Spokane Car Accident Lawyer
Being involved in a car accident can be terrifying not only in the moment, but also in the days that follow. Victims of car accidents experience fear and pain at the time of the accident but also continue to experience both physical and emotional pain as they attempt to recover. In some cases, a car accident may even result in the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, automobile accidents are all too common in the United States. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nearly 33,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2013 alone. Even more people were injured in auto accidents during this year.
If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident in Washington, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for the crash. If your claim is successful, you may receive compensation to cover the expenses you incurred because of your personal injury accident.
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.
Causes of Car Accidents
Car accidents may occur for a number of reasons. Some of the most common causes of car accidents include:
- Drivers disregarding traffic laws.
- Aggressive driving.
- Distracted driving.
- Fatigued drivers.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Bad weather.
- Vehicle malfunctions.
- Unsafe road conditions.
While some of these situations may warrant a lawsuit, others may not. Unfortunately, in many cases two or more of the factors above contributed to the crash. This can make it difficult to determine who was at fault for the accident. For this reason, it is important to consult an experienced attorney when you have been injured in a car accident.
Filing a Lawsuit
In the state of Washington, you must file a claim within three years of the car accident in order to recover compensation. Depending on the situation, you may name one or more defendants in your lawsuit, including the driver of another vehicle, the manufacturer of a vehicle and/or the entity responsible for maintaining the roadways. To win the lawsuit, you must typically show that the defendant’s action or lack of action was the direct cause of your injuries, property damage or emotional trauma.
The best way to determine whether you should file a lawsuit after a car accident is to talk to a qualified attorney.
How Much Compensation Will I Receive?
When you file a personal injury claim after an auto accident, you may receive compensation to cover your medical bills, lost wages, property damage and the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of the crash. Because Washington observes pure comparative fault rules in car accident cases, you may be able to obtain compensation even if you were partly at fault for the crash. However, your settlement will be reduced according to your level of fault. For example, if the court determines that your damages total $100,000 and the court finds that you are 10 percent at fault for the accident, you will be awarded only $90,000.
What to do if you’re involved in a car accident
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 car accident
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.
Making yourself whole
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.
An experienced attorney from the Twyford Law Office will conduct a free case review to outline your options in the instance of a motor vehicle collision.
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 an Experienced Spokane Car Accident Attorney
To learn more about filing a lawsuit after an automobile accident in Washington, contact Twyford Law Office.