Common Questions: Car Accident Law
Injury victims need accurate information on how to pursue their accident claim. If you have been injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you may have a lot of questions. Below are some of the initial questions that many of our clients have when they first contact Davis Law Group. The questions below may address some of your initial concerns.
If you don't find the answers to your questions here, feel free to contact us at any time to speak with someone about your case. There is no obligation in setting up a free consultation with our attorneys.
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Should I Talk To Reporters After An Accident? Should I Give An Interview To The Press?
Should victims or surviving family members speak with the news media following a major accident or catastrophy?
If you, a family member or someone you know has been involved in a serious accident or catastrophic event the news media may contact you. But if the circumstance are such that you or a family member may have a potential legal claim for injuries, damages, or other harms and losses then you may want to think twice before agreeing to an interview.
It may be wise to delay speaking to the news media until you have had a chance to discuss your legal options with a media-savvy attorney who can help determine the best course of action.
Reporters are calling. What should I do?
The attorneys and media management team at Davis Law Group think that this question cannot be fully answered in a few simple sentences. So we have authored an 18-page report on the subject to help you understand the pros and cons.
News Media Interviews: Are They An Asset or Liability For Your Legal Claim?
A Television, Radio & Newspaper Interview Guide for Victims & Survivors of Serious Accidents
This FREE report outlines the specific pros and cons that news media coverage may have on the outcome of potential legal claims. It also addresses the type of media management services that a law firm which has extensive media experience should provide for clients for whom media coverage is a serious consideration.
How Long Does It Take For A Personal Injury Case To Be Resolved?
Generally, the more serious and long lasting the injuries, the longer the claim may take to resolve your personal injury claim. There are exceptions to this, of course, but the general rule is that insurance companies are more likely to push back and deny or devalue a personal injury claim, especially in situations where the victim's damages are significant.
The exact length of time that it takes for a personal injury claim to be resolved is primarily dependent on the length of your medical recovery, or how long it takes you to reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
When you ultimately decide to settle your claim with the insurance company, you want to be sure you have accounted for all of your damages, past and future. You cannot re-open a personal injury claim once it has been settled, so it's extremely important that you reach the maximum level of improvement before you even consider settling the claim.
Why Patience Is Key To Personal Injury Cases
With many types of injuries, it may take months or years before you know a firm prognosis and how much future treatment may be necessary. It will be in your best interests to wait to negotiate a possible settlement until you have recovered from your injuries and no longer require ongoing treatment.
It is important to wait to settle your claim until you are reasonably certain of how much your past and future losses will be. If your medical providers expect that you will require future medical care or treatment, then that treatment should be accounted for in any settlement discussions with the insurance company.
As confusing and frustrating as the personal injury legal process is, the last thing you want is to settle your injury claim and then discover that you will require additional treatment or care. If you settle your claim before you fully understand the long-term implications of your injuries, you could be left to pay for that on your own.
Are Police Reports Admissible In Court For A Car Accident Case?
Will The Police Report Be Evidence In My Accident Case?
If you have been involved in a car accident in Washington state – and if you followed all of the steps outlined in Chris Davis’s book, “The Ten Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Washington Accident Case” – it’s likely that the police were called to the scene of the collision.
Assuming the police reported to the scene of your accident, they also likely generated a police report with details about the circumstances of your accident and the results of their investigation to determine what caused the crash.
In Washington state, there are a number of law enforcement agencies that could potentially respond to a motor vehicle collision. For the sake of pursuing a personal injury case as a result of a car accident, it’s important that you or a trusted family member keeps track of the responding law enforcement agency. If a police report for your accident was generated, you will want to contact the agency in order to request a copy of the report for your records.
If you are involved in a car accident on a highway or interstate in Washington, chances are that the Washington State Patrol (WSP) will respond to the scene of the collision. If the accident does not occur on a highway or interstate, officers from the local police department will likely be the ones responding to the collision.
