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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How Long Does It Take to Settle a Car Accident Claim?
It is impossible to say how long any individual claim will take to settle because there are so many variables involved. In an uncomplicated situation with clear liability and minor injuries, your case might settle with the insurance company relatively quickly. Accidents with multiple negligent parties and severe injuries may take longer to settle and may require filing a lawsuit in some cases.
Do not settle your claim without speaking with a lawyer. Call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000 to review your case.
Does a Car Accident with Severe Injuries Take Longer to Settle?
Typically, yes, a claim that involves severe injuries may take longer to settle for two reasons:
- You may need surgeries or other significant medical treatments and a longer recuperation time before you know how well you will recover and if your injuries will leave you with any disability or impairment.
- Severe injuries usually also mean higher medical expenses and longer-lasting effects on one’s job and overall well-being, which will result in a higher settlement value. Insurance companies may delay paying out a large settlement amount.
What is the Worst Time to Settle a Car Accident Claim?
You are at your most vulnerable during the first few weeks or months after your accident. This is the worst time to settle your injury claim. The insurance company’s adjuster knows this and may dangle a check under your nose. They may deceive you about the value of your claim, hoping you will accept a small settlement. Adjusters are trying to resolve claims for as little money as possible, which puts people who were just injured and unsure of their long-term damages at a disadvantage.
There are two important rules about settling your claim early:
- Never settle before you have completed your treatment, recuperated fully, and know how your injuries will impact your life. If you settle early and then later realize you are facing a future of disability and impairment, you cannot go back and get more money from the insurance company. You may end up with a mountain of medical bills you have no way to pay.
- Never agree to anything or sign any papers without having a lawyer read over them for you. You can bet the insurance company had a team of lawyers prepare the documents, such as medical releases, it wants you to sign. Its lawyers wrote those papers for the insurance company’s benefit, not for yours. You may be signing away far more rights than you realize.
What is the Best Time to Settle a Car Accident Claim?
You should not settle your injury claim until:
- Your doctor releases you from medical treatment; and
- You have recovered completely; or
- Achieved the treatment’s maximum benefit.
Armed with all your medical bills as well as your employer records showing how much you lost in wages from your injuries, your lawyer can calculate a reasonable settlement demand.
Car accident lawyer Max Meyers will read your medical records to see if you have any residual medical issues. You should tell your attorney if you are not 100 percent functional after you complete your medical treatment. Sometimes, even if the body heals, you may suffer depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, or other non-physical consequences. Also, some lingering physical symptoms like chronic pain or headaches can affect the value of your claim.
When Should You Get a Lawyer Involved in Your Car Accident Injury Claim?
You should get a lawyer on board early if you suffered serious injuries in a car accident. You should have the help and guidance of a lawyer:
- Before you give a written or recorded statement;
- Before you sign any documents;
- Before you agree to a settlement amount; and
- Before you resolve your claim.
Call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000 to get your free consultation and case evaluation.
Can a Passenger Be Liable for Causing a Car Accident?
Many people assume that the driver of a vehicle that caused the wreck is automatically at fault, and in most cases that is true. But if a passenger distracted the driver or interfered with the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely, the passenger can be liable. Depending on the facts of the situation, both the driver and passenger may be responsible for injuries.
Does Talking With Passengers Distract Drivers?
Yes. Having a conversation, especially one that is emotionally charged, can turn a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. Arguing with a driver can take her focus off driving, which can lead to an accident.
Although we know the dangers of driving while using a cell phone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that while 11.5 percent of distracted drivers were talking, dialing, or texting just before a crash, more than 56 percent were talking with passengers.
Can Other Passenger Activities Distract the Driver?
Yes. Passengers who draw the driver’s attention away from the road cause seven percent of distracted driving accidents, reports the NHTSA. Some examples of things passengers can do that distract drivers include:
- Taking photos or videos of the driver
- Blocking the driver’s line of sight
- Striking the driver
- Showing the driver videos, emails, text messages, or social media postings
- Playing with the stereo, navigational, or other electronic devices
Is a Passenger Liable for Interfering with the Driver and Causing an Accident?
Yes. If a passenger is responsible for causing the accident – such as by obstructing the driver’s view or grabbing the steering wheel or otherwise interfering with the safe operation of the vehicle – the passenger could be legally liable for the accident and resulting damages.
Is the Driver Liable If a Passenger Causes an Accident?
A driver has a responsibility to maintain focus on safely operating the vehicle. Drivers must ignore, to the extent possible, anything that could interfere with safe and attentive driving. In the cases in which the passengers grabbed the steering wheel, the driver should have pulled over when the passengers got out of control if the drivers could have done so safely and in time to prevent a crash. If the driver could have disregarded the actions of the passenger or otherwise avoided the wreck, both the driver and passenger can be legally liable.
In other situations, however, it may not be possible to ignore the passenger’s actions or avoid a wreck. As liability in these cases can be complex, please contact Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000 to set up a consultation to review your case.
What Happens if Both the Driver and Passenger are At-Fault in a Wreck?
In such cases, third-parties may pursue legal action against both the driver and passenger. As for the passenger and driver, each may be able to file a claim for their damages under Washington’s comparative negligence laws.
Under this rule, the law will reduce the amount of your compensation proportionally to account for your negligence. In other words, if the passenger was 20 percent at fault, her damages claim be worth 20 percent less than if she were not negligent.
Whose Insurance Pays for a Wreck Caused by a Passenger?
Third-party victims of an accident caused by a negligent or unruly passenger may be able to pursue a claim with the insurance of the driver of the vehicle in which the negligent passenger was traveling. The driver of the vehicle in which the negligent passenger was an occupant may have first-party coverage available on their insurance policy, or may be able to file a lawsuit against the negligent passenger.
Set up a consultation with Max Meyers Law to review liability for the accident and whose insurance covers damages. Cases in which a passenger is responsible for causing the accident add a layer of complexity to car accident cases. We will evaluate your case to see if you can make a claim for your car accident injuries. Call us today at 425-399-7000 for a free case evaluation.
What Happens If I Am Involved in a Car Accident with an Uninsured Driver?
If you were involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver, you will likely have to turn to your own insurance ― even if the other driver was entirely at-fault. Below, we detail your options for recovering compensation if an uninsured driver caused your car accident.
What Options Do I Have If an Uninsured Driver Caused My Accident?
Several types of insurance can help you with your losses if an uninsured driver caused your wreck. Some of these include:
- Uninsured Motorist coverage on your auto insurance policy. Although the law does not require you to carry this coverage, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects people injured in accidents with uninsured drivers or drivers who flee the scene. It covers medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the wreck.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP will pay for your medical treatment, lost wages, loss of services, and funeral costs, up to the amount of your policy. It does not pay to repair or replace your car. Washington does not require drivers to carry PIP coverage, but your insurance company must offer it to you, and your rejection of the coverage has to be in writing.
- Collision coverage on your auto policy. This coverage can pay to repair or replace your vehicle.
- Gap insurance on your auto insurance policy. Gap insurance covers the difference between the depreciated value of your car and the amount that remains on your auto loan if your vehicle is a total loss.
- Your health insurance through your employer, an individual policy, or another source. Although many health insurance policies expressly exclude coverage for motor vehicle accidents, some will provide coverage if the crash was not your fault. The language in your policy will control whether you are able to recover compensation. Your health insurance will only pay medical expenses, and not lost wages, property damage, or pain and suffering.
