If you have been injured in an auto accident
- Do not give a recorded or written statement, except to the police or your own insurance carrier.
- Do not sign anything without an attorney reviewing it first.
- Take pictures. Take photographs of the property damage and accident scene. Take pictures of any scarring or bruising.
- Do not discuss your injuries with the at-fault insurance company. You should discuss only the damage to your car and the need for a rental car or “loss of use” compensation.
- Seek medical attention for your injury. Any delay in care could exacerbate your injuries. If you delay care insurance companies may try to blame you for that. If medical coverage is an issue contact an attorney.
Do not agree to an “independent” medical exam with anyone, including your own insurance company, without first speaking to an attorney.
- Preserve evidence. Many accidents are captured on surveillance video. Businesses routinely delete videos after a period of time. Requests must be made early. Witnesses statements, and vehicle “black box” data, and other evidence should be gathered as early as possible. An attorney can help.
After an auto accident, you have a lot to deal with: medical bills; lost income; stress and anxiety; loss of hobbies, activities, and enjoyment of life. If another person caused the accident you are entitled by law to just compensation for your harms and losses. Before you give the other driver’s insurance company a statement, or sign any documents, consult with an attorney for a free, no obligation auto accident injury case evaluation.
Attorney Fees in Auto Accident Cases
We represent auto accident victims on a contingency fee basis. If our client does not recover any damages, we do not get paid.
Free Auto Accident Personal Injury Case Evaluation.
This information about auto accident injury claims is very general and the topic is broad and complex. Contact us for a free personal injury case evaluation from a Seattle auto accident attorney.
Washington Law on Automobile Accidents
The legal rules to determine who was at fault will depend on the facts you can prove about how the car accident happened. Here are some common car accident scenarios. Follow the links to read more on auto accident law in these situations.
- rear-end car accident The following driver is ordinarily at fault in a rear-end injury accident. Sometimes the following driver’s insurance will try to blame the lead driver for allegedly stopping suddenly or deceptive driving.
- failure to yield car accident Failure to yield at a stop sign, traffic signal, when pulling onto a street from a driveway or building, or when merging onto a highway are all common causes of automobile collisions.
- uncontrolled intersection accident
- injury to auto accident passenger
- auto accidents involving speed
- highway design defects
- buses and other public transit
- pedestrian injury accidents
The attorney fees come out of the injury settlement. But, the insurance company or governmental agency may be legally obligated to pay a pro-rata share of your legal expenses if you retain an attorney, even if you did not pay attorney fees out of pocket. This may apply by state law, federal law, and/or contract. Ask an auto accident injury attorney you are considering hiring if the attorney keeps any of the Mahler or other pro-rata reductions.
The Auto Accident Police Report
For many auto accidents, there is a police report. Although this is certainly a good place to start, the police report in and of itself does not determine who was at fault, even if one or more drivers in the car accident were cited for traffic violations. The police officer investigating an auto accident can cite a driver for a traffic violation, but the police officer is not a judge, and does not have legal authority to make a final determination about who was at fault. The police report is hearsay, and any witness statements quoted or summarized in the police report are also hearsay.
Insurance Coverage for Auto Accidents
If another driver causes an auto accident you may be entitled to property damage, lost wages, medical expenses, and compensation for pain and suffering. An injured person’s medical expenses are not awarded automatically. The injury victim must prove that the medical expenses are reasonable, related to the auto accident, and medically necessary. Just producing medical bills is not adequate proof legally. Insurance companies often retain doctors to question your treatment, even if you are just following your own doctor’s instructions. An auto accident attorney can help.
The party at fault may not have enough (or any) insurance. In that event you will need to consider how to ascertain what other assets the party may have and how to establish a claim under your uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage.
If your insurance company–whether auto insurance or health insurance–paid any benefits to you and you collect from an at-fault party, then your insurance company is legally entitled to be reimbursed from the settlement. This is also true of DSHS benefits as well as worker’s comp ( “L&I”) benefits. This legal rule is called subrogation. It is important that a personal injury settlement adequately accounts for this. If you fail to account for liens on the settlement you might not get adequate compensation. An auto accident attorney can explain and make sure you are fully compensated for your injury.
