How an Attorney Can Help You
Being involved in an auto accident is a frightening experience that can drastically change your life within seconds. Frequently, victims of auto accident are left injured and unable to work. Often the manner in which the accident occurred is in dispute with both sides accusing the other of being at fault. Victims are faced with mounting medical bills, wage loss, potential loss of employment, the feeling of not being able to take care of their families, and the pain and suffering that accompanies their injuries.
Injured victims are then faced with the difficult task of attempting to recover their losses from insurance companies who see each injured person as nothing more than a claim number. The insurance companies have attorneys whose job it is to prevent you from recovering what you deserve. At Dann D. Sheffield & Associates our attorneys have over 35 years of experiences dealing with tough insurance adjusters and their attorneys. Our attorneys can help you understand your rights, insurance policies, and the best course of legal action to take. If you have been involved in an auto accident hiring an attorney is essential to ensuring that you recover what you deserve. Whether you are disputing who is at-fault for the accident, need help paying medical bills, or just need your car repaired, Dann D. Sheffield & Associates can help.
Victims of Motor Vehicle Accidents Frequently Require Legal Assistance with:
- Payment of Car Damages
- Unpaid Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
- Disputing Liability
- Recovering Losses from Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers
- Phone Call Not Being Returned by Insurance Companies
- Rental Car Arrangement/Payment
- Medical Referrals for Accident Treatment
- Vehicle Towing or Storage Expenses
- Other Expenses
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reported that in 2010 there were over 101,000 traffic collisions in Washington State alone. Of those collisions, 460 resulted in fatalities and 45,000 resulted in minor to severe injuries. There are many things that can go wrong on the road leading to a car accident, but the majority of accidents are caused by driver error(negligence). Driver error accounts for 80% of all auto accidents in the United States.
Auto Accidents Frequently Result From :
- Failure to Signal Turns
- Failure to Observe Traffic Signs & Signals
- Aggressive Lane Changing
- Drivers Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
- Distracted Drivers (cell phones, radios, other passengers, etc.)
Although advances in technology have improved the safety features of the modern automobile lowering fatalities that result from auto accidents, thousands of people are still injured every day due to car accidents. Auto accidents can result in a number of different injuries ranging from death(the most severe) to minor aches and pains.
Auto Accidents Can Result in Debilitating Physical Injuries Including:
- Soft Tissue Injuries
- Broken Bones
- Ruptured Discs
- Loss of Limbs
- Internal Injuries
- Head Injuries
- Neck, Back, and other Spinal Cord Injuries.
- Even Death
Because automobile accidents produce such a wide range of injuries it is imperative that you seek medical attention if you have been involved in an auto accident and believe you may have been injured. When a person is severely injured in an auto accident, seeking medical attention is an obvious response. However, frequently victims of auto accidents are unaware of their injuries directly following their accident. Many accidents which seem relatively minor produce long lasting injuries that do not present themselves until days after the accident. Such injuries may include severe neck and back pain, headaches, immobility and stiffness, muscle spasms, and aching limbs. Seeking medical attention directly after an accident can help you determine the extent of your injuries as well as potentially affect any legal claims you may have.
(For more information on “What to do if you have been involved in an auto accident” look to the section below)
The attorneys at Dann D. Sheffield & Associates understand the difficulties and frustrations you face after an auto accident. If another’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle has caused you to suffer injuries, lost wages, and property damage, we can help you manage the recovery process and insure that you receive the maximum compensation you deserve.
What to do if You Have Been involved in a Auto Accident?
- Call 911 and insist on a police investigation. In many cases there are no witnesses to the accident, and without a police investigation, liability may be contested later even though liability was admitted at the scene. Physical evidence of how the accident occurred may be lost after the driver leaves the scene.
- Before you leave the scene of the accident, be certain you exchange information with all other drivers involved. Record the vehicle license number and drivers licenses of the other driver(s). Obtain the names of all witnesses. Witnesses can determine the outcome of your claim!
- Be certain to obtain the insurance information of the other driver(s).
- File an accident report with the State of Washington within 24 hours of the time of the accident if someone is injured or property damage exceeds $700.00. (If a collision is not investigated and reported by an officer, the operators of any involved vehicles must submit their own independent traffic collision report as stated in RCW 46.52.030 and WAC 446-85-010)
- Immediately contact your insurance representative. Your insurance representative will be of assistance in explaining the coverage(s) contained in your policy.
