Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions
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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Can You Toll the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury in Washington State?
Although state law only gives you three years to file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington State under ordinary circumstances, there are quite a few ways to toll (suspend) that deadline.
Some of the exceptions apply to the plaintiff, and others apply to the defendant. Work with a lawyer who can help you file your lawsuit and address any issues pertaining to the tolling of the statute of limitations.
Absence From the State or Concealment
If the defendant goes into hiding, you can sue her when she is located, per RCW 4.16.180.
Let’s say that a person who lives in our state kills another driver because of driving while intoxicated. The drunk driver goes into hiding after the wreck. When she is located, the clock starts running on the deadline to sue. The time she was unavailable does not count toward the three-year time limit.
A plaintiff who cannot bring a lawsuit because of a personal disability can toll the statute of limitations. For purposes of tolling the deadline, Washington statues define “personal disability” as being:
- Under the age of eighteen (except for medical malpractice cases);
- Being incompetent;
- Not being able to understand the nature of the legal proceedings because of a disability; or
- Being held in jail or prison prior to sentencing for a criminal offense.
The person must have had the disability at the time that the cause of action arose if he wants to use the condition to delay the statute of limitations. Also, if a person has more than one disability when the right to file a lawsuit accrues, all such disabilities must be removed before that person can sue or be the subject of a lawsuit.
If either the person who wants to file a lawsuit or the defendant dies before filing the lawsuit, different time limits kick in that could affect the deadline. For example, if the right to sue survives the death of the plaintiff, his representatives can file a lawsuit within one year of his death, even if that date is longer than three years after the original personal injury accident.
Person in United States Military Service
A person who is in active military service for the United States has the right not to be sued for specific causes of action and in certain situations. The time during which the law prohibits you from suing this person will not count toward the three-year limit to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Sometimes, a statute or a court order (injunction) will prohibit anyone from filing a lawsuit against a person. When this happens, the time of prohibition will not count toward the three years.
For example, A wants to sue B for personal injuries sustained in a car crash that B caused. A judge issues an injunction that prohibits any lawsuits against B for six months. That six-month period will not count toward the three years A has to file a personal injury lawsuit.
When the Law Deems an Action Commenced
Whichever happens first, the service of summons on the defendant or the filing of the complaint, will be the point at which the law considers the action begun for purposes of cases involving tolling of the statute of limitations.
You have to file the complaint with the court within 90 days of serving the defendant if service happened first. If filing the complaint was the first thing to happen, you must get personal service or begin service by publication within 90 days of filing the complaint.
Getting Legal Help for Your Personal Injury Accident Lawsuit
You do not have to stress out about how much time you have to file your injury lawsuit or whether there is some reason that the law will extend the deadline. At Max Meyers Law, we can help you file your lawsuit after a car accident and meet any applicable deadlines to preserve your right to file a lawsuit.
Call us today at 425-399-7000 for your free consultation.
What is the average settlement payout for a whiplash injury?
Whiplash injuries are some of the more underestimated injuries, especially because symptoms often do not appear right after the accident. It may be days before you see symptoms including pain, numbness, and stiffness in the neck and shoulder muscles. Bigger challenges may lie ahead, however, when you try to file a claim for damages after suffering whiplash from a car accident.
Should I get a lawyer for whiplash and how can I prove my pain and suffering?
It can be hard to prove a whiplash injury, but our trained attorneys can help you determine what compensation is fair for the injuries you have sustained. The claims process is a little more difficult when it comes to soft tissue injuries like whiplash because they don’t always show up in imaging tests like x-rays or MRIs. It is important to seek treatment and be direct with your doctor about your symptoms. If a lawsuit needs to be filed, having medical documentation becomes a crucial part of your case.
What are the possible defenses to a whiplash injury claim?
You can expect the defendant’s attorney to allege that your injuries are exaggerated, do not affect your life in the manner that you claim they do, or were not the result of the accident in question at all. Therefore, you must provide strong evidence linking your whiplash injuries to the accident and establishing their impact on your life. Remember, you might find several of the defendant’s allegations bizarre and unfounded, but it is important to prepare for the following, so that you can put up a strong defense.
- Your injuries have already been treated.
- Symptoms of whiplash are often chronic and constant, and they can continue for months after the injury has occurred. However, you can expect defense lawyers to claim that most people who suffer whiplash injuries are completely healed within four to six weeks.
- The accident did not cause your injuries.
- The defendant may claim that your injuries were pre-existing and had nothing to do with the accident that you suffered. The lawyers could even claim that you did not suffer an injury at all.
- The impact of the accident could not have caused the injury.
- Lawyers may try to claim that your accident was a low-impact accident, and therefore, could not have resulted in the kind of injuries that you are claiming compensation for. They might claim that a low-impact accident at low speeds could not have possibly caused injuries so severe that they prevent you from going back to work.
- You are exaggerating your symptoms
- You can also expect lawyers to come right out and say that you are exaggerating the symptoms in order to recover a higher settlement amount, or that you are lying about needing to continue treatment several months after the injury has occurred.