For insurance coverage purposes, “using” a vehicle is not limited to driving. Sometimes when using a vehicle we get out temporarily: to change a tire; get something out of the trunk; assist another motorist; etc.
There may still be insurance coverage under Washington law if you are in close proximity to the vehicle and engaged in an activity essential to the use of the vehicle.
Consult with an attorney if you have been denied coverage, even if you were not in the vehicle.
No, is the short answer. By statute failure to wear a seat belt “does not constitute negligence, nor may failure to wear a safety belt assembly be admissible as evidence of negligence in any civil action.” RCW 46.64.688(6). Patterson v. Horton, 84 Wn. App. 531, 929 P.2d 1125 (1997)(Affirming dismissal of claims of minors injured in an auto collision against the driver for failing to adequately retrain the children in the car.).
If the driver who hit you does not own the vehicle it is possible that both the driver and the vehicle owner are liable for your injuries.
There may be vicarious liability for an auto accident in several scenarios, including:
- Employer/Employee. An employer is responsible for injury caused by the negligent driving of an employee so long as the employee was acting within the scope of employment. If the employee without permission went on a frolic and detour from job duties the employer might not be liable, though the driver still would be.
- Parent/Child. Under the family car doctrine a parent is responsible for the negligent driving of a child operating with the parent’s express or implied permission a car customarily used by family members for family purposes.
- Owner/operator. There is a rebuttable presumption that a driver of an automobile was acting as agent of the owner, making the owner liable.
- Negligent entrustment. A vehicle owner can be liable if the owner entrusts a vehicle to another driver the owner knew or should have know was reckless or incompetent to drive. For example, the owner can be liable if the owner knew or should have known that the driver was unlicensed.
These are a few of the scenarios where a vehicle owner may be responsible for injuries caused by someone else operating their vehicle. For advice about your situation contact us for a free personal injury case evaluation.
The right of way is important, and if there is no genuine dispute about who had the right of way that is a big deal. But, it may not be the whole deal.
Washington courts hold that the right of way is “relative rather than absolute.” Both the favored driver (the one with the right of way) and the disfavored driver (the one lacking the right of way) must exercise ordinary care.
The favored driver may by law assume other drivers will yield unless and until a point a driver exercising reasonable care would realize that the disfavored driver is not going to yield.
Fault is comparative, meaning both drivers could be found partly at fault under the facts of a particular case.
Sometimes fault is cut-and-dried. Sometimes it’s not, even if you have the right of way.
I was injured in an accident at an intersection or involving a vehicle emerging from a driveway or building. How do I know who was at fault?
This question comes up occasionally. The answer is generally, no.
However, there may be liability if you own, provide, or maintain the automobile for a senior parent, and/or you allow a senior parent drive your vehicle and know or should know that the senior parent’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is diminished.
This is a short and simple answer, not a substitute for legal advice. Contact an attorney for advice about your circumstances.
I was in an auto accident and I have car insurance. Should get an attorney? Won’t my car insurance cover my needs after an accident?
In a perfect world you would be fully compensated for your losses by the other driver’s insurance and/or your auto insurance. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, not non-profit charities. Paying claims is a big expense. Insurance companies routinely resits claims in various ways.
Insurance companies often question medical bills, even if you are just following your doctor’s medical advice.
Insurance companies often question the impact an injury has had on someone, even though their doctors and their family corroborate the claims.
An insurance company may claim you are at fault in whole or in part in an effort to reduce your claim.
Insurance companies retain attorneys, medical experts, accident reconstructionists, and other experts to avoid paying injury claims. You need someone in your corner fighting for you. The initial case evaluation is at no cost.
An experienced South Carolina car accident attorney, such as ours at Joye Law Firm, can work to compel the insurance companies involved in your accident to provide proper payments. Our work would include investigating how your accident happened, calculating all of your costs, and addressing any comparative fault on your part – or ensuring that none is found where it does not exist.