the statute of limitations (meaning the statute can still expire). Additionally, if you file a claim with the insurance company, the outcome of your case will not be determined by an impartial judge or jury. Instead, the outcome of your claim will be determined by an insurance adjuster who works for the insurance company.
Can I settle my own claim with the insurance company?
Yes, provided you do so within the applicable statute of limitations. However, it is generally not advisable to settle your own claim without first speaking with an attorney.
Who is the “insurance adjuster” assigned to my claim?
Adjusters are trained professionals who work for the insurance companies. If you are not represented by an attorney, the adjuster may contact you directly. The adjuster may seem friendly and willing to help, but they are not your friend. Their job is to save the insurance companies money, which they do by employing a variety of tactics designed to lower the value of your claim.
Hiring an attorney to represent you can prevent this from occurring. Once you hire an attorney, the insurance adjuster can no longer contact you. Instead, all communications must go through your attorney. This limits the adjuster’s effectiveness because it eliminates their ability to question you without the presence of your attorney. It also limits their ability obtain copies of your private medical and employment records (since all requests must now go through your attorney).
What is a “demand letter?”
A demand letter is a formal written document, typically drafted by an attorney, offering to settle your claim with the insurance company for a specific amount of money. Most demand letters include a brief summary of liability and damages and are accompanied by one or more exhibits supporting your claim. Once the insurance company receives this demand letter, they typically respond with a counter-offer and negotiations may continue for several months. It is up to you whether to accept or reject a settlement offer from the insurance company, and your attorney will advise whether they think it is in your best interest to settle or file a lawsuit.
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What happens if the insurance company won’t offer me any money?
If you are unable to successfully negotiate a settlement with the insurance company, you will need to file a lawsuit. Typically, this is done by hiring an attorney who can prepare the legal documents necessary and file these documents in the proper jurisdiction and venue. Once the lawsuit is filed and the parties are served, there are two basic elements that must be satisfied: (1) liability; and (2) damages.
- Liability (a.k.a. duty, breach, and causation). Liability is the threshold issue in every personal injury case and determines whether a party can be held legally responsible for your injuries. If the answer is “yes,” the party is said to be “liable.” Keep in mind that more than one party may be liable for your injuries and parties do not necessarily have to be people; they can also be corporations, businesses, or government entities.
- Damages. Once you have identified all the parties that are legally responsible for causing your injuries, the next step is to determine the total amount of damages. (See below.)
What types of damages are available in personal injury cases?
Below is a summary of the most common types of damages recovered in personal injury cases. This is not a comprehensive summary and there may be additional damages available to you that are not discussed below. Additionally, not all damages are available in every case. If you have a question concerning damages in your case, contact us today for a free consultation!
- Property Damage Repairs. If your vehicle was damaged in a collision that wasn’t your fault, you have two basic options: (1) make a claim with the adverse driver’s insurance company (they have 30 days to make a decision unless liability cannot reasonably be determined within this time frame); or (2) make a claim with your own insurance company and pay the deductible (which you can later recover assuming the other driver is determined at fault). In either scenario, you do not have to accept one of the insurance company’s “approved” auto repair shops. Once you select a repair shop, the insurance company is required to return your vehicle to the same condition it was in before the collision occurred, which means if your vehicle is several years old, the repair shop may use reconditioned or non-OEM parts.
- Totaled Vehicles. 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.
- Towing/Storage. If the other driver’s insurance company accepts liability, they must also pay for your towing and storage expenses.
- Rental Car. 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.
- Diminished Value. 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.
-Past & Future Medical Expenses-
Some injuries are temporary in nature and capable of healing over time with proper medical treatment. Other injuries are permanent and require a lifetime of future care. Determining which category your injuries fall under can be difficult and often requires the opinion of one or more medical care professionals.
If you are fortunate and your injuries are only temporary, once you have finished treating and your medical condition stabilizes, you are entitled to compensation for past medical expenses that are reasonable, necessary and related to the subject incident. Others who are less fortunate may suffer injuries that are incapable of healing and become worse over time. When this occurs, you are entitled to the cost of any future medical care that is deemed reasonable and necessary.
Estimating the value of your future medical care can be difficult and generally requires a declaration, affidavit, or testimony from one or more medical care professionals. There are specific laws regarding what must be proven at trial in order to receive compensation for future medical care and it is extremely important that you discuss this with your attorney if you suspect you may require future medical care.
