Were You Injured Because Of Someone Else's Negligence? Browse Our FAQs
In addition to coping with a lot of stress and frustration, personal injury cases also come with a lot of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear the most at Max Meyers Law.
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What is my Seattle car, bicycle, or motorcycle accident case worth?
The answer is not as simple as you might think. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula or calculation where you plug in the numbers and a value is spit out. The old saying about multiplying your medical bills by 3, 4 or whatever and that’s your case value is false. Determining what your injury case is worth is more complicated.
There are multiple factors that influence case value:
loss of wages,
loss of ability to do your job/profession,
permanent injuries if any,
length of recovery time,
frequency of injury symptoms,
severity of injury symptoms,
intangible harms (like pain, frustration, stress, humiliation experience when recovering from injuries),
Accident victims can be entitled to compensation for some or all of the above factors depending on the specific injuries suffered.
The biggest impact in determining the value of an injury accident case is the total cost, extent, and length of medical treatment and whether a full recovery was made or if there are permanent and lingering injuries. If you treat for only a couple months and make a full recovery your case value is less than someone who treats for years and is left with a permanent injury. The more severe your injuries the more likely you will benefit, often greatly, from hiring an attorney to help you with your case.
The best way to get a range of what your Washington car, bicycle or motorcycle accident case may be worth is to talk to an experienced, knowledgeable attorney in your local area. If you have questions now, give me a call at 888-230-4970.
Do I have to pay income taxes on my Washington injury settlement?
This is one of the most frequent questions from clients when deciding on a settlement offer. The short answer in Washington is generally NO taxes are owed on money received in settlement of a personal injury claim.
Compensation for an injury is not considered income for tax purposes. You may be asking what does that mean exactly? According to current IRS law, if a car accident victim obtains a settlement for injuries suffered in an accident, which are paid by another party (for example, from the at-fault driver who hit you), the settlement money is not taxable.
Of course there are always exceptions!
The IRS generally taxes Punitive Damages. What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are money that a driver is ordered to pay over and above the full value of a case. They are meant to be additional punishment because the conduct of the at-fault person was so bad or outrageous the jury or judge has decided to set an example for every other driver to heed.
The message of punitive damages is to all drivers beware, you better not do this, or you could be faced with owing a huge amount of money.
However, in Washington state punitive damages are not usually available in car accident claims.
When the media talks about huge verdicts from car accident cases, it usually is from another state that allows punitive damages.
If you are thinking about accepting an insurance company's settlement offer but don't have a lawyer, it might be a good idea to give an experienced Washington injury attorney a call to review your case and make sure you're doing the right thing. If you'd like to talk now, call 888-230-4970.
Who has the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection in Washington?
Two drivers approach an intersection at the same time. There is no traffic light, stop sign, or other traffic control device. Who has the right of way in the state of Washington?
Accidents happen when drivers don't know the answer to this question. Sometimes with tragic results.
Washington state law under RCW 46.61.180 says:
"When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right."
Many Seattle neighborhoods have uncontrolled intersections like this. Plus there are often cars parked on one or both sides of the street blocking the view of approaching vehicles. Driving too fast to and through these intersections can result in serious car accidents and injuries to passengers. The best bet is to drive cautiously and slowly when approaching an uncontrolled intersection. The life you save may be your own or your family members.
If you have a disputed collision the best thing to do is contact Max Meyers Law to discuss your specific accident circumstances. The exact details of what happened will determine who's at-fault, and if both drivers are partially at fault, that can complicate the claim as Washington's comparative negligence laws will apply. If you were in a car accident at an intersection, please call Max Meyers at 425-399-7000 to set up a consultation to review your case and discuss your legal options.
Car Insurance Buying Tip: How much UM/UIM should you buy in WA?
Review your own automobile insurance policy. You will find a "Declarations page" which lists the various insurance coverages you have along with the premiums you are paying for each. If you cannot find your declarations page, call your agent and get a copy sent to you.
Most important coverages:
The two most important items on that page are the limits of the liability coverage and the uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM / UIM) coverage. For both it will usually say something like:
These two numbers mean the amount available per person and per accident. If there is only one person injured in a car accident then the lower amount is the limit. If there are four people injured in an accident then they have to divide the larger amount between them, but no one person can get more than the smaller limit.
Liability coverage is that amount of money your insurance company would pay in the event that you caused a car accident which resulted in an injury to another person. This coverage protects your personal assets. I strongly recommend that your liability coverage be at least $300,000. In today's world of soaring medical costs, a serious collision can cause injuries with medical bills in excess of $100,000 which is the policy limit many people tend to carry.
In hard financial times some people carry insurance in amounts less than $100,000. Call your insurance agent. You may be surprised to learn that the cost of increasing your coverage to $300,000 or even $500,000 is not that much.
UM/UIM is the most important car insurance you can have!!
When it comes to uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM / UIM) insurance companies often require your liability limit to match your UM/UIM limit. So you can't buy 25K in liability coverage and then buy 500K in UM/UIM. Why? Good question for your insurance agent. Mostly because UM/UIM is not a good deal for insurance companies and they don't like to sell it unless you've purchased a better liability policy on top of that.
