Car accidents account for a high percentage of personal injury claims in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every 10 seconds someone in America is involved in a car accident. Annually, more than 40,000 people are killed in approximately 5 million motor vehicle accidents. This means over 100 fatalities occur each day on our nation’s roadways.
The economic costs of these car accidents are staggering, amounting to more than $150 billion each year. Chances are that during your lifetime you will be involved in at least one auto accident. You should be prepared and aware of your legal rights. If you have been injured in a car accident, you may not be sure what steps to take to protect your rights. The days and weeks following a serious car accident are traumatic, stressful, and overwhelming. Much of this stress can be alleviated with the assistance of our auto accident lawyers. Contact the Seattle car accident attorneys of Wiener & Lambka so that they can examine your case and answer any questions you may have.
The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident where injury, death, or damage to a vehicle, is required to immediately halt and stay on scene. Drivers are also required to cooperate with police and provide their name, vehicle registration and license.
Drivers should render assistance within their reasonable ability including calling for an ambulance and any other reasonable act to help injured parties.
Most collisions involving vehicles to not result in serious death or serious injury, such that police investigation needs to be made into criminal conduct. That being said, it’s preferable to leave the vehicles as is, so that it can be properly documented by the police. On the other hand, if the vehicles are presenting a hazard and can be moved to a safer place, then that should be done.
Prior to moving the vehicles, if photos can be taken in a safe manner then this is advisable. No matter how straight-forward the incident may appear, failure to document the scene can leave the possibility open for the other driver to change their statement.
Whether or not you believe that the collision merits a call to the police, it is likely advisable to do so. Sometimes the police will be unable to respond to ever minor collision and will advice both parties to handle it themselves. At least in these circumstances you will be able to state later that you did call them, but you could not make them come to the scene.
Typically the police will come to the scene to fill out a report. Having an officer as a witness, along with the report, can be a key part of your case later. Keep in mind that many people do not feel any symptoms of injury at the accident scene as they have adrenaline moving through them and, in the case of soft tissue injuries, the symptoms tend to come on progressively over the next hours and days as the inflammatory process begins.
Even in small collisions and accidents that appear to clearly be the fault of the other driver, having a police report to support your version of events later can end up being crucial.
You should have, and are required under Washington law to have, current proof of liability insurance with you while driving. This is why you’ll receive two cards from your insurance company: one to carry at all times, one to keep in your vehicle. The ticket for not having proof of insurance is several hundred dollars so, keep that information handy.
Your insurance policy likely requires that you report collisions and accidents to it. Your insurance policy is a contract so the parties owe one another a duty of good faith and fair dealing. This means that you should keep your insurance company apprised of all details around your incident in a reasonable and upfront manner. Call your agent to notify them as well. Ensure that you follow the requirements of your policy and document this. Keep copies of letters which you send to the insurance company and make notes of your conversations including the date, time and the name of the adjuster you spoke with. Failure to completely comply with the policy could result in you losing coverage.
Take pictures from a safe area around the scene. Take photographs of anything that you think might turn out to be important. Take pictures of the scene, the surrounding area, tire tracks left in the cement, injuries that were incurred, identification, anything unique (if items flew around in the car)
Continue taking photos of anything that may be relevant, even after you leave the scene. You should take photos of the property damage that is uncovered after a bumper tear-down or other work in the body shop (most shops will agree to take and provide you with such pictures).
Any additional chance to take photos should be taken advantage of. This is especially true if the vehicle was totaled, or before it’s repaired, sold for salvage, or disappears. It is much easier to convince the insurance company and the jury that the impact from the collision was severe enough to cause your injuries if you have a photograph of your crushed vehicle.
You should also photograph any physical manifestation of injuries. Anything that isn’t going to stay static during healing should be continually photographed, bruises get darker and then lighter, scars change, etc.
While you do need to make a statement to the authorities and your insurance company, the same is not required of the adverse driver or their insurance company. The best course of action is to seek legal advice before speaking to them because they will seek to record your statement. Insurance adjusters are trained to find ways in which to limit or deny claims of the other driver. We’ve taken on many clients who have given statements that have caused unnecessary problems due to not understanding the system they are now involved in. Obtaining legal advice prior to providing a statement to the opposing insurance company is always a good idea.
If there are witnesses to your automobile accident, obtain their statement and information While in most cases witnesses do not prove to be important or necessary, the problem is that you won’t know that at the time of the crash. You should be taking down notations of anything that may seem to be important at the time of the collision.
If you have any sort of injury, you should seek medical care. While this may seem like common sense to some, often people wait and hope that their injuries go away.
The problem with taking this approach in the context of a car accident case is that the insurance company for the other driver will use any delay against you and claim that if you were all that hurt, you would have sought medical care. Also, without seeking medical attention immediately, you can fall prey to the argument that you failed to take reasonable steps to limit the harm caused by the collision.