Can A Police Report Help Me Prove I Am Not At Fault For My Car Accident Injuries?
A police report can be extremely useful in the beginning stages of pursuing a personal injury claim to recover damages for your injuries, medical bills and lost wages. For one, a police report will have information about the at-fault driver and his or her insurance policy, which is paramount in establishing a defendant and bringing a claim against the at-fault insurance company.
Once the at-fault driver has been identified and a claim has been filed with the defendant’s insurance company, a police report can also be used to generate leverage during the early negotiating stages of pursuing a personal injury claim. Because the police report will include detailed information about the circumstances of the car accident as well as a preliminary findings about who was at fault for causing the collision.
For example, the police report may include information about the driving conditions at the time as well as the responding police officer’s opinion regarding who is at fault for causing the accident. A police report may also included information about any bystanders who witnessed the accident, which is important because their testimony may be crucial to establishing liability. All of this information can be beneficial to the plaintiff as they negotiate a settlement payment with the insurance company.
Are Hearsay and Police Reports Evidence in Court?
Unfortunately in most instances, police reports are often unhelpful past the point of identifying the at-fault driver and witnesses as well as the defendant’s insurance policy. Because a police report is considered hearsay – that is, it is not direct evidence related to the car accident but rather the police officer’s opinion of the circumstances at the scene – it will probably not be admissible in a civil court proceeding.
Because it cannot be used as evidence in court proceedings, a police report will have little impact on the results of a case that goes to trial. However, since a majority of car accident claims never even make it all the way to trial, police reports are often used to generate leverage during the negotiation process of a claim, which is long before a trial would ever take place.
The earlier that a car accident victim is able to identify the proper law enforcement agency that responded to the scene of the collision, the quicker that person will be able to obtain a police report with vital information about the accident. That way, the plaintiff will quickly be able to identify the at-fault driver and uncover information about their insurance policy. Identifying witnesses in a timely manner is also an important aspect of a personal injury case, because witness statements are more accurate and credible early on in the process.
Can Hiring An Attorney Help My Case?
If the whole personal injury process – obtaining a police report and using it to determine fault, identify the defendant and their insurance policy, and corralling witnesses for testimony before negotiating a settlement with the defendant’s insurance company – sounds difficult and confusing, that’s because it is.
It takes months, sometimes even years, before a personal injury claim is resolved and there are so many things that can be factored into the process that it’s nearly impossible to predict an outcome.
Rather than attempting to conquer all of these obstacles alone, many car accident victims will consult with a personal injury attorney to determine if hiring a lawyer to handle the case may add significant value to the settlement or verdict. There is no “calculator” for determining whether or not an accident victim would benefit from hiring an attorney, and it is often best to submit the details of a case to a personal injury lawyer and have their legal staff evaluate the pros and cons of legal representation.
It is important to understand that while hiring an attorney can be beneficial to accident victims who have suffered a high level of damages, a large percentage of claims can be negotiated and settled without the representation of a lawyer. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident and has suffered a high level of damages, contact Davis Law Group, P.S. at 206-727-4000 or contact us here to have our legal team review the details of your case.
How Do Car Insurance Companies Investigate Accident Claims?
After filing a claim with an insurance company, a representative from the company will typically contact you promptly after the accident has occurred to ask you and any other potential witnesses for more detailed information about the accident. In most cases, it will be a claims or insurance adjuster, and this person will investigate your claim on behalf of the carrier itself.
Next, the auto insurance adjuster may ask you to clarify the initial information you gave and probe deeper to gain a fuller understanding of what happened with the car accident. As part of the investigation, the adjuster may and likely will ask for any of the following pieces of information:
- Images or photos of your car;
- To inspect your car for damages;
- A visit to the accident scene to determine all potential contributing factors and circumstances;
- Contact information that you obtained for the other driver at the accident scene;
- Statements from witnesses or other passengers in your car;
- Request you send a copy of the police report for review.
