What do I do about my medical expenses?
The most important step to take after you have been injured is to seek necessary medical treatment. Ultimately, all of the medical expenses caused by the at-fault party will be paid by their insurance company. However, this payment typically comes in the form of a settlement check or after a favorable verdict at the conclusion of your case.
Prior to the conclusion of your case, there may be several sources of funds to pay your medical bills. You might have coverage for medical expenses under your own auto insurance policy. This is typically in the form of PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage. You might also have your own policy of medical insurance (such as Blue Cross, Uniform Medical Plan, or Group Health) that will pay for your treatment. In some cases, health care providers may agree to be paid out of your settlement.
If you are an injured passenger or pedestrian, the driver’s policy or your own PIP coverage may be available to you. If you are injured as a result of a fall, the property owner’s insurance might be available to pay your immediate medical expenses.
The important thing is to seek appropriate medical treatment and follow the doctor’s instructions until you are better.
What do I do about my damaged car?
The property damage part of your case can often be handled separately from the bodily injury portion. Calculating your vehicle’s damage is fairly straight forward, and the at-fault party’s insurer will typically make payment to you or to a body shop based on a repair estimate. You can often recover this payment as soon as you can get your car in the shop, plus a reasonable rate of car rental for every day you were without the use of your vehicle.
If your vehicle is a total loss, you are entitled to be paid the fair market value of your vehicle so you can replace it. On some total loss cases, you need your attorney to convince the insurance company of what amount will fairly compensate you for the loss of your vehicle.
Sometimes the at-fault party’s insurance company disputes that their insured caused the collision, and they are more hesitant to pay for your vehicle damage. In these situations, you can make a claim to your own auto insurance under your Collision coverage instead of waiting to recover from the at-fault party’s insurer from a settlement or verdict.
If I want to make a claim for personal injuries, does that mean my case will have to go to trial?
Only five percent of cases ever see a courtroom. This means that many cases are either settled or mediated. For those cases that do not settle, the next step is for the injured person (the Plaintiff) to start a lawsuit against the at-fault party (the Defendant). Legal time limits (Statutes of Limitation) could force you to file a lawsuit or lose yours claim all together. In almost all situations, the Defendant’s liability insurance company will provide an attorney to represent the Defendant.
Once a lawsuit has been started, the Plaintiff and Defendant can still settle the case at any point before trial. In personal injury cases, a trial will be set for about twelve months after the lawsuit is started. During the first few months after the start of a lawsuit, both parties can obtain from each other information relevant to the case. This is called the Discovery phase. After this, the parties prepare their cases for trial or arbitration.
What is the statute of limitation for a personal injury case?
A “statute of limitation” (SOL) is a law that sets a time limit on legal action. After the statute has expired, legal action (a lawsuit) may not take place. In Washington State, the SOL for most motor vehicle collision cases is three (3) years from the date of the motor vehicle collision. However there are exceptions to the statute of limitation period. You will want to consult with an experienced attorney to make sure you know when the statute expires in your case.
What is the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice case?
A medical malpractice action must be brought within three years of the act or omission alleged to have caused the injury or one year after the discovery of the alleged negligent act or omission, whichever period expires later. In no event may a medical malpractice action be brought later than eight years after the date of the alleged act or omission. The limitations period is tolled upon proof of fraud, intentional concealment, or the presence of a foreign object in the claimant.
What is the statute of limitations for a uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist case?
In Washington State, the statute of limitations (SOL) for written contracts is six (6) years. In Safeco Ins. Co. v. Barcom (112 Wash.2d 575, 773 P.2d 56 Wash.,1989), the Supreme Court of Washington held that contract law, and its six-year SOL, applies to an insured’s claim for UM/UIM coverage. Thus, a UM/UIM insured has six years to file a lawsuit against his/her UM/UIM carrier.
The question then becomes, when does the six-year SOL begin to accrue (run)? The SOL begins running when the UM/UIM insurance contract is breached, such as when the UM/UIM carrier refuses to provide UM/UIM benefits to its insured without legal justification.
Claims against a UM/UIM insurance carrier can be complicated and technical, so you should strongly consider obtaining legal counsel if you wish to pursue a UM/UIM claim.
What is Arbitration?
If the injured party believes their damages are not more than $50,000.00, the case can be arbitrated rather than tried to a judge or jury. An arbitration is similar to a trial, in that the attorneys give opening statements, put on their witnesses, cross-examine the other attorney’s witnesses, and give a closing argument. Also, just like a trial, the attorneys can submit evidence and make objections. Unlike a trial, an arbitration is not in a courtroom and does not take place in front of a judge or jury. Instead, an arbitrator (an experienced attorney) presides over the arbitration, which takes place in a conference room at a law office. In both a trial and an arbitration, after all of the evidence is presented, the judge, jury, or arbitrator will make a ruling on the issues in the case, such as: who was at fault for the Plaintiff’s injuries and what is a fair compensation to make the Plaintiff whole.
What Is My Case Worth?
Evaluating your case means determining who was at fault, and the amount of money that makes up for the injuries or loss you sustained, the wages and property you lost, the pain you went through, the mental anguish you have experienced, and the affects your injuries have had on your life. Part of this evaluation can also include, if it applies to you, the amount of future medical expenses, future pain and suffering, and the impaired earning capacity that you are likely to experience in the future due to your injuries.
While you are entitled to be compensated for all of the above losses, there is no strict rule or formula to compute that value. Rather, it is based on two questions: (1) your out of pocket past and future injuries, and (2) your degree of pain, suffering, emotional distress and loss of the enjoyment of life’s activities. The extent of your injuries, your medical expenses, and the affects your injuries have on your life are all considered in evaluating your case. After thorough consideration, your attorney will talk with you about these factors and advise you on what amount of money is reasonable to expect as compensation.
What is a “bad faith” claim?
In Washington, an insurance company owes the insured (or “policyholder”) a duty of good faith and fair dealing. If an insurance company violates these duties when dealing with a claim of the insured person, the insured person may sue the company for breach of the duties in addition to a standard breach of the insurance contract. The result is that a plaintiff in an insurance bad faith case may be able to recover an amount of damages greater than the original face value of the policy if the insurance company’s conduct was particularly egregious. Bad faith can occur when an insurer improperly refuses to defend a lawsuit, or when an insurer improperly refuses to pay a judgment or settlement of a covered lawsuit.
What is a “wrongful death” action?
A spouse, child, or other beneficiary of a person who died due to the negligence of another may recover for loss of love and companionship of the person who died. If the beneficiary is dependent upon the decedent, he or she may be eligible for other damages that help ensure his or her financial needs will be taken care of.
What is a “survival” action?
A person who dies due to the negligence of another has his or her own cause of action for suffering and damages that may be brought by a representative of the estate. The injured person may have died, but the claim against the at-fault party “survives.”