Another option for help with your damages is the Washington Crime Victims Program. If the at-fault driver was committing a crime (e.g., driving while intoxicated) when the crash occurred, you might be able to file a claim for benefits with this fund.
What Does Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Not Cover?
Your PIP coverage will not compensate you for your injuries if the accident happened when you were committing a felony. PIP also does not cover your injuries if the at-fault driver was using:
- A motorcycle or moped
- A recreational or off-road vehicle
Your medical treatment must take place within three years of the accident and must be reasonable, necessary, and related to the crash, or your insurance company can deny coverage.
Does Washington State Require Motorists to Have Auto Insurance?
Yes. Washington State requires auto insurance for all registered cars as follows:
- $25,000 bodily injury or death per person
- $50,000 bodily injury or death of two people in an accident
- $10,000 property damage of others per accident
You are, of course, allowed to have higher amounts of coverage. In fact, since the minimum coverage would be inadequate to pay the damages in most major crashes, getting higher policy limits is a smart financial decision.
Can I Sue the Driver?
Suing the uninsured driver is an option if he caused your accident. However, if the driver did not have insurance, he might not have many assets we can recover. Max Meyers can help you determine whether this is a viable option.
Call Max Meyers Law, PLLC Today
Being involved in an accident with an uninsured driver can leave you feeling hopeless. Remember you have options. The team at Max Meyers Law, PLLC wants to help in any way we can. Feel free to use our free Compensation Checklist after Being Hit by an Uninsured Driver to maximize your recovery.For advice, specific help understanding your policy, or help suing the other driver, call Max Meyers Law, PLLC. Call us today at 425-399-7000 to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.
Who is at fault in a head-on collision?
Who is at fault in a head-on collision depends on who crossed the centerline or violated a traffic law.
Who can be liable for a head-on collision?
Liability depends on the circumstances of the collision. There are quite a few things that can contribute to these accidents:
- Drowsy driving
- Distracted driving
- Confused driving (new or elderly drivers)
- Improperly turning or passing another vehicle
- Ignoring traffic signals or signs
- Driver loses control of vehicle
- Roadway design – left-turn lanes, “suicide” lanes, reversible lanes, lack of center median
Depending on the circumstances of the head-on crash, your liable party might be:
In almost every case, the driver who crossed over into oncoming traffic, violated a traffic law, or misread a sign will be liable.
Consider a few examples:
Alan is driving while under the influence of alcohol on a two-lane rural road. He is weaving from side to side in his traffic lane. When he crests a hill, he enters the lane for oncoming traffic and crashes in a tractor trailer that was driving in that lane.
Alan’s intoxication caused him to leave his lane of travel. He is liable for the head-on accident.
Beth is driving home after pulling a double shift. She nods off to sleep, and her car drifts into the path of oncoming traffic. Beth’s fatigued driving makes her liable for the head-on crash.
Carla is driving around her new city. Unfamiliar with the roads, she misses the “Wrong Way” sign and drives down a one-way road, where she crashes into another car.
Edie is late for work, and gets stuck behind a slow truck on a two-lane rural road. She pulls out into the oncoming traffic lane to pass the truck. She misjudges the speed of an oncoming vehicle and crashes into it. Edie is at fault in the head-on collision.
In some cases, the driver of the car that drifted into oncoming traffic might not be liable. This might occur if any of the following caused the driver to lose control of his vehicle:
- A sudden medical emergency;
- Tire blowout,
- Another problem with the vehicle,
- Swerving to avoid a pedestrian or another driver
Note: If the driver suddenly had a heart attack, for example, no one will be at fault, due to the sudden medical emergency defense.
Other Drivers or Pedestrians
If the driver lost control after swerving to avoid someone or something that unexpectedly entered his lane, whoever entered the lane will likely be at fault.
These cases can be difficult to prove as the negligent party likely left the scene. A car accident lawyer from Max Meyers Law, PLLC will examine surveillance video and interview eyewitnesses to determine whether anyone saw the accident happen and/or saw the negligent party’s license plate number.
A Government Entity
Many head-on crashes result from poor roadway design or maintenance. Left-turn lanes and reversible lanes are frequently the sites of head-on crashes. The lack of a center median also causes a number of head-on collisions.
The government entity responsible for the design and maintenance of the roadway may be responsible if you can prove unsafe design or maintenance caused the accident. For example, if the entity knew the paint on a turn lane was fading but did nothing to touch it up, it could be liable if a driver could not see the paint and was involved in a head-on collision in a turn lane.
The government might also be liable if a lack of signs made the road’s direction unclear (e.g., no wrong-way signs at the beginning of a one-way road).
If the accident resulted from a tire blowout or a defective part or vehicle, the manufacturer might be liable. For example, if Fred was navigating a turn when his power steering went out, he could hold the manufacturer liable if the power steering failure was due to a defect.
Get help from a Kirkland car accident lawyer.
These cases are complicated and sometimes involve many different parties. If you were injured in a head-on accident, call the office of Max Meyers Law, PLLC today at 425-399-7000 for help navigating your accident claim.
How much will my car insurance increase after an accident in Washington?
How much your car insurance will increase after an accident in Washington depends on whether you were at-fault, what company you have insurance with, where you live, and how severe the accident was. Below, we discuss when your insurance might increase and why.
Why would my insurance increase after a Washington car crash?
The logic behind this is simple — an insurer views a driver as a greater risk if he causes an accident. Charging that driver more means an insurance company will lose less money if there is another crash, and it reminds the driver to remain safe behind the wheel.
How much will my insurance increase if I am at-fault for an accident in Washington?
How much the insurance rate will go up after a crash in the Seattle area depends on the insurer. A 2015 study from InsuranceQuotes.com found that policyholders who file just one claim pay, on average, 41 percent more for their insurance. However, according the Insurance Services Office, a private research firm, most increases are between 20 and 40 percent.
The accident’s severity will also tie in to the increase. A larger increase is more likely to occur after a more severe accident.
Unfortunately for the motorist, there is not much consistency to premium hikes. Each insurer will have its own “surcharge schedule” that outlines cost increases for each accident. In some cases, an insurance company will allow a one-time exception as sort of a free pass, but there is no requirement that they do so. We highly recommend that you ask about a surcharge schedule before agreeing to the terms of a policy.
Like most states, Washington has an at-fault system for determining who caused the accident. If you are at fault, the other driver can pursue compensation by filing a claim with his or her own insurer or by pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.
If the other driver files a claim against your insurer, your premiums are likely to increase. In fact, according to a NerdWallet.com analysis, Washington State drivers paid $322 more than the national average after an at-fault accident.
What types of insurance will increase if I am at-fault for an accident?
Obviously, your liability coverage will increase if you are at-fault for a collision because your insurer will need to cover the other driver’s injuries and property damage. However, if you need to use your other insurance to cover your own injuries and property damage, you could see an increase in your premiums.
If you use your personal injury protection (PIP) policy to cover your medical bills and lost wages after an accident, you may see an increase but only if you were at-fault for the accident.
This rule also applies to other types of insurance that might kick in after an accident, such as underinsured motorist and uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). This protects a driver in the event of an accident caused by a motorist who has insufficient coverage or no insurance at all.
Will my insurance increase if I am not at-fault for a Washington State accident?