It is helpful to be prepared with any of these things to help ensure the adjustor to help your case. These pieces of information can make it much easier for the adjuster to determine what happened and who is at fault. No matter what, the adjuster will review your policy and make sure your claim is covered and see if the possible expenses exceed your coverage limits.
How Do You Evaluate Damages From A Car Accident?
Depending on the accident, the adjuster may request you take your car to one of its approved body shops for an estimate or ask of you to go to a shop of your choice and obtain some quotes. It is important to keep in mind that you have the freedom to perform the repairs at any shop of your choice, but you may have to pay the difference between the shop’s estimate and the amount the insurer feels is a reasonable price.
After evaluating all the appropriate information, the adjuster determines if you have a valid claim and how much the insurer is willing to pay out. Specifically, your claim could go one of two ways; if your claim only involves property damage and you’re going to have the repairs completed at an insurer-approved auto repair shop, then the repair shop will typically bill the insurance company. In most cases, your policy will include a deductible that you must pay, while the insurance company will cover the difference.
If your accident resulted in you suffering some form of personal physical injury, the insurance adjuster will also negotiate an appropriate settlement with you in order to reimburse you for the losses you suffered as a result of the car accident. In these cases, the insurance adjuster is more likely to push back on your attempts to negotiate fair settlement offer.
Why Do Insurance Adjusters Push Back On Claims?
Because insurance companies have a financial incentive for pushing back against the claims of their own policyholders, the process of negotiating with an adjuster can quickly become confusing and even downright frustrating. Insurance companies are motivated by their own profitability, which is why it benefits them to pay out as little as possible to a person who makes a claim.
For more information about the dishonorable business tactics that are common among U.S. insurance companies, please see our exclusive report, “Unsurance: The Ugly Truth About Unethical Business Practices in the U.S. Insurance Industry.”
In situations where a person has suffered a high level of damages as a result of an accident, the push back from the insurance company can sometimes be too complicated to pursue alone. Consulting with a personal injury attorney could benefit victims who are experiencing this kind of push back from an insurance adjuster, and an experienced lawyer may actually also be able to add value to the claim.
Will Insurance Cover Motor Vehicle Accidents Caused By An 'Act Of God'?
Many insurance policies, including automobile insurance policies, contain an exclusion clause for damages from motor vehicle accidents caused by ‘Acts of God,' which typically refers to any naturally occurring catastrophe that couldn't have been prevented by humans.
These are unavoidable occurrences that interfere with the normal course of events like hurricanes, earthquakes, hail storms, tornados, volcanic eruption, lightning, or violent windstorms.
Can Insurance Companies Deny Accident Claims Due To An Act Of God?
Certain types of weather make driving conditions more hazardous such as heavy winds, rain, thundershowers and snowfall. People often assume that motor vehicle accidents that happen during certain weather conditions qualify as an ‘Act of God / Nature’ and consequently they do not make an insurance claim for injuries or property damage. They simply believe that the accident was ‘nobody’s fault’. But, legally, that may not be true.
What Is The 'Act Of God' Defense?
Insurance companies profit by erroneous and dishonest ‘Act of God’ assumptions — when people don’t file a claim because they believe that an accident was an ‘act of god / nature’.
In addition, insurance companies often try to inappropriately apply the act of god defense when the accident was actually caused by their insured driver’s negligence. Many insurance carriers will attempt to portray these situations as being unavoidable or out of the control of their insured so that they can escape liability and avoid paying on the claim. But that may or may not actually be true.
Under the law, an ‘Act of God / Nature’ defense may be asserted as a type of intervening cause, the lack of which would have avoided the cause or diminished the result of liability. However, foreseeable results of unforeseeable causes may still raise liability.
How Do You Determine Fault? Driver Negligence Or Act Of God?
The key issue in determining fault or liability for a car accident is negligence, regardless of weather. No matter what the weather conditions, a key factor when determining liability is the answer to the question, "Were each of the drivers involved in the accident acting in accordance with the standards of care that a reasonable person would follow in similar circumstances?"
