Frequently Asked Questions
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Did I get enough money for my totaled car?
I’ve handled numerous cases involving totaled vehicles in my time in practice. In my experience, the value offered for your totaled car is not always accurate. The amount you get back in return for your totaled car is often an average of an index of 10 similar vehicles currently on the market in a reasonably nearby area. Insurance companies use outfits such as Autosource for their market surveys. A reasonably nearby area cannot be more than 150 miles away unless there are no comparable vehicles within that range. See WAC 284-30-391: Methods and standards of practice for settlement of total loss vehicle claims.
For example, if you live in Seattle and the insurance company includes a car from Spokane or Pullman in the index then that value is not valid. If there are plenty of comparable vehicles within close proximity to your home then there is no reason to have to go more than 150 miles out. Similarly, it is important that when receiving the valuation that you ask for the list of cars used to make this valuation.
I just handled a matter in which the totaled car value index included a vehicle that had been previously totaled and received a rebuilt title. This would not pass Carfax muster. This vehicle’s value was well below any of the other cars thus indicating an irregularity in the valuation. Another vehicle was being sold for $1,000 more than what the company doing the market survey reported. Also, another two vehicles, with almost double the mileage, were very low priced as compared to vehicles with closer mileage even using the standard deduction for miles.
The bottom line is that these market surveys utilized by insurance companies often provide valuations biased towards the insurance companies. If you do your homework early to explore the value of your totaled vehicle then you will be in a better position to challenge the biased valuations that we see far too often.
Usually in cases with totaled cars there are sufficient injuries to want to retain an attorney anyways, and especially if you notice significant irregularities in the amount you get back for your totaled vehicle it might be worthwhile to have an experienced car accident injury attorney review your case.
How much does it cost to talk to you about my accident?
I never charge for initial consultations. This consultation allows us to review the facts of your unique accident together. I can discuss your case either over the phone or in person. After reviewing your case, we can determine if it is in your best interest to have me represent you for your injury. Oftentimes it is a good idea to retain an attorney, but in some cases an attorney may not be needed. The only way to be certain is to contact me for a free, no obligation consultation.
What should I do after a car accident?
If you have been injured in the accident, make sure to call 911 or have someone call 911 for you. The most important thing after an accident is to make sure that you are safe and not at risk for further injury. If you are still in your car, only move if you are not feeling lightheaded or feeling any pain. If you are able to, get as many details about the other party as possible such as their name, insurance information, contact information, as well as other important pieces of information. See here for more details on how to go about doing this.
Again, if you are able to without risking further injury, take pictures of the scene of the accident as well as of any injuries to you, your passengers, or damages done to your vehicle. Accident scenes are cleaned up fairly quickly once the police arrive so this is your only opportunity to document this information before everything has been cleaned. If there are witnesses to the accident, ask them for their contact information as they can be very helpful to your case later on.
At the time of the accident avoid making any comments that might place the blame on you. Stick to the facts of what happened and let the responding officer determine if there is any fault.
If you feel you have sustained injuries following your accident it is probably in your best interest to seek legal representation to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact me for the help you need.
Who usually pays in an insurance case?
It is an unfortunately prevalent notion that car accident attorneys file suit against the insurance company of the at-fault party. The at-fault party is typically the named defendant. For example, John Doe may be represented by Allstate Insurance but the suit will be against John Doe. However, the insurance company stands behind the at-fault party and it pays for the damages in a personal injury case. This is due to the indemnification agreement between the at-fault party and his or her insurance which states the insurance company is responsible for paying the damages (up to a policy limit). However, in the case where the damages are higher than the policy limits, the attorney will then typically obtain compensation from the client’s underinsured motorist coverage.
If the client does not have underinsured motorist coverage, or if the underinsured motorist coverage is insufficient, then the attorney may choose to file suit in order to recover damages from both the insurance proceeds and the at-fault party’s reachable assets. Oftentimes there are no reachable assets in this situation leaving the client with a deficient settlement. This is why it is very important to have underinsured motorist coverage. It should also be noted that with the insufficient insurance coverage situation there are strategies to maximize the net recovery to the client. It is prudent to have ample underinsured motorist coverage because often the persons who are drunk drivers and cause the most severe injuries are driving with low insurance limits.
