Typically, when you are injured in a motor vehicle accident (MVA), you exchange your contact and insurance information with the other driver. If you are injured on someone’s property, such as slipping and falling in a store (premises liability), you fill out an “incident report” or some type of documentation that describes how you were injured and what happened. From the time you first contact the other driver’s insurance company to completing a report about how you ended up on your backside, the insurance company for the driver or the store will be compiling your answers.
Documenting your Personal Injury
In order to obtain a fair and just settlement, it is essential that an accurate record of what happened is made. Because of the prevalence of cellular phones, most with built-in cameras, recorded documentation of the events has never been easier and therefore, essential. Whenever possible, photo document the events as soon as possible after the MVA or the slip and fall event.
Articles, publications and entire books are devoted to the fallibility of the human memory. As time goes on, an individual’s ability to recall events becomes less and less accurate. Having an accurate and reliable record of the events as they actually occurred is critical to a personal injury claim. The more detail that you can retain, and record will serve you well against an insurance company whose job is to protect their client from any excessive settlement against them.
Valuation of Your Case
The determination of the value of a personal injury case is largely based on the medical expenses that you incur as a result of your injuries. Calculating how much your accident injuries are is a critical part of any personal injury claim. The medical costs you incur, or “specials” are central to calculating what the value of your case is. When the claim is resolved, you want to make sure you do not owe money for medical bills that are not covered by the settlement. The total damages that you suffer is often the most difficult part of a claim because the amount will be based on your particular circumstances.
The damages most often associated with compensation from an insurance company are:
- Medical treatment and related expenses
- Wage loss or income lost because of the accident, because you were unable to work or undergoing treatment for your injuries
- Any permanent physical or mental disability or disfigurement
- Emotional damages including resulting mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The stress and strain on your family relationships such as your inability to take care of your children or lost intimacy with your spouse or partner
- Property damage, such as your automobile or other vehicle or damage to your home or dwelling or even personal property that was damaged during the incident
Settling a Personal Injury Claim
Most personal injury claims are resolved or settled against the defendant and the insurance company that represents them without a trial.
Before you consider settling your case, you need to know the full nature and extent of the injuries you suffered and have your injuries treated. Until all of your injuries have been effectively treated and you have reached “maximum medical improvement”, you may still require additional medical treatment for your injuries. Once you settle your personal injury claim, the door obtaining additional compensation or coverage for your injuries is likely shut. The effect of settling your case is that the decision becomes final and binding and you cannot go back and renegotiate an additional recovery from the insurance company or the person who injured you.
A common mistake that people make in trying to settle their own case is doing so too quickly. Often, people will settle their own cases in the days following the accident and before they know full extent of the injuries suffered and all of the medical treatment that may be required. Insurance companies are often quite happy to settle in a hurry with the injured party, even though it is not in the best interest of the injured person. You should never make the mistake of trying to settle a personal injury claim quickly and resolve your case until you have a full understanding of the nature and extent of what happened to you. Many people have the experience of being in a motor vehicle accident and reporting that they felt fine after the crash, only to experience very significant pain or medical problems several days later.
Before you settle a personal injury case you need to know when you should settle the case and how much to settle the case for. The Washington State laws for personal injury claims will help determine how much compensation you are entitled to.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Washington State
The law limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit against the person or people who caused your injuries. The time limit to filing a lawsuit is called the Statute of Limitations. In Washington State, the Statute of Limitations for negligence and any other claims that result from that, is generally 3 years from the date of the injury. If a lawsuit has not been filed against all responsible people before the 3-year anniversary of the accident, you will be forever barred from obtaining compensation from those people who were responsible for your injuries.
Even though you may have up to 3 years to file a lawsuit, you should never wait that long before acting. If the insurance company is not making a fair offer to settle your case or is being unreasonable, then the only option you have is to file a lawsuit against the person who caused the accident. Insurance companies rarely make fair or reasonable offers to people who are not represented by attorneys. Insurance companies ensure their profits by settling cases for as little as they possibly can.
When should I contact an Attorney for my Personal Injury Case?
A common mistake is made when someone waits to contact us until there are only a few months left before the 3-year anniversary or Statute of Limitations of the accident is coming due. This puts attorneys in a very difficult situation; many will not take a case so close to the expiration of the Statute of Limitations.
Personal Injury Lawyers of Washington (PILWA) works on a contingency basis, which means that we will never charge you a fee unless we recover for you. No exceptions. PILWA always provides a free consultation to prospective clients and we are happy to advise you accordingly. Because PILWA works on a contingency basis, legal fees do not increase for retaining us early in the process. By calling PILWA, we can obtain all of your medical billing records and relevant medical evidence to submit to the insurance company, if you decide to retain us.
By calling PILWA early on in the process, we can better protect your interests and give you the best advice possible. Only an experienced personal injury attorney can be thorough and exacting in obtaining all documents related to your case and give you a realistic idea of what the value of your case is. PILWA will provide you with a thorough, complete and exacting analysis of your case only we have reviewed all of the relevant medical records and documentation related to the incident.
PILWA will take the necessary time to prepare your case, including a demand package with supporting documentation to the insurance company. PILWA does this to obtain the maximum compensation for you in a settlement or lawsuit. You will be best served by consulting PILWA early in the process so we can fully develop your case. Please call PILWA today for a free consultation to see how we can best assist you in challenging process of a personal injury claim.