Bad weather like fog, rain, ice, wind or snow are often an important circumstance that help determine whether the person was driving negligently or recklessly.
- Reasonable Care: On a clear summer day, in light traffic, it would be reasonable for a person to drive at the speed limit on an open highway. However, on a cloudy day during a heavy rain downpour, visibility is significantly impaired and thus driving at the speed limit is not reasonable. Similarly, snow, ice or slick wet pavement can severely impair a vehicle’s ability to brake and come to a complete stop. During these types of driving conditions a reasonable person would be expected to drive more slowly and/or increase the following distance behind other vehicles.
- Car Accident That Was NOT An ‘Act of God / Nature’: You are driving on the interstate during heavy rain and stop-and-go traffic. A vehicle approaches from the rear and doesn’t see you due to poor visibility. When the driver does see you he slams on his brakes, his vehicle hydroplanes, and rear-ends your vehicle. Some might assume that this collision was caused by an ‘Act of God / Nature’ because drivers have no control over the rain and driving conditions, but the driver had full control over his speed. Nature is no excuse for bad driving.
- Car Accident That May Be Considered An ‘Act of God / Nature’: A tornado suddenly appears while you're driving your car. The tornado’s winds push your vehicle into oncoming traffic. Depending on other factors, this incident may be appropriately described as an ‘act of God / nature’ because there is absolutely nothing the driver could have done to avoid the collision.
Do Attorneys Deal With 'Act Of God' Defense Claims?
If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident that happened during severe weather conditions, you may benefit from the assistance of an attorney that has a great deal of experience handling serious accident claims; negotiation with insurance companies; arguing against ‘act of God / nature’ defenses, and successfully litigating such cases.
Can I Get Compensation For An 'Act Of God / Nature' Car Accident?
Our legal team of attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants and support staff handle each car accident case that we accept from beginning to end, lifting as many burdens from our clients we can.
We make sure your legal rights are protected. We want our clients to receive fair and reasonable compensation for their injuries. Call 206-727-4000 to schedule a free legal consultation.
Image Source: Getty Image
Why Do I Need Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage?
What Is UM/UIM Insurance Coverage?
You may have never heard about it, or if you have, you may really not know what it is. Uninsured Motorist (often referred to as UM/UIM) insurance coverage is a type of coverage that is available on your Washington automobile insurance policy. UM coverage is designed to pay you for damages that have been caused by an uninsured motorist.
A related type of coverage is Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. UIM is designed to pay you for damages caused by another motorist who may not have enough insurance to fully compensate you for all of your damages. UIM is considered “floating coverage.” That is, this type of coverage floats on top of the other motorists insurance to provide you an additional layer of coverage if it is needed.
Dollar for dollar, UM or UIM coverage is the best deal money can buy. Usually the cost of this coverage is considerably lower than the standard liability coverage (the type of coverage you buy to pay for damages that you cause another). But I see many people who try to save money by refusing UM/UIM on their policy. This is a big mistake.
Can You Give Me An Example Of UM/UIM Coverage?
Let me tell you about a true story. About a year ago, a woman called me about an accident she had several months earlier (I’ll call her Janet). Janet was rear-ended by another motorist who was uninsured. The other driver was 25 years old, job-less, and had neglected to buy any insurance on his 1990 Honda. The collision was fairly significant, causing more than $8,000 damage to Janet’s Ford Taurus.
Janet received a significant neck injury that ultimately required surgery to repair the herniated disc in her cervical spine. She had complications following surgery and another procedure was performed. When she contacted me, Janet’s medical bills were more than $80,000.
And they were continuing to accrue because she was still getting treatment and medication for her ongoing symptoms. Fortunately Janet had health insurance through her employer. But her health insurance carrier only paid about 70% of her bills. What was more unfortunate however, was that five (5) years earlier Janet decided to reject UM/UIM coverage so she could save an extra $100 per year. That decision proved tragic.
