Frequently Asked Questions
What do to when you are involved in a Collision?
Report the collision to the police. Police officers are investigative in nature and produce an objective and detailed report. Police officers also make an initial determination of who is at fault, which is vital for insurance carriers to quickly accept liability for a collision. Even if it seems obvious who was at fault or the other driver says, “it was my fault,” insurance carriers will make their own determination on who was at fault (sometimes splitting fault 50/50) and a police report is a vital part of making sure the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier accepts 100% liability for a collision.
Get driver and witness contact information. Get the name, address, and phone number of all drivers involved and any witnesses, as you never know when that information will be helpful. Take photos of the insurance card, registration, and Driver’s License for all drivers involved.
Take photos of the collision. Take photos of all vehicles, the location of the collision or intersection, the weather, any tress or landscaping that could have impacted the vision of any drivers, the position of any vehicles, and any apparent injuries. The more photos, the better.
Do not affirmatively state, “I have not been injured.” Perfectly acceptable answers include “I’m not sure” or “I’m too shaken up right now.” Because when the adrenaline of a collision wears off, you don’t want a claims adjuster to improperly devalue your case because you said you did not feel hurt at the time of the collision. Many injures, aches, and pains can become readily apparent within a few hours or days of a collision.
Seek medical attention immediately. Connect with your Primary Care Provider, Urgent Care clinic, or an integrated healthcare office within the first 3 days following a collision. Not only is it important to document your injuries, but an insurance carrier will devalue your case if you delay seeking medical care or have significant gaps in your treatment. Just like requiring a medical professional to prescribed certain types of medications, some types of treatment require a medical professional to specifically prescribe or refer you to obtain particular types of treatment, which includes massage therapy, physical therapy, or sports medicine treatment. A Primary Care Provider or Urgent Care clinic can provide you with a prescription/referral that can be used at any treatment provider. You don’t need a prescription/referral to be treated by an integrative healthcare office, which includes acupuncture or chiropractic clinics.
Consult with an attorney. Under the law, insurance carriers can delay a finding of fault for up to 30 days or deny claims merely if their policy holder does not provide a statement or denies being involved in a collision. Collisions are now at pre-pandemic levels; insurance carriers are denying or splitting liability (50/50) on simple collisions to reduce settlements. An attorney can challenge these initial liability determinations, can confirm appropriate insurance coverages, and can make sure the insurance carrier sets appropriate reserves (insurance carriers determine the value of a case within 30-60 days following a collision).
It’s important you have a voice communicating with the insurance carrier to make sure that reserve amount will provide enough coverage to settle your case for the appropriate value. Challenging initial reserves can be difficult and often requires supervisory authority, which delays settlements and often causes injured persons to be forced to file lawsuits.
What is the Personal Injury Claims Process?
There are two aspects to every personal injury claim, the Property Damage (PD) and the Bodily Injury (BI) claim.
Property Damage claims involve any personal property involved in the collision, typically your car but it can also include any other property (cell phone, laptop, glasses) damaged as a result of a collision. PD claims are typically resolved within 10-30 days of the collision and can include rental car coverage or loss of use. If your car is drivable, schedule a consultation with your preferred repair company for a repair estimate immediately. If your car was significantly damaged and towed, make sure to visit your car immediately and retrieve all valuable items. In preparation for your car being totaled, make sure you have a copy of your title.
Personal Injury or Bodily Injury claims are the primary types of claims people think of when they are involved in a collision, and these include everything else that is impacted following a collision: medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. BI claims may take months or years to resolve because they occur at the end of your case and after your complete treatment. It is very important to follow treatment plans and avoid any delays or gaps in treatment.
We represent clients through the entire process, as a criminal witness, through a civil protection order, administrative processes (educational or license hearings), and through a civil lawsuit for damages. Most crime victim representation claims include three processes: initial reporting, criminal prosecution, and civil lawsuit.
The Initial stage involves reporting the incident to law enforcement and seeking a civil protective order. There are several different types of protection orders: Anti-harassment Protection Order, Domestic Violence Protection Order, Sexual Assault Protection Order, and Vulnerable Adult Protection Order. The nature and frequency of the conduct and type of relationship amongst the parties dictates the type of order. Our attorneys guide our clients through these initial states with law enforcement and can help chart our clients’ path through these initial stages. We trust our clients to decide what path is best for their unique circumstances, with consultation from our internal Registered Nurse on the best path to recovery through medical or therapeutic methods.