If you or a friend has been in an accident it is very important that you consult with legal counsel to assure you get the best recovery possible. Contact us today for a free consultation to see how we can help you.
Does my preexisting condition mean I can't get a good result for my case?
Despite what an insurance adjuster may tell you, having a preexisting condition does not prevent you from achieving a successful result for your personal injury case. Oftentimes individuals with preexisting conditions are more susceptible to injuries from car accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, or bicycle accidents. This situation can fall under the “Eggshell Plaintiff” rule. This rule states that an offending party does not receive a reduction on what they owe for damages even if the injured person is injured substantially more than usual (given pre-existing conditions or other vulnerability). In other words, the law must take the injured party as they are when determining damages.
The exact damages depend on:
1. Whether the condition was dormant or
2. Whether there are ongoing prior problems within approximately one year of the wreck.
In the first situation the injured party can recoup all the damages caused because the impact triggered the condition to become active in the injured party. An example of this would be if an injury caused an individual with an undiagnosed heart condition to suffer from a heart attack due to a chest injury. In the second situation the injured person can recover the damages associated with the aggravation of the pre-existing condition. An example of this situation would be if an injured party with a recovering fractured bone had their injury worsened by the impact.
I recommend you take the time to talk to an attorney about your case and your preexisting condition to see how much help is available for you. I have handled cases in the past with similar circumstances and I am confident I will be able to provide you with the help you need.
What is the "RCW"?
The RCW, or Revised Code of Washington, is the set of permanent laws currently being enforced by the Washington State government. The entirety of the RCW can be viewed online using the RCW search engine. The RCW is a complicated set of "legalese" and a comprehensive understanding of the material is helpful when dealing with the legal situations. Even looking at recent controversies in the news shows how the various rules of the RCW can interact to lead to unexpected outcomes for seemingly clear cut cases.
Luckily, attorneys like Scott exist to provide clients with excellent legal advice that will help them navigate the complicated web of laws in Washington State. If you have a question about a legal issue facing you in the Washington area, contact Scott for a free, completely non-committal consultation.
I didn't call the police for my accident, what do I do?
One of the most important things any individual in a car accident should do is contact the police to document the events of the accident and have them fill out a police report. However, in the event you are in a minor accident and don’t feel either of you want to call the police (or for some reason the police won’t come to the accident) then it is critical you take down the other driver’s following information to assure a quick handling of your accident case:
- Date of birth,
- Driver’s license number,
- Address and telephone number,
- License plate number of the car,
- Insurance information (insurance company name and policy number),
- Importantly, have them show you their driver’s license to verify the information!
A quick method to get all of this information without worry about errors or potential deception on the other driver’s part is to simply use your cell phone camera to take a picture of their driver’s license and insurance card. Make sure the photo of the license is legible. This information is crucial for tracking down the other driver in the future should litigation be necessary.
If you've been in an accident and feel that you wish to retain an attorney for your accident, consider contacting us for a free consultation regarding your case.
NO ENDORSEMENT ON LICENSE: I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle but I don't have a motorcycle endorsement on my driver's license, can I still make an Washington motorcycle accident injury claim?
Yes. In a Washington motorcycle accident the lack of a motorcycle endorsement does not kill your right to make an injury claim. If the other driver caused the accident then you can still make an injury claim.
However, Washington state is a pure contributory negligence state, which may affect your claim. You're probably saying, ahh in English this time. What the legal term contributory negligence means is that if you were partly at fault for causing the accident then your claim will be reduced by that percentage.
When the insurance company finds out you did not have a motorcycle endorsement don't be surprised when they blame you for causing the accident. Or, they may try to assign you a much higher percentage of fault than is justified. The best way to deal with this situation is likely going to be hiring an experienced Washington motorcycle accident attorney.
The insurance company in this situation may not deal with you in a fair and reasonable manner because you had no endorsement. They will use any excuse to get out of paying for damages. Oftentimes, the only way to level the playing field is to hire a lawyer who can go toe to toe with the insurance company adjuster.
