1. What is a Personal Injury claim?
A personal injury claim covers a wide range of different claims. This can be anyone
injured due to the negligence of someone else. Negligence means that someone has
failed to exercise care or caution that a reasonable person would have d This can be
from an automobile accident, slip and fall, dog bite, premise injury, faulty product,
negligence of a medical provider.
2. Why make a personal injury claim?
If you are injured as a result of someone else’s negligent, you have a right and claim
to seek reimbursement of special damages (medical bills, wage loss, out-of- pocket
expenses, etc.) and general damages (pain and suffering). Typically claims are made
against the other person’s insurance so they are not paying these damages out of
3. How do Personal Injury cases work? Process?
Personal injury cases only exist if someone has been injured. The first part of the
claim is typically when the injured party is treating. Everyone handles claims
differently. At Boyer Law Firm, I get involved in the case from the very beginning. I
like to keep in touch with my clients every 2 weeks or at the least once per month
while they are treating. This gives me an opportunity to get to know you better and
understand what you are going through as you travel the path of recovery. The
benefit of this will allow me to better advocate on your behalf when we try to settle or
negotiate. Once I get involved in your case, the insurance company, parties, or
attorneys are not able to talk with you and all communication goes through my office.
While you are treating, we will do some background work on your case such as
gathering evidence and documents we need to help prove your case. I do not advise
any settlement discussions/negotiations until all treatment has been completed and/or
all of the injuries have been discovered and recovered from as best as possible. Once
treatment has been completed, we will order your medical records and put together a
settlement letter. We try to negotiate with the at fault party or insurance company,
however, if those negotiations fail or we approach the Statute of Limitations (see
below), we will then file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit does not mean that you will have
to go to trial. This allows for additional discovery and substantiation of your claim
and there are many paths litigation can take. For more information on the process, call
us at 425-679- 6205.
4. What is a Statute of Limitations
In the state of Washington, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim for an
adult (18-years or older) is three-years from the date of loss. For a minor (under 18-
years old), the statute of limitations is three-years from the date that they turn 18-
years old. What this means is that you either need to settle your personal injury claim
or file a lawsuit against the at-fault party prior to the statute of limitations. If you do
not settle your claim or file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out, your
recovery of all general and special damages will be forever time barred. If your case
occurred in a different state, be very careful as they have different requirements and
statutes of limitation that are often less than the 3 years in Washington.
5. Why should injured persons hire an attorney and pay 1/3 of their recovery?
It is advisable to consult an attorney for a personal injury matter in order to
effectively guide your case to a successful resolution. Often times, insurance
companies will give low-ball settlement offers to unrepresented claimants. Attorneys
are also knowledgeable about the value of your case and the damages you are can
seek as well as the rules and procedures of the laws and court rules. Having someone
represent you also allows you to focus on the care you need while not dealing with
the paperwork, updates, and other tasks that are needed to move your case forward.
6. What is a common mistake that injured victims typically make before they hire an attorney?
Common mistakes include accepting settlements days after the accident occurred,
depositing checks from the adverse insurance company, not seeking the care that you
need and in turn having a large gap in care, which later the insurance company can
argue was related to an intervening cause.
7. When new clients come to you do they typically have a realistic appraisal of their claim’s value?
Often times, clients do not realistic appraisal of their claim value. Claim values are
based on a number of factors which includes injuries received, duration of treatment,
pre-existing conditions, type and frequency of treatment, whether a client had surgery
as a result of their injuries, etc. I regularly follow jury settlement awards and believe
that I can accurately determine the approximately value of your claim.
8. What kind of doctors should I see?
It is recommended that a medical professional guide your care. This can include a
chiropractor, naturopath, medical doctor, or other specialist. Some treatment
including physical therapy and massage therapy is required to have referrals. Your
doctor can then give a recommendation and referral for further treatment such as,
massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, etc.
9. How long will I need to treat for?
How long you treat for will depend on the advice of your medical providers. It is
recommended that you do not settle your case until either, you feel you are 100% at
your pre-accident condition or your medical provider determines that you are at
maximum medical improvement (“MMI”), meaning that further treatment will not
cure your condition, it will just help manage your symptoms. It is advisable to seek
counsel right after the accident. While you are treating our firm works with you to
get to know you and understand your injuries, treatment and impact of your life so
that we can better negotiate on your behalf.
