Insurance companies often try to deny benefits to people injured in auto accidents. Lehmbecker Law aggressively investigates and prosecutes Seattle car accident claims—we fight for money for your pain and suffering, loss of income, and property and physical injury damages. We can assist you in getting your life back together. Contact us soon after an accident so we can preserve evidence and gather accurate witness statements.
Car accidents are on the rise in Washington state. We don’t want to see you become part of that trend. But if you are in an motor vehicle collision, do you know what to do?
Data confirms rise in collisions
Washington state recorded 117,053 traffic collisions in 2015, the most recent year with data published by the Washington Department of Transportation. It was the fourth consecutive annual jump and represented an 18 percent increase from 2011. More disturbingly, fatalities took a big leap in 2015. There were 551 total fatalities, including drivers, occupants, motorcyclists and non-motorists. That’s up 26 percent from just two years prior.
It’s not just a statewide trend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that police-reported collisions were up 10 percent and fatalities were up 6.5 percent between 2013 and 2015.
What to do if you’re involved
Safety of all parties is the most important consideration after a motor vehicle collision. Move to the nearest area where you can safely address any damage, away from traffic. Call the police, and if the physical condition of yourself or your occupants requires it, call for medical attention.
Next, though you might be shaken up by the experience, document everything you can. A smartphone can be your friend here. Use the camera to snap photos of the damage. Most phones will have an audio recording device and/or a note-taking feature where you can electronically store your thoughts and observations. It’s vital that you obtain the name and contact information of any eyewitnesses, along with those of other involved drivers.
Finally, do not make any statements to insurance companies or the other party until you have spoken with an attorney.
Documentation of the incident
Washington requires a collision report on every accident that results in either injury, or property damage reaching a minimum amount set by the chief of the Washington State Patrol. As of 2015, that threshold is $1,000.
If law enforcement makes the report, that takes care of the situation. But if it does not, each party involved is required to file a report within four days of the collision. Forms are available from state, county and local law enforcement.
You may obtain a copy of any collision report by requesting it through the Washington State Patrol. These reports are now redacting a significant amount of personal information, following a June 2017 ruling in U.S District Court granting a temporary restraining order in Wilcox v. Batiste.
Washington Insurance Requirements
All drivers in Washington must have auto insurance. Policy minimums are:
- $25,000 of bodily injury or death of 1 person in any 1 accident.
- $50,000 of bodily injury or death of any 2 people in any 1 accident.
- $10,000 of injury to or destruction of property of others in any 1 accident.
If insurance carriers offer payment that you feel is not sufficient, you may file a lawsuit. Washington’s statute of limitations for filing a claim relating to injuries or damage from a car accident is three years. This is the same for any action relating to property damage or injury, vehicular or otherwise.
If the other party is an uninsured motorist, however, neither your insurance coverage nor a lawsuit might be terribly helpful. Washington does have a form to report damages resulting from a collision with an uninsured driver. It must be filed within 180 days of an accident, and be accompanied by damage estimates and/or bills for medical service. If the uninsured cannot pay, however, the only recourse for the state is to suspend the license of the uninsured motorist.
Download a Guide to Understanding Your Auto Insurance
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as “full coverage” when it comes to auto insurance. You do tend to get what you pay for though. This guide is available to help you understand what kinds of auto insurance coverage are offered and in what minimum amounts you should buy it. Should you be involved in an auto accident, it is critical you know what you’ve paid for and how to take maximum advantage of the coverage you have.
Because electronic distractions are seen as a major factor in the increase in automobile collisions and fatalities, it’s important to be aware of a new law in Washington state addressing distracted driving.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act in May 2017. The new law prohibits any use of a hand-held device, even while at a stop light. And it’s a primary offense, which means a driver can be pulled over solely on the basis of using the device. Hands-free device use is still permitted.
Washington had already passed a law in 2006 requiring collision reports to state whether any driver was distracted at the time of the accident. Distractions are defined as not just using a device, but eating, reading, grooming and more.
Contact us for help with your:
After 30-years of successfully fighting for the rights of the injured in Washington State, our goal is always to help you collect the settlement to which you are entitled. After an auto accident, contact us and one of our Bellevue auto accident attorney’s will evaluate your case free of charge. Do not accept a settlement from an insurance company without first contacting us at (877) 335-2018.
After an auto accident remember these tips:
- Remain calm and non-confrontational.
- Call the police and ask that the officer files a police report. If an officer is not able to respond, go to a police station and file an accident report within 72 hours of the incident.
- Obtain the vehicle driver’s insurance information, address, phone number and license plate number.
- Request the name, phone number and address of every witness.
- Do not admit fault. You may think an accident is your fault, but then find out the other driver is equally at fault or even more so.
- Take care of yourself—make sure you seek any necessary medical treatment.
- Take photographs of the accident scene, your injuries, and all other involved vehicles.
- Do not give a statement to the vehicle driver’s insurance without first consulting us.
- Do not rush into any settlement until you know the full extent of your injuries and rights — contact us for a complimentary consultation.
Q: Should you give an auto insurance company a recorded statement after you’re involved in an auto accident?
A: Insurance companies routinely ask for a recorded statement after you’ve been in an accident. However, right after an auto accident most people are not sure about the extent of their injuries. They often haven’t carefully thought through the facts of what happened. So don’t make any statements about your physical condition or the facts of a collision until you’ve consulted with an attorney. The reality of these statements is that anything you say can and will be used against you. Any errors or ambiguities in your statement will be used by the insurance company to build a case against you.
Under its insurance contract your own insurance company may actually have the right to obtain a recorded statement. But you have the right to first take reasonable steps to prepare for the statement – like talking to an attorney. On the other hand, the other driver’s insurance company does NOT have the right to insist on a recorded statement, so we recommend you just say “No!”
When you retain Lehmbecker Law to represent you, we will take over handling the insurance companies’ calls. We will protect you from the insurance companies’ misleading tactics. We will help you determine if it is even necessary for you to give you a statement, and if so we will help you prepare to ensure that your statement is a complete and accurate description of the facts. Our attorneys will make sure you are treated fairly.