Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents
Answers you can trust from an experienced Spokane attorney
A car accident can be a confusing and intensely traumatic experience. You may be left confused and wondering what to do next. That's why you need a veteran attorney on your side. Richard E. Lewis has represented hundreds of people in situations like yours over the past several decades.
- What should I do at the scene of an accident?
- Do I really need to see a doctor? I just have a few scratches.
- The driver who hit me was on his cellphone. Can an attorney help me?
- If I was partially at fault for my accident, what should I do?
- How can I get my medical bills paid after an accident?
- What if I can't work because of my injuries after the accident?
- Insurance adjusters keep calling me. What should I say?
- An insurance company offered me a settlement. Should I take it?
- Do I have to go to court?
After an accident, safety should be your first priority. Make sure the scene is secure, which may involve moving your vehicle if it's still drivable to make sure you aren't blocking traffic. Contact emergency services right away, and assist if you are trained to do so.
When the police arrive at the scene, cooperate with them and follow their instructions. You'll need to exchange insurance information with the other drivers involved - remember, leaving the scene of an accident without doing so is a crime in Washington - but be cautious in terms of discussing the accident. Stick to the facts, and don't say anything admitting fault. You're not in any position to judge immediately after the collision, and even an apology to another driver could be held against you later.
Make sure you have names and contact information for the other drivers involved and any witnesses to the accident. Take pictures of the accident scene, your injuries and the damage to your vehicle. Also, take note if any driver makes comments admitting fault for the accident, which will make it easier to piece together what happened.
Even if you feel fine, you need to see a doctor right away. Often, accidents cause internal injuries that can take days to become apparent. Your health comes first, and a doctor can help take care of your injuries as soon as possible.
Finally, contact us. The sooner you have an experienced attorney on retainer, the easier it will be to get the compensation you need.
Absolutely yes. You might have injuries that are not immediately apparent, such as internal bleeding. Those injuries can lead to serious or even life-threatening complications. The best option for your long-term health is always to see a doctor as soon as possible. Make sure you explain that you were in a car accident.
Moreover, any delay in seeking treatment can affect your legal rights. An insurance company may use the gap between the accident and your doctor's visit to argue that your injuries weren't actually suffered in the accident, or that you caused your own health issues by waiting to be seen. Seeing a doctor right away will help you get the compensation you'll need.
In order to collect damages (financial compensation) after a car accident, you'll need to show that the other driver was negligent. Using a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving is illegal in Washington, and breaking that law certainly constitutes a form of negligence.
However, in order to show that the other driver was responsible for the accident, we'll have to prove it. That may involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing cellphone records and other means to show that the driver was in fact on his cellphone when you were hit. We may even be able to reconstruct the accident to show that the driver's actions were consistent with distracted driving.
First, remember that determining fault for an accident is a complex process that generally requires an investigation. Even if you have reason to believe you were at fault, there may be other circumstances that you're unaware of. That's why you need to avoid saying anything admitting fault to anyone - whether that's a witness, a motorist, a police officer, or someone from an insurance company. Save those conversations for your lawyer.
Second, under Washington law, you can sue for damages even if the accident was partially your fault. Washington uses the legal principle of "comparative negligence," which means that any damages you are able to recover are simply reduced by your percentage of fault for the accident. For instance, if you are found to be 30 percent at fault and a jury awards you $100,000 in damages, the award would be reduced by 30 percent, leaving you with $70,000.
Depending on your insurance coverage, you may have several options. If you have personal injury protection (PIP) on your auto insurance policy, that coverage may also pay your medical bills. Your employer-provided health insurance may pay for some of your costs, though you will likely be responsible for deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.
If another driver is at fault for the accident, you should be able to recover compensation from his or her liability coverage - a mandatory coverage type in Washington. However, many drivers don't have enough liability coverage to actually pay for the entire cost of an accident. Under those circumstances, you may be able to recover from your own insurance company through uninsured or underinsured motorist protection, or sue the other driver directly and recover compensation from his or her assets.
Several insurance companies can be involved after an accident causing injury, and dealing with them can be a legally complex process. That's why it's so important to have an experienced attorney on your side.
Legally, you can recover damages (financial compensation) for many types of financial losses resulting from a car accident, including lost wages and lost future earnings. Depending on your income, your age and the amount of time you have been or will be out of work, this can be a substantial amount of money. Note that you can sue for damages even if you have other means of getting compensation for that missed time, such as paid sick time or disability insurance.
Calculating the amount of lost earnings resulting from an accident can be a complex process, and insurance companies routinely "low-ball" their offers. An experienced attorney such as Richard E. Lewis can help you determine exactly how much you should receive - and pursue full compensation in court.
Adjusters don't work for you. They work for the insurance company to reduce your claim as much as possible - and anything you say will be used for that purpose. While you do need to have an initial conversation with your insurance company to report the accident, you should stick to the facts of what happened in that conversation. Beyond that, refer any further requests for comment to your attorney. If we represent you, Richard E. Lewis can be your voice.
If an adjuster from an insurance company representing another driver contacts you, politely refuse to answer any of their questions and direct them to your attorney. Contact us right away to retain Richard E. Lewis to answer those questions.
Insurance companies routinely offer "low-ball" settlements shortly after an accident to try and reduce their own liability as much as possible. Those settlements may leave you with less money than you actually need to pay for the accident - and once you've taken the insurance company's money, you generally can't sue them for more.
While it can be tempting to just take the money and run, the best policy is to wait until you have finished your medical treatment to make sure all of the costs are accounted for. One of the smartest moves you can make is to consult with attorney Richard E. Lewis to discuss all the circumstances of your case before accepting a settlement. In many cases, an experienced attorney can uncover sources of compensation that the insurance company deliberately ignored and get you a settlement that covers the entire cost of the accident. Insurance companies know the name Richard E. Lewis. He's been dealing with them for over three decades.
In our experience, most car accident cases do settle out of court - but we prepare every case as though it's going to trial. Doing this helps us to negotiate from a position of strength. Insurance companies are often willing to offer a larger settlement to keep from facing attorney Lewis in court.
However, if the insurance company won't back down, and we cannot get you a fair settlement, you absolutely have the option of taking your claim to court. If that's the case, we'll guide you through the entire process and use all of our resources to win a favorable verdict. Richard E. Lewis understands what victims go through - and he'll help you feel comfortable and confident as he moves your case forward.