No. In many states, drivers will see a rate increase even if they were not at-fault for an accident, reports a nationwide study released in February 2017 by the Consumer Federation of America.
However, Washington state law prevents insurers from raising premiums after an accident “unless the policyholder was determined to be at fault.”
Call Max Meyers Law PLLC for help after an accident.
The rules about different kinds of insurance compensation can be complicated. Since the aftermath of a car accident is already a stressful time, the help of an accident attorney with Max Meyers Law can ease the process. We can answer any questions you may have about insurance premiums and we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. We can also help defend you against any accusations of fault to your insurer from raising your rates. Call 425-399-7000 to arrange a free consultation with Max and his team today.
Can I sue for a concussion from car accident?
Yes, you can sue for a concussion from a car accident. However, this is often quite complicated. Because concussions are not always apparent for hours or even days after the collision, one of the most difficult things to do is prove that your concussion is related to the accident.
How can I sue for a concussion from a car accident?
To sue someone for your concussion, that person must have been at fault for the accident. For example, Don was stopped at a red light, waiting for the light to turn green. Amy, who was reaching for something in the back seat of her car, did not see traffic stopped and rear-ended Don. Don suffered a concussion from the accident. He can sue Amy for his injuries.
If, on the other hand, the facts are the same, except Amy was the one who suffered the concussion instead of Don, Amy cannot sue Don for her concussion. Amy was the driver at fault, so Don does not have to pay for Amy’s injuries.
You must also prove that your concussion was caused by the car accident. Your proof will likely be the police report and your medical records.
What if I did not know I had a concussion at the scene of the accident?
People often do not know the extent of their injuries at the scene of an accident. You may feel only a slight headache or soreness on your head at the point of impact, while you are still at the scene.
However, all head injuries need medical attention. A concussion can have serious, long-lasting effects. You cannot see what is going on inside your skull. You may have a brain bleed or other serious condition that could be life-threatening if not treated professionally.
If you did not think at the time that you were seriously hurt, the police report may say there were no injuries. You can bet the other driver will then deny liability for your concussion, and claim that you are faking your injuries.
You can fight this accusation with medical records from an evaluation at a later date. If you received medical attention at a later date, proving the relation between the accident and the concussion can be difficult. A lawyer can help.
What if I contributed to the accident?
If you contributed to the accident or your injuries, the other party’s insurer might attempt to reduce your settlement. For example, if you were speeding at the time of collision, the other driver’s insurer might argue that this contributed to the accident (e.g., if you were driving slower, the accident might not have happened) or your injury (e.g., your speed amplified the impact). While contributing to the actual accident can lessen your settlement, certain contributions to your injuries will not.
For example, if you were not wearing your seat belt when the accident occurred, the other driver will likely argue that your injuries were more severe than they would have been if you had been wearing a seat belt. However, Washington’s seat belt law disallows the reduction of an injury claim for not wearing a seat belt.
Regardless of how you contributed to your injuries, you can recover some sort of compensation so long as you were less than 100 percent responsible for your accident. It is important to note that, per Washington’s comparative negligence laws, your percentage of fault will reduce your potential settlement amount.
If you were injured in a car accident, our car accident team can help. Call Max Meyers Law today at 425-399-7000 to set up your free consultation.
Does it affect a car accident claim if both drivers have the same insurance?
If you have been in a car accident where both drivers have the same insurance, you may have several questions:
- Does having the same auto insurance as the other driver make my claim easier or quicker?
- Does having the same insurance company make it more difficult or complicated?
- Will I get less money for my claim if I have the same insurance company as the other driver?
The short answer to all these questions is no. Having the same insurance company as the other driver does not tend to change anything. The claim will likely proceed as normal. The insurance company will follow the same process it uses for any other accident case.
Does having the same auto insurance as the other driver make my claim easier and quicker?
No. It might seem logical that the insurance company would assign one claims adjuster to handle the accident, and that adjuster would take statements from both drivers, make a decision, and wrap up the case. There would be no back and forth between companies or claims adjusters, which would make the process quicker and much simpler.
However, because this can create a kind of conflict of interest, the insurer will assign two different adjusters to the claim to work with each driver separately. The adjusters will each make an independent assessment of who was at fault in the accident. If they are in agreement as to fault, the insurer can resolve the claim relatively quickly. If they disagree as to fault, however, they will each fight for their position.
The difference is in how they resolve these disputes. When there is disagreement as to fault and the drivers have different insurance companies, it may result in litigation to determine fault. When the drivers have the same insurance, the claims adjusters have to work it out amongst themselves.
Does having the same insurance company make it more difficult or complicated?
Not likely. If anything, it can make it a little simpler. This is because the insurance company will not pursue litigation against itself to solve a disagreement over fault.
Will I get less money for my claim if I have the same insurance company as the other driver?
Maybe. A claims adjuster may be more hesitant to assess a high degree of fault when the adjuster knows the money will be coming out of his boss’ pocket. It is much easier to say the other driver is at fault when the money for the claim will be paid by a different insurance company.
On the other hand, if your claim is not a high dollar amount, the insurance company might waive your deductible when the other driver has the same insurance company.
Get help from a Kirkland car accident lawyer.
Regardless of whether you are dealing with your own insurer or another driver’s insurer, chances are you will be fighting an uphill battle. Every insurer is looking out for its bottom line and, as such, will be looking to pay you as little as possible. In many cases, this means taking advantage of injured victims — even if they are the insurer’s own policyholders.
We can help. A car accident lawyer at Max Meyers Law PLLC will evaluate your claim and handle the hassle for you, so you can focus on getting your life back.
Call us today at 425-399-7000 to set up your free, no obligation consultation.
Why do insurance companies deny car accident claims?
While some tricky car insurance companies will deny your claim for dishonest reasons, there are five main reasons why insurance companies deny valid car accident claims:
1) You waited too long to file a claim.
Insurance companies like to be notified immediately when there has been an accident involving one of their insureds. Insurance companies write their own policies, which often includes how long a person has to file a claim. If you are filing a claim against the other driver, who has a different insurance company than you, you may not know that company’s internal deadline.
Note: Even though, per R.C.W. § 4.16.080, Washington State’s statute of limitations is three years, that does not matter. If you do not file your claim by the insurer’s deadline, you cannot recover compensation. Call Max Meyers to explore your options.
2) You did not call the police to the scene.
Some insurers refuse to honor insurance claims that do not have a police report. If you did call the police to the scene, you might have a report that incorrectly designates you at-fault.
If you did not get a police report or if the police report is incorrect, call Max Meyers Law PLLC. Our team can investigate what occurred and help clear up any inaccuracies with the report.
3) You stated you were uninjured after the accident.
Injuries are not always apparent at the scene of the accident. Some soft tissue injuries take time to develop. Internal bleeding and damages to internal organs may have no immediate symptoms. For these reasons, it is vital that you never say you are uninjured. Instead, go to the doctor to determine whether you have any invisible injuries.
You might also receive a denial if:
- You do not have medical records that show an injury.
- Your injury seems to be a preexisting condition.
- Your injuries do not match the emergency room records or the police report.
4) You agreed to a recorded statement.
Insurance adjusters receive special training to lull injured victims into a false sense of security during which the victim might say something the adjuster can twist into an admission of fault. Even saying something as innocuous as “I’m sorry” or “I’m okay” can jeopardize your case.
You should never give a recorded statement to an insurance company after a car accident without first talking with your lawyer.
