If you sustained an injury due to someone else's negligence, you're likely looking for answers. Don't expect to get anywhere with the at-fault party's insurance company. They will put their own interests ahead of your needs. The at-fault party responsible for causing your injury will likely try to change the story and cover their tracks. These factors — and more — make pursuing a personal injury claim complicated and frustrating.
Meanwhile, you need to get medical care for your injuries. Perhaps you need an operation or months of physical therapy. Your doctor advises you to take time off from work and avoid certain activities until you recover. The bills continue to pile up and you're unable to make ends meet without income. The good news is, you have legal options. It is important to be patient and know what to expect when pursuing a personal injury claim.
Kent, WA personal injury lawyer Zach Herschensohn discusses the benefits you're likely eligible for and how personal injury cases are resolved. Here's what you should know.
Getting first-party benefits
When pursuing first-party benefits, you don't file a claim against the at-fault party's insurance company. Rather, you file for no-fault benefits with your own insurance company. Most first-party benefits are paid from your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance policy. Under Washington law (Section 48.22.085), your car insurance provider must offer you PIP.
Whether or not you want PIP coverage is your choice. If you choose not to purchase PIP coverage, you must notify your insurance provider in writing. Otherwise, your insurance company will automatically add it to your policy. We highly suggest that you purchase PIP in case you sustain an injury during a crash. You won't have to prove the negligence of another party, but getting benefits from your own insurance company can be difficult. Attorney Herschensohn can help you with that.
What first-party benefits cover:
- Medical expenses: A comprehensive PIP policy pays for up to $10,000 in reasonable and necessary medical costs. If you purchase additional coverage, you can receive up to $35,000 for medical expenses.
- Wage loss: PIP pays for up to $200 in wage reimbursement for up to one year if you're unable to work due to your injuries. You must have been out of work for at least 14 consecutive days after your crash to be eligible. If you purchase additional coverage, you can receive up to $700 per week. PIP pays for wage reimbursement for up to one year from the date of your crash.
- Home assistance: If you're unable to perform daily tasks at home due to your injuries, you're likely eligible for home assistance. PIP pays up to $200 per week for assistance from a non-family member. Comprehensive PIP policies have a limit of $5,000 for home assistance. You have the option to purchase additional coverage to increase the limit to $14,600.
- Funeral expenses: PIP pays up to $2,000 for each person killed in a crash to the closest surviving family members.
Getting third-party benefits
Third-party benefits apply to injured parties whose damages exceed the PIP limit. When you pursue a third-party claim, you file a claim against the at-fault party's insurance company. Third-party benefits pay for:
- Current and future medical costs
- Lost wages
- Home assistance
- Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life
- Death benefits to the family of the victim if the injuries are fatal
- Damage to property or loss of property
Unlike first-party claims, third-party claims are fault-based. That means you must prove that someone else's negligence caused your injury. Third-party benefits are paid when your lawyer and the insurance company agree on a fair settlement. Most personal injury cases are resolved through settlements. Sometimes, an agreement can't be reached or the insurance company acts in bad faith. This is when your case will go to trial. Both your lawyer and the insurance company will present their arguments and evidence they have gathered. Should your case go to trial, you will only be compensated if a verdict can be reached.
Connecting your injuries to negligence
Negligence occurs when an individual fails to use caution or acts in a reckless manner when any reasonable person would have used caution in the same situation. For instance, any reasonable person would avoid texting and driving. The driver who causes a crash while texting and driving acts in a negligent manner.
When litigating your case, it will take solid evidence to connect your injuries to someone else's negligence. In most cases, your lawyer will gather evidence by:
- Reviewing police reports or incident reports
- Surveying the scene where the incident occurred
- Checking video footage from nearby surveillance cameras
- Interviewing witnesses and cross-referencing their statements with other evidence
- Getting a copy of your medical records
The value of your personal injury claim
Your lawyer will leave no stone unturned when determining the value of your claim. No two personal injury claims are alike, so determining how much compensation you're eligible for will take some time. These are the factors that will determine the value of your claim:
- Your current and future medical expenses
- An estimate of how long it will take for you to recover
- Your loss of wages or earning capacity
- Damaged or lost personal property
- The amount of physical pain, suffering and mental anguish you endured
- If you will need home assistance, vocational rehabilitation or other long-term assistance
- Punitive damages (this only applies to recklessness or malicious behavior)
Why hire an experienced personal injury lawyer?
The at-fault party's insurance company will likely start building a case against you from the get-go. They have no interest in compensating you and will do everything in their power to downplay your claim. They'll likely shift the blame, change the story or request a recorded statement from you. Their goal is to close your case out as quickly as possible. If they don't have a strong basis to deny your claim, however, they'll likely drag the process out or offer you a quick lowball settlement. You won't be able to recover additional damages if you accept a lowball settlement.
Knowing what to do when you're injured is only half the battle. Choosing the right personal injury lawyer to handle your case isn't always easy. Injured people in Washington put their trust in Attorney Herschensohn because he never stops fighting for the best possible outcome. He has fought to recover millions of dollars in damages for his clients and has the case results to prove it.
If you've been injured, there is simply too much at stake. Get experience on your side. Set up your free and confidential legal consultation with Herschensohn Law Firm, PLLC to learn about your legal options. We serve injured people in Kent and throughout the greater Seattle Metro area. Contact us online or call us today.