A Legal Guide to Your Personal Injury Recovery
What Are Your Rights?
As a general rule, if you (the Plaintiff) sustain personal injury or loss as a result of another person’s (Defendant’s) intentional or negligent act, you are entitled to recover monetary compensation. Common examples of personal injury claims include auto accidents, slip & fall incidents and assault. If you choose to seek recovery, monetary compensation is available for provable wage loss, property damage, employment benefit loss, health care expenses, pain & suffering, disability and other types of losses.
Your ability to recover is primarily based on your claim’s legal considerations. Of utmost importance is whether or not the defendant has liability for your injury, and if so, the amount of damage sustained. Your recovery is also dependent upon the defendant’s ability to pay, either personally or through insurance, and/or through your own uninsured or under-insured coverage. In addition, if your own negligence contributed to the accident or loss, the court may assess you a percentage of fault which diminishes your recovery proportionately.
Do You Need an Attorney?
No law requires you to hire an attorney to handle your personal injury claim. However, the legal expertise and experience that a qualified personal injury attorney provides to you will increase your ability to obtain a prompt and fair settlement. Insurance and personal injury law are particularly complex topics, and an attorney’s expertise can prove to be invaluable when interpreting the law and your legal rights.
Why Consult an Attorney First?
Any information which you provide to an insurance company may be used against you. You are not required to make any statement to an insurance adjuster. It is advisable to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney before giving a statement to the insurance adjusters as a qualified attorney knows how to present the facts to the insurance company in order to represent your best interests. Even if you decide to handle your own case, a short conference with an experienced attorney can save you considerable trouble in the long run. If meeting with an attorney is impossible or inconvenient for you, be as reserved in your answers as possible. Be careful not to volunteer information unless asked. Read your own insurance policy and make a copy available for your attorney to read. Be informed about your insurance benefits.
What are the Costs Involved?
Most law firms accept personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that the attorney is paid a percentage of the recovery received, and therefore is not paid until your case is finalized. If there is no recovery, there is no fee. The contingent fee is based on the attorney’s time and services expended. You pay only the out-of-pocket expenses, such as filing fees, copies, transcripts, etc. Ethical attorneys may advance costs for you, but you are obligated to pay costs at the time of settlement. It is very important to have a clear understanding of your attorney’s fees and costs during your initial consultation.
Are There Alternatives to a Lawsuit?
Yes. As a general rule, 90% of all personal injury cases settle before going to trial through negotiation, mediation or arbitration.
What About Health Care?
You are free to choose any health care provider for treatment of your injury. Any competent health care provider, including chiropractic, medical, osteopathic, naturopathic, physical therapy, massage or acupuncture, can assist you in your recovery. Professions commonly referred to as complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) can effectively address injuries sustained by trauma victims. Some insurance companies continue to discriminate against alternative care. For this reason, it is vitally important to work with an ethical pro-CAM attorney who understands alternative medical care and is experienced in resolving problems with insurance companies.
Quality of Life
We understand that there is more to life than breathing. Work, play, and most importantly our relationships with family and friends add meaning to life. We will ensure that the joys of life and their loss are taken into consideration with every settlement discussion. Insurance companies pay attention to their bottom line; we pay attention to the quality of your life. We also know that when you are hurt, the decision to take an insurance company to court involves more than money. We can help you weigh the costs and benefits of these decisions to get you back to a quality life.
Legal Guidelines for Auto Accidents
1) AT THE SCENE of the accident, stop and render assistance. If anyone is injured, or damage appears to be higher than a few hundred dollars, call the police. Obtain as much information as possible about all other drivers and witnesses involved. Do not move the vehicles until the police arrive.
2) FILE AN ACCIDENT REPORT with the Washington State Patrol within 24 hours of the accident. Forms are available at local police stations and from Peick Law Group, P.S.
3) NOTIFY YOUR INSURANCE carrier of the accident in order to preserve your right to later make claims for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage or uninsured or underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage.
4) DO NOT DISCUSS the accident with anyone outside of your immediate family, your attorney, or your doctor.
5) DO NOT SIGN ANY DOCUMENT without consulting your attorney. In particular, do not sign any release without consulting an attorney, no matter what verbal representation is made by an insurance adjuster. Once you sign a comprehensive release, you will not be able to obtain further financial recovery from that person or carrier, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR CONDITION. Signing the release means you have settled your claim FOREVER.
6) OBTAIN AN EXAMINATION by your health care provider without delay.
7) KEEP A RECORD of all expenses, including mileage to and from your health care provider’s office, and all time missed from work.
8) KEEP A DIARY OF CHANGES in your life as result of your injuries, including activities missed, pain/discomfort levels, work-related or family-related problems or lost opportunities.
9) NOTIFY YOUR ATTORNEY AND DOCTOR of any changes such as new addresses, phone numbers, employers, marriage or divorce. Notify them of any prolonged vacations or trips and leave information to contact you.
10) PROMPTLY SUBMIT CLAIMS to your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) carrier for payment of health care expenses or wage loss. Most PIP policies will only pay for losses during the first year after the accident, not after the date you make the claim. By having your own carrier pay certain losses, you may enhance your final settlement.