A Guide to Your Rights After an Olympia, WA Car Crash & How a Lawyer Can Help
An unexpected car accident can turn your whole world upside down in the blink of an eye. For many people, it’s a confusing time, with red tape from insurance companies adding insult to injury.
You need to know that if someone else caused your car crash, you might be entitled to substantial financial compensation under Washington personal injury law.
Compensation can include reimbursement for your physical injuries, emotional distress, the damage to your vehicle, and even the time you spend away from work while recovering — among other kinds of compensation, depending on the nature of your accident.
Unfortunately, you can’t count on insurance companies to pay you the compensation you deserve on their own. So, before you talk to an insurance adjuster or agree to any settlement terms with an adjuster, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with an Olympia, WA car accident attorney at Fuller & Fuller, Attorneys at Law.
At our firm, we fight to maximize compensation for car crash victims… and we don’t charge a fee unless and until we get you money.
What Does a Car Accident Lawyer Do?
A car accident attorney is someone who protects your best legal interests, fights for your best possible financial outcome, and advances strategic legal arguments that can maximize the amount of money you recover.
Just as importantly, your lawyer can take an enormous burden off your shoulders. Dealing with insurance companies can be incredibly frustrating, and unless you’re a lawyer too, trying to negotiate around their tactics is a real challenge.
Even worse, many insurance companies won’t take you or your injuries seriously unless they know you have an aggressive lawyer on your side.
An experienced car accident lawyer can handle everything for you, making sure the defendants and their insurance companies know you mean business, all while you focus on what matters most: getting better and building a better tomorrow for you and your family.
What Kind of Compensation is Available to Me After a Car Accident?
The specific damages available to you will depend on the facts and circumstances of your car accident. Generally speaking, you might be entitled to reimbursement for:
- Medical bills (doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgeries, tests and exams, etc.)
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Damage to your property
- Diminution in the value of your vehicle caused by the accident
- Lost wages
- Rental vehicle
- Household help
- Loss of future earnings
- Wrongful death damages (including burial and funeral expenses, loss of companionship, etc.)
- Other damages caused by the accident
Required Car Insurance in Olympia, WA
The state of Washington requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of car insurance. Sadly, however, many people are illegally driving around without any insurance at all.
While drivers always have the option of carrying additional coverage, the minimum car insurance required in Washington is as follows:
- Liability coverage for bodily injury: at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Liability coverage for property damage: at least $10,000
The next three types of coverage are provided unless they are waived in writing. We urge you to not waive them.
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage (Bodily Injury): at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage (Property Damage): at least $10,000 per accident
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): at least $10,000 per accident
Every driver in Washington must actively carry each of these types of car insurance coverage at the minimum amount to remain compliant with the law. Exceptions can apply for Underinsured Motorist Coverage and Personal Injury Protection. We take a closer look at those types of coverage, which aren’t required in some other states, in the next two sections.
Underinsured / Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Olympia, WA
What happens if a negligent driver injures you in a car crash but doesn’t have insurance to pay for the damages? Unfortunately, even though all drivers should have insurance, many of them don’t. Uninsured Motorist Coverage kicks in to protect you (up to your policy limits) in those cases.
Similarly, Underinsured Motorist Coverage applies when the driver does have insurance, but his or her policy limits aren’t high enough to cover the full cost of your damages. In those cases, Underinsured Motorist Coverage will kick in after the driver’s policy limits have been exhausted (but will not exceed your own Underinsured Motorist Coverage policy limits).
Many insurance companies in Washington combine these two types of coverage and refer to them simply as Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage, or UMC.
Are you always required to carry UMC? Washington law favors the insurance company providing this coverage as a matter of public policy. And as a general rule, it’s a very good idea to have it. UMC is usually fairly affordable, and it provides worthwhile protection in the event of an accident with an uninsured driver. However, Washington law does allow you to waive your right to UMC, provided the waiver is in writing.
Personal Injury Protection in Olympia, WA
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance covers your medical expenses and income losses after a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. The at-fault party might have to pay back some or all of the PIP coverage, however, and the rules governing that repayment are complex and depend on the circumstances.
As a general rule, a driver who is represented by an attorney has to pay back less of the PIP than does an unrepresented party.
Are you always required to carry PIP? As with UMC coverage above, Washington law favors insurers providing POP coverage as a matter of public policy, but you do have the option of waiving your right to PIP insurance (as long as the waiver is in writing).
There’s a lot to know about Personal Injury Protection in Washington, so we encourage you to talk with an experienced Olympia, WA car accident attorney about how this coverage might impact your overall recovery.
Who Pays for Damages in a Car Accident in Olympia, WA?
In the state of Washington, there is a general rule that the driver who is at fault for the accident is responsible for the damages caused by the accident. In other words, the party that causes the crash is liable for the other party’s damages.
But what happens when both parties share in the fault? Different states answer that question differently. Washington uses a rule called Comparative Negligence.
Under the rule of Comparative Negligence, the court must assign a percentage of fault to each party, and each party’s total recovery is then reduced by that same percentage.