Most of our crime victim cases involve representation through the criminal prosecution of the wrongdoer. We advise our clients on likely outcomes of the procedural criminal court process and are right by their side if they choose to be a witness against criminal defendants. We often work with law enforcement officers to provide necessary evidence and with victim advocates to coordinate our clients’ participation. Our attorneys work with local and State prosecutors to ensure reasonable settlement discissions that result in a criminal conviction that provides our clients with justice.
The final stage is the civil claim against the wrongdoer, which is a lawsuit for personal injury. After a wrongdoer is held criminally accountable for their actions, they may not have the financial means to pay for the treatment or other necessary compensation. In cases like these, we hold any related third parties responsible for the actions of these wrongdoers, which can include schools, churches, employers, doctors’ offices, and more. Our attorneys will not give up on seeking the compensation that our clients deserve and will exhaust all possible outlets to find a solution that is fitting for their unique set of circumstances.
What Happened If the At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance or Not Enough Insurance?
When the driver responsible for the collision does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover your injuries, there are several ways to still recover a settlement.
UIM Coverage: Underinsured Motorist coverage is car insurance that you pay for (or if you are the passenger in a car involved in a collision) and can be utilized when the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance or has no insurance.
Purchasing UIM coverage is not mandatory in Washington or Idaho, so make sure you take this into consideration when deciding what car insurance benefits you want. Here at Perez & Perez Law we highly recommend purchasing UIM coverage because being hit by an un-insured driver without UIM coverage may result you not being compensated for your medical expenses.
Default Judgment: If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, you can file a lawsuit against them for the damages and injuries they have caused. If they don’t have any assets, it may be hard to collect the money you are entitled to. An attorney can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and seek a Default Judgement. A Default Judgment is when the at-fault driver does not respond to the lawsuit and the court makes a finding that you are entitled to a specific amount of monetary damages. You can work with a collection attorney or agency to recover your damages.
There are a variety of reasons why people don’t have car insurance coverage: newly purchased vehicle, accidental lapse in coverage, minor driving another person’s vehicle, or not paying for car insurance in a timely manner. It’s best to consult with an attorney because a newly purchased vehicle or minor driving another person’s vehicle may require coverage where it was originally denied.
How long will my Personal Injury Case Take to Settle?
The settlement of an injured person’s case depends entirely on the amount of treatment involved and other complicating factors, including past injuries or collisions, gaps or delaying in your treatment, unreasonable or unnecessary medical expenses or treatment, or unrealistic expectations. Some insurance carriers and adjusters are better than others at assessing the reasonable value of a case and participate in meaningful settlement negotiations. Some insurance carriers and adjusters are completely unreasonable and fight every step of the way and force cases to be litigated in court. Some insurance carriers and adjusters are overburdened and delay settlement negotiations, whether purposeful or due to high turnover or overworked employees. These are all factors that impact the settlement timeline for a case and can be outside the control of an attorney.
Studies show that the average case settles 11 months after an injured person has fully competed their medical treatment. We actively gather medical, billing, and insurance records throughout the course of treatment and draft provider declarations to maximize our settlement negotiations.
The shortest cases can resolve 3-6 months after an injured person has fully competed their medical treatment. These cases usually involve high, agreed medical expenses and low policy limits where the insurance carrier agrees to pay out the full amount of the available insurance policy.
The average case where there is sufficient policy limits can settle 6-12 months after a person has fully competed their medical treatment because the insurance carrier will have to conduct their own analysis on the settlement value and the parties are rarely in agreement on what that value is. Insurance carriers are for-profit businesses. Their financial success is based on devaluing claims and delaying settlements.
When the insurance carrier and injured person cannot come to a settlement, this is when lawsuits are filed. When a case is filed, some courts will set a trial date 12 months from the date the case was filed. Heavily litigated cases can take years to resolve.
The more complicated the case or higher the policy limits, the longer an injured person can expect for the case to take.