- Your injuries have not had a major impact.
- You can also expect defense lawyers to claim that your injuries have not had as severe an impact on your life as you claim they have. For instance, if you are claiming diminished earning capacity because your whiplash has made it impossible for you to return to your former job, you can expect lawyers to claim that your injuries have not affected you as much as you claim.
How do I deal with the challenges presented in my whiplash injury claim?
Your attorney must present substantial evidence linking your injury with the car accident that occurred. Medical tests, especially the results of CT scans, MRI scans, and electromyography scans can provide evidence of the existence of the injury.
Your attorney must also present evidence that clearly debunks the theory that your whiplash injuries could not have been caused in a low-speed or low-impact accident. Chronic injuries can and do occur in moderate-speed accidents.
How much compensation can I get for my whiplash injury?
The amount of your settlement payout for a whiplash injury will depend on the circumstances of your case. Each claim is different. Do NOT accept the first settlement offer from the insurance company! Insurance companies are notorious for “low ball” offers so they can hurry up and get your case settled.
If you suffered whiplash in a car accident that was not your fault, Max Meyers Law can help. We will go over every detail of your claim and make sure you receive the maximum compensation. Call 425-399-7000 today to speak with an attorney about your claim.
Does the severity of my whiplash affect my payout?
Yes. Whiplash can occur on a spectrum from mild to severe. Severe cases often have higher settlements since victims experience more injury-related losses. A mild whiplash injury can heal within a few months, while severe whiplash can leave you with chronic pain and long-term impairment. If you suffered severe whiplash, you may lose the ability to do your previous job for years or longer.
Our team will evaluate the police report, witness statements, and your medical history to assess the extent of your whiplash injury. Whiplash claims can be challenging, as the insurance company and lawyer for the at-fault party may push back hard against your claim. At Max Meyers Law, we have devoted our practice to helping injured people and we are ready to face any opposition, so you do not have to.
How can a whiplash injury impact my daily life?
After a whiplash injury, you may experience a constellation of symptoms that can have a direct impact on your daily life. Stiffness in your neck can make it difficult to turn your head, limiting your ability to drive safely. Headaches can affect your cognitive abilities, directly affecting your ability to work. If you experience dizziness or lightheadedness, you may be unable to stand for periods of time, which can prevent you from doing your job.
Neck pain, muscle spasms or back pain can render you unable to lift heavy items. If you have numbness and tingling in your fingers and arms, you may be unable to type on a keyboard, resulting in your being unable to perform a desk job.
All of these effects can dramatically reduce your long-term earning potential. Lost wages and lost earning capacity are just some of the damages we will fight for in your case.
What damages should my whiplash settlement include?
Immediately after your whiplash injury, you may face costs such as:
- Ambulance and emergency room bills;
- Prescription medications;
- Medical testing and evaluations, including x-rays and other imaging;
- An initial course of treatment by a physician or chiropractor;
- Physical therapy;
- Lost wages;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Loss of services to your household; in other words, having to pay someone to perform ordinary and necessary tasks you usually did at home.
We will collect your medical bills and receipts from the hospital, ambulance service, doctor or chiropractor, pharmacy, and physical therapist. Together with records from your employer, we will generate an analysis of your short-term damages.
Your long-term damages will depend on how quickly and how well you heal from your whiplash injury. Some people only have short-term damages, while others suffer for years after the crash. Long-term damages from a whiplash injury can include:
- Ongoing medical follow-ups;
- Medical testing and evaluation, including x-rays and other imaging;
- Extensive physical therapy;
- Rehabilitation services;
- Pain medications and muscle relaxants;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of earning potential;
- Pain and suffering;
- Depression and other mental health issues; and
- Long-term or permanent loss of services to your household.
Our team will take care of the legwork for your damages while you recover. We will gather the bills and records to establish your expenses and lost wages. We will discuss with you the ways your whiplash injury has changed your life. If necessary, we will work with vocational experts to document your lost earning potential and disability. We will build your case for the best possible settlement under your circumstances.
We negotiate directly with the insurance company, so you do not have to. You do not need any extra hassle and stress on top of your physical pain and discomfort.
If you have suffered whiplash injuries from a car accident, you may qualify for compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, and other losses. Discuss how you can establish liability by discussing your case with a car accident lawyer. Call 425-399-7000 to speak with one of our car accident attorneys and identify all of the parties liable in your claim. Schedule a consultation with a legal professional at Max Meyers Law PLLC today.
How do I pay medical bills before my personal injury claim settles?
When you sustain a serious injury, the bills start mounting rapidly. Even relatively minor injuries can result in thousands of dollars in medical bills. Severe and catastrophic injuries can mean tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. You will also probably have to take time off work to recuperate from your injuries, placing additional stress on your finances.
You can recover your medical expenses and other losses with a personal injury claim, but it could be some time before your case concludes and you get your settlement check or award. Some cases take a couple of months, while more complicated cases could take years. Bill collectors are quick to start hounding you for payment. Learn how to pay medical bills before your personal injury claim settles here.
