Vehicle Accident Facts from Spokane Personal Injury Lawyers
What Type of Auto Insurance Should I Get
The law in Washington requires that you get bodily injury liability insurance in the amount of at least $25,000/$50,000. Get more. If you cause a bad accident, you will want to have enough insurance to protect the people you injure – especially if you injure a friend or loved one riding in your car.
UIM, which stands for un- or under- insured motorist is an optional insurance. Get lots of it. Eastern Washington is a relatively impoverished community. Many drivers have no or little liability insurance. If you are in a bad accident, your UIM coverage will protect you. If you live in Idaho, get even more UIM. In Idaho, your UIM coverage is a vanishing layer of protection. That means your policy limits decrease for every dollar of liability insurance available. For instance, an Idaho resident who has a $100,000 of UIM insurance but is hit by a vehicle that has $100,000 of liability coverage actually has no UIM coverage in that example.
PIP, which stands for Personal Injury Protection, is also very important, especially if you do not have health insurance. It pays for your medical bills, wage loss and domestic services related to the accident and comes in very handy if you need to wait for months or years for the opposing driver’s insurance company to settle with you.
What to do if you are in an accident:
Do not panic.
If you are asked, “Are you okay?” before you answer remember that we are conditioned as part of the way we communicate to say “good,” “fine,” “well” or something else that is positive. The reality is, however, that even in a minor accident you may be, “shook-up,” scared or confused. You may also be in shock. Keep in mind that you may not feel the pain from a motor vehicle collision for hours or even days after. Choose your words wisely.
Before moving the vehicles, if you are physically able to do so, snap several pictures of the vehicles and their location. Get pictures from many different views including panoramic and close-ups. Photograph what is not there too. For instance, if there are no skid marks, take a picture of that. If liability is ever contested, the vehicles’ point-of-impact and their resting position is important so take pictures of marks on the ground or other things that help prove where the vehicles were when they collided.
The amount and location of visible property damage often proves very important to the value of your case. Make sure to photo document property damage. If there is minimal property damage, insurance companies will want to pay less for your claim. Again, look for damage in odd places such as a bent brake pedal or steering wheel, or a broken seat or seatbelt.
Call the police – if the accident has caused more than $700.00 in damage, you have to call the police. RCW 46.52.030; WAC 446-85-10. Even if the accident does not meet that threshold, you still have to complete an accident report and submit it. RCW 46.52.030.
Obtain from the other driver as much of the following as you can:
The law requires that a person whose vehicle hits a person or property to furnish “his or her name, address, insurance company, insurance policy number, and vehicle license number and shall exhibit his or her vehicle driver’s license to any person struck or injured.” RCW 46.52.020(3). Failure to give this is a Class C Felony so if they will not give it, call the police. Obtain and write down:
Date of Birth
Driver’s License Number
Make Model and Year of Vehicle
License Plate Number
Name of Auto Liability Insurance Company, Policy Number and Bodily Injury Liability Limits if the driver knows (the state minimum is $25,000).
Look for any witnesses and get their full name, contact information, including work, home and e-mail, and a brief summary of what they saw.
You may be given an opportunity to leave the scene of the accident by ambulance. If in doubt, do not refuse medical treatment. However, if you do refuse medical treatment and you later feel the need, do not hesitate to go to an urgent care or emergency room.
Do I Need a Spokane Injury Lawyer?
This is a difficult question for me to answer because I have an inherent bias. Naturally, if you have been injured in a serious injury, I would like you to answer this question affirmatively and call me. But it is not that simple. Here are the reasons why you may want to consider hiring a lawyer to help you resolve your claim:
1) The Spokane Injury Attorney does all the work. Following an accident, you will have all sorts of complications added to your life. You may need to find a new car or get yours fixed. You need to schedule and attend medical appointments. Often, there several insurance policies, adjusters, and claims involved including PIP, UIM, Bodily Injury Liability Coverage, Health Insurance and others.
2) The attorney may get you a more reasonable settlement than you would get on your own. Valuing claims and negotiating their settlement consumes a large part of a personal injury lawyer’s day. It stands to reason that their knowledge and experience may net you a better settlement. Plus, the attorney has the power to file a lawsuit if a settlement cannot be reached, so when a non-lawyer negotiates a settlement there is no immediate threat to the insurance company to offer a lower amount than might otherwise be offered. A related question is whether the potential increase that an attorney may get you will cover the fee the attorney is charging? That is a complex question and it varies from case to case. If you call us and tell us about the case you have and the type of insurance involved, we can give you a more definitive answer. Ultimately, even if the attorney’s efforts do not net you more money but you do not have to do any of the work, it may well be worth it.
3) Depending on Your Claim, a non-attorney can screw things-up. There are often several, technical steps necessary to perfect your claim. Doing or saying the wrong thing can cause damage that cannot be undone.
Should I try to Settle my case and then hire an attorney?
No, for two reasons. First, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee and, save a few exceptions, that fee stays the same if the attorney spends months, years or days working on the case. So, make the attorney do all of the work and get more bang for your buck. Second, as mentioned above, you may take a false step or do something that the attorney cannot easily undue. For instance, you may undervalue your case and discuss a number with the insurance adjuster that causes the insurance company to believe that the case can be settled for less money than it is worth. In the negotiating game, those expectations can be difficult for an attorney hired later to undo.
What is My Case Worth?
The value of your case depends on numerous factors, including but not limited to the speed of the accident, the amount of visible property damage, your prior health, your age, your income, the amount of your medical bills, your future prognosis, how like-able you are, how like-able your attorney is and numerous other factors. Be skeptical of any attorney that throws out large numbers or numbers without careful study of your file, including your medical records and medical bills.