If your medical care was paid for by someone else (such as your health insurance), they may be entitled to reimbursement for the cost of your medical care using a portion of any settlement you receive. This is commonly referred to as “subrogation.” If your medical care was paid for by a government entity, such as Medicare or Medicaid, subrogation is automatic. Private insurers must have language contained in their policy allowing them to subrogate in the event you are injured by a third party (i.e. someone else is responsible for causing your injuries). Private insurers must also properly notice their subrogation interest, referred to as a “lien.” Hiring an attorney to help manage and negotiate these subrogation interests, many of which can be reduced or eliminated, can save a significant amount of money in your personal injury case.
-Past & Future Wage Loss-
If your injuries caused you to miss time from work, you are entitled for be compensated for any lost wages. Loss of future earning capacity is another form of wage loss that occurs when your ability to earn money in the future has been affected by your injuries, and may require hiring an economist who can prepare an economic loss report in your case.
General damages (also referred to as “pain and suffering”) is one of the most hotly contested areas in personal injury law. Despite what the insurance companies tell you, there is no “formula” by which to measure your general damages.
Here at The Scott Law Firm, PLLC, our attorneys have experience working on hundreds of personal injury cases and can provide you with the assistance needed to fairly and fully compensate you for your injuries. To receive more information about how our firm can assist you, contact us today for a free consultation!
-Loss of Consortium-
A separate and distinct claim referred to as “loss of consortium” is available in some cases and is available to compensate certain family members for the loss of emotional support, love, affection, care, companionship, assistance, and physical intimacy caused by the injury or death of a loved one.
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Are punitive damages available in Washington?
Punitive damages are generally not allowed in Washington unless authorized by statute. However, Washington courts will apply the punitive damages laws of other states if the punitive conduct occurred in that state. See Singh v. Edwards Lifesciences Corp., 151 Wn. App. 137, 210 P.3d 337 (2009). Treble damages may also be available in some claims involving one or more “IFCA” violations. See Insurance Fair Conduct Act.
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How can I get my vehicle repaired?
See vehicle repairs, above.
What if the driver who hit me doesn’t have insurance?
There are many different types of insurance policies that may apply to your situation. For example, if you are injured by an uninsured driver, you may have what is called “uninsured motorist” coverage. You may also have what is called “PIP” coverage (a.k.a. personal injury protection), or there may be other people involved in the accident who have insurance policies covering your injuries. To the untrained eye it may be difficult to spot these coverages, and you would be wise to consult with an attorney about the various insurance coverages available in your case.
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How long will it take to resolve my claim?
With a few exceptions, personal injury cases in Washington must be filed within three years from the date of injury. See RCW 4.16.080. If the party responsible for your injuries is a government entity, you must provide written notice to the appropriate entity 60 days before filing suit. See RCW 4.96.020. Once a case is filed, it can take upwards of a year to get a trial date, although it may be possible to get a trial date much sooner if a party to the lawsuit is terminally ill or frail and over the age of 70. See RCW 4.44.025. It may be possible to resolve your claim much sooner, but there are several important reasons why you should avoid settling your personal injury claim too soon. (See below.)
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Should I accept a settlement offer from the insurance company?
All too often people make the mistake of settling their personal injury claim too early. In many cases, the insurance company will contact you—sometimes within just a few days after the incident occurred—and offer you a cash settlement. Due to the physical, emotional, and financial stress caused by your injuries, you may be tempted to accept their offer. However, you should resist this temptation for several reasons!
In order to fully evaluate your losses, it is necessary to have a complete understanding of the nature and extent of your physical and/or mental injuries. It is impossible to determine this until your medical condition stabilizes and you have reached what is referred to as “maximum medical improvement.” Therefore, it is generally advisable to wait until after you are finished treating before engaging in settlement negotiations with the insurance company.
It is also unwise to engage in settlement discussions until a thorough investigation has been performed. This includes identifying all the parties who are potentially responsible for causing your injuries, assessing theories of liability, and amassing all the evidence in your case. This takes time, money, and legal expertise—resources that are not available to most people. Therefore, it can be beneficial to hire an attorney to handle these matters for you, which will allow you to focus on getting the treatment you need to reach maximum medical improvement.
Finally, it is important to remember insurance companies have interests that are adverse to yours and will try to settle your claim for less than it is worth. Insurance companies also have the advantage of attorneys working for them day and night. Having an attorney at your side can help level the playing field and significantly improve the outcome in your case.
For the above reasons it is important to discuss your case with an attorney before attempting to settle your claim on your own. Our firm offers free consultations and will be happy to speak with you about your personal injury claim at no cost or obligation. To receive your free consultation, contact us today!
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