Motor Vehicle Accident FAQs

With over 110 years' combined experience representing people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, the attorneys at Putnam Lieb Potvin have fielded their fair share of questions about car, truck, motorcycle and bike accidents. Here are answers to some of the more commonly asked questions we receive:

Q: I have been in a motor vehicle accident. Should I go to a doctor?

A: Yes. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should see a doctor right away. First, you should see a doctor for your own well-being. You likely will not be able to discern the extent of your injuries yourself. An initially small ache could actually be something significant, but only a doctor can tell you for sure. Furthermore, if you decide to bring a legal claim against the at-fault driver or another party, you will need documentation of your injuries and any treatment you received.

Q: Do I have to go to court if I want to recover monetary damages?

A: It depends. Your case may settle before your attorney even files a formal lawsuit or it may go all the way to a trial and jury verdict. Most legal actions are settled before they get to trial, but what happens in your case depends on the facts, the law and the parties involved.

Q: If the accident was totally or partially my fault, can I still recover compensation?

A: Yes. In Washington, your contributory fault diminishes your recovery in proportion to the amount of damages, but it does not bar recovery.

Q: How do I determine how much my personal injury case is worth?

A: Your attorney will be in a much better position to give you an approximate value for your case, but sometimes even experienced attorneys can't necessarily pinpoint what your case is worth until it is close to a resolution. Many factors, including the circumstances of the accident, the state in which it occurred, the extent of any injuries, the types of vehicles involved and the insurance companies at issue can all influence the outcome. Medical expenses, lost income, the nature of the injuries and any permanent disability arising from them will also play a role. An experienced lawyer can work with you to determine whether to pursue legal action and how best to proceed if you decide to do so.

Q: How soon do I need to bring a legal claim against the other driver?

A: In Washington, the time limitation for filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party is three years from the date of injury, except for tort claims against the federal government (which is a two-year statute of limitations). The time limit to take legal action against your own insurance company may be affected by the terms in your insurance policy. It is best to speak with an attorney right away and refrain from giving recorded statements to the at-fault party's insurance company.

Q: What if the insurance company offers me a check right away?

A: It is fairly common for an insurance company to make you a lowball offer to get you to settle a claim quickly. Before you sign or accept anything from an insurance company, you need to fully understand your legal rights and options. Accepting a check could mean that you are giving up your right to sue later if you need extra medical care or must miss a lot of work. Take advantage of the free legal consultation before you negotiate with an insurance company or settle your claim.

Q: What if the driver who caused the accident does not have insurance?

A: Even though Washington requires all drivers to carry a certain level of auto insurance, not everyone follows the law. This is why Washington requires insurance companies to offer drivers uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If your insurance policy has this coverage, then it may compensate you for some or all of your losses.

Q: Are there parties other than the at-fault driver against whom I can take legal action?

A: If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, parties other than the at-fault driver may share responsibility for what happened. For example, if the accident occurred because the other driver was drunk and a business served alcohol to the visibly intoxicated driver before the accident, Washington's dram shop law may allow you to hold the business liable.

Or if a defect in one of the motor vehicles caused or worsened the accident, the vehicle manufacturer may be responsible for the injuries that resulted. Or, if a third party like a construction company left debris in the road that contributed to the accident, it could share in the liability. Furthermore, if the owner of the car driven by the at-fault driver negligently allowed the driver to use the car (if the owner knew the driver's license had been suspended or revoked, but still consented to lending the car, for example), the owner may be liable, too.

Contact A Personal Injury Attorney

Do you have other questions? Contact Putnam Lieb Potvin in Olympia, Washington, to schedule a consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Call 360-596-9539 or 877-551-2871 or send us an email to discuss the details of your case in a free initial consultation.

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