Janet’s decision to reject UM/UIM meant that she really had no recourse against the other driver. Oh sure, she could have sued him. But he was practically judgment-proof. He had no insurance and no assets. She never would have been able to collect anything from that young man.
How Could UM/UIM Coverage Have Saved Janet?
Had she had adequate UM/UIM coverage, Janet could have secured compensation from her own auto insurance carrier. But she had rejected the coverage years ago and never thought to renew it after her financial position improved.
In the end, Janet had to pay more than $20,000 for the past medical care she received for her injuries. Janet had to pay a lot of money for an accident that she never caused. An unjust result to say the least.
My advice to everyone is this: purchase as much UM/UIM coverage that you can afford. The accidents are often caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists. You never know when you could be the next accident victim. UM/UIM coverage must be offered by your carrier. Your rejection of UM/UIM must also be in writing to be valid.
If you or someone you know has any questions about insurance coverage following an accident, or what type of claim may be allowed, please call the Davis Law Group for a free consultation at 206-727-4000.
Who Is At Fault For An Accident At An Uncontrolled Intersection?
Whose Insurance Should Pay For An Uncontrolled Intersection Accident?
An uncontrolled intersection can lead to a motor vehicle collision for a number of reasons, and determining fault or liability can be complicated because of the ambiguity associated with these intersections.
To clarify, an uncontrolled intersection is an intersection without a stop sign, flashing light or any other signal that clearly establishes right-of-way for drivers. Drivers often times enter into a guessing game over who gets to move through these intersections first.
Why Don't Some Intersections Have Stop Signs?
Areas with fewer people have more uncontrolled intersections and higher speed limits because fewer people need to travel further. The risk of vehicles actually colliding increases. Drivers in these areas must be extremely cautious and even more diligent than usual because these circumstances can easily lead to a high-speed impact if multiple vehicles each assume they have the right of way.
While uncontrolled intersections are common in rural areas, they are also common in smaller residential areas as well because traffic is also less frequent in these places. What’s troublesome about this is the fact that children and pedestrians are also much more abundant in residential areas, which increases the chances that a child or pedestrian might be hit by a car while playing or walking through their neighborhood.
Making matters worse is the fact that children often feel safe to play in the streets in front of their homes, and we frequently see children injured in residential areas where a vehicle was passing through an uncontrolled intersection.
What Is Washington State Law Regarding Uncontrolled Intersections?
It is fairly common knowledge that when multiple vehicles approach the same intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right-hand side has the right of way. This law is officially outlined in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.61.180 as well as Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 11.55.101, which states:
When two (2) vehicles approach or enter an uncontrolled intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.
This law serves as a default rule of thumb in the event that an accident should occur between two vehicles at an uncontrolled intersection. If this were to take place, it could potentially be deducted that whoever was on the left hand side would be responsible for allowing the vehicle on the right to pass.
Though liability for an accident is typically determined on a case-by-case basis, the law as dictated by the RCW and SMC would serve as a reference point for any accident that occurs at an uncontrolled intersection.
If a person is injured in a motor vehicle accident at an uncontrolled intersection, liability will likely be debated to some extent. It would be wise for anyone in this position to consult with a personal injury attorney who has experience in handling motor vehicle accidents involving roadway design issues, because they will be able to help identify whether or not the victim has grounds for a personal injury claim. An experienced attorney will also likely be able to help sort out any issues in liability and whether or not that will affect the outcome of the claim.
What If I Was In An Accident Caused By A Police Car?
Who Is Liable For A Car Accident Caused By A Police Car?
In certain situations, emergency vehicles are legally allowed to ignore most traffic laws in order to do their job effectively. The societal cost-benefit analysis makes sense: ambulances need to be able to get someone to an ER, fire trucks have to be able to put out fires, and police officers need to be able to keep the peace.