If you're injured in a Washington motorcycle accident and you did not have your motorcycle endorsement, do yourself a favor and call an experienced Washington motorcycle accident attorney for some advice first before walking away from a accident caused by someone else.
HANDLING CAR REPAIRS: I was injured and my car was damaged in a Seattle car accident. How do I get my car fixed without hurting my injury claim?d
When it comes to Washington car accidents, you are generally dealing with two types of claims: property damage and personal injuries. These are independent claims and usually do not affect one another. This means that if you accept money to repair your vehicle it will not affect your injury claim. Often times there are even different insurance adjuster assigned to handle each type of claim. Insurance companies like to process property damage claims quickly, so it should not take long for you to get the funds to repair your car.
You also have the option to have your car insurance company repair your car if you have "collision" coverage on your policy. This at times can be even faster. However, you may have a deductible that you must pay. Your insurance may waive it or they receive it when they go after reimbursement from the at fault driver's insurance company instead.
For more information, order a copy of our book, The Guide To Washington Injury Cases or contact us for a free consultation.
ADJUSTER CLAIMS THERE'S A TIME LIMIT : After my recent car accident the insurance adjuster sent me a letter saying that if I don't call back within the next 14 days they will close my case and consider the matter concluded. Can they do this?
You have three years from the date of the car accident in Washington State. Don't fall for this common tactic used by insurance adjuster to rush you into accepting a low ball settlement. The letter is basically meaningless.
What if I was hit as a pedestrian while jay walking?As a pedestrian, you do have a duty to obey all traffic and pedestrian signals, signs, and laws. If you fail to follow the law, you can get a ticket for jaywalking. If you're hit by a vehicle as a pedestrian while jay walking you may still have a case.In a Washington pedestrian accident with a car or other motor vehicle you can bring a lawsuit against the driver of the motor vehicle even if you are partially responsible for your pedestrian accident. So in the case of jay walking you could have a case against the driver who hit you but you would be facing a problem down the road with trying to figure out a division of fault. In such cases it's a very good idea to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable Washington pedestrian accident attorney.
How much is my Seattle pedestrian or crosswalk accident case worth?While this question may seem like it should be fairly straight forward, the answer is that there is no magic formula to predict the amount of money that a pedestrian accident case may be worth.Generally, an injured pedestrian is entitled to compensation to pay for all medical treatment (both past and future treatment that is reasonably expected) caused by the accident, loss of past wages, loss of future wage earning capacity, and general damages (typically referred to as "pain and suffering" damages).The largest factor in determining the value of a pedestrian injury accident case is the total amount of medical bills, extent of the injuries themselves, and length of time it took to recover. Whether the pedestrian has been left with a permanent injury or not is another big factor. Not only are the medical bills subject to reimbursement through a settlement or judgment, but they are the primary measure used by insurance companies and jurors to award general damages.To really determine what your Washington pedestrian case is worth it's best to talk to an experienced, knowledgeable attorney who will fight to get the settlement you deserve.
What is my Seattle car accident case worth?While this question may seem very simple, the answer and calculation is actually very complicated. The bottom line is that there is no simple formula or process to predict the amount of money that a Washington injury accident case may be worth.
However, in a nutshell, a Seattle car accident injury victim is entitled to compensation to pay for all medical bills (both past treatment and future treatment that is reasonably anticipated) caused by the accident, loss of past earnings, loss of future earning capacity, and general damages (typically referred to as "pain and suffering" damages).The biggest factor in determining the value of an injury accident case is the total cost, extent, and length of medical treatment. Not only are the medical bills subject to reimbursement through a settlement or judgment, they are the primary measure used by insurance companies and jurors to award general damages.
The best way to get a range of what your Seattle injury accident case may be worth is to talk to an experienced, knowledgeable attorney--one who only represents injury accident victims--contact Scott McDonald And Associates by calling them at 425-822-5700 or contacting them online here.
I was in a motorcycle accident but wasn't wearing my helmet, do I still have a case?
Failing to wear your helmet may or may not make a difference. If your decision to not wear a helmet did not cause or aggravate your motorcycle accident related injuries, you can still make an injury claim. Whether you are able to obtain the maximum compensation for your injuries because you wore a helmet or not depends on the type of injuries suffered in your Washington motorcycle accident.