5) You admitted fault at the scene.
You may have apologized to someone at the scene out of politeness and concern for their injuries, not intending this to be an admission on fault. That person or an insurance company may try to twist your words and use them as evidence of an admission of fault. This is one of the reasons why you should be extremely careful about what you say at the scene of an accident. Expect that someone may try to use your words out of context.
Speak to law enforcement and medical personnel, but do not admit fault, even if you suspect you might have been at fault. Things are not always as they initially appear. You may find out later that the accident was actually the result of the other driver texting, running a red light, or being impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Get help from a Kirkland car accident attorney today.
Insurance companies say in their television commercials that they are there to help you when you have suffered an injury or a loss. In reality, that is not their purpose. Their purpose is to minimize the amount they pay out in claims. If insurance companies paid out every claim they receive, they would be out of business within a week. They have to weed out the false and frivolous claims; unfortunately, this means they also deny many valid claims.
When an insurance company denies your claim, it must notify you of the denial and the reason. You can then appeal the decision. A car accident lawyer from Max Meyers Law PLLC can help.
Our car accident team will deal directly with the insurance company for you. We know the reasons claims tend to get denied, and we know how to avoid many of these denials. We will fight hard to get you all the compensation you deserve.
Call us today at 425-399-7000 for your free consultation. We never charge a fee unless you get a recovery.
- You do not have medical records that show an injury.
Does insurance cover hit and run accidents?
Whether insurance covers a hit and run depends on the policies you have.
How can I recover compensation after an accident with a hit and run driver?
The At-Fault Driver’s Insurance
In some cases, police are able to locate the at-fault driver in a hit and run collision. In those instances, that driver’s insurance — if he has coverage — should provide you with compensation for property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages.
While all drivers in Washington State are required to maintain a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance, even if located, the at-fault driver may not have had insurance or may have insufficient insurance to cover your damages.
Until or unless officers locate that driver, you will be left facing a mounting stack of bills and feeling overwhelmed. You do, however, have options to help you with your expenses, depending on what insurance you carry.
Depending on your situation, you might be able to cover your accident expenses with the following:
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is an optional type of insurance coverage designed to protect drivers against collisions with uninsured motorists, and to cover any gaps between the at-fault driver’s coverage and your costs for medical bills and lost wages.
In the event of a hit and run collision, this type of insurance will provide you coverage to:
- Fix your vehicle
- Cover the cost of medical expenses
- Help with lost wages
- Compensate you for other damage, from permanent disability to pain and suffering
It is important to note that there are two different types of UM coverage — bodily injury and property damage. To have your injuries and your property damage covered, you must have both.
Personal Injury Protection Coverage
Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance is another type of optional insurance that covers the costs of medical bills, lost wages, and other damages that you and your passengers may face after a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. In Washington State, most policies have caps that range from $10,000 to $35,000 per incident.
While the law in Washington State does not require motorists to carry PIP, insurance companies must offer this coverage to their policyholders, who can (but should not) opt out of this coverage in writing. PIP insurance helps you with many types of protection, including:
- Help with the costs of medical bills
- Coverage for lost wages
- Coverage for injuries suffered by passengers in your vehicle, regardless of who was at fault for the accident
Washington Crime Victims Program
The Washington Crime Victims Program offers crime victims help with a range of expenses. If the state approves your claim, you may get help with medical benefits, lost wages, travel expenses for medical treatment, or death benefits. The state can deny your claim if you did not file a police report, if your application was incomplete, or if the accident occurred outside of Washington State.
I have been involved in a hit and run accident. What should I do?
If you have been involved in a hit and run accident, the shock and distress of a regular accident can be compounded by the sense of anger at the other driver fleeing the scene. It is important to remember that a driver who is fleeing the scene of an accident is likely doing so because they are concerned about facing charges for more serious issues — from driving under the influence to avoiding prosecution for another crime. Avoid the temptation to chase the driver, and instead call 911 and wait for police and medical personnel to arrive.
Once you have addressed any pressing medical issues, you should take the following steps to help with later insurance claims or legal cases, should officers be able to locate the driver:
- Take photos of the accident scene and surrounding areas, focusing on any shots that may show that the other driver did not have the right of way, for example.
- Speak with any witnesses at the scene, and get their contact information if you need to get their statements later. Ask them to give their statements to police, if they are willing.
- Get a medical examination from any emergency responders, and get a copy of the police report and responding officers’ cards or contact information.
You can get a complete list of the steps that you should take following a hit and run accident here. Also be sure to read through our checklist of compensation options after an accident with an uninsured driver.
Do not deal with a hit and run accident alone. The attorneys at Max Meyers Law can evaluate your case and help pursue the most effective options to help you get compensation for your losses. Call us at 425-399-7000 for a free case evaluation.
Out-of-State Car Accident: In which state do I file my claim after an accident in Washington?
An out-of-state car accident can be incredibly confusing. Are you supposed to file in your home state or in the state where the accident occurred? When you are involved in an accident in Washington State, you file in Washington. This means you need to know and follow Washington State laws and procedures for filing a claim. Max Meyers of Max Meyers Law PLLC in Kirkland, Washington has handled countless accidents involving out-of-state drivers and can handle yours too.
Why should I have a Washington State car accident lawyer handle my case?
You need a lawyer who knows state laws and procedures.
Every state has its own state laws. While you might not think this will make a big difference, it can change your entire case. For example:
- Do you know how long you have to file a claim in Washington? No matter how good your car accident claim is, if you do not file your claim in time under the procedural rules of the state of Washington, your case is over.
- Do you know whether you can file a claim against the government in Washington or whether it has sovereign immunity?
- Do you know the process for filing a claim in Washington State?
- Did the other driver break a law? Because each state has its own state laws, something that is legal in your state might be illegal in Washington.
All of these things differ from state to state. Only a Washington State car accident lawyer will know all the intricacies of an accident case.
You need a lawyer who knows state insurance and fault laws.
Knowledge of Washington’s insurance laws is important in handling a car accident claim. Like every state, Washington has its own laws on auto insurance. There are required minimum amounts of insurance and optional amounts over the minimum amounts that are available. This will allow you determine how much you can recover.
Each state also has its own procedure for handling accidents. Washington is a fault-state which means you can recover compensation without turning to your own policy first. If you hire a lawyer from a no-fault state such as Florida, s/he might not know the process for filing a claim.
You also need an attorney who knows what fault laws the state follows. Washington State follows a pure comparative negligence law which means you can recover compensation even if you are 99 percent at fault. If your home state is a pure comparative fault state like Maryland or Virginia or a modified comparative fault state like Georgia, a lawyer might not realize that you are still entitled to compensation even if you were more than half at fault for the accident.
Where can I get help for my car accident claim in Washington?
If you have been injured in a car accident in the State of Washington, you need a Washington lawyer to handle your claim. At Max Meyers Law PLLC, we know the laws, procedural rules, and time limitations in Washington, and we have years of experience handling accident claims. We will sit down with you and evaluate your case for free. We are happy to work with out of state clients who have been injured in car accidents in Washington State.
We provide a wealth of information on our website. You can read about every member of our legal team, and see our photos so that you can put a face with the name of the person you are dealing with at our firm. Read and see what our clients are saying about us. With today’s technology, the miles can melt away so you can feel completely comfortable working with us, even if you are in another part of the country.