The justification behind this being that the risk of ignoring some basic traffic laws (a common factor in almost every vehicle collision) and possibly causing a traffic accident may be worth taking because there is an immediate, concrete good that may result from that action, such as saving someone’s life or taking a dangerous criminal off of the streets.
Police cars are unique among emergency vehicles because only they can engage in high-speed chases. The cost-benefit analysis of these pursuits isn’t as clear. Most of the time high-speed chases are caused by the suspect refusing to pull over for a small traffic violation, which the suspect may want to avoid as it leaves them vulnerable to the investigating officer discovering more severe crimes.
Are Police Chase Car Accidents Legal?
An officer has to determine if pursuing a fleeing car is worth the danger posed to other drivers and pedestrians, who have a fraction of a moment to get out of the pursuit’s way. These determinations are difficult to make. Oftentimes, a splinter of time isn’t enough for nearby travelers to get out of the way and bystanders are seriously injured.
These bystanders can seek compensation from the city that hired the officer who was part of the pursuit. The officer’s orders to pursue a suspect may not trump endangering the public. Police ability to violate traffic laws stems from language created in the Uniform Vehicle Code, which holds emergency vehicle drivers responsible for negligence.
A lawsuit will analyze all of the actions taken by the police officer, from the first decision to engage in the chase to the final result of the chase, to detect that negligence. Location, time, traffic patterns and other contextual factors will be reviewed.
What Should I Do If I Was Injured In A Police Chase Accident?
Historical and logistical aspects — for example, did the officer receive enough training to make a call and is there a policy in place by the department for handling pursuits? — must be considered. All of these deliberations are part of the process of determining liability, and are key to a victim’s financial recovery.
Personal injury attorneys are critical in these sorts of cases, which happen far more often than you would think—on average a person dies in a police pursuit every day in the United States. It takes a great deal of legal acumen and personal finesse to weigh these factors and tell a person’s story.
If you’ve been injured in an accident resulting from a high-speed police chase, you should consider seeking out an attorney that can explain your legal options to you. Our office offers free legal consultations to accident victims and uses that consultation as an opportunity to fully explain the best options moving forward, as well as whether or not our firm could potentially add value to the victim’s claim.
What Should I Do If The Insurance Company Demands An 'Independent Medical Exam'?
Everyone knows that information is power. Sometimes information comes in the form of talking with an investigator a law firm and sometimes it involves a medical exam.
Insurance companies, trying to sound official, will often request victims of collisions to get an "Independent Medical Exam."
This is a classic example of doublespeak. The insurance companies came up with the term "Indendent Medical Exam." The examiners are doctors, true, but the also like working regularly, meaning the doctor who is examining you might have a bias toward the company footing the bill.
Is An 'Independent Medical Exam' Really Independent?
Insurance companies only have one opportunity to have the claimant examined by an “independent” physician as part of their defense. The purpose of this examination is to find as much medical evidence as possible that can then be used against the victim during settlement negotiations.
If the case goes to trial, then the physician who performed the exam, the insurance company's doctor, will likely be used as an expert medical witness against the plaintiff.
Insurance companies tend to hire the same doctors over and over again in order to build a relationship that benefits their bottom line. These supposedly “independent” doctors now have an incentive to be biased towards the insurance companies’ defense.
The doctor likely has experience with performing IMEs and knows what to look for during the examination to build the insurance company’s defense. In many cases, the doctor performing the IME will report a number of things to weaken the victim’s case. These include:
- Determining that the victim’s injuries were caused by a previous accident or medical condition
- The victim was not injured as severely as his or her own doctor believes
- The victim did not suffer any significant injuries as a result of the accident
How Do I Deal With The Independent Medical Examination?
Almost all insurance policy contracts require accident victims to undergo an IME in the event of an accident. You may not have realized it at the time, but signing your insurance policy contract enters you into an agreement with the insurance company that you will undergo an IME if you do make a claim against them.
If at all possible, it is best to bring someone that will act in your best interests along with you to the IME.