In Washington you are required to wear a helmet. So if you suffer a only a head injury in the bike wreck then you may not have a case. It depends on whether a helmet would have prevented the head injury you suffered. However, if you weren't wearing a helmet and suffered injuries to other parts of your body, like a broken arm or leg, then the fact that you were not wearing a helmet will generally have little effect on your ability to make your case. That's not to say the insurance company won't use it as an argument against you and a jury may hold it against you if you end up going to trial.
Your case will have a problem to overcome either way. That's why it's important in situations like this to speak with an experienced attorney as soon after the bike crash as possible. Your attorney will assess the situation and discuss all of your legal options with you.
I was seriously hurt in a recent Kirkland motorcycle accident. Should I contact a Kirkland motorcycle accident attorney now? If I do decided to contact an attorney how long do I have before deciding whether or not to file a lawsuit?
After a serious Kirkland motorcycle accident, it is crucial to contact a Kirkland motorcycle accident attorney immediately. As you heal and recover from your accident, your attorney will be able to investigate your accident and collect any and all evidence needed to assist in your case. Hiring an attorney now will help you make sure all the evidence is preserved while and the insurance companies are handled, so you will be able to focus your time and energy on recovery.
In the State of Washington, you have a three year time limit to file a personal injury claim for injuries caused by use or operation of a motor vehicle, including motorcycles. In many cases its best to wait to decide on whether to file a lawsuit until after you have healed from your injuries and know the full extent of the injuries you suffered. Because Washington accidents often involve very serious injuries it's not uncommon for a rider to be left with some degree of permanent injury. Such permanent injuries can range from a road rash scar, to herniation disc in the spine, to the loss of a arm or leg.
When such serious and permanent injuries are involved it's important you speak with an experienced Washington motorcycle accident lawyer before deciding what to do in resolving your case. Permanent injuries have a higher value than injuries you are able to fully recover from, but the insurance company will never tell you that. We always recommend hiring an attorney as soon as possible when very serious injuries are suffered in a motorcycle accident.
Should I contact my insurance company after a Kirkland motorcycle accident even if it wasn't my fault?
Absolutely! Most insurance companies expect their policy holders to contact them after any motorcycle or motor vehicle accident. Your failure to do so can result in the insurance company denying your claim for repair of your bike, payment of your medical bills or any other payments you may have been entitled to if you made a timely report of loss.
In addition to contacting your insurance company, you should also contact a Kirkland motorcycle accident attorney, so that you can learn what your rights are before signing anything or speaking with the at fault driver's insurance company. A good first step is to order our book the "7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Washington Motorcycle Accident Case."
What if I wasn't wearing my seat belt and I was injured in a Washington car accident?
A recent mini-van accident near Snoqualmie Pass illustrates this point well. Six people in a minivan were all ejected from the van when it rolled over. The passengers suffered very serious injuries and the driver died at the scene of this Washington roll over accident.
Under Washington law, RCW 46.61.688, seat belts are required to be worn in vehicles like cars, trucks and vans. If you were injured in a Washington car accident and suffer injuries due to another driver's negligence or carelessness causing the accident your failure to wear a seat belt does not mean you lose your injury claim. In fact most times your failure to wear a seat belt is not admissible as evidence in the trial of your injury case.
You still have a valid injury claim despite not wearing a seat belt and possibly suffering greater injury because of no seat belt. However, as a passenger it was not your fault for causing the accident, so Washington law says the other driver does not get a free pass for his negligence even though technically you were not complying with the seat belt law. The same principle is true for the driver of a vehicle when another car is at fault for causing the accident.
There are times when the facts of the accident will disclose that you weren't wearing a seat belt, like being ejected from a vehicle. Most jurors will know that you weren't wearing your seat belt given that fact. If a jury knows that they may reduce the amount they award in a jury verdict because you weren't wearing your seat belt. However, what goes through a jurors mind and reasons they use to decide are secret and you may never really know if that was a factor or not. For that reason it's important to make sure you follow all rules of the road or you may find your injury claim value will suffer as a result.