If you ride a motorcycle or bicycle having a high UM/UIM limit is critical. Here's an example of why UM/UIM is critical:
A motorcycle accident client suffered multiple broken bones that required surgeries and a hospital stay exceeding ten days. A truck turned left in front of him and he slammed in the side of the truck. The hospital bills alone exceeded 100K. With missed work for many months and rehab treatment the client's out of pocket expenses exceeded 150,000. You can see why if most WA driver's have 100K or less in car insurance there could be a big problem if he didn't have good UM/UIM.
Financial stress or ruin is a real possibility in an accident with serious injuries like this when there isn't adequate car or motorcycle insurance available.
If you're buying or renewing your auto insurance and not sure what to do, order my free book Car Insurance Buying Secrets Unlocked. The book is loaded with lots of good tips and explanations on what the various coverage you can buy do for you.
Is car insurance required in Washington State?
Washington state requires vehicle owners to have automobile insurance on their vehicles. Drivers are only required to have $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in liability insurance. Liability coverage pays for damages associated with injuries to another vehicle's passengers.
Driver's are also required to have $10,000 in property damage coverage to pay for repairs to a vehicle.
What is Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage?
Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage is an optional type of insurance you buy on your auto insurance policy to protect you and your family against vehicles that have inadequate insurance coverage. Many cars on Washington state roadways do not buy enough auto insurance to cover all the damages caused in a car accident.
If you're seriously injured in a collision your doctor bills can quickly exceed the Washington state minimum insurance requirements of 25,000. This is especially true for motorcycle and bicycle accidents. A trip to the ER with broken bones or a serious head injury can easily cost over $10,000. If you require surgery and several days in the hospital your doctor bills can push past the $25,000 quickly.
When an at-fault driver does not have enough insurance your UIM coverage is design to step in and supplement the at-fault party’s insurance. It’s design to be another layer of protection for you. Your UIM insurance will be asked to pay for all the damages you suffered in the accident caused by the negligence of at-fault driver.
UIM insurance often pays:
- Doctor bills
- Lost wages
- Out-of-pocket expenses (like special braces, crutches, wheel chair rental, etc.)
- Mileage to and from doctor appointments
- Intangible harms like pain & discomfort
For example, assume you're seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and suffer a broken wrist and broken leg which both require surgery to repair at Harborview Medical Center. You could easily have $40,000 in hospital bills and will miss three months of work resulting in $10,000 in lost wages.
If you have UIM insurance with a limit of $300,000 and the at-fault driver only had $25,000 of liability insurance, then the at-fault driver's insurance will likely pay its policy limits of $25,000 to you. (Assuming you have no fault in the accident.) At that point your UIM insurance will step in and be responsible for paying the remaining medical bills, lost wages, other out-of-pocket expense, and fairly compensate you for all other harms and losses.
Note that this differs from Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage, which covers you if the at-fault driver has no insurance or leaves the scene of the accident.
If you’re in a serious injury accident in Washington and don’t know if there’s adequate insurance to pay your bills, you probably should call an experienced Washington accident attorney to learn more about your legal rights. If you have questions call us at (888) 230-4970.
What is Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage?
Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage is an optional type of insurance you buy on your auto insurance policy to protect you and your family against vehicles that have no insurance. Unfortunately, many cars on Washington state roadways do not have any insurance to cover damages caused in a car accident.
When you’re in a car accident that is not your fault the other car’s insurance is suppose to pay:
- To fix your car
- Pay your medical bills
- Pay your lost wages
- Compensate you for all your harms and losses
When an at-fault driver has no insurance your UM coverage is supposed to step in and take the place of the at-fault party’s insurance. Your UM insurance will pay for all the damages you suffered in the accident caused by the negligence of someone else. (Note that this differs from Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage, which covers you if the at-fault driver does not have sufficient coverage to cover your damages.)
UM insurance also covers accidents caused by someone driving a stolen vehicle. A vehicle may have insurance but if it’s been stolen and you’re hit by the car thief, there is an exception and no insurance will apply from the stolen vehicle.
The same is true of an intentional act by another driver, like in a road rage incident. If another car intentionally hits you, the insurance on at-fault car will likely deny payment of any of your damages. Why? Because the collision was intentional which is almost always an exclusion on auto insurance coverage.
If you’re hit by a stolen car or road rage driver you should contact an experienced Washington car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Call us at (888) 230-4970.
What Is PIP Insurance & Should I Use It After a Car Accident?
You can buy optional Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage in Washington State to help pay some of your losses from an auto accident, regardless of who caused the wreck. Although you do not have to buy PIP insurance in Washington, state law requires your auto insurer to offer it when you buy a new policy.
To opt out of PIP coverage, you have to reject it in writing. Without your written rejection, your insurance company has to provide the coverage, and you have to pay for it. Most motor vehicle policies in Washington include PIP coverage.
For help with a Washington PIP insurance claim, call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000.
Which Costs Will My PIP Policy Cover?
Regardless of who caused your wreck, your PIP can pay some of your:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages;
- Lost services; and
- Funeral costs.
How Much PIP Coverage Can I Buy?