Not every case can be resolved quickly, and personal injury claims can unfortunately take years to resolve. That is why our firm supports a “full court press” approach. We actively gather medical, billing, and insurance records throughout the course of treatment and draft provider declarations to maximize our settlement negotiations. When settlement negotiations come to an end, we trust our clients to decide what path is best for their unique circumstances, with our professional guidance on the best and most effective was to resolve their case. Resolutions can be through a prompt settlement, a fast-tracked arbitration (where a neutral third-party attorney hears the facts, reviews the documents, and makes a non-binding decision), or a jury trial in State or Federal Court.
Will my Personal Injury or Crime Victim Case go to Trial?
There are many stages to a personal injury case: treatment, demand preparation, and settlement negotiations are part of the initial stages. If settlement negotiations breakdown, then filing a lawsuit is the next step. Filing the lawsuit can be a strategic step in continuing negotiations as it changes the adjuster analyzing the case (usually one with more experience) and can move the case along when communication has plateaued (court imposed deadlines ensure the progression of a case).
When a case is in litigation, an attorney gets involved and has a more critical view of the case and its likely resolutions. Most counties in Washington require some form of alternative dispute resolution prior to a trial, which includes mediation (when a neutral attorney assists the parties in a full day of negotiations) or arbitration (where a neutral third-party attorney hears the facts, reviews the documents, and makes a non-binding decision). If the parties are not able to settle a case after a mediation or appeal an arbitration award, then the case will resolve in a trial.
In Idaho, the courts allow voluntary mediation by agreement or motion by a party and Online Dispute Resolution guided by the courts.
The more carefully a law firm builds your case, the more likely it is the insurance carrier will agree on the strength of your case and reach a reasonable and appreciate settlement.
Our firm supports a “full court press” approach. We actively gather medical, billing, and insurance records throughout the course of treatment and draft provider declarations to maximize our settlement negotiations. When settlement negotiations come to an end, we trust our clients to decide what path is best for their unique circumstances, with our professional guidance on the best and most effective ways to resolve their case. Resolutions can be through a prompt settlement, our firm’s fast-tracked arbitration process, or a jury trial in State or Federal Court.
How Much is my Personal Injury Case Worth?
There’s no way to accurately predict or ethically guarantee the value of your case in its initial stages, and you should be concerned if an attorney does, and this is because policy limits and treatment expenses are both unknown in the initial stages.
When evaluating a case for settlement negotiations, insurance claims adjusters look to the type and value of the treatment you have sought, including past and future medical expenses, lost wages, domestic support, and out-of-pocket expenses. Insurance adjusters will include monetary losses that are reasonable and necessary and apply a multiplier of 1-1.5 for moderate injuries and up to 5 times for severe cases to account for pain and suffering. It’s often best to fully wait till you are done treating and have fully recovered from a collision before settling your case. This is because you never know how long or complicated treatment can be and once a case has settled, there’s no reasonable way to reopen the case for more medical expenses or further compensation.
Insurance adjusters also evaluate the at-fault driver’s policy and available resources to pay an insurance claim. Insurance carriers are bound to settle a case within their insured’s policy limits. For instance, if you have been involved in a significant collision and have a $100,000 in medical expenses, and the only available insurance coverage is a policy that is limited to $25,000, then the likelihood of recovering more than $25,000 is unfortunately limited. The type and amount of treatment may be irrelevant when there’s a small policy involved. This is why carrying Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM applies when the at-fault driver has no insurance or is not fully insured to coverage all losses) on your personal policy can be vital to ensure you are fully covered in the event of a significant collision and injuries.
For our crime victim representation cases, it’s more challenging to put a number of the pain our clients have experienced. We often include negligence claims as well as the intentional claims to ensure professional liability, homeowners/renters’ policies, or other insurance policies are triggered so that our clients have every available option for recovery.
What Happens if I’m Partially at Fault for an Collision or Medical Negligence Claim?
In most personal injury claims, the injured person is seeking compensation for their injuries from an at-fault (negligent) party and their insurance carrier. However, it can be sometimes true that an injured person shares some responsibility. Every state has different laws governing what happens when an injured person has some contributory fault.
Washington has a “pure comparative fault” rule; where an injured person can recover damages even if they are 99% at fault. When an injured person has comparative negligence, the amount they can recover is reduced by their fault.
Idaho has a “modified comparative fault” rule; where an injured person can only recover damages if they are less than 50% at fault. When an injured person has comparative negligence, the amount they can recover is reduced by their fault.
How Long Do I have to File a Claim?