Plus, seat belts save lives. The driver in the mini-van accident likely would have lived and the passengers would have suffered less severe injuries if everyone had been wearing their seat belts.
Buckle up, it may save your life!
Hit while sharing a lane. Who is at fault?Every riding season, we get calls because a biker saw a car pulling over as if they were making a turn or pulling off the roadway, and at the last moment veer back into the lane ramming into a bike who was trying to go around the car. The biker always tells us the car didn't signal. This type of motorcycle accident is not only common, but also tricky when it comes to getting insurance companies to pay for your bike repairs and medical bills.
You may be thinking it’s obvious the car was at fault and therefore the insurance should pay up to fix the bike and cover any medical bills the biker might have incurred. Well, under Washington vehicle and traffic laws the car is not entirely at fault. In fact, in Washington it is illegal for two vehicles to share one lane at the same time, which means that when the biker tried to go around the car which had begun to pull over but had not yet turned (and therefore was still somewhat in the lane) the biker was advancing and sharing the lane.
In Washington this can trigger the comparative fault rule. When you are partially at fault for causing a collision you can only recovery compensation for the percentage that you weren't at fault. So, if both of the vehicles were partially at fault, they will both be partially compensated for the damage they incurred. The facts of how the collision happened and where each vehicle was in relation to how the collision happened is very important. And this is where it gets tricky.
The tricky part is determining who has what percentage of fault given the facts of the collision. You have to think about who determines this percentage of fault. Normally it will be an insurance adjuster before a lawsuit is filed, once a lawsuit is filed it will ultimately be a judge or jury.
Realize at first it will be an insurance company adjuster deciding your fate so what you say to the police at the scene will play a big part in determining this percentage. What you say to the insurance adjuster on the phone if they call you is equally if not more important. If you say the wrong thing you can seriously damage and even totally wreck your case. It’s always okay to tell the adjuster that “I’ll be happy to speak with you as soon as I have had a chance to consult with my attorney” and stop the call there.
It is important to know ahead of time what information you should request and how to present your side of the story. For example, you should never volunteer any information that puts you at fault. If you are asked questions by the officer, answer truthfully, but don't volunteer extra information such as "I only had two beers." You should never admit guilt and make sure that you not only get a chance to speak to the officer but also to explain clearly what the other driver did wrong and why he/she was at fault.
Being prepared for a Washington motorcycle accident and knowing what to say is important especially if you expect to get your bike fixed and medical bills paid. Before you speak to the at fault driver’s insurance company or sign an forms order your FREE book “7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Washington Motorcycle Accident Case.”
Who has the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection in Washington?
When an intersection does not have a traffic light, stop sign, or other traffic control device who has the right of way? Washington car accidents happen because drivers don't know the answer to this question. Sometimes with tragic results. Here is a clip with the Seattle PD at the scene of such an accident.
Washington state law under RCW 46.61.180 says "When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right."
In the video clip accident, the driver of the van had the duty to yield to the car. He was negligent in failing to do so and is now liable for the all damages caused to the car and its passengers. The car had two adults, the 3 year-old child, and another child of unknown age. Three of the car passengers suffered life threatening injuries. Hopefully, the van had adequate insurance to cover the serious injuries suffered by the car passengers.
What if a family member has been killed as the result of an accident that was not their fault?
Although only two percent of registered vehicles are motorcycles, more than eight percent of fatal traffic accidents involve motorcycles. This means that, based on miles traveled, motorcyclists are 32 times more likely to die in a motorcycle accident than a passenger or driver of a car. The loss of a loved one in any accident is devastating.
In such cases, a family member may be entitled to claim for wrongful death depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. If you are the family member of someone that passed away as the result of such an accident, you should seek legal assistance from a qualified Washington motorcycle fatality or car accident fatality lawyer as soon as possible. Because your loved one is no longer able to speak for him or herself it's even more important to conduct a prompt accident investigation whenever possible.
Although no monetary recovery could ever replace a loved one’s life, a wrongful death claim can bring a family compensation for loss of income and support, final medical bills, funeral expenses, and damages for pain and suffering. Depending on the circumstances of an accident, in cases where a loved one died in a fatal motorcycle accident, surviving family members may be entitled to bring a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for an accident.