Personal Injury FAQ - Attorney and Legal Questions
If I hire Foster Law Offices, who will pay the expenses of my legal case?
Costs necessary to prosecute a personal injury case include expert witness fees, investigator fees, fees for medical and other reports. Our policy at Foster Law Offices is to advance expenses if we accept your case. Our advances are reimbursed when your case settles. There are some exceptions to this rule.
What is the statute of limitations in Washington in a personal injury case?
The statute of limitations is the time limit for filing a lawsuit in a personal injury case. The statute of limitations begins on the date of the accident and expires at the earlier of a lawsuit filing or three years following the date of the accident.In other words, to protect your legal rights, you must either settle your personal injury case file a lawsuit to protect the statute of limitations. People under 18 years old (minors) have three (3) years from the injured victim's 18th birthday.There are many exceptions to these rules.If the defendant in your case is a Washington governmental body (including buses, government vehicles, police cars), you must file a document entitled "claim for damages" with that specific governmental entity before a lawsuit may be commenced. The governmental entity rule applies to both adults and minors.In uninsured motorist cases, the statute of limitations is fixed by the insurance contract and, in most cases, is six years for both adults and minors. These rules are for accidents that happen in Washington. Other states may have different rules.Also, different rules apply for cases involving malpractice and fraud.In almost every category of case there are exceptions to the usual rules.To be sure of the statute of limitations in your case, consult Foster Law Offices. We give free consultations. There is no obligation to you.
If I have to pay a lawyer part of my settlement, does that mean I will get less for myself?
No.The job of your personal injury lawyer is to maximize the value of your particular case.It is no secret that an insurance company will seldom pay anywhere near full value to injured persons who are not represented by a lawyer.More often than not, after delays and broken promises, an insurance adjuster will offer only a token amount to injured persons who are not represented by a lawyer.Good lawyers like Foster Law Offices have their reputation, hard work and access to investigators and expert witnesses and are able to prove the facts of your case.We have access to doctors and hospitals for our clients that you cannot obtain on your own.We know how to prove an injury.For instance, how would you prove you have a headache or a backache?We know the law that governs your situation.A good lawyer can determine the jury verdict value of your injury.The combination of all of these things and our ability to take the responsible party to court if they don't voluntarily pay you a fair settlement make it obvious that the only way to get treated fairly by an insurance company is to be represented by a good attorney.Insurance companies respect strength.
What determines how much my case is worth?
There's no magic formula, but generally, the more serious the injury, the more the case is worth.However, in order to recover the value of your case, the party at fault for your injuries must maintain adequate insurance policy limits to compensate you.Additionally, fault must be proven against the at-fault party and no comparative fault assessed against you.Other factors determining the value of your case include your age, the amount of damage to your vehicle, whether you incurred lost wages or significant out-of-pocket expenses, prior injuries, and the presence of any permanent injuries or injuries that will cause you to lose future income.
If I hire an attorney instead of handling the case myself, will that delay my settlement?
No. That is, not unless you are willing to settle your case for far less than it is worth.Insurance companies will demand the same proof of facts regarding your injuries from you as they would from an attorney.Unless you are trained in this field, the insurance company will have a big advantage over you and usually will only offer you a token of what your case is worth.
How long does an injury case take from the time of the accident until it is concluded?
In general, the more serious the injury and the more complicated the facts, the longer the case takes.Simple rear end traffic accidents with minimal injuries usually take only a few months to resolve.Multi-party cases with serious injuries usually take between one and two years to complete.
How do I pay for my medical expenses prior to receiving my settlement?
A personal injury settlement is appropriate only after all necessary medical treatment has been received and all of your damages have been fully calculated.Therefore, the insurance company or at-fault party responsible for paying you your settlement, will not pay for your medical expenses prior to paying your settlement.This means that you will be responsible to pay your medical expenses prior to obtaining your settlement.The best way to pay for treatment is through what is called a Personal Injury Protection (called "PIP") insurance policy endorsement.A PIP endorsement can be purchased along with your motor vehicle policy and pays for medical expenses up to a certain dollar amount prior to obtaining your settlement.Health insurance is another way to pay for your medical expenses prior to settlement.Additionally, some health care providers including board certified medical specialists, hospitals, MRI centers, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, pharmacists, etc. are willing to provide health care services to our clients on what is called a lien.This means the health care provider will render the necessary medical treatment and wait to be paid until you receive your settlement.
If I fall and hurt myself on someone else's property, do they have to pay me for my injuries?
It depends on why you fell.To collect money damages, you will have to prove that the property owner was negligent.Common situations involve retailers allowing spills to remain on the sales floor after they learn about them.Other common slip/trip and fall situations usually involve uneven sidewalks, stairs, missing or detached hand rails, leaking refrigerated cases in supermarkets, and countless other unique situations.Each slip and fall has to be evaluated based on its individual facts.Call us to discuss the facts in your case.As in most cases, it always helps to get witnesses and to take photographs if possible.
If I am hurt while participating in a sport, can I get paid for my injuries?
Usually not.In the State of Washington, we have a rule of law called "assumption of the risk" which usually, but not always, prohibits recovery from the party that caused your injury in a sport accident.There are many exceptions to this rule and especially if you have a serious sports injury, you should always consult an attorney to advise you as to whether you are one of the exceptions.
