Personal Injury Claims Process in Federal Way & Tacoma
Personal Injury Claims Process
You or a loved one has been involved in an accident in Washington State. The accident was due to the negligence or recklessness of another party yet you are left to suffer the consequences with injuries and mounting medical bills.
What do you do?
How does the personal injury claims process work in Washington?
What can you expect and how long will it take?
The claims process can be challenging and most people are not well equipped to deal with insurance company adjusters and lawyers. You should not be pressured into a settlement that is not in your best interests.
The information below provides some answers on how to go about a claim.
If you want to take the first step towards getting the compensation you deserve, arrange a free consultation with the experienced personal injury attorneys at Park Chenaur & Associates.
How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
The first and most important question is: do you have a strong case for a personal injury claim?
According to the Washington State Laws on fault and negligence, anyone who is injured or has property damaged due to the negligence of another party potentially has a personal injury case.
If, for example, you are injured in a car accident where the at-fault party ran a red light, you would have a strong personal injury case as the other driver’s negligence should be relatively easy to prove if there were cameras and/or witnesses on the scene.
However, other incidents resulting in personal injury or damage to property are less clear-cut. In some cases, two or more drivers may share the fault and therefore any awards for a personal injury claim will be reduced according to the percentage of fault of each party (this is termed “contributory fault”).
Bear in mind that negligent behavior (the failure to exercise a duty of care) can occur anywhere – on the roads, in public places, in private establishments, in factories during the product manufacturing process, and so on.
So, personal injury claims take many forms. For instance, at Park Chaenur, our personal injury attorneys have represented people injured from:
- Car and truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Faulty products
- Poorly lit establishments
- Unmarked hazards in public spaces
We hold negligent parties responsible for the injuries and losses caused to clients. Like most personal injury law firms, we work on a contingency basis. This means that we only get paid (according to a pre-agreed percentage) if we win the case.
So, generally, for a lawyer to take your personal injury case, it will need to be of significant enough value to warrant the time invested in settling with the insurance company.
There is no threshold for this. The only way to know is to talk to us about your case.
What is the personal injury claims process?
Insurance adjusters may start calling you immediately after the accident in an attempt to get you to settle. They are aiming to save money for their employers.
As desperate as you may feel your situation is, beware of these tactics. The extent of many injuries is not known until well after the accident and it will take time to evaluate these injuries.
It’s best not to say anything to the insurance company. Engage a personal injury lawyer, who will handle all communications and fight for your best interests.
A personal injury lawyer prepares for litigation in the knowledge that most insurance companies want to avoid that route if at all possible.
Insurance company lawyers are often poorly equipped for trials and allowing a court to adjudicate may result in higher payouts and few insurance companies want to risk that. Lawsuits, therefore, rarely make it to trial.
However, filing a lawsuit with the appropriate Washington State court and serving papers to the defendant is part of the process. This must be done in the county in which your accident occurred.
Your lawyer will carefully calculate your losses and gather evidence (medical, financial and otherwise) to support the claim. A demand package will be sent with your medical records to the insurance company. A response will usually be forthcoming with three to six months.
Your lawyer may also file a lawsuit and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf from a position of strength.
If a settlement is agreed, payment will be made by the insurance company directly to you within weeks. If no out-of-court settlement is possible, we will proceed to trial.
How much are personal injury payouts in Washington state?
If you suffer injuries and losses due to the negligence of another party, you are entitled to claim for two types of damages:
Special damages, which are quantifiable financial losses including:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Repair and replacement of damaged property (e.g. a car or other vehicle)
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
- Loss of irreplaceable items
General damages, which is compensation for the non-economic aspects of an accident, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Disfigurement, etc.
Your potential payout will depend on many factors, including the quality of your legal representation. Experienced and skilled personal injury lawyers are better positioned to maximize claims.
Your payout will depend greatly on whether the insurance company settles out of court, which is most common, or goes to trial and lets a jury decide.
How do I pay my medical bills?
Medical expenses can mount up very quickly. However, until your claim is resolved, don’t expect to receive any money from the at-fault party’s insurance company to cover the bills.
If you have PIP coverage, it should cover your medical expenses regardless of fault in a car accident. You could also be covered by your health insurance package.
If neither of these applies to you, try reaching an agreement with your medical provider to arrange payment after your case is resolved.
Is there a deadline to file a personal injury claim in Washington?
The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is three years from the date of your accident or injury in Washington State.
This provides plenty of time to prepare but it is best to start as soon as possible while events are fresh in your mind and the minds of witnesses. The negotiation process can be time-consuming.
How long does the personal injury claims process take?
The length of time it takes for the personal injury claims process to be completed depends on:
- Whether the initial insurance company offer is acceptable to you – if so, it may be settled within a few weeks (but the offer is often unacceptable)
- Whether the insurance company settles for what you request – again, if this can be agreed without litigation, the process may be completed relatively quickly
- If litigation is required – in which case it could take around 12 months for a jury to hear your case and decide
- How much your case is worth – if it is under a certain value, civil arbitration may be used, which can complete the process in around six to eight months (but the outcome can be appealed and the case can still go to trial)
Do you need help with a personal injury claim in the Federal Way area?
Mounting medical bills from personal injury claims can cause severe financial difficulties for victims and their families, adding to the stress at this difficult time.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to the negligence of another party, contact Park Chenaur for a free initial consultation.
If you can’t make it into our office, we’ll come to you.