By the same logic, it is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions and follow up as appropriate. Make sure that you mention any perceived problems to the doctor so that they can be properly documented. Not having the injury documented is the same as not having suffered the injury when it comes time to settle your case.
The contents of the police report, and who is given a ticket, are not admissible evidence in your trial. However, these do matter quite a lot to the insurance companies and drivers.
If you receive a ticket that you do not believe is justified, then you have a right to challenge it in court. Simply follow the instruction on the ticket you were given. You might consider hiring an attorney that handles traffic tickets. Sometimes a personal injury attorney will also be able to help you with fighting the ticket.
Tickets can have consequences for both your injury case and your long term financial interests in regards to insurance rates.
As we said above, if it is your insurance company requesting the statement, it is your duty to offer it. In Washington state, statements given to your own insurance company are not discoverable to the other driver’s insurance company. While not as pressing as if the other insurance company wants a statement, it is advisable to contact an attorney to go over what the unique facts of your matter before providing any statement on the matter, even to your own company.
You should absolutely not record a statement for the other driver’s insurance company. Their priorities are themselves and the other driver. If this is requested, you should get in contact with a personal injury attorney right away. An insurance company doesn’t have the right to a recorded statement. You should be able to have a reasonable conversation to answer any questions, but please do contact an attorney before speaking to the adjustor, so you will fully understand what you are doing.
The internet is a fairly open place, and if you’ve ever Googled yourself or someone else, you know how easy it is to find information you didn’t know what public. Depending upon the settings in your social media, others can have access to interesting information about you. It’s good to keep in mind that Twitter keeps a running record of your tweets. Your Facebook posts can be accessed by anyone if your settings allow it. There are numerous other sites that keep your information online and readable by anyone who wants to find it. Your friends can have different settings that you do and thereby allow investigators to find out information about you from their pages.
While it’s probably a good policy to keep your information faily private, the prospect of a legal claim is especially good reason to do so. It’s also important to remember that if you change your social media posts after a collision, you could get in trouble for alter evidence.
The most important piece of advice in this area is to not post about anything that has to do with your case. Do not post about the collision at all and don’t post about your injuries. These posts will only come back to haunt you later. Do not post anything you wouldn’t want a judge or jury to take into account when making a decision.
Our consultations are free and completely without obligation to retain us as your attorneys. Most personal injury attorneys have the same policy. There is no reason why you shouldn’t at least put in a telephone call or email inquiry regarding the pros and cons of hiring an attorney.
There are many times that having an attorney in your corner is a good idea:
It is difficult to select an attorney. Attorneys are good at self-promotion and persuasive arguments. All attorneys will happily tell you about how good they are in order to obtain your business. Here are some things that will help you sort through the marketing.
The negligent party is responsible for all of your reasonable losses. This means the damage to your vehicle, the cost of a rental car, your lost wages, your out of pocket expenses, damage to personal property, your medical bills incurred for accident-caused injuries, your future medical bills, future lost wages, future impairment of earning capacity, and your general damages – all pain and suffering and impairment of your life caused by the injuries you incurred. Additional forms of damages may be present in individual cases, but these are typically the ones looked at by most attorneys.
Depending on the insurance you have on your vehicle, you may be entitled to payment of medical bills by your own company. You may also be able to handle property damage and car rental through your own company. Your own company may have a wage loss provision and a home helper provision. Funeral costs may also be included in your automobile policy. What you can obtain depends upon the type and limitations or the coverages you have paid for.
Typically the other driver’s insurance company with pay for your property damage at the time of the accident. You will then receive a check for all of the other losses when you have signed the release at the end of the case. Because you need to have all of the facts surrounding your injuries, the bodily injury payment will usually happen after you have fully completed treatment and have a full knowledge of your medical future.
Your own policy coverage will pay for things as they are incurred, consistent with the policy you have purchased.
If your vehicle is repairable, it must be restored to its pre-accident condition. You may choose the shop where you wish the car to be repaired. Some insurance companies have approved shops where the company will guarantee the work for the length of time you own the car. You should receive a rental car, or the daily cost of the car paid directly to you. Be sure of the repairs on your car before signing over the insurance check.
It’s a good idea, if you elect to go with the insurance company prefered shop, to get a second opinion on the cost of the repairs.
You will receive “fair market value” for this car if it is deemed a “total loss.” The “fair market value” of your vehicle is determined based on the amount you would have made were you to sell the car the day before the accident. Market value is determine based on factors such as mileage, age, condition of the exterior and interior, maintenance, etc.
To determine the market value of your car, the insurance company must perfect a market survey by calling dealerships and checking newspapers to find out the selling price on comparable vehicles. You should also do your research. Under the law, the insurance company cannot offer a “book figure”. Used car guides are usually on the low side because car dealerships use them for trade-in rather than “selling price.”
Here are the factors that should be included in a total loss settlement offer:
1. What is the Fair Market Value?
2. The sales tax on the Fair Market Value
3. Any unused portion of the license tab fee.
4. The use of a rental car until the offer is made or the cost of the rental car paid directly to you.
5. The fee for transfering the title
If you are interested in retaining the “salvage” (damaged vehicle) then you have the right to match the highest bid for the salvage that the insurance company obtains from a wrecking yard.
