Getting Started FAQ

Whether you’re looking for legal counsel or just want to have some questions answered, we can help you find what you are looking for. Here are quick answers to some common questions. But if you don’t see information to your questions or what you’re looking for, simply contact us. Consultations are complimentary.

I. Hiring an Attorney

Do I Need an Attorney?

While not every claim requires an attorney, every person who has been injured by another’s carelessness can benefit from consulting with our attorneys. Injury and insurance laws are complex with medical and legal issues and questions of causation and proof Insurance companies are prepared to deal with but most injured people are not. When you consult with us we can help you protect your rights, explain the process, and work with you to explore whether or not you need an attorney. The initial consultation is free.

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Can I Afford an Attorney?

Absolutely. We understand that most people cannot afford to pay a large amount of money to hire an attorney on an hourly basis as a business typically would. (But insurance companies have access to an attorney’s legal advise at anytime as most have in-house attorneys or contracts with private law firms.)  That is why the “contingency fee” was designed. The “contingency fee” allows you to hire an attorney and pay them at the end of the case based on a percentage of the total recovery. Our contingency fee is the standard 1/3 or 33 1/3%. The other financial component of hiring an attorney is called costs of the case. These are monies that must be spent to develop the evidence needed to prove your case, such as medical and employment records, police or other incident reports, etc.

What if the Insurance Company Calls Me After I Hire You?

Once you have retained an attorney, the insurance company is no longer permitted to contact you directly. If an insurance adjuster calls you, advise him or her that you have retained an attorney and give that person our name and number. Once the adjuster knows that you have hired an attorney, they are not allowed to talk with you. Give us a call to let us know about the incident.

What Do I Do With Letters and Bills that I Receive?

Send us copies of any letter, bills, or other accident-related documents you receive. This will allow us to monitor payment of your bills and track any issues that may arise.

Your health care providers should bill the appropriate insurance carrier directly. Many send copies of your bills to you simply for your information. Please send us copies of any bills you receive. Unless we hear otherwise from you or your providers, we will assume these bills are being submitted to the appropriate insurance carrier for payment. If you have reason to believe the bills are not being paid, please let us know.

What are the Roles of the Attorney and the Paralegal in My Case?

The attorney and paralegal working on your case are a team and regularly discuss the status and direction of your case. For example, if your attorney is out of the office conferring with doctors, in court, or negotiating with insurance companies, the paralegal will be more accessible to address your questions. Your paralegal can assist you with most matters. If you have questions or concerns that your paralegal cannot answer, he or she can find out the answer for you, set up a telephone conference, or schedule an in-office appointment for you and your attorney.

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II. Insurance and Bills

Who is Responsible for Paying My Medical Bills?

If there was Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Med-Pay coverage on the car you were in at the time of the accident, your bills should be paid under that policy, up to the limit of the policy. These policies also cover a limited amount of wage loss and payment for “household services”, those tasks of daily living you cannot perform due to your injuries. Coverage amounts vary depending on your policy. You should check your policy or discuss with us how much coverage you have available.

If you did not have PIP or Med-Pay coverage at the time of the accident, or if this coverage has been exhausted, you may be able to submit your accident-related bills to your health insurance carrier. Most health insurance carriers will cover your accident-related treatment subject to the referral, deductible, and co-payment requirements of your policy if PIP benefits are not available or have been discontinued. Your insurance company will usually claim to be entitled to reimbursement from your settlement for any bills they pay, but this is an area that the attorney will negotiate a reduction on.

Ultimately, the at-fault party’s insurance company (the “third-party insurer”), also known as the “liability insurer,” will be responsible for paying all reasonable bills and expenses that your doctors relate to the accident. However, that insurer has no obligation to pay your bills as they are being incurred. The third-party insurer will only make payment on your bills and other expenses when you are ready to settle and conclude your entire case.

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What if I Don’t Have Insurance to Cover My Bills?

Some providers may agree to hold your bill for treatment provided they have written assurance that their bills will be paid at the conclusion of your claim. This means they will be paid out of your settlement proceeds at the end of your case. However, not all providers will not agree to hold your bills, such as hospitals and medical specialists (orthopedists and neurologists). In those instances, you should pay the providers directly or you can make payment arrangements so that you can receive the care you need to get well. You will get reimbursed for these expenses.  If you are not improving with the recommended treatment, discuss this with your doctor; do not simply quit treating. If you quit your treatment, the insurance company will claim that you failed to mitigate or lessen your injuries or that you have recovered from your injuries, are no longer having any pain and that you needed no additional healthcare.

Do I Have to Pay My Insurance Company Back for Bills They Have Paid?

Your insurance policy or contract contains a provision called “subrogation.” It simply means that you are not entitled to receive double payment for your bills.  For example, when your case is settled, it generally includes payment for all medical bills, wage loss and other expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident, including those already paid by you PIP coverage or health insurance plan. Since the at-fault party is responsible for all of your losses, your insurance company has the right to be reimbursed for any payments it has made.

