Do I need a lawyer?

It is my honest opinion that you should always hire an attorney if you were injured in an automobile accident or at the hands of another party. Numerous studies show that plaintiffs receive much larger settlements, and therefore net significantly more than they would by dealing with the insurance company themselves. Additionally, the insurance claim process itself can be extremely confusing to navigate and will likely involve more parties than you expect.

For example, if an individual is injured in a straight-forward auto collision where both they and the at fault driver are insured, the fault-free driver already knows that they will likely be dealing with their insurance, the at-fault driver’s insurance, potentially the police department (if they respond and an incident report is made), as well as each hospital and treatment provider you receive medical care from. If the fault-free driver were on the job at the time of the accident, they will likely have to work with either Washington State’s Department of Labor & Industries, or their employer’s insurance company, if the employer is self insured. If the fault-free driver has health insurance, their health insurer can potentially be involved as well. If they are a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary, these state and government agencies can also potentially be involved. So it is not only possible, but also somewhat normal to deal with some or all of these entities in a simple auto collision, and that is not even considering if the collision involves more than just two vehicles!
Because of my extensive experience in representing plaintiff’s, I have seen almost every iteration of automobile accidents, from simple rear-end collisions, to multi-vehicle, catastrophic injury collisions. So the short answer to the question of whether you need an attorney is a resounding yes!

What is my case worth?

There are countless factors that contribute to the final value of a claim. Whether liability is in dispute, nature of the injury, nature and duration of treatment and the amount of insurance available are just a few to consider. As such, it is both irresponsible and unethical to speculate on case value without knowing all the facts. I warn you to be cautious of any attorney that promises to deliver a particular amount before they know vital information about your case. For example, there is no way to determine the full extent of your injuries until you doctor has determined that you have reached “maximum medical improvement”, which means that you have reached to point where additional treatment will likely not improve your injury.

How long will it take to resolve my case?

My goal always is to obtain a just resolution to your case as quickly and efficiently as the law will allow. Some case can be resolved in a matter of months, while others can take a year, or longer. As is the same in all personal injury cases, there are many factors that affect how long a case can take. A major factor is what your goal is in the case. Others are the pace of the court system and the opposing parties openness to settle your claim or their cooperativeness during litigation.

What will it cost me if you decide to take my case?

If I take your case after a consultation, I almost always take the case on contingency. This means that I will not charge you anything up front. If nothing is recovered from your case, you will not be charged for my time. If your case settles or obtain a jury award, my fee is paid as a percentage of the gross amount recovered from the defendant; usually one-third.
Costs are treated differently than attorneys’ fees. Costs are expenses incurred during the litigation, such as copying charges, filing fees, expert witness fees, etc. Under Washington’s rules of professional conduct, these expenses remain the client’s ultimate responsibility; however, it is my practice to advance costs during the course of a lawsuit. Costs can be paid out from a settlement award or favorable jury verdict.

What should I do at the scene of an auto accident?

Always call the police and get information from the other driver (name, address, phone number, name of their auto insurer, policy number, etc.) and any other independent witnesses that may have seen the collision. Do not discuss the circumstances of the accident or your injuries with anyone but the police. Injuries often do not manifest until the next day, so it is best to receive medical attention, if necessary, as soon as possible. Remember, the at fault driver’s insurance usually will not cover your medical bills as they are accrued, so contact your own insurance carrier and open a PIP claim immediately if you have PIP coverage. If you do not have PIP but have health insurance, open a claim with them immediately.

Should I give a recorded statement or sign a release?

You do not have to give a recorded statement to the at-ault driver’s insurance after an accident. However, if you carry PIP coverage (Personal Injury Protection), you should give YOUR OWN insurance carrier a statement. Be careful what you say, because these statements will likely be used out of context much later on in the claims process. In any event, do not give a recorded statement or sign anything before consulting with an attorney. Often insurers offer same day settlements that cannot possibly take into account the full extent of your injuries. Alternatively, if a same day settlement is not offered, they will send you a medical release authorizing them to retrieve your entire medical history. This amounts to the insurance company building a pre-existing conditions defense on behalf of the at-fault driver before you even had a chance to have your injuries diagnosed.