Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to frequently asked questions that have been provided to help guide you on basic questions before meeting one of our attorneys. It is intended to provide general information rather provide specific answers to your questions, which will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of your case. For a more specific response to the particular facts of your case, please call and make an appointment for a no-fee consultation with one of our attorneys.
The sooner your lawyer can get started working for you, the better. Remember, you have only a certain amount of time to go to court, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to obtain the evidence you need to support your case. If you have submitted your claim to an insurance company, the insurance adjuster you are dealing with is highly trained at negotiations, and you should be very careful and cautious in dealing with them. It is possible that you may very well likely need a lawyer to help you through the insurance negotiation process.
First, there is a time period called the statute of limitations that sets a deadline on when you may bring a lawsuit. This will depend on the type of case and the jurisdiction where your injury occurred, where the defendant currently resides, and the basis of your lawsuit. In Washington State, you have three years, from the time of the incident causing your injuries, to file your lawsuit. In addition to the Statute of Limitations, it is important to pursue your case while the facts of the accident are fresh and also to preserve evidence in your case. After meeting with you, our firm, staff, and experts will act expeditiously in gathering critical information necessary for your case, as well as notifying the proper parties to make sure that insurance companies are notified of your claim.
Some insurance contracts do have cooperation clauses. However, you may not be obligated to give a recorded statement, and if you do, it may be used against you later. If you do choose to give a recorded statement, be sure to ask for a copy of the transcript.
Look for experience and the attorney’s track record. Find out how often the law firm you are thinking of hiring actually goes to court instead of just looking for a quick settlement. Lawyers who prepare cases for trial usually obtain better judgments and settlements for their clients. If your case does go to trial, you need a lawyer who has been there and knows the intricacies of the legal process. The best way to find out if a lawyer is good is to talk to someone you trust whom that lawyer has represented.
No. All consultations are free, and any discussion with the attorney is confidential. Fees are charged on a contingency basis only if your case is accepted and if a monetary recovery is obtained. Further, there is no obligation to retain the firm even if there is a consultation.
All attorneys in the State of Washington are mandated under state bar regulations and the professional rules of ethics to maintain a strict policy of confidentiality. That means any communication about a potential case, even if the attorney is not retained, between the attorney or potential client is confidential and protected under the lawyer/client confidentiality provision. You can be sure that any matters that are discussed with our firm attorney will be protected with the utmost privacy.
As many documents as you believe are relevant. In short, the more information you bring, the better. Your attorney will be able to give you better advice on what to do when you are able to bring those documents that might have a bearing on your case. For example, bringing a copy of the accident report, a copy of your insurance policy, photographs you have of the accident or of your injury, and copies of any medical reports would be very helpful to assist the attorney who you will be meeting with. Furthermore, information about the other driver’s insurance would also be helpful, including any information from that driver’s insurance company. However, if you have not been able to collect these documents at the time of your first meeting, don’t worry. Your lawyer will be able to obtain them, although it may be more difficult for the attorney to give you an accurate assessment of your case.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company will step into the shoe of the uninsured at-fault driver. Uninsured motorist coverage can also apply when someone is injured in an accident with an unidentified hit-and-run vehicle. If a you have uninsured motorist coverage and are in an accident with an uninsured motorist, you can collect from your insurance company to recover damages.
In addition, underinsured motorist coverage may provide compensation for you if the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance coverage to adequately compensate you for your injuries. An underinsured motorist is generally a person who is responsible for your injuries, but had opted to purchase only the minimum coverage required by state law, which in Washington State is $25,000. If you have purchased underinsured motorist coverage, then you may be able to collect from your own insurance company to recover damages that are greater than the at-fault party’s insurance limits.
It varies, depending on the case, such as the nature and extent of injuries, the degree of liability involved, the willingness of the insurance company to fairly evaluate the claim [if at all], and the time it takes to prosecute the case towards trial if litigation is necessary and a lawsuit is initiated. It also depends upon the jurisdiction where your lawsuit is filed as some courts are run more efficiently and quickly than others. Other important factors are the type of case you have, whether the defendant is an individual or a corporate entity, and the complexity of issues of your case.
However, our attorneys will move your case forward as quickly as possible, and at the same time at a pace that will not compromise the maximum recovery possible for your injuries. In the vast majority of instances, your case will be settled out of court without the necessity of a trial, but a complex case may require a trial and that will take a longer time period. In addition, settling your case too early sometimes will hurt your case and may not bring you the best recovery possible. At every step of the way, our attorneys will discuss with you the factors that may affect the timing of the case’s settlement.
The only person who gets to decide whether your case should settle is you. Under the law and rules of professional conduct, only the client has the final decision to settle the case.
Of course, if you hire us as your attorney, we will give you our recommendation on whether we believe settlement is appropriate. For example, when settlement negotiations are under way, we will advise you on what our professional opinions are about the settlement offers being made to you. We will guide you and give you our recommendations but the ultimate decision to settle rests with you.
At the very least, you will get an idea of whether or not it is advisable for you to settle your case independently with the insurance company. Your lawyer should be able to tell you if you have a legal claim that has merit. If so, your attorney may ask you to sign a retainer agreement, since the attorney cannot represent you without a written retainer agreement. Once that agreement is in effect, your attorney should start gathering the information to try your case. No competent lawyer can tell you what your case is worth at the first visit. To arrive at a figure for damages, your attorney will need to determine the extent of your injuries, including pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, past and continuing lost income, and past medical treatment expenses.