We will answer your questions and navigate you through the claims process in the State of Washington. We also do not charge a fee unless you get a recovery. Call us today at 425-399-7000 to schedule your free consultation.
When is a car considered totaled in Washington State?
“Totaled” means a total loss. A car is considered totaled when damages from an accident are irreparable or would cost more to fix than what the vehicle is worth.
Who decides if a car is totaled?
An insurer will assess the car’s pre-accident value against the likely cost of repairs. Washington is a fault state, meaning that whoever caused an accident is responsible for covering the damages that occur. If you are at fault in an accident, your insurance company will handle appraisal and compensation according to the coverage in your policy. (Note: Your insurer will only cover your damage if you have collision coverage.) If the other driver was at fault in the accident, you will be dealing with his or her insurer.
The insurer will send an appraiser to determine both the vehicle’s pre-accident fair market value and the likely cost of repairs. Per WAC § 284-30-391, once the appraiser has determined a value for the vehicle, the insurer will either replace your vehicle or offer you a cash settlement based on the value of a comparable vehicle in the same area.
How does the insurer determine that value?
State law [WAC § 390-05-235] defines “fair market value” as the amount a well-informed buyer under no obligation to purchase a vehicle would reasonably pay a well-informed owner who is not required to sell. The insurer bases this largely on sales data for comparable cars in your area, meaning those that are of similar make, model year, body type, condition, and mileage.
Washington State law requires insurers to calculate fair market value using at least one of the following methods:
- Examining prices on comparable vehicles in the surrounding area. The insurer may use a third-party service to acquire this data.
- Obtaining quotes on comparable vehicles from two or more licensed dealers within 150 miles of where your car is stored
- Checking prices on comparable vehicles advertised in local media
- Consulting computerized data on comparable nearby vehicles
Car owners can then request a “total loss valuation report” from the insurer, which will contain the data used in calculating the fair market value. Washington State law requires insurers to use a “total loss formula,” where the cost of repairs plus its probable value as scrap must equal the vehicle’s value pre-accident value for it to be a total loss.
How do I get my settlement?
If you agree with the assessed value of the car, the insurer will offer to replace your car with something similar in value that is available nearby or pay you a cash settlement, according to rules outlined in WAC 284-30-391. The settlement offer will include the following:
- The vehicle’s fair market value immediately prior to the accident
- Sales tax on the car’s fair market value
- Any other fees you would have paid if you purchased the vehicle immediately prior to the accident
What if I do not agree with the insurer about the value of my vehicle?
If it is your own insurer, you can hire an outside appraiser if your collision policy allows it. If the other driver was at fault, and you believe his or her insurer is incorrectly valuing your car, you can file a claim with your own insurance company, which will pay your settlement. Then, if it so chooses, your insurer will seek compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance company.
Can I keep my car even if it is totaled?
Yes. If you keep your totaled car, the insurer will then subtract the salvage value from the settlement. You or your insurer must then notify and report the totaled vehicle to the Washington State Department of Licensing. (Failure to do so within 15 days is a misdemeanor.)
Where can I get more help with this?
Dealing with the insurance company can be a hassle. For help navigating the claims process or understanding your insurance settlement offer, contact a car accident attorney at Max Meyers Law, PLLC in Kirkland today: 425-399-7000. The initial consultation is free and we do not charge a fee until you win a settlement.
I was in a chain reaction multi-car accident in Washington. Who is liable?
In every case, the person who causes a Washington car accident should be liable for the damages and injuries, but when there is a multi-car accident, sometimes more than one person is liable. This is because in multi-car accidents, multiple people can act negligently and cause or contribute to the accident.
First, let us consider a typical, two-car accident. Alice stops her car at a red light. Bob, who is texting, does not see her car and slams into her. In this case, Bob is liable. Liability in this case is pretty cut and dry.
What happens if more drivers or factors are involved?
Let us add more parties. In this case, Bob rear-ends Alice who, due to the force of being rear-ended by Bob, rear-ends Camille. Bob will likely be liable for both accidents.
What happens if we change our accident a bit? In this case, Alice rear-ends Camille (who is sitting at a red light) first. Bob, who is texting and does not see Alice stop, rear-ends Alice. In this case, we have two liable parties:
- Alice will be liable for rear-ending Camille.
- Bob will be liable for rear-ending Alice. However, Alice may be partially liable for Bob rear-ending her.
However, this situation can become more complicated if another party or factor (e.g., one of the parties had a burnt-out taillight) is involved. For example, if Camille’s brake lights were out, Camille could be liable for Alice rear-ending her (if Alice was following at a safe distance and following all traffic laws) and partially liable for Bob rear-ending Alice, even though Bob was texting.
If another driver caused the entire collision, s/he may be liable. For example, if Doug swerved to avoid debris in the roadway and sideswiped Camille causing her to brake quickly and set off a chain reaction of accidents, he could be liable, at least partially, for any resulting accidents.
Weather, construction, and other drivers (who are not involved in the accident) can also play a big role in multi-car chain reaction accidents.
Where can I get help if I was in a multi-car accident?
As you can see, chain reaction multi-car accidents are often complicated. A multi-car chain reaction accident can leave victims with catastrophic injuries; our car accident team can help you recover the compensation you and your family need and deserve.
We will work with accident reconstruction experts to determine exactly how the accident happened, who originally caused it, and which additional parties are liable.
Once we have determined the liable parties, we will manage communication with each party’s insurer. Dealing with one insurer is difficult enough; it becomes immensely more complicated when you add insurers to the mix. Fortunately, we have experience on both sides of the aisle when it comes to dealing with insurers. We know the tricks insurers might try to pull and we know how to defend against them.
And we do all this with no-upfront costs from you. We know how difficult recovering from an accident is; we believe you should have the freedom to recover from your injuries without worrying about how you are going to pay for a lawyer. We will do all the legwork, keep you informed about how your case is going, and help you in whatever way we can.
Note: All we ask of you is that you continue with your medical care. Follow all your doctor’s instructions to the T and do not overexert yourself. If you are worried about how you will pay for your medical bills before your case settles, read our post for your options.
Call us today at 425-399-7000 to set up your free, no-obligation consultation with Kirkland car accident lawyer Max Meyers. To make sure you are doing what you can to protect your rights before our consultation, feel free to read through our free eBook Car Accident Secrets Unlocked. We look forward to speaking with you.
Using Hands-Free Devices While Driving: Safe or Dangerous?
We all know distracted driving is dangerous. But in our eternal quest to increase our productivity through multitasking, we continue to engage in various types of distracting behaviors. Fortunately, the marketplace is flooded with tons of hands-free devices like Bluetooth cell phones and even voice command navigation and cell phone features built right into the center console of your car. But new evidence indicates using hands-free devices while driving is not as safe as we first assumed.
How dangerous is using your phone while driving?
According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), sending a text message keeps your eyes off of the road for four to five seconds. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, this is enough time to drive across an entire football field.
During the time that your eyes are off the road, a pedestrian may step into your path or the driver in front of you may slam on her brakes.
Talking on the phone causes inattention blindness, an inability to stay in the lane, and a slower response and reaction time, according to the National Safety Council (NSC) in its report Understanding the Distracted Brain.
Are hands-free devices really safe to use?
Intuitively, we assume that hands-free devices, such as a Bluetooth headset for your cell phone, are safer to use while driving than traditional cell phone usage. After all, although it is illegal to talk on your cell phone in many states, those same states make exceptions for hands-free conversations. However, hands-free technology may not actually be safe.