A statute of limitations is the time limitation that an injured person has to bring a civil case.
In Washington, the period of limitation to bring claims involving intentional acts (crime victim representation cases) is two years and three years for claims involving negligence (motor vehicle collisions, medical negligence, medical malpractice, or premises liability claims).
In Idaho, the period of limitation to bring claims involving intentional acts (crime victim representation cases) and claims involving negligence (motor vehicle collisions, medical negligence, medical malpractice, or premises liability claims) is both two years.
However, there are unique factors that can impact these statutes of limitations, including the location of where the incident occurred, the nature of the relationship of the parties, or the discovery of the injury. The longer an injured person waits to consult with an attorney, the worse a case can possibly become because relevant evidence can be discarded, witnesses lose contact, and memories fade.
What Can I Expect During My Case?
We value the efficient and effective representation of our clients throughout the claims process. Our office will gather relevant evidence and records through our representation of our clients, but our efforts are also dependent on our clients being active participants in the process to sign necessary releases and updated treatment information. Our Medical Case Manager will have routine contact with our clients throughout their treatment process and our Records Manager will meet with our clients early on to ensure we are gathering all necessary and relevant medical and billing records. During the litigation process, our Litigation Paralegal and Attorneys will meet with our clients to answer written discovery requests to ensure our cases move along efficiently and effectively. We value staying in contact with our clients and appreciate when clients stay in contact with us. Together, we can get the best possible outcomes when we have our clients’ active participation.
How Can I Maximize My Personal Injury Settlement?
The best thing an injured person can do is follow the guidance of their treating providers. Standard challenges include gaps in treatment or delays in seeking treatment. Assisting your attorney in carefully gathering strong evidence to support your case. It’s essential to understand all of the categories of injuries and damages that apply to our client’s case and to build the evidence to support each category of injury or damages.
How Much Does an Attorney Cost?
Most personal injury attorney accept clients on a contingency basis, meaning their legal fees and costs of representation are received when our clients receive justice through a monetary settlement for their injuries. When we success in resolving your case, our fee for services is a percentage of our clients’ final recovery. This means no money up front to engage our firm for representation.
Some cases involve unique challenges and are more investigatory in nature, to find out if there are liable parties to seek a monetary recovery against. In these cases, we charge an initial fee up front to be used for any necessary costs of investigation. We don’t charge for our time during this investigative stage, but use the initial retainer to pay for costs, often to include a personal investigator and assets checks to confirm liability and gather necessary evidence. Once we establish the basis for the claim or the parties to hold accountable, we trust our clients to decide what path is best for their unique circumstances, with our professional guidance on the best and most effective ways to obtain the justice our clients deserve.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Every case is different and deserves its own individualized approach, from even the most simplest of motor vehicle collisions to the most complex and challenged medical malpractice or wrongful death cases. Our attorneys have decades of criminal and civil trial experience and our Associate Attorney has also worked for insurance defense. Our experienced injury attorneys can provide specific answers to any questions. There are so many complicating factors for personal injury and medical negligence claims, but our attorneys have the experience to help our clients handles each stage of their case to seek the justice and compensation they deserve. We take the time to understand our clients’ unique interests so that we can effectively and efficiently guide them through their individualized process.
What Are The Obligations That My Insurance Carrier Owes To Me?
Keep in mind, your insurance carrier has specific obligations to you that do not apply to other injured people. This can apply to car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and general liability insurance (AKA “umbrella coverage”).
Washington Administrative Code 284-30-330 defines specific unfair claims settlement practices:
The following are hereby defined as unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices of the insurer in the business of insurance, specifically applicable to the settlement of claims:
(1) Misrepresenting pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions.
(2) Failing to acknowledge and act reasonably promptly upon communications with respect to claims arising under insurance policies.
(3) Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation of claims arising under insurance policies.
(4) Refusing to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation.
(5) Failing to affirm or deny coverage of claims within a reasonable time after fully completed proof of loss documentation has been submitted.
(6) Not attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims in which liability has become reasonably clear. In particular, this includes an obligation to promptly pay property damage claims to innocent third parties in clear liability situations. If two or more insurers share liability, they should arrange to make appropriate payment, leaving to themselves the burden of apportioning liability.