If you have funds assessable in savings or liquid investments, you can opt to pay for your medical expenses outright. You can simply replace the assets when your case settles and recover your losses.
Remember to keep a record of all the payments you have made and share the information with your lawyer. Bills and receipts will serve as proof of your financial losses for the insurer or court.
Personal Injury Protection Coverage
Most people do not have the cash or savings to pay for all their medical bills. However, if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on your auto policy, you can file a PIP claim to cover your medical bills until your accident case settles. PIP covers the medical bills and a portion of lost wages for you and your passengers, regardless of who was at fault.
Check your policy, or speak with your insurance agent or attorney to see if you have PIP and what your policy limits are. PIP policies range from $10,000 to $35,000.
If you do not carry PIP coverage, but you live with a family member who does, you can use his/her coverage to cover your injuries.
Note: If you use your PIP and you win your personal injury case against the other driver (defendant), the defendant is not off the hook. The defendant or his/her insurer will reimburse your insurer for the PIP payments it made on your behalf.
If you carry private or employer-sponsored health insurance, you can use it to cover your needs until you get your settlement award. You might still have to pay for your deductibles out-of-pocket.
Keep in mind, though, that when your injuries are the result of another party’s negligence and you win a personal injury case against that party (the defendant), your health insurance company will likely seek reimbursement for all the payments it made on your behalf. This is called subrogation. The idea is that because the defendant caused your injuries, s/he should be ultimately responsible for paying for your medical bills, not your health insurance company.
So, if your health insurance company paid for $10,000 in medical care for your accident injuries, it will seek recovery for $10,000 when you win your case. Our team can explain how this process works and help you protect your settlement from insurance companies.
Agreement with Medical Provider
Sometimes, medical providers will be open to working out a deal with patients and hold off on billing until a personal injury claim settles.
Max Meyers will be happy to talk to your doctor’s office about your case and inquire about an agreement.
As a last resort, you may elect to apply for pre-settlement funding from a private lender. Pre-settlement funding (also referred to as lawsuit loans), is essentially an advance on your personal injury claim settlement. It can help you stay financially afloat and pay your bills until your check arrives.
The downside to this type of loan is that the interest rates are typically very high. Lenders take a substantial risk with borrowers because they are counting on the case to settle in the borrower’s favor. The high-interest rate is proportionate to their risk.
For more information about personal injury claims or for a free consultation with an injury lawyer in Washington, call Max Meyers Law today at 425-399-7000.
Personal Injury Claims: Settling vs. Going to Trial
You have just received your personal injury settlement offer. Do you accept it and settle or go to trial? You need to consider many factors when making that decision. Even if you believe it is enough to cover all your expenses, run it by a personal injury lawyer from Max Meyers Law PLLC before accepting.
What factors should I consider?
While there is no easy formula to decide what settlement offer to accept or decline, there are many factors that you need to consider when evaluating an offer. These include:
- The prognosis for your recovery: Has your doctor been able to give you a close idea of what the extent of your injuries are?
- The likely long-term costs and care that will be required: Are there any complications from your injuries that require ongoing care?
- Lost wages: Did you consider past, present, and future lost wages?
- Lost opportunities and non-medical costs: Have you considered these and landed on a tangible amount?
- Pain and suffering: Did you consider the emotional effect your injuries have had on you and your family?
Answering these questions should lead you to a minimum acceptable settlement. Keep in mind that the goal of a settlement is not to punish the responsible party, but to help make you whole again. Always check with a lawyer before signing anything; he can help ensure you considered everything.
Risks and Rewards of Taking Your Case to Trial
While a settlement is a guaranteed resolution of claims, going to trial is a gamble. And as with every gamble, there are significant risks and rewards.
Settling means that the case comes to an end and parties release each other from future or further claims. This may be an appealing option because it provides a guaranteed amount of money much sooner than a trial. Just remember that accepting a settlement means that you cannot go back later and ask for more money if there are complications you did not consider.
When considering taking your case to trial, there are a few factors you need to take into account:
- How much risk are you willing to take? In other words, even if the potential for a greater recovery exists after a trial, is the stress and waiting worth it to you? Can you wait or are you in dire financial straits?
- Is the settlement offer reasonable and fair? The insurance company regularly offers a low figure in hopes that you will not consider everything listed above and just accept the offer. Remember that a trial costs both parties, but you may receive a much higher payout if you take the risk. Run the offer by a lawyer before signing.
- Is the insurer attempting to blame you for your injuries? Is the insurer refusing to pay because it says you were at fault for your injuries? If so, trial might be your best option.
- What is the likelihood of future problems that may not be known yet? Did you fully consider all costs and potential complications?
If you think that all of this sounds rather overwhelming, you are not wrong. That is why leaving the negotiation of a settlement and potential lawsuit is best left to a professional. Remember to never sign anything before running it by a lawyer. Contact Max Meyers Law PLLC for help today at 425-399-7000.