One bit of good news, however, is that Washington law now requires the insurance company to contribute toward the legal fees and costs you have incurred in pursuing your claim for damages. Typically your PIP insurance company will have to accept ‘equitable’ reduction in the amount of money they get back. For example, if they paid $9,000 in treatment bills, they would get back roughly $6,000 or less. The rules apply to the health insurance company as well, with exceptions, such that they also must take less money than they actually paid as full reimbursement.

What if I Need Treatment After My Case Settles? Who Will Pay?

Generally, your private health insurance company will be required to pay for your medical treatment after your settlement. This is because your health insurer can no longer exclude pre-existing conditions under Washington law. However, you may have a nine month waiting period for payment of bills, if you switch insurers and there is a break in continuous coverage from one insurer to the next. If your coverage for your injuries is through the Department of Labor and Industries or another governmental agency, different rules apply. You should discuss the circumstances of your case with your attorney or paralegal.

III. Injuries

How Long Will It Take for Me to Recover from My Injuries?

At best, predicting recovery is difficult and depends on many factors including the nature of the injuries, access to good healthcare, and your response to treatment. Your doctor can give you the best estimate. You can give yourself the best chance for a full and speedy recovery by following your doctor’s treatment recommendations.

What Do I Do if My Treatment Isn’t Helping?

Discuss this with your doctor. He or she may be able to modify your treatment or find different types of treatment that are more effective for you. Also, we suggest you give us a call to discuss the issue.

What if My Condition is Permanent?

If your doctor is of the opinion that you have suffered a permanent injury, we will advise the insurance company of this fact when we enter settlement negotiations. A disability or impairment rating quantifying your level of permanent injury can only be done when your doctor is certain that no additional improvement can be expected. Often your doctor will only conclude you have a permanent injury after having explored all reasonable treatment options and waiting at least one year from the time of the injury.

What are My Responsibilities to Recover from My Injuries?

Under Washington law, your right to obtain a recovery for your injuries is balanced by certain duties you have. These duties include doing whatever you reasonably can to recover from your injuries and regain your pre-accident condition and lifestyle. You do this mainly by following your doctor’s treatment plan. If you feel you arn this information has been established and blended with our years of experience successfully negotiating claims and trying cases can an estimated value range for your case can be determined.

Information and experience about what juries and arbitrators award in cases similar to yours are a critical factor in determining what a case is worth. We regularly receive and review reports of arbitration awards and jury verdicts which keep us informed of the case from counties throughout the state. This along with our experience helps us advise you of the risks and benefits of accepting a settlement or pursuing your claim in litigation all the way to verdict by a jury.

IV. Settlement Process

When Will My Case be Ready to Settle?

We recommend you wait until you have been released from treatment, or your doctor says you have a permanent injury and that further treatment will not improve your condition, before thinking about settling your case. Once your case is settled, the settlement is for all known and unknown injuries, even conditions that may arise later. It is best to wait until you and your doctor are reasonably sure that you know the full extent of your injuries.

What Happens When It is Time to Settle My Case?

After all pertinent information is obtained and your health care providers have determined that you have reached pre-injury condition or maximum recovery, a “demand letter” is written and mailed to the insurance company. The demand letter presents the facts of the accident, your injuries, and how the accident has impacted your life. It also requests a monetary amount to settle the case. The vast majority of claims settle at this stage. If, however, the insurance company refuses to compensate you fairly, a lawsuit may then be filed. This is done only with your approval.

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Can I Settle Part of My Case and Keep the Medical Benefits Open in Case I Have Future Medical Bills?

Generally speaking, the answer is no. This is why we will obtain an opinion from your doctor on additional care you will probably require in the future and a written estimate of what that care will cost. This amount will be included in the amount of compensation we will request from the insurance company when settlement negotiations begin.

V. Claim Value

What is My Claim Worth?

Many factors affect the value of your claim, including your doctor’s opinion regarding your diagnosis, the nature and extent of your injuries, your prognosis, the amount of medical expenses, pre-existing conditions, future care needs, the amount of wage loss, whether or not you have a permanent ratable disability or impairment and other factors. Only when this information has been established and blended with our years of experience successfully negotiating claims and litigating through the court process can an estimated value range for your case be determined.

Information and experience about what juries and arbitrators award in cases similar to yours are a critical factor in determining what a case is worth. We regularly receive outcome reports of arbitration awards and jury verdicts which keep us informed of cases from counties throughout the state. This along with our experience helps us advise you of the risks and benefits of accepting a settlement or pursuing your claim in litigation.

VI. Starting a Lawsuit

What if I Have to file a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit may be filed at the beginning of your case or when all attempts to resolve your case through negotiations have been unsuccessful. We will definitely discuss with you during our initial consultation whether and when a lawsuit would be filed based on the individual circumstances of your case and needs.  In Washington state, most injury victims generally have three years from the date of the accident to settle a claim or file a lawsuit. A lawsuit begins when an attorney prepares legal documents (the Summons and Complaint) and has them filed in the court and served on the responsible and/or carelessness party. Just because a lawsuit is filed, however, does not mean your case will go to court. Settlement negotiations often continue even though a lawsuit has been filed.

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