Ideally, this would be a qualified healthcare professional who can judge the fairness and accuracy of the examination, but a spouse or friend will be beneficial as well. Either way, you want someone who can testify about the examination in court if there is a dispute over what happened during the IME.
It may also be beneficial for you to draft an official statement of the accident and injuries that you suffered as a result, preferably with the help of your lawyer. Putting a statement about the accident and subsequent injuries in writing will make your case very clear to the physician and help you avoid mistakes that the physician can use against you later.
Why does the insurance adjuster say I shouldn't hire a lawyer?
Why doesn't the insurance company want me to hire an attorney?
A member of the American Association For Justice obtained a copy of a 603-page internal Allstate document through open discovery after their client was offered only $9,000 for a claim with medical expenses that exceeded $23,000. The document was titled the Allstate Claim Core Process Redesign Implementation Training Manual, and has apparently been updated through at least July 1, 1995. The document contains a wealth of information on how Allstate trained adjusters to handle claims in a way that would benefit the company.
Consumers are rarely given a chance to see how insurance companies operate from the inside. Although they’re required to be given copies of their own insurance contracts, they’re almost never given the full information on what motivates their claims adjusters or what a reasonable claim might be after an accident. The truth is that insurance companies answer to shareholders, not to claimants. Insurance adjusters are trained to maximize profit for their company by paying out the smallest possible amount in damages.
The document captures Allstate in the process of transitioning from a loosely organized internal system to one with step-by-step procedures for handling the vast majority of claims. In the process, the document’s creators hoped to reduce Allstate’s costs by creating a system that would prevent more claimants from seeking out attorney representation.
The document shows a clear pattern in the way Allstate trained insurance adjusters. Allstate knew that claimants with attorney representation were likely to cost the company more by expecting and negotiating higher settlements. While Allstate couldn’t legally tell claimants not to hire an attorney, they could discourage them from hiring an attorney by implying that an attorney would not be necessary and by following up quickly and persistently right after an accident, while a claimant had not yet had time to come to a decision about attorney representation. A frequently repeated script included the following lines: “At any time in the process you may choose an attorney, however, please allow me to make an offer first.”
Most importantly, insurance adjusters were taught to “establish rapport” with claimants as quickly as possible, giving them the feeling that they were on a team instead of on adversarial sides of a claim. Insurance adjusters were given scripts that were believed to come across as more empathetic. They were also strongly encouraged to build rapport by pushing for face-to-face contact with claimants, even going so far as to travel to their homes or workplaces, especially if they suspected that claimants were confused or uncertain about the claims process. A page documenting the ideal profile of a department handling claimants who are not represented by attorneys gives “attorney representation rate” and “settlement results” as two of the most important primary performance measures of the department. Meanwhile, adjusters working with claimants represented by attorneys are expected to be “resourceful, aggressive, not afraid of professional confrontation.”
The documents also show that Allstate collected information in order to profile attorneys, law firms, and medical providers. This information on the “disposition” of the people working on behalf of injured claimants was shared between adjusters in a central database. Adjusters knew which attorneys were willing to fight for their clients to get the highest value paid out, and which were willing to accept a lower offer if it meant a quicker settlement.
Of particular concern to Allstate were cases involving soft tissue injuries. Claimants with these conditions felt a substantial amount of pain and often incurred high medical bills for physical therapy, massage, chiropractic work, and other care. Soft tissue injuries often don’t show up on radiological imaging, blood tests, and other tests that juries believe to be “proof” of an injury. Allstate dubbed cases involving soft tissue injuries MIST cases and developed a special set of protocols for refusing and reducing these claims by disputing whether the claimant was actually injured.
You can view a full version of the document here.
Who Is At Fault For A Parking Lot Accident?
How Do You Determine Parking Lot Collision Liability?
Car accidents occur in parking lots every day in the United States. This sort of collision typically occurs at low speeds and therefore rarely results in significant injuries to the parties involved, making any further legal action unnecessary for the most part.