- Obtain an estimate to repair your vehicle and photograph the damage to your vehicle and the accident scene.
- Do NOT discuss your claim with anyone but your family, you insurance agent, your doctor, or a Attorney. Be certain not to sign any release forms or make recorded or written statements to the other driver’s insurance representative.
- If you were injured, be certain to go to the doctor as soon as possible. Explain to the doctor that your injuries were the result of an automobile accident, and take photographs of any visible injuries (i.e. cuts or bruises)
- Prior to any contact with the other driver’s insurance company, notify your attorney. The outcome of many cases is affected by obtaining competent legal advice prior to opening a claim.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists
Despite mandatory liability insurance laws in 47 of the 50 states, the Insurance Research Council estimates that U. S. drivers have a 14% chance of being hit by an uninsured driver. Under Washington State law, all drivers are required to have liability insurance. It is a minimum fine of $450.00 if you are caught driving without liability insurance. Drivers in Washington are required to maintain an insurance policy with a minimum coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury as well as $10,000 of coverage for any destruction of property. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the law and many drivers are driving without adequate insurance. Even when an at-fault driver has the required minimum insurance, those minimum requirements frequently do not cover the costs of the damage caused. If you have been in an accident involving an uninsured or underinsured driver, our attorneys may be able to help you recover for your losses.
What is an Uninsured Motorist?
An “Uninsured Motorist” refers to the driver of a motor vehicle who is not carrying liability insurance coverage; had insurance that did not meet state-mandated minimum liability requirements, or is an unidentified driver in a hit-and-run accident.
What is an Underinsured Motorist?
An underinsured driver is someone who met the minimum legal financial responsibility requirements, but did not have liability limits high enough to cover the damage their accident caused.
How Do You Recover Your Losses if There is a Uninsured or Underinsured Driver Involved?
When an uninsured or underinsured driver injures a motorist, in some cases the injured party can file a claim with his or her own insurer, depending on the insurance coverage purchased. In these cases, if your insurance policy includes UM(uninsured) or UIM(underinsured) motorist coverage, such coverage may help pay you for your damages when the at-fault party can not. In Washington, insurance providers are required to offer policyholders UM and UIM coverage. The policyholder may waive UM/UIM coverage but the insurance provider must be able to produce the signed waiver or the policy will be deemed to include UM/UIM coverage.
However, even when a policyholder has UM/UIM coverage insurance companies frequently make it difficult for the policyholder to recover damages under their policy. Your insurer may claim you were partially at fault, deny that you had proper coverage, take an unreasonable amount of time to settle your claim, or deny your claim altogether. The attorneys at Dann D. Sheffield & Associates have over 35 years of experience handling uninsured and underinsured motorist claims and can help you deal with difficult insurance adjusters.
PIP insurance or “Personal Injury Protection” is a form of insurance that may be purchased in addition to liability insurance, this is separate from UM/UIM insurance. PIP insurance is not required in the state of Washington however, your insurance provider must offer you PIP coverage when you purchase your insurance policy. If the insurance provider did not offer you PIP insurance or can not provide a signed waiver stating that you do not wish purchase PIP coverage, the insurance policy will be deemed to include PIP.
PIP insurance may be used to pay for such things as medical expenses, wage loss, loss of services, and funeral expenses. PIP insurance is paid regardless of who is at fault for the accident. This means PIP insurance may be paid to the injured party before liability is determined. For the victim this can help pay medical bills or wage loss prior to a settlement being reached. However, even when a party’s insurance policy includes PIP coverage, PIP coverage will only cover certain persons involved in the accident.
Who is Covered Under a PIP Policy?
PIP insurance generally only covers the insured driver (i.e. the person named on the policy and/or family members) as well as his/her passengers – up to a certain amount. This means that if there is an accident between two(2) vehicles and only one of the drivers has a PIP policy, that policy will only cover the PIP policy holder and the passengers in his/her vehicle. The PIP policy will not be paid to the other driver or their passengers. However, in some cases there may be exceptions to the driver/passenger limitations on a PIP policy. (i.e. bicyclists or pedestrians involved in an accident with a PIP covered vehicle)