I already had a bad back for years before the accident.
Now, because of this accident, my doctor says I need back surgery. Does the responsible party have to pay for this?Yes. The law is the other party has to take you as they find you.If you are more susceptible to any injury because of your previous back (or other medical) condition the insurance company is not allowed to decrease your settlement because of that pre-existing condition.
In a traffic accident where liability is clear, will the insurance company pay for my car repair before I finish my medical treatment?
Yes, that is almost always the case.You would also be entitled to a rental car until your car is repaired.If you don't rent a car, you are entitled to a "loss of use" payment to you for the equivalent rental value of your car for the period of time you are deprived of its use.
In a traffic accident, who gets to choose the body shop where my car is repaired? Me or the insurance company?
In a traffic accident, can I collect full value for my injuries if I didn't have 'liability insurance"?
In Washington, the answer is yes.Unlike other states (like California) where the lack of insurance can lead to a significant discount to the settlement of parties who do not have insurance when injured (despite the fact that the accident was the fault of another person), there is no discount in settlements by persons who do not have auto insurance when involved in a motor vehicle accident.Whether you have auto insurance or not, you are entitled to full compensation for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
If I caused the accident can I still collect for my injuries?
In the state of Washington, we have a law called comparative fault.That means if you were 25% at fault for an accident, you can still collect 75% of the value of your case.Therefore, the answer is yes, you can collect for your injuries even if the accident was partly your fault.
In a traffic accident case, how can I get paid if the responsible party didn't have insurance?
You can collect for your own bodily injuries through your own insurance policy if you have what is called "uninsured motorist" coverage.You can get your vehicle fixed under your collision coverage.You can get your medical bills paid by your Med Pay coverage or your health insurance.Your lost earnings may be paid by State Disability Insurance.All motor vehicle liability insurance policies sold in the state of Washington are required to include uninsured motorist coverage unless you sign a waiver deleting it.Making a claim under the uninsured motorist coverage can be difficult and you should have a lawyer represent you.Even though you are making a claim with your own insurance company, don't assume the insurance company will treat you fairly.All insurance companies must account to their shareholders and the bottom line is the only thing they care about.
Who determines how the accident happened?
Usually this is accomplished through witnesses (including the parties to the accident) and an analysis of the physical evidence.In motor vehicle cases, there are usually police reports.Other situations are sometimes videotaped from surveillance cameras.Each case will present a different set of circumstances.As a general rule, collect as much information at the scene of the accident as you possibly can.Get names and other information from witnesses.If you have a camera take pictures if you think they will help you.
What happens if I have a severe injury and the person who caused my accident does not have enough insurance coverage to pay all of my damages?
After you have exhausted the insurance coverage you next look to the responsible person's assets.However, most people who don't have enough insurance usually don't have enough assets either.If the responsible person was in the course and scope of their employment when the accident happened, their employer may also be responsible for the responsible party's negligence.Because most employers maintain significant policy limits, we pursue the employer along with the employee when pursuing your injury claim. We also look for excess or umbrella insurance policies.There may also be other defendants and other theories of recovery.
Do I have to repay money paid by my auto insurance carrier or health insurance carrier out of my settlement?
The short answer is yes.When your insurance company (auto or health insurance) pays for your medical expenses prior to your settlement, the insurer has a right to repayment of the money paid to your medical providers out of your settlement.This is called a right of subrogation.However, under Washington law, if we represent you in your injury case, we can and do negotiate the amount to be repaid.At the very least, you receive a discount equal to the percentage you pay us to represent you.For example, if your insurer pays $10,000 in medical expenses and you pay us 33% to represent you, you will only be responsible to repay no more than $6,700 to your health insurer out of your settlement.If an attorney does not represent you, you will be responsible to repay the entire $10,000.If the policy limits of the at-fault driver are insufficient to compensate you for your injuries, we demand that your insurer waive its right to subrogation.
Should I give a statement to the other person's insurance company?
Usually not. They have already heard their own insured's version of the accident.If their insurer told them he or she was not at fault, you have no chance of convincing the claims adjuster that you were in the right and their insured was in the wrong.Usually the person at an insurance company who takes statements has been taught extensively on how to ask questions in a way that may omit facts important to your case and make your answers somewhat distorted.In addition, if you have to go to court, that statement you gave the insurance adjuster can be used to impeach you.For instance, if you give a statement on the day after the accident and say that only your neck hurts, and a few days later you realize your shoulder also hurts, that contrad
I am handling my case myself. The insurance company wants me to be examined by their doctor. Should I agree to this?
No! What they are really saying is "we don't trust your doctor to tell us the truth".If they have that attitude, it doesn't take much imagination to know what will happen next.However, you may be required to attend what is called an Independent Medical Examination (called an "IME") with your own insurance company's doctor if your insurance company has been paying your medical expenses under your PIP policy.
If I lose time from work, will the other person's insurance company pay me for lost earnings even though I am collecting sick leave or disability?
Yes. If you have to dip into your sick leave or disability account the insurance company is not allowed to take credit or deduct that from your settlement.
If I hire a lawyer do I have to file reports myself with my own insurance company?
When you retain us, we will report the accident to your own insurance company (if appropriate) and handle all the paperwork.