According to the NSC, drivers are four times more likely to get into an accident while using a cell phone. Furthermore, they argue that there is no difference in this risk between traditional cell phone use and hands-free use. This is because talking on a cell phone limits your ability to focus on the road.
For example, the NSC claims that activity in the part of your brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 33 percent while you are talking on a cell phone. Furthermore, drivers who are speaking on a cell phone have a narrower field of view than those who are not distracted. This means that even if your hands are both on the wheel, you could still be involved in an accident.
And it is not just hands-free phone conversations that are dangerous. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states that voice-to-text messaging through the car’s dashboard or Bluetooth system can actually be more distracting for drivers than traditional texting by hand.
And the distraction does not stop once you end your text. Mental distractions can linger for up to 27 seconds after sending a voice text.
Myth Busted: Hands-Free Technology is NOT Safe
It is not just the NSC and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that agree hands-free technology is not safe to use. The MythBusters team set out to discover whether hands-free cell phone use is actually safer than regular cell phone use while driving.
In two separate studies, one with the hosts of the show driving on a closed obstacle course and the other with multiple drivers operating cars within a high-tech driving simulator, the results were the same: driving while using hands-free cell phone technology is equally as bad as driving while talking on a hand-held phone.
Contact Max Meyers Law if You Were Hurt in a Crash
Now that you know hands-free technology is not as safe as we initially thought, keep this in mind as you and your loved ones get behind the wheel. Whenever possible, postpone your calls until you can pull over to the side of the road or you reach your destination. Taking this precaution could save your life.
Regardless of the cause of your accident, if you or a loved one suffered injuries in a car accident, contact a car accident attorney at Max Meyers Law, PLLC at 425-399-7000 to set up your initial consultation today.
Can I file an injury claim with minimal vehicle damage?
The absence of vehicle damage should not impair your ability to collect an injury settlement. However, many insurance companies deny injury claims because the vehicle damage is not consistent with the claimant’s injuries. While insurance companies are within their right to question your injuries if there was little vehicle damage, some injuries can occur without vehicle damage. If you are having trouble recovering compensation from an injury claim with minimal vehicle damage, Max Meyers can help.
Call a Kirkland car accident lawyer at 425-399-7000 for help with providing the right evidence to prove your right to a settlement.
Does my vehicle have to show damage on the outside?
No, a well-built bumper in a rear-end collision might show no signs of damage. However, the force of the impact could cause internal damage to your bumper, trunk, and even wheel alignment. Most manufacturers use a foam and steel core to make their bumpers and then cover it with an external plastic shell. This plastic shell will take the brunt of the impact, pushing the plastic back into the foam.
Plastic is pliable, and a dent can easily pop back into shape on its own, leaving little to no signs of impact. However, the interior core could suffer damage and therefore reduce your protection in a later, more serious accident.
It is important to have a mechanic inspect your vehicle for hidden damage and include his/her report in your claim.
How can I be injured if my vehicle has no damage?
Today's vehicle manufacturers are designing smarter cars, capable of reducing damage in crashes. The addition of crumple zones and reinforced impact areas help a vehicle sustain less damage when another car hits it. However, even if your vehicle does not show outward signs of damage, the contents within — you and your passengers — can suffer serious injuries in a collision.
When a moving object such as a car comes to an abrupt stop, the items inside do not stop at the same moment. Therefore, upon impact, your body continues to move forward. This movement can cause whiplash, back injuries, and much more.
If the force forward is great enough, you could also suffer bruises and damage to your chest and abdomen from where the seat belt holds you back. If the airbags deploy, the bag force could injure your face, head, or arms.
How can insurance companies deny my injury claim for lack of vehicle damage?
Even though property damage should have no effect on your injury claim, insurers can and will use any excuse to deny your claim.
It is not right, but unless the insurer is acting in bad faith (e.g., committing deceptive practices, failing to uphold duties, etc.), it is likely not violating any rules.
What can I do to preserve my injury claim?
The insurance company might claim your injuries are pre-existing and could not have occurred from the car accident. If this is the case, your medical evidence should be able to prove them wrong.
We can collect your medical records from before the accident and compare them with your post-accident diagnosis. Additionally, doctors can sometimes determine how old an injury is by looking at scar tissue or scans of the area. When necessary, we can bring in medical experts to testify on behalf of your claim.
You should also make sure to call the police and have them investigate the scene to create a police report. If there are witnesses, their testimony could help prove how the accident occurred and verify that there was an impact between your vehicle and the other vehicle.
When You Are Injured, Do Not Take No for an Answer
The insurance companies will not pay out for a claim unless they have to. If you do not pursue your settlement with solid information and evidence of your right to injury damages, you will likely lose the compensation you deserve. Max Meyers Law is here to help Seattle residents avoid this situation, no matter how little damage is visible on their vehicle.
Call a car accident lawyer at 425-399-7000 to discuss your options during a free consultation.
What is a structured settlement in a car accident case?
A structured settlement pays an injury victim the compensation from his/her claim over time instead of in a single lump sum. Some injury victims opt for a structured settlement in a car accident case, while others end up with one through a court order.
Before you choose a structured settlement, or if the court ordered one in your case, there are a number of things you need to know about how this will affect your pay out.
At Max Meyers Law, we can help you understand the pros and cons of a structured settlement, and ensure you structure your settlement in a way that works for you and your family. Call our Kirkland office at 425-399-7000 to schedule a time to discuss your case with Washington State car accident lawyer Max Meyers.
Why do some injured parties use structured settlements in Washington State car accident claims?
Most victims receive car accident settlements in a lump sum payment. This type of payout offers the victim and his/her family quick access to a lot of money they likely need, but it also has a number of drawbacks. With an influx of cash, families often struggle to budget funds for long-term care and many run out of money long before the victim receives all the care s/he needs.
While you can choose your payment type, courts often order structured settlements when the victim is a minor. Because car accident settlements should cover the ongoing care costs of the victim, it is important to ensure the money is available when care is necessary. A structured settlement offers a steady influx of funds to cover these costs, without the family having to budget the money or worry about theft or fraud.
What does Washington law say about structured settlements?
Washington State offers protection for accident victims who receive structured settlements through the Structured Settlement Protection Act. This law requires a court review of any proposed structured settlement, and a number of mandatory disclosures, including:
- A schedule for payments, including amounts and dates of transfer
- The value of each payment, known as the “discounted present value”
- Amount of any up-front cash payments
- Any expenses stemming from the annuity
Many people worry about paying taxes on a Washington State personal injury settlement. However, this is not a concern you should stress about. Both a lump sum settlement and a structured settlement from a Kirkland car accident claim are tax-free. The compensation from most personal injury cases is non-taxable according to federal law.
Note: Compensation for lost wages is taxable.
Do I need a lawyer to help me with my structured settlement?
It is difficult to weigh all of the factors that come with taking a structured settlement, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. You will also need to consider how to design the structure to best suit your family’s current and future needs.
You will receive a part of your settlement immediately, to cover your current bills and to pay your attorney. Then, a broker will pay out the remainder of your settlement over a set time period, such as 20 years or the life of the victim. These payments typically come monthly.