Your insurance company might offer coverage above the minimum coverage limits. Your PIP policy will pay up to a certain amount for a variety of accident-related losses. State law sets the maximum amount of coverage you can purchase.
Medical and Hospital Expenses
Each person injured in an accident can get up to a total of $10,000 for reasonable medical and hospital expenses they faced because of the crash. Your PIP policy will continue to pay for medical costs for up to three years after the wreck. The maximum amount of coverage you can buy is $35,000.
Funeral expenses are reimbursed up to $2,000. This amount is the minimum and the maximum coverage you can buy.
You can get income continuation, or lost wages, after a car crash. Your PIP policy will pay a maximum of $200 per week, up to a total of $10,000. These benefits do not begin until you miss 14 consecutive days of work after the wreck. The maximum coverage will pay up to $700 per week for a total of $35,000.
Loss of Services
If you have to pay someone to perform work that you cannot do because of your injuries, like cooking or cleaning, PIP will pay up to $200 a week, up to a total of $5,000. The most you can buy is $14,600 in coverage.
Do I Have to Pay for Any of My Medical Costs Myself?
Unlike some other types of insurance, like health insurance, your PIP coverage should pay all of your covered medical bills, up to the policy limits. You do not have a co-pay or deductible with PIP medical expense benefits.
Your insurer might demand that you get an Independent Medical Examination (IME) with a doctor the company selects. If you refuse to have the IME, the insurer might suspend or terminate payment of your PIP benefits. If your insurer takes any of these steps, you should talk with a lawyer right away.
How Much Does PIP Coverage Cost?
Multiple factors can affect how much you will have to pay for PIP coverage.
Because PIP coverage is something you buy from an insurance company, not from the government, the same amount of coverage can cost more at one company than it costs at another. You might save money if you shop around and compare prices.
It is also important to note that the insurance company will charge you for every vehicle you cover with PIP. Many insurance companies make you pay for PIP coverage on all of your cars and trucks, and will not let you buy the protection for only one of your vehicles.
Who Can Use PIP Benefits?
Imagine, for example, that you have PIP coverage on your car. Your PIP policy can pay benefits to you and:
- Anyone living in your household related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption;
- Foster children;
- Passengers in your car; and
- Bicyclists or pedestrians who suffered injuries in the crash.
When Does PIP Not Apply?
Your insurance company can refuse to pay for medical or other services if it decides:
- The cost is unreasonable;
- The service is unnecessary;
- The service is not related to the accident; or
- You incurred the cost more than three years after the accident.
PIP coverage will not cover injuries from:
- Motorcycles, with some exceptions;
- Recreational vehicles;
- Off-road vehicles; and
- Farm equipment.
Even if the vehicle has PIP coverage, it will be null and void if a legal exception applies. This could impact the situation if the policyholder:
- Intentionally injured someone else or themselves;
- Was committing a felony at the time of the accident;
- Sustained the injuries while racing; or
- Was in a vehicle that did not have PIP coverage.
Can I Purchase Other Optional Coverage?
Because some people drive without auto insurance, experts recommend that you carry PIP coverage on your auto policy. Getting hurt in a crash is bad enough, but having a stack of medical bills to pay will make the situation worse.
Since the amount of PIP coverage you can buy would not pay all of your losses in the event of a significant injury, you should also consider purchasing uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage can overlap with other insurance policies to pay for your damages after a crash with an uninsured driver. Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage can help you if the other driver only carried the minimum level of insurance and it is not enough to pay for all your losses.
How Can I Discuss My PIP Claim With a Car Accident Lawyer?
At Max Meyers Law, we apply our years of experience to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. We are comfortable with the language and provisions in motor vehicle insurance policies, and we know how to deal with insurance companies after a wreck. Give us a call at 425-399-7000, and we will set up a no-cost consultation and case evaluation.
What are the most common causes of car accidents in Washington state?
As you probably know, there are many different circumstances that can contribute to a car accident. However, among the many causes, there are certainly a few that play more prominent roles than others. The Washington State Department of Transportation's most recent report summarizing collision data from 2011 provides a helpful look at some of the more common causes of car accidents in Seattle and the rest of the state:
Most Common Causes of Washington Car Accidents—All Collisions
- Did not grant right of way to vehicle
- Exceeding reasonable safe speed
- Following too closely
Most Common Causes of Washington Car Accidents—Fatal Accidents
- Under the influence of alcohol
- Car went over the center line
- Exceeding reasonable safe speed
- Exceeding stated speed limit
These were all far and above the most common causes, but there were many others listed including:
- Disregarding stop light
- Improper turn
- Operating defective equipment
- Driver distractions outside of the vehicle
- Apparently asleep
- Driver interacting with passengers, animals or objects in the vehicle
- Improper passing
- Under the influence of drugs
It is alarming how many things can cause accidents, so it is your duty as a licensed driver to make sure you do everything you can to drive safely. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to control other drivers on the road, but by operating your vehicle safely, you will hopefully be able to prevent a Washington traffic accident before it occurs.
If you found our answer helpful, please share this article on Facebook to educate your friends and family about the dangers on the roads of Washington.