Although a person is less likely to suffer serious injury in a parking lot accident, there are still a number of things about motor vehicle accidents and the legal system that are important for people to understand should they be involved in one of these collisions.
1) Fault May Be Difficult to Determine
The fact of the matter is, parking lots are often busy areas packed with vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and other inanimate objects like shopping carts and elevated speed bumps. Successfully navigating a parking lot is much easier said than done, and the combination of distracted people and moving pieces significantly increases the chances of a collision.
In reality, each and every single one of these factors can contribute to a collision in a parking lot. That’s why it can often be very difficult to place all of the fault (or blame) for a collision on one individual party. A pedestrian may run into oncoming traffic while trying to enter a store, and at the same time a driver could be distracted by arranging grocery bags in the passenger’s seat while pulling out of a parking space. In this scenario – as well as many other similar situations – both parties involved could be potentially held liable for causing the collision.
2) Police Rarely Respond to Parking Lot Accidents
As of January 1, 2000, Washington state law dictates that the threshold for reporting a motor vehicle collision or other property damage accident is $700. The law also says that anyone involved in a collision that results in injury shall report the accident and summon medical attention for all injured parties.
Realistically, anyone involved in a parking lot collision that does not result in injury or any significant property damage probably shouldn’t expect police to respond to the scene, unless it happens to be a slow day for the police department.
The fact that parking lots are technically private property only increases the chances that police officers won’t respond to a parking lot accident. The regular rules of the road don’t apply to private property, which only makes determining liability or fault even more complicated.
With police out of the picture, it’s important for you to be your own best advocate; take as many pictures of the scene as possible, including all vehicles and people involved. It is also important to get documented information for all involved parties and witnesses, including driver’s licenses and vehicle license plates, and make sure to seek medical treatment for injured parties if it appears to be necessary.
3) Deciding Whether to File a Claim
Insurance companies are a business, and they make their profit by doing whatever they can to minimize the amount of money they pay out to claimants. Pursuing a claim for damages with your insurance company without the representation of an attorney may be difficult, and ultimately it will be up to you to determine whether or not the payout is worth the effort.
If you’re in a situation where liability is disputed, your only option for resolving this dispute may be to go to court. If you’re looking to recover compensation for property damage of around $500, racking up thousands of dollars in legal fees may not be worth the compensation you’re seeking.
The situation becomes much different when the accident results in injury. For a person who was injured in a parking lot accident in Washington state, filing a claim is likely going to be in the victim’s best interests. Because Washington is a “no fault” state, a person who purchases Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on their insurance policy can have their medical treatment covered up to the limit of the policy.
Unfortunately, the cost-benefit ratio of pursuing a claim for damages resulting from a parking lot accident rarely justifies the representation of an attorney. In many cases, the cost of hiring a lawyer would far outweigh the possible recovery or settlement. It is ultimately up to the victim to determine whether the battle for compensation is actually worth the possible end result.
My Parking Lot Accident Story
I was recently in a minor parking lot accident and later had the unfortunate experience of dealing with the insurance compnay's claims adjuster. Hopefully my story will shed some light on the reality of the situation for you.
I had just loaded groceries into my car at my neighborhood grocery store. I got in, checked my rear-view and side mirrors, backed out, checked the mirrors again, and began to back up. My rear-view video display came on and I checked it. I put my car in drive.
As I came to a full stop I noticed the brake lights on an old pickup in a parking stall to my left. I had no time to move my vehicle so I laid on the horn and hoped that he would hear and stop before he hit me. The truck backed into me, shoving my car sideways.
The other driver moved his car back into the parking space. “Did I do that?” asked the man that got out of the beat-up truck. “Wow, I am sorry. I didn’t see you. It's my fault,” he continued. I did not call the police as I knew that they won’t come to a parking lot accident unless someone is injured. I looked around and didn’t see any witnesses.
