What is a personal injury?

A personal injury is any physical or mental injury to a person as a result of someone’s negligence or harmful act.

What is negligence?

Negligence is any conduct that falls below the standards of care established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risks of harm.

How do I know if I have a personal injury claim?

To maintain a personal injury claim, you must be able to show that you have been injured and that your injury was caused by another individual’s negligence.

What should I do if my injury was caused by the negligence of another person?

When an injury is due to the negligence of another person or entity (for example automobile collisions, slip-and-falls, and injuries resulting from dangerous equipment or products), it triggers legal and insurance-related issues. The law provides the victim with remedies against the responsible party. The negligent person and/or their insurance company can be held liable for the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and monetary compensation for pain, suffering, and disability.

It is important to inform your physician about the cause of your injury and provide him / her with a detailed history as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Proper and thorough medical records will help enable you to obtain fair compensation for your injury. This is especially important because often the responsible party and their insurance company will dispute their liability, and will argue about the nature and extent of your injury.

Whose insurance will pay my medical bills?

There are several types of insurance coverage that can cover your medical expenses. These include (1) health insurance, (2) car insurance, and (3) worker’s compensation insurance.

If your injury was the result of an automobile collision caused by another person, the at-fault driver’s insurance must pay all reasonable and necessary accident-related medical expenses, up to the limit of their policy. However, the at-fault insurance does not have to pay any of your expenses until you settle and close your claim, or until you win a judgment in court. Therefore it is often beneficial to utilize your own insurance while you are receiving medical care.

If your car insurance policy includes Personal Injury Protection (PIP), your insurance will pay all reasonable and necessary accident-related medical expenses, up to the limit of your policy. This is usually accomplished with no adverse effects to your insurance rates or policy.

If your injury was caused by an uninsured motorist, you may still be able to receive full compensation from your own insurance company if your policy includes Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Protection (UIM). Again, this can be done with no adverse effects to your insurance rates or policy.

If your injury occurred while you were on-the-job in Washington State, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries may cover your medical bills and time loss, but will not pay for pain-and-suffering. If your on-the-job injury was caused by another person who is not your employer or co-worker, you can additionally recover from the responsible party’s insurance, and your recovery may include pain-and-suffering.

How much is my case worth?

All injury cases are different. There are many factors that affect the value of a case. These include: who is responsible for your injury; the severity of your injuries; the length of time of your total and/or partial disability; the amount of your medical bills; loss of earnings; potential permanency of injuries; scarring; broken bones; and expected future expenses. If you are partially responsible for the accident/injury, your case will be worth substantially less based on the percentage of your share of responsibility. Our job is to maximize your recovery. The amount you receive will depend on the factors listed above.

What if my injury is permanent and I need future medical care?

Sometimes injuries do not fully resolve even after your health care professionals have exhausted all treatment efforts. In such cases, the patient should undergo an Impairment Rating to measure and document the permanency of their injury. Impairment Ratings are performed by specially-trained physicians and are done according to the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Your physician or attorney can help make arrangements for an Impairment Rating.

Once a patient has received an Impairment Rating, they should seek appropriate compensation for having a permanent injury, including the need for any future medical expenses or loss of wage-earning ability. An experienced personal injury attorney can help with this.

How does a prior injury affect the value of my claim?

Generally, an at-fault party is responsible only for the harm he or she causes. However, if you had a previous injury made worse by the at-fault party, you can collect for the degree to which the condition has been aggravated.

What if my insurance company wants me to be examined by a doctor chosen by them?

Your insurance company may require you to be examined by a physician selected by the insurance company. This is known as an “Insurance Medical Examination” (IME).   IME doctors are not your treating physician, and usually you will have no say in which doctor conducts the IME. IME doctors serve the best interests of the insurance company, not the patient. If your insurance company demands an IME, you have certain legal rights and obligations, and should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. If you are represented by an attorney, you may be able to have your attorney present during the examination.

Do I need a lawyer if I have been injured?

If your injury is due to the fault of another, or if you are encountering difficulties with an insurance company, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. The Carness Law Firm offers a free consultation, with no obligation to retain us. Also, our attorneys work on a “contingency-fee” basis, meaning you do not have to pay an attorney fee unless we are successful in securing you a recovery.

When is the best time to hire an attorney?

The best time to hire an attorney in any case is immediately. The sooner your attorney can start gathering evidence and obtain witness statements the greater likelihood there is of success. Cases are won or lost based on evidence, which can become stale over time if not properly preserved. In addition, there may be shortened claim-tolling time limits in certain cases. You must act quickly to preserve your rights.

What if the other person’s insurance company wants a recorded statement?

No one should give such a statement without seriously considering the legal effects of doing so. Before agreeing to a statement, any injury victim should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

How long do I have to make a claim for personal injuries?

Every state has certain time limits, called the “statute of limitations” that govern the period during which you must file a personal injury lawsuit. In Washington, you generally may have up to three years to file a claim.  However, there are exceptions in certain cases. Remember, time is of the essence.

How long will it take to settle my claim?

The time it takes to settle a claim depends on many circumstances. It is important to allow injuries to stabilize before beginning settlement negotiations. By settling too early, important consequences of a serious injury may be missed, such as the need for future medical treatment or compensation for permanency. When your physician issues a final medical opinion stating the diagnoses of the injuries and the prognosis, the evaluation of the case for settlement can begin. Once a settlement demand has been submitted to the insurance company, it may take 4-6 weeks for the company to review the claim before negotiation may begin. However, in more complicated cases, particularly where litigation becomes necessary, closure may take substantially longer.

How can I afford to pay for an attorney?

The Carness Law Firm handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. We are willing to commit our time and resources, and we only charge a fee if we succeed in obtaining a settlement or judgment in our client’s favor.  The attorney fee and case expenses are deducted from the settlement or award. However no attorney fee is charged unless you receive a settlement or judgment in your case.  Regardless of the outcome of your case, the case expenses (“costs advanced”) are the client’s responsibility.

Please visit our Practice Areas page for more information.