10. Do I have to speak to the insurance companies?
As your legal representation, all correspondence will be directed through us.
11. Can anything be done to improve the chances of the case being successful?
Absolutely. Attend your medical appointment consistently and follow doctor recommendations/referrals. Keep track of all out of pocket expenses and perhaps keep a diary detailing pain levels and limitations with daily activities! Most importantly, keep in touch with our office so we can help resolve any issues as they come up.
12. Have you handled injury cases like mine before? If so, how many?
With a combined 14 years of experience in this field, I have successfully settled thousands of cases.
13. How many personal injury cases have you taken to trial? What were the results?
We have been to trial several times. We have also handled dozens of arbitrations, which are similar to a trial.
14. How long does it typically take to resolve an injury case like mine?
It completely depends on how long you are treating for your injuries. The duration of
treatment is different for each individual and can take anywhere from less than one
year to over 3 years!
15. What does my attorney do while I am treating?
While a client is treating, we handle all correspondence with insurance companies, make sure your medical bills are getting paid by PIP or health insurance. We also start working in the background to prove your case and your injuries whether it is working with witnesses, keeping in touch with you or talking with your providers.
16. How often will you communicate with me about my case? Will I be able to speak directly with you if I need you? Do you have time to handle my case?
Our team will check in with you periodically to ensure we are up to date with your status. Client communication is essential and we welcome all calls and emails from our clients and will work to get your questions/concerns answered!
17. If I am not satisfied with the insurance company’s offer to settle my case, will you be the actual attorney filing a lawsuit on my behalf and taking the case to trial?
Yes, if we feel a client is not satisfactorily compensated by a settlement offer, we will file a lawsuit and take a case to trial if I feel that will result in the best outcome.
18. What is your contingency fee?
Our contingency fee is one third of the settlement; however, my personal policy is to
ensure my clients receive more in pocket than I do so I will discount my attorneys’
fees if need be.
19. Are insurance companies interested in paying a fair amount to injured victims?
Typically, an unrepresented claimant will not receive a fair settlement offer from an insurance company.
20. What are common tactics undertaken by insurance companies?
Often times, insurance companies might delay a matter or deny a claim or offer far less than fair value. They will also try to settle right away before all the injuries are learned and treated. They will try to obtain information that they do not need or that we recommend giving them.
21. Who pays for treatment?
Many times, clients think that it’s the at-fault party that pays for their medical bills as they accrue. This is only correct in a pedestrian versus motor vehicle collision. However, in motor vehicle collision, the primary payor will be your own insurance company if you have Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) coverage on your policy. PIP will only up to the coverage of your policy which is usually $10,000 or $35,000. Once PIP benefits have been exhausted, your health insurance becomes the secondary payor. If you do not have any PIP insurance or health insurance, you will have to pay out of pocket for your medical treatment. Some medical providers will treat on a lien and ask for payment at time of settlement.
22. Why doesn’t the person that hit me have to pay for my treatment while I get it?
The at-fault party only pays one lump sum settlement at the time you are ready to settle your case. The lump sum settlement includes both special damages (i.e. medical bills that are deemed reasonable, medically necessary, and related to the accident) and general damages (pain and suffering).
23. Why do I have to pay back PIP and health insurance? Subrogation.
PIP coverage is often called “no-fault” coverage because it pays out claims when you are not at-fault for the accident, but since there is a third-party at-fault, PIP can request reimbursement. Same for health insurance. Since there is a third-party at fault for your injuries, they can request reimbursement.
24. What is the standard of proving what medical bills are related to the accident?
In order to recovery your damages we must prove that on a more probable than not basis, they were related to the accident and were reasonable and necessary.
25. What do I do if I don’t have insurance and need treatment?
See answer to question 22.
26. What happens if I am hit by a driver that does not have insurance.
If the other party does not have insurance, the first thing to check is whether you have Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM). This is a policy that you pay for to protect you from situations where the other party does not have insurance. This should not impact your premiums or insurance policy. Some people chose to go after the adverse party personally. This is recommended if the person has sufficient assets.