Not every month has to be the same amount, though. Structured settlements offer a lot of leeway to include predictable expenditures. This allows you to build in options for things like replacing a wheelchair, paying for your child’s college tuition or other needs. However, it is important to design your settlement in a way that works well for your family. Once the structured settlement is in place, you cannot alter it.
For this reason, you should have a lawyer with structured settlement experience help work out the various complexities that come with a structured settlement.
Max Meyers Law: Your Kirkland Structured Settlement Lawyer
At Max Meyers Law, we can work with you to determine if a structured settlement is right for you. Our Kirkland car accident attorney can ensure you see the full picture of your family’s current financial situation and anticipate your future needs. Lastly, we can negotiate a structured settlement agreement that is fair and equitable.Call our office today at 425-399-7000 to schedule a time to meet with Max Meyers, and discuss your Washington State car accident claim.
Can I change lawyers in the middle of my car accident case?
Yes. If you are not satisfied with your attorney, you have the right to schedule a consultation with another attorney, switch lawyers or even drop your lawyer all together and represent yourself. However, just because you can drop your attorney, represent yourself, or change lawyers in the middle of a car accident case does not mean it is always a good idea.
For example, at Max Meyers Law, we would never suggest that you represent yourself in a car accident case where you stand accused of contributory fault.
There may be a time, though, when you need to consider switching lawyers. There is no doubt that navigating through a personal injury case is stressful, and emotions often run high. Disagreements are bound to happen between attorneys and their clients.
But if you cannot communicate with your lawyer, or if you would prefer someone with a different outlook on your claim, then you may need to consult with a different Kirkland car accident attorney. There is no doubt that having the right representation can impact the outcome of your claim.
Are there rules and regulations that protect me if I switch attorneys?
Washington State law gives you the right to change lawyers at almost any point during your car accident case. We encourage you to communicate your concerns with your lawyer as clearly as possible, and attempt to work out any differences before considering making a change. However, sometimes a change is necessary.
If you opt to switch lawyers, the Rules of Professional Conduct state that your former attorney must still act in a way that protects your best interests. This includes maintaining all of the protections required in an attorney-client relationship such as confidentiality. If the attorney violates any of these rules, s/he may face sanctions from the Washington State Bar, and could even lose his/her right to practice law in the state.
What happens with my case file?
Under Washington State law, all of the documents associated with a car accident claim belong to the client who is paying for the legal services. This means that you retain your file if you ask your lawyer to withdraw from your case.
Some attorneys may make this process more difficult than others, but most will forward all original papers and other documentation to your new attorney as soon as possible.
How will I handle paying attorney’s fees?
Since most lawyers handle Washington personal injury claims on a contingency basis, paying your attorney typically happens when your claim settles. This does not usually change when you swap attorneys. Your new attorney should arrange to pay your first attorney any money due after you win compensation.
How much you owe your original attorney depends on a number of factors, including:
- How many hours of work s/he put into your case
- The fee agreement you signed
- Whether you paid a retainer
- Any unethical behavior on his/her part, or other defenses
Depending on why you changed lawyers, we may be able to help you negotiate a lower payment to your first lawyer or work with you to keep you from paying any additional expenses above and beyond what you expected to pay. It is also important to note that if you paid a retainer, your lawyer should refund any unused portion at the time you ask them to withdraw from the case.
How could this affect my car accident case?
The biggest downside to switching lawyers is that it often prolongs the case. It takes time for the new lawyer to learn about your case, any negotiations, and any motions the first attorney already filed. For this reason, it may not be the best time to switch right before a court date.
At the same time, though, having a lawyer who fits your personality and understands your needs is an important part of walking away with a fair and just settlement in your case.
If you question the quality of your representation and having an open and frank discussion with your attorney has not changed anything, it may be time to schedule an appointment with Kirkland personal injury lawyer Max Meyers.
Max Meyers Law: Kirkland Car Accident Attorney
Car accident lawyer Max Meyers and his team at Max Meyers Law understand the important role a lawyer plays in guiding their clients through the car accident claims process. Having the wrong lawyer on the case increases stress, and can leave the accident victim and their family feeling doubtful about securing a just settlement.
We want you to feel reassured and taken care of during the entire process. You can reach our Kirkland office to schedule a free consultation today at 425-399-7000.
Can not wearing a seat belt affect my accident injury claim?
Most likely no. Not wearing a seat belt should not affect your injury claim, even though it will likely lead to more severe injuries. Learn more here.
Do I have to wear a seat belt in Washington State?
Yes. In Washington State, the law requires everyone to wear a seat belt. Passengers under 16 must either wear a seat belt or be secured in a child restraint device.
If you are not wearing a seat belt at the time of your accident in Washington State, you have broken the law. In addition to breaking the law, you have likely contributed to your injuries. In many cases, this would be enough to prove comparative negligence.
What is comparative negligence?
Comparative negligence is a way of apportioning money damages based upon the fault of the people who were in the accident. If, for example, the other driver ran a red light and caused the accident, s/he will take the blame. However, if you were speeding or texting at the time of the collision, you might take some of the blame.
In this case, the insurer might assign the other driver 90 percent and you 10 percent. This means you can only recover 90 percent of your settlement (e.g., $90,000 if you asked for $100,000).
Also, depending on the state, you might have to be less at fault than the other driver to recover damages. However, because Washington State follows a contributory fault rule, drivers can be 99 percent at fault and still recover damages. However, as we mentioned above, your proportion of fault will decrease your settlement amount.
So, if not wearing a seat belt is against the law, why does it not affect my claim?
In many states, contributing to the accident or to your injuries will decrease your settlement or bar you from recovering anything. In Washington, however, the law is a little different.
Although the law requires everyone in a moving vehicle to wear a seat belt, the law specifically prohibits using the failure to do so as proof of negligence.
RCW § 46.61.688(6) states, “Failure to comply with the requirements of this section does not constitute negligence, nor may failure to wear a safety belt assembly be admissible as evidence of negligence in any civil action.”
While this prohibits insurers from using it as negligence, you can be sure that the other party’s insurer will do whatever it can to reduce your settlement. For this reason, you need an attorney with experience defending accident victims against insurance companies.
Where can I get help with my claim?
First, we want to note that you should always wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a car. However, if you were not wearing your seat belt at the time of your accident, you are still entitled to compensation. Contact Max Meyers Law PLLC today to schedule a consultation and see how we can help you win your case.
Call us today at 425-399-7000.
What if my damages exceed the at-fault driver's insurance coverage limits?
Accidents can lead to serious — and expensive — injuries. While you can recover compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurer, most drivers only carry minimum car insurance coverage. If your accident-related damages exceed insurance coverage limits, you may have other options to pay for your damages.
Depending on your unique circumstances, these options can include:
Underinsured Motorist Protection
Underinsured motorist protection (UIM), not required under Washington State law, will cover what the other driver’s insurance coverage will not. UIM can pay for your damages that exceed the at-fault driver’s liability coverage, up to your policy’s limit.
Remember than UIM is optional. If you did not purchase it, or you did not choose a high enough amount of UIM coverage (in most cases, your UIM coverage will need to be higher than the other driver’s liability coverage to collect compensation), this coverage will not help.
Your Personal Injury Protection Coverage
Personal injury protection (PIP) is another optional coverage available to drivers in the State of Washington. PIP coverage, available between $10,000 and $35,000, can help pay some of your damages, including medical bills and lost wages.
If you do not have PIP coverage, but someone in your household does, you can use his/her coverage to pay for your injuries.