Imagine, for example, that a driver runs a red light and hits your car, but you were also idling in the middle of an intersection when you shouldn’t have been. You go to court and claim to have suffered $100,000 in damages. Even if the court agrees with your damages claim, it might decide that you were 25% at fault for the crash. In that case, the court would reduce your recovery to $75,000.
Washington Car Accident Statistics
Washington saw a startling number of car accidents in 2016 (the most recent year on record), including many that caused serious injury or death.
According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, in 2016, there were:
- 508 fatal car accidents
- 1,896 accidents suspected of causing serious injury
- 6,922 car accidents caused by drunk drivers
- 18,037 car accidents involving a teen driver
Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Olympia, WA
- Call 911. You must report all accidents and stay at the scene until law enforcement arrives, even if the accident seems minor.
- Check on others. If it’s safe to do so, see if anyone else at the scene requires medical attention.
- Exchange information. Get the other driver’s name and insurance information.
- Document thoroughly. Take photos of both vehicles, get contact information for any eyewitnesses, and make notes of any important details at the scene.
- Call your insurance company. You should report the accident to your own car insurance company shortly after the crash.
- See a doctor. Even if you don’t think you are hurt, having a documented doctor’s visit can be important later on. Besides, people are often injured and don’t even know it. Some damages are only apparent upon examination. Doctors know what to look for.
- Contact an Olympia, WA car accident lawyer. The lawyers at Fuller and Fuller is standing by to help at all times. Add 800-570-4878 to your smartphone as “Auto Lawyer” right now.
Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
While the law doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer, it’s in your best interest to do so. Accident victims who are represented by an attorney generally recover more money than those who are not.
Insurance companies work very hard to minimize their payouts on accident claims. But a lawyer can work even harder to make them pay you what you’re owed.
Let us deal with the paperwork and phone calls, gather all the evidence, negotiate with the insurers, and keep track of the medical bills – all so you don’t have to.
You can count on our Olympia, WA car accident attorneys to fight for your absolute best outcome at every turn.
Car Accident Lawyers in Olympia, WA
At Fuller & Fuller, Attorneys at Law, we’ve spent more than 40 years helping accident victims maximize their compensation after an unfair accident or unexpected injury.
We know from experience that hiring the right attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your claim, and we’re determined to represent your interests as passionately and aggressively as we would our own.
We treat our clients like family. That means getting to know you, answering the phone when you call and taking a stand for what you deserve.
Our promise to you: we will not charge for our services unless and until we get you compensation. Even then, our fee is only a portion of your overall recovery. And your initial consultation is free — no obligations.
Strict time limits (i.e., statutes of limitation) apply to car accident claims in Washington, so please do not delay. Contact the family of lawyers at Fuller and Fuller today.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents in Olympia, WA
When is someone at fault for a car accident injury in Olympia, WA?
When a driver operates his or her car in a way that is irresponsible, unreasonable, or unsafe, it’s called negligence. Drivers are legally liable for the damages they cause through negligent driving. There are many kinds of negligent driving in Washington. Common examples include:
- Texting while driving (and other kinds of distracted driving)
- Drunk driving (DUI / DWI)
- Drowsy driving
- Aggressive or reckless driving
- Following too closely
- Failure to use turn signals
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Poor vehicle maintenance
- Making illegal turns
These are only a few examples. Many other behaviors can be negligent depending on the circumstances. An experienced Olympia, WA car accident lawyer can help you determine whether you have a case.
How much is my car accident claim worth?
No one can tell you exactly how much money you might recover. Every case is different, and there is no such thing as a guarantee. However, a lawyer who has a lot of experience can give you a general sense of how much your claim might be worth. By reviewing the facts of your accident and comparing it to the outcomes of victims in the past whose cases were similar to yours, an attorney can give you a sense of how much compensation you might claim. We understand that this is an important consideration in deciding whether to proceed with a claim.
How long will my car accident claim take to resolve?
Every case is unique. A number of factors affect how long the resolution process might take, and a lawyer can help you understand what a timeline could look like for your particular claim. Usually, the single biggest factor affecting how long your case will take is the length of time required for you to recover from your injuries. Your claim should not be resolved until your treatment is complete.
Certainly, once your case is ready, your lawyer can make efforts to minimize any undue delay.
Please keep in mind that cases can take some time to prepare, and statutes of limitation do apply, so you should contact an attorney sooner rather than later.
Do I still need a lawyer if my own insurance company is paying for my damages?
Even if the party paying for your damages is your own insurance company (as might be the case with Uninsured Motorist Coverage, for example, or in no-fault claims for PIP coverage), it is still in your best interest to have an attorney representing your interests.
Your insurance company does not represent your legal interests. In fact, as soon as you file a claim with them, they become an adversarial party, and their interests run counter to yours. Your insurer will likely do everything it can to minimize its liability. Your lawyer can fight back.
Should I accept an insurance settlement for my car accident claim?
Not without talking to an attorney first. In fact, you should be very careful about what you say to any insurance company representative. Agreeing to a settlement right after the accident can make it impossible for you to get real justice later, and any statements you make to them can (and probably will) be used against you. Insurance companies are not on your side. They are out to make a profit, and if they’ve offered you a settlement, it may very well be for much less than you’re really owed. Talk to an Olympia, WA car accident attorney at Fuller & Fuller first. The Call is FREE!