(7) Compelling a first party claimant to initiate or submit to litigation, arbitration, or appraisal to recover amounts due under an insurance policy by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered in such actions or proceedings.
(8) Attempting to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable person would have believed he or she was entitled by reference to written or printed advertising material accompanying or made part of an application.
(9) Making a claim payment to a first party claimant or beneficiary not accompanied by a statement setting forth the coverage under which the payment is made.
(10) Asserting to a first party claimant a policy of appealing arbitration awards in favor of insureds or first party claimants for the purpose of compelling them to accept settlements or compromises less than the amount awarded in arbitration.
(11) Delaying the investigation or payment of claims by requiring a first party claimant or his or her physician to submit a preliminary claim report and then requiring subsequent submissions which contain substantially the same information.
(12) Failing to promptly settle claims, where liability has become reasonably clear, under one portion of the insurance policy coverage in order to influence settlements under other portions of the insurance policy coverage.
(13) Failing to promptly provide a reasonable explanation of the basis in the insurance policy in relation to the facts or applicable law for denial of a claim or for the offer of a compromise settlement.
(14) Unfairly discriminating against claimants because they are represented by a public adjuster.
(15) Failing to expeditiously honor drafts given in settlement of claims. A failure to honor a draft within three working days after notice of receipt by the payor bank will constitute a violation of this provision. Dishonor of a draft for valid reasons related to the settlement of the claim will not constitute a violation of this provision.
(16) Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the processing and payment of claims after the obligation to pay has been established. Except as to those instances where the time for payment is governed by statute or rule or is set forth in an applicable contract, procedures which are not designed to deliver payment, whether by check, draft, electronic funds transfer, prepaid card, or other method of electronic payment to the payee in payment of a settled claim within fifteen business days after receipt by the insurer or its attorney of properly executed releases or other settlement documents are not acceptable. Where the insurer is obligated to furnish an appropriate release or settlement document to a claimant, it must do so within twenty working days after a settlement has been reached.
(17) Delaying appraisals or adding to their cost under insurance policy appraisal provisions through the use of appraisers from outside of the loss area. The use of appraisers from outside the loss area is appropriate only where the unique nature of the loss or a lack of competent local appraisers make the use of out-of-area appraisers necessary.
(18) Failing to make a good faith effort to settle a claim before exercising a contract right to an appraisal.
(19) Negotiating or settling a claim directly with any claimant known to be represented by an attorney without the attorney's knowledge and consent. This does not prohibit routine inquiries to a first party claimant to identify the claimant or to obtain details concerning the claim.
Your insurance carrier is bound to conduct themselves in a certain matter when handling your claims and holding your insurance carriers responsible can result in your claims being settled faster and higher settlements.
Idaho Code 41-1329 defines specific unfair claims settlement practices:
(1) Misrepresenting pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions relating to coverages at issue;
(2) Failing to acknowledge and act reasonably promptly upon communications with respect to claims arising under insurance policies;
(3) Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation of claims arising under insurance policies;
(4) Refusing to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation based upon all available information;
(5) Failing to affirm or deny coverage of claims within a reasonable time after proof of loss statements have been completed;
(6) Not attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims in which liability has become reasonably clear;
(7) Compelling insureds to institute litigation to recover amounts due under an insurance policy by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered in actions brought by such insureds;
(8) Attempting to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable man would have believed he was entitled by reference to written or printed advertising material accompanying or made part of an application;
(9) Attempting to settle claims on the basis of an application which was altered without notice to, or knowledge or consent of the insured;
(10) Making claims payments to insureds or beneficiaries not accompanied by a statement setting forth the coverage under which the payments are being made;
(11) Making known to insureds or claimants a policy of appealing from arbitration awards in favor of insureds or claimants for the purpose of compelling them to accept settlements or compromises less than the amount awarded in arbitration;
(12) Delaying the investigation or payment of claims by requiring an insured, claimant, or the physician of either to submit a preliminary claim report and then requiring the subsequent submission of formal proof of loss forms, both of which submissions contain substantially the same information;
(13) Failing to promptly settle claims, where liability has become reasonably clear, under one portion of the insurance policy coverage in order to influence settlements under other portions of the insurance policy coverage; or
(14) Failing to promptly provide a reasonable explanation of the basis in the insurance policy in relation to the facts or applicable law for denial of a claim or for the offer of a compromise settlement.