The Driver’s Umbrella Liability Policy
Some people have an umbrella liability policy as additional coverage with their insurance. If the driver has an umbrella policy, you can use it to recover damages that exceed his/her automobile liability coverage.
It is important to note that the driver’s insurer will not make this information readily available. Some investigation may be necessary.
The Driver’s Employer
Another possible option is making a claim against the driver’s employer. If the at-fault driver was on the job, whether in a company car or not, you might be able to hold the employer liable for some or all of your damages under the concept of vicarious liability company will defend against your claim aggressively; we will fight for you to get the full amount you deserve.
Your Health Insurance Policy
You might also be able to use your health insurance if you have exhausted all other options. Before relying on your health insurance, check your policy to ensure that it does not specifically exclude car accident injuries.
Note: In many cases, your health insurance company will expect you to pay back whatever costs it covered from your accident.
A Third Party
In some cases, more than one person is responsible for an accident. If there is another liable party in your accident, such as another driver, the government entity in charge of road maintenance, or a manufacturer responsible for a defect, you may be able to recover compensation from that party.
The Driver’s Personal Assets
If you did not purchase UIM or PIP coverage, do not give up hope. You can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to obtain a judgment. If the driver has substantial assets, this could be worthwhile.
We can determine whether filing a suit would be beneficial in your situation.
There are multiple options for recovering compensation if your damages exceed the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage limits. These options can be tricky to navigate.
A lawyer can help you explore these various options and choose the path that is best for you. It may be possible to pursue more than one of these options, depending upon the facts of your case.
Where can I get help determining my options?
Even though your insurer should be working for you, this is rarely the case. Recovering the compensation you need from your own insurer can be just as difficult as recovering it from another insurer. But you are not alone.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident and the other driver’s insurance will not fully cover your damages, you need the advice of a Kirkland auto accident attorney. At Max Meyers Law PLLC, we will determine your options, negotiate with your auto or health insurance company, or represent you in court if we believe that is the best option for your case.
Call us today at 425-399-7000 to schedule your free consultation to discuss your case.
Is Washington a no-fault car insurance state?
No. Washington is not a no-fault state. Washington State is a comparative fault state, meaning the fault of all parties involved in a car accident comes into play when determining compensation for damages. However, Washington State residents have the option to add no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) car insurance coverage to their policy.
Why would a driver want PIP insurance coverage?
Ten thousand dollars of PIP insurance coverage is the minimum amount of PIP coverage you can add to your standard Washington State car insurance policy.
This insurance covers injuries to yourself and your passengers in the event of an accident, regardless of who was at fault. PIP coverage will pay your medical bills as you seek treatment, and some policies might cover wage loss benefits for severely injured persons.
What happens if I only have the minimum PIP coverage amount or rejected PIP coverage?
If you only have the $10,000 PIP coverage and your damages go beyond that limit, or you do not have PIP coverage, you might have these options for additional recovery.
Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is an optional type of coverage that can help cover your damages if the other driver does not have insurance, does not have high enough limits, or flees the scene.
If you have exhausted all of your options, you can turn to your health insurance. Check your policy to see whether it excludes car accident injuries as many policies do.
Note: In many cases, your health insurance will want you to pay back what it covered if you win a settlement.
Depending on your degree of fault in the accident, you may have a third option of filing a claim with the other driver's insurance.
Will I still be able to file a claim against the other driver if I use no-fault benefits?
Yes, the PIP benefits pay immediate costs of medical care and wage loss when applicable. You will still be able to file a claim with the other drivers' insurance policy; depending on the limits of the driver’s policy and how responsible for the accident s/he is, his/her insurance will first reimburse your PIP insurance for the costs your policy covered.
Continuing to pursue a claim against the other driver when s/he is majorly at fault is important if you suffered catastrophic injuries.
PIP limits start at $10,000 minimum and go as high as $35,000. However, many injuries cost well beyond $35,000 in hospital care, rehabilitation, and long-term or permanent care. Therefore, the other drivers' insurance will need to cover the costs that your PIP insurance does not cover.
Where can I get help with filing a car accident claim?
When you work with a Washington car accident attorney, you have the benefit of the attorney's knowledge and experience with accident claims to help you make the best decisions for your situation.
Contact Max Meyers Law to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your options for compensation after a car accident: 425-399-7000.
How do I know if my teen is ready to drive alone?
One of the things that causes parents to worry the most is when their teens start driving. It is difficult to be objective about whether your teen is ready to drive alone. You can take the subjectivity out of the equation by walking through the following questions:
1) Has your teen completed the Washington state graduated driver program?
While Washington State’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) program does not prohibit teen drivers (with a valid license, not an instruction permit) from driving alone (except at night), it is best to ensure your teen has completed the GDL program before sending him/her off on her own.
2) Does your teen understand the importance of safe driving?
Many teenagers view driving as a sign of their independence and as a way to have fun away from their parents. If your teen sees driving as merely a joyride and does not appreciate the gravity of the harm that can come from his/her negligent actions, your teen is not ready to get behind the wheel alone.
3) Does your teen check his/her cell phone when driving?
Even if it has a hands-free mode, the safest practice is for your teen never to use his/her cell phone while driving. It can be a distraction, and with his/her limited amount of practice time behind the wheel, your teen might not be prepared to handle a sudden emergency driving situation if s/he is distracted by talking on the phone while driving.
While your teen likely will not use his/her phone while in the car with you, look at where s/he places the phone. Is it in his/her lap or tucked away in the center console? Where s/he places the phone might give you an idea of whether s/he will use the phone when driving alone.
Note: Under Washington State’s GDL laws, it is illegal for drivers with intermediate licenses to use a cell phone, even in hands-free mode.
4) Does your teen always use his/her seat belt, whether as a driver or a passenger?
Wearing seat belts saves lives and reduces the severity of injuries. If your teen does not wear a seat belt every single time s/he is in a car, regardless of whether s/he is a driver or a passenger, s/he does not demonstrate a sufficient appreciation for the harm that can occur in a car accident.
5) Does your teen follow safety rules consistently?
Does your teen consistently follow all relevant safety rules while driving, or does s/he cut corners on following safety rules? Many teens find safety rules to be boring and unnecessary things that get in the way of their having fun. A teen with this mindset is not ready to drive solo.
6) Does your teen tend to speed when driving?
Speed is one of the leading factors in fatal accidents involving teen drivers. If your teen has a “lead foot,” s/he may not be ready to drive alone. With the limited amount of time s/he has spent behind the wheel, s/he does not have the experience needed to handle sudden crises at high speed.
7) Does your teen make good decisions?
Poor decision-making can have irreversible consequences when behind the wheel. It is better to wait until your teen consistently shows good decision-making skills before allowing him/her to drive solo.
8) How emotionally mature is your teen?
Teens tend to be all over the board in this subject. If your teen acts more grown up, it might be appropriate to allow him/her to drive alone. If not, it would be best to wait until your child has had time to mature, rather than risk a serious accident.
9) Have you been a good role model for your teen driver?
Regardless of what you have told your teen about safe driving habits, what kind of example have you been to your teen? Do you text while driving? Do you use your cell phone in standard mode, instead of hands-free mode? Do you always wear your seatbelt and consistently follow safety rules? Our children are more likely to do as we do, and not as we say.
Before you let your teen get behind the wheel alone, check out these tips for teen driving.