What to do when involved in a car or motorcycle accident? Burien Personal Injury W. Tracy Codd provides guidelines:

Have you been involved in a serious auto accident or a pedestrian accident on the streets and highways of the State of Washington? Are you unsure on the general course of action to take? Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

What should I do first?

When you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, it is important to take certain initial steps toward making sure your injury claim is properly documented. It is critical to preserve all types of potential evidence that supports your claim for injuries. This can increase your chances that your case can be resolved fairly and as quickly as possible:

    • Write down everything you can remember about how the injury occurred, including the names, addresses and phone numbers of potential witnesses, police officers, insurance company representatives (or company or workers’ compensation representatives if it was a work injury);
    • Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer before making any statements, written or verbal, to insurance company adjusters or representatives;
    • Let any responsible party you think may be responsible for the injury know right away that you are intending to file a claim against them;
    • Take steps to protect any evidence you may need to prove your injury, such as your totaled car, photographs of an accident or injury scene, clothing you were wearing, damaged personal belongings, and so forth. This is especially important with respect to video footage taken by businesses nearby the accident site or by traffic control devices cameras in the area as entities often destroy video evidence after a certain period of time;
    • Always make sure you get a copy of the police report from the investigating agency. If the Washington State Patrol investigated the accident, a written application and $10.50 fee is required. The $10.50 fee is non-refundable whether a record is found or not. The Washington State Patrol accepts checks and money orders through the mail.

If you have internet access, Please go to www.wsp.wa.gov, then “Hot Topics” on the right hand side of the page, and select “Collision Reports”. At the top of the page, select the link to the form Request for Copy of Collision Report. Complete and print the form, attach the $10.50 fee and mail or bring it into our office.

If you do not have computer/internet access, you can write to WSP and provide your full name, date of collision, and a location of the collision. The WSP can also mail or fax a request form to you. If the Washington State Patrol did not investigate the accident, then contact the investigating agency for their procedures to request a police traffic collision report.

Whose fault is the accident?

In most cases, in order to collect on an injury claim in Washington, you must prove the person who caused the injury was “negligent“, which is defined as a failure to exercise ordinary care. In Washington, you must prove:

    • The existence of a duty owed to you by the person who caused your injury
    • The other person failed to carry out the duty that they owed you
    • You suffered damages
    • The other person’s failure caused you to have the injury

If you were careless, and your carelessness contributed to your injury, the amount you can recover will be reduced in proportion to your carelessness under Washington comparative negligence law.

Under Washington law, where two individuals are each responsible to you for the injury because they were both careless, each person is responsible for a proportionate amount of the total damages.

What Is My Claim Worth?

Under Washington law, the person who injured you is responsible for:

    • Past, current and future estimated medical expenses
    • Time lost from work, including time spent going to medical appointments or therapy
    • Any property that was damaged, such as your vehicle
    • The cost of hiring someone to do household chores when you could not do them
    • Any permanent disfigurement or disability
    • Your emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and any interference with your family relationships
    • A change in your future earning ability due to the injury
    • Any other costs that were a direct result of your injury

An experienced personal injury attorney will know what type of expert witness to hire to best prove your damages.

What happens if the person that caused the accident does not have insurance or has an insurance policy that is not adequate to compensate me for my injuries?

Uninsured or underinsured coverage will reimburse you, a member of your family or a designated driver for medical expenses, lost wages and other injury-related losses if one of you is hit by an uninsured or underinsured or hit-and-run driver. Underinsured motorist coverage pays you for damages that are more than the amount of coverage carried by a driver who has insufficient insurance to pay for your total loss. Commonly known in Washington as “First Party” coverage, UIM/UM coverage can be found on the Declarations page of your insurance policy. If you do not have it on your policy, State of Washington law requires that you waive coverage in writing.

How Long Do I Have To File A Legal Claim?

In Washington, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the person who injured you. If your lawyer has not been able to come to an agreement with any involved party or insurance company, you must file a lawsuit before the three-year statute of limitations runs out or your claim is forever barred. There is a two-year statute of limitations for certain other cases involving motor vehicle accidents that relate to intentional conduct.

UIM/UM statutes of limitation vary from policy to policy. Often times, the language of the insurance policy controls. It is very important to review your policy to understand the limitations in your policy. In many policies, the section where the limitations can be found are entitled “Actions Against Us” or similar language.

This is a general overview of a personal injury claim in the State of Washington. For a free consultation, please call Burien personal injury attorney W. Tracy Codd.

W. Tracy Codd has been representing persons involved in serious auto accidents since 1987. His office is located in Burien, Washington. Call for a free consultation.


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