27. What should I do after an accident:
The first thing to do is call the police. It is best to get the police involved as they an take statements and gather evidence that may be needed down the road. Sometimes an adverse party will change their story later or try to change the facts to blame you and it is easier to avoid this when the police are involved. If you are injured, the second thing to do is to consult a medical provider. The third thing to do is contact and consult with an attorney about your case. An attorney can review your case and give you advise from there.
28. What should I not do after an accident?
It is not recommended to give a recorded statement to any insurance company until after you have consulted an attorney if you are injured. Do not agree to accept any money from the adverse insurance company if you are injured and have ongoing injuries. Do not deposit a check from the adverse insurance company even if you feel that it was only a partial payment. Do not try to tough it out and suffer if you are injured without getting the care you need.
29. Why does my insurance through the Personal Injury Protection Policy get to ask for an independent examination (IME).
Typically, in your insurance contract, they require that if they pay for medical bills after an injury caused from an accident, they may require you to submit for an examination by a doctor of their choosing to determine whether the care is related to an accident and is reasonable and necessary. It is best to always consult a personal injury/ accident attorney prior to attending these examinations.
There is not a requirement to pay a personal injury attorney up front. The personal injury attorney is paid a percentage of the settlement and most fees, including mine, are contingent on a successful outcome. This means that if the case is lost for some reason, there is not an attorney fee owed. I also have a personal policy, unlike most attorneys to not take more in fees than my client will get as their net settlement, in most cases.
The attorney that you choose will be handling most aspects of your case. You will be sharing intimate details of your life with this person. You want to make sure that you choose someone that you like, respect and trust. This person will be giving you a lot of advice during your case and you want someone that you trust is giving you appropriate advice and counsel. It is also important that the personal injury attorney that you choose has experience in the field and cares about you and your case. You should avoid choosing someone that does not handle this area of law often and that treats you as if you are only a money maker for him/her. You want to feel that they care and you and your case to ensure that they will represent you in the best way possible.
There is a lot of preparation needed to successfully claim and recover on a personal injury case. There are many documents that need to be collected and reviewed. The medical records are typically voluminous but important that one reviews them with attention to detail and taking their time as they are important aspects of the case. It is typically very important to the injured person who has been in pain for many months or years due to someone else’s negligence to recover money quickly, and understandably so. They want money to pay for their medical bills or allow them to feel compensated for the unjust situation they were in, however, preparing for and proving a claim can be time consuming.
In Washington there is a three year statute of limitation in which you can bring a personal injury claim. There are some other limitations for claims against the federal government or even state and local governments.
Under most types of personal injury cases, if the accident occurred in Washington, the jurisdiction, or place where the case must be brought or heard, is in Washington.
The insurance company’s primary purpose is to make money. They do not make money by paying claims, whether those claims are the Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Uninsured Motorist, (UM) or Bodily Injury (BI) claims. They may have great slogans like they are your good neighbor or there to be on your side, however, this is not something we have generally seen and contrary to their goal of making money.
There is a difference between litigation (or lawsuit) and informal settlements. In fact, most cases settle without having to file a formal lawsuit. This is called informal settlement. This can occur when an attorney submits a settlement letter, after your permission, with exhibits to prove your case and the insurance company and attorney reach an agreed settlement, with your permission. If this occurs, the insurance company will have you sign a release that should be reviewed first by your attorney. Your attorney will provide a settlement disbursement indicating where all the funds are going. The check should not be disbursed until you approve the disbursal and know where the funds are going.
The cases that do require litigation usually occur because either the statute of limitations is quickly approaching and there is not enough time to informally settle the case or the offer from the insurance company is not reasonable and after a cost/benefit analysis is done by a personal injury attorney, and it has been advisable to move forward with a lawsuit.
Just because a lawsuit is filed as discussed above, does not mean that the case will automatically go to trial. After the case has been filed in litigation with a Summons and Complaint there will be a discovery phase, which can include interrogatories, or written questions, a deposition, in person questions, and exchange of documents. During this time there are opportunities to resolve the case including, but not limited to, formal mediation.