Below are answers to common legal questions asked about personal injury cases. If your question is not answered below, please contact us.
What is a personal injury case in Washington?
A personal injury case generally means that you have been injured as a result of someone’s negligence or carelessness and that you are seeking compensation for your injuries and damages. Personal injury claims can arise due to the negligence (failing to act reasonably) of an individual, business or the government. Motor vehicle accidents involving automobiles, large trucks, motorcycles or bicycles are the most common types of personal injury cases, and they can also arise in any situation in which you can get hurt e.g., dog bites, medical negligence, slip and fall, food contamination etc. Your damages, or compensation, are generally dependent upon who was at fault and the severity of your injuries and their effect on you.
How do I know if I need an attorney?
Most personal injury cases are better resolved with the help of an attorney. If you are involved in a case where a small amount of money is being pursued, you may be better off representing yourself in settlement negotiations or in small claims court. With serious and catastrophic injuries, an attorney is recommended to capture all of your losses and to create greater value for your claim. At the very least, you should have an attorney consultation to assess your claim, to understand your options, and to explain the claims process. We offer free consultations, so please don't hesitate to contact us.
Is a lawsuit necessary?
A lawsuit is necessary to preserve your claim if the statute of limitations is about to expire. In other circumstances, a lawsuit is not necessarily required although generally you will have a weaker case if you do not sue the other party. Suing the party responsible for your injuries often gives you more leverage and can translate into a higher amount being recovered.
There are exceptions of course. There may be insufficient insurance covering the negligent party and you won’t need to sue to obtain all of the available insurance coverage; there may be personal information about you that would be divulged in a lawsuit that you wish to keep private; there may be attributes that you have or the person who caused your injury possesses that make it more advantageous for you to stay out of court, if possible.
Deciding whether to file a lawsuit will be an important decision to make with your attorney. We offer free consultations, so please don't hesitate to contact us.
Will my case go to trial?
More than likely your case will be settled out of court. Only a small percentage of lawsuits that are filed appear before a judge or a jury. In many counties around Washington State, cases under $50,000 can also be arbitrated. The arbitration process, a legal hearing conducted in an attorney’s office, is less formal, less expensive and quicker than a trial.
How much is my case worth?
Every case is unique, and we will give you an honest evaluation of your claim once we have reviewed all the necessary information to fully assess your case. The assessment process requires collecting all of your medical records and other pertinent information, as well as meeting with you personally to understand your pain and suffering or "general damages". Personal injury claims entitle you to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, lost income earning potential, pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, as well other potential compensations.
Can I afford your services?
Yes, our firm handles personal injury cases on what is called a contingency fee basis: earning our attorney’s fee is contingent upon obtaining a favorable settlement or verdict. The fees charged are a percentage of the settlement or verdict that is obtained. In most cases our fee is 33% of the recovery, but in complex cases (roadway design, products liability and others) our fee is usually 40%. This fee agreement is different from a traditional hourly fee charged by attorneys who keep track of their time and charge you at their hourly rate. With an hourly fee attorney you must also pay for the attorney’s time as the case proceeds. We are paid at the conclusion of the case and do not charge you along the way. We also advance the costs of pursuing the case (paying for experts, depositions or other case related expenses for which you are responsible) and are repaid when we collect from the negligent party. The costs we advance are separate from the attorney’s fees we charge. To see a copy of our fee agreement or to have any of your questions answered, please contact us.
How long will the claim process take?
We will move as quickly as possible to resolve your claim and bring an end to this process. The time periods to settle claims do vary and there is no set answer as to how long your claim process will take since your settlement may depend upon your injuries and recovery, or the court in which we have filed a lawsuit. In King County, for example, cases are set for trial roughly 18 months after a lawsuit is filed with the court. Most cases settle without a trial or hearing, bringing closure sooner than the trial date.