How Does Car Accident Compensation Work In Washington?
Trusted attorneys can help you understand accident compensation
Being involved in a car accident is the last thing anyone wants to think about. We just want to make our daily commutes, run our errands and pull into our driveways without worry. However, the chances of a collision happening are higher than they should be, and the effects can be life-changing and devastating. There isn't any one way to handle the aftermath of a car accident. It can be overwhelming, especially in the event that serious injuries occur as a result of someone else's negligence. That's why we're here.
For decades, the attorneys at NLE Law have been trusted by Seattle residents when they feel like they have nowhere to go. If you've been in an auto accident and suffered injury, you deserve some peace of mind. Compensation is about being able to move on with your life and feel whole again, but it can seem like a complicated process. Here are some things you should know about the process that may make it less stressful.
Washington is a "comparative negligence" state
Under this set of rules, any injured party can recover damages. Each party involved in an accident is assigned a portion of responsibility and the amount of the settlement you receive is based on your percentage of shared fault. For example, if you were found to be 10% at fault for an accident, the settlement you receive will be 10% less than the total amount. Your $10,000 settlement now becomes $9,000. All the factors that could've contributed to the accident are analyzed before responsibility is assigned, meaning that you have a chance of holding some degree of fault, especially if you were found to be engaging in any behavior, such as speeding, that either caused the accident or made it worse.
The Insurance Requirements in Washington
The law in Washington State mandates that all drivers carry auto insurance to protect others who may be injured in an accident they cause, and have physical proof of it on hand at all times. The minimum requirements are as follows:
- $25,000 per person for injuries in an accident
- $50,000 per person if more than one person is injured
- $10,000 per accident for property damage
You can also purchase an insurance certificate for $60,000, deposit the same amount with the State Treasurer, or get a liability bond if you decide to opt out of the standard state minimum. These rules are in accordance with the state of Washington's Financial Responsibility Requirement.
What do I do after an accident?
You may feel disoriented and panicked, but what happens during the moments following an accident is essential to the compensation process. It's important to have your bases covered, both for the sake of making your claim process smoother, and your own peace of mind.
- Call the police: having law enforcement at the scene means you can give them a report, as well as have them assess the scene of the accident immediately.
- Take photos: you'll want to photograph damage sustained by each vehicle, as well as a photo of the scene itself. This way you can look back, provide photos to your insurance company and attorney, and notice if there might've been road conditions that contributed to the accident.
- Obtain information: make sure you leave the scene with the other drivers' license number, registration information, and their insurance company's contact information as well as their own.
- File a claim with your insurance company: called a first party claim, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report your accident and file a claim.
- Document everything: Over time, your memory of the accident may become clouded, especially if you were injured. It's important to write down your account of the accident as soon as possible so your story remains consistent.
- See a doctor: If EMTs aren't called, be sure to get to a doctor as soon as you can. Internal and traumatic brain injuries can take time to show themselves, and delaying getting medical attention can endanger your health. Seeing a doctor can also help you protect your legal rights in the event that you file an insurance claim. Your physical and mental health is one of the most important things to take care of after an accident.
Report the accident
One of the most important steps to take following a collision is to report the accident immediately. This is why having the police at the scene is so important; not only can they document their findings at the scene, but your verbal account can be taken down immediately and help streamline the process of filing a report. If the police are not present at the scene of the accident, you have only 4 days to file one with the DMV. This time limit isn't the only one to keep in mind, though. If you are seriously injured, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. That's why it's so important to seek legal help that you can trust. Contact us and let us know how we can help you.
What does my insurance cover?
Auto insurance in Washington covers liability, but you will also be offered additional coverage. Because the cost of an accident can significantly exceed the minimum liability requirements, we strongly recommend that you review your policy and make sure you have all the coverage you need.
- Personal Injury Protection: Also known as PIP, this coverage will assist you with your medical bills that accumulate due to the accident, as well as wages that you've lost by missing work. If you want to reject this coverage, you're required to do so in writing.
- Collision Coverage: Required if you are leasing or financing a vehicle, this coverage pays for the damage your car has suffered as the result of a car accident, up to the policy limit.
- Comprehensive Coverage: Another optional insurance, this would help to cover damages to your vehicle that aren't the result of an accident, such as vandalism and theft. Like collision coverage, this insurance is not optional if you're leasing or financing a car.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM and UIM): Optional, but highly recommended, this provides a cushion if you are ever hit by an underinsured or uninsured driver. If your damages exceed the other party's policy, or if they simply don't have coverage, you could be stuck with paying for the bills yourself.
Hit by an Underinsured or Uninsured Driver?
This is every motorist's worst nightmare. You already have to deal with the accident happening and cope with the shock, you don't need the headache of worrying about where your compensation is going to come from. You deserve peace of mind, knowing that your damages will be taken care of. In the event that the person who hit you doesn't have insurance, you may be in a sticky situation. Going after the other driver's assets may prove to be pointless-if they don't have coverage, or don't have enough, it's likely because they can't afford it. Dealing with an underinsured driver poses similar difficulties. If your damages cost more than their policy limit, the remaining balance is up for you to either fight for, or pay out of pocket.
To help ensure that you're not stuck footing the bill, purchasing UM and UIM insurance is an investment you should highly consider. This coverage stands in for the other motorist's liability insurance and provides compensation for your injuries, up to the policy limit. UM and UIM are quite inexpensive, and the small increase in premium is well worth the additional protection.
A compassionate legal team can help
At NLE Law, you can count on attorneys who are dedicated to helping you get your life back on track. At no cost to you, we offer a free consultation to evaluate your case. We take a personal approach to every case, and provide you with a compassionate lawyer who can access the resources you need to get your life back on track. A car accident is a traumatic, stressful time, and you need guidance through it. We have been serving the people of the Seattle area and Washington for years with our broad range of both legal and medical knowledge. When it comes to your injuries and your damages, we prioritize your right to focus on your recovery. Don't hesitate, let us help shoulder the burden. Contact us now.