It usually take about two weeks from the date of reporting a claim until a total loss offer is made as it takes time to determine all of the above. If you have questions feel free to call.
There are two important things to keep in mind if you are the passenger in a car accident. First, it doesn’t matter much who is at fault to you, whether it is your driver, the other driver, or a combination of both. You are not remotely at fault, and can collect from any of the negligent parties.
The second consideration is what the insurance will look like that will help with medical bills and wage loss. We would consider the insurance on the vehicle, then whether the driver had additional insurance, and lastly: whether you had automobile insurance that would apply. In all cases we are looking for Personal Injury Protection coverage. If there wasn’t any, or if it exhausts, then your health insurance will kick in.
You likely bought your medical coverage for instances like this. Your automobile insurance rates will not be raised when you use your coverage in connection with an accident that was not your fault. The negligent party will reimburse that amount that your company pays (subject to legal reductions that your attorney can use to help benefit you).
You should have PIP (please see our posts and pages on this coverage HERE), but if you do not than your medical insurance will pay for your care.
Reimbursement of everything other than vehicle damage will take time. The better your coverage, the better off you will be both in terms of the short term ability to weather the storm and to be able to wait for, and obtain fair compensation for, your total settlement.
The answer to this question depends on several factors. First, does the amount offered make you happy? Do you believe that it is fair? In cases where people get only slightly injured and then bounce back quickly and are confident that their injuries are a thing of the past, then an amount that seems fair to you is probably a good thing.
Beyond this happy scenario, however, are most of the cases. Insurance companies typically seek to settle claims for far less than they are worth. Corporations have duties to maximize profits for their shareholders, so it makes sense that they would want to see if they could get you to accept a smaller settlement.
If the insurance company refuses to raise its offer to an amount that seems fair, you should consult with an attorney. Consultations are free, so you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to gain insight about your case. In many instances, you simply aren’t going to be treated fairly without having an attorney handle your case.In many cases, you aren’t going to be treated fairly without have an attorney present to handle the situation. Only a consultation will help you to understand what is best for you and your unique legal matter.
In Washington state, three years is the amount of time you have to resolve or properly file and serve a lawsuit. If these appropriate legal steps are not taken with that three year time frame, you lose your rights to compensation. We suggest that you begin the process at or before the two year mark so you can maneuver the legal process with plenty of time. We suggest you give yourself plenty of time for the paperwork as the legal process takes time. Most people would prefer to avoid a lawsuit, so we suggest you act early. It takes time to gather everything you need such as medical records, understanding of the case, negotiation and settlement. Start the process right away by consulting with a good personal injury attorney.
If you are partially at fault you may still be able to bring a claim This insurance steps in in case the negligent party does not have the insurance needed to cover your damages. Please see our discussion of UIM here.
"Wiener & Lambka always kept me up to date with my case. I'd certainly suggest them to a friend." - J. Trujillo“Wiener & Lambka get the job done. I appreciated their concern and interest in my case, and would definitely recommend them to a friend.” - Y. Martin“Calls were returned in a timely manner, and the office staff is friendly. I’d recommend Wiener and Lambka to a friend in the future.” - T. Their“I was satisfied by the timely manner with which my case was handled. I would definitely recommend Wiener & Lambka to a friend in the future.” - D. Yusuf"It was a stress free experience. I particularly enjoyed when, on my initial call, they sent someone out to my house to speak with me in person. I would certainly use or recommend Wiener & Lambka in the future." - M. Randall“Wiener & Lambka helped me through the process, always discussing all of the available options. In particular, I was happy about the ease with which I was able to access my attorneys.”- B. Froton“You minimized my stress levels on a process foreign and scary to me. Very professional, caring, and patient with me.” - A. Maas“Everything was great. It was the best legal experience I have ever had!” - T. Hoskins“Wiener & Lambka took care of the leg work for me and even managed to get a larger settlement than expected.” - J. Hanson“Wiener and Lambka did a good job of keeping me up to date on my case, and I’d definitely suggest their services to someone looking for an attorney.” - L. Lafond“The Staff at Wiener and Lambka are friendly and understand customer needs. They reduced their fee on my case and didn’t even take any on my son’s.” - M. Ngo“In my moment of Crisis Wiener & Lambka lent me a helping hand. Their dedication to my case was outstanding. They stuck by my side and fought for my rights. Thank you!” - K. Tuazon“Everyone was great. The staff at Wiener and Lambka make a good thing out of a bad situation, and for that, I am very thankful.” - D. Grami“A job well done! The staff at Wiener and Lambka made a point of explaining everything to me and if necessary I’d work with them again in a heartbeat.” - O. Yusuf“The service and the staff were great. I was happy with everything, and would refer Wiener and Lambka to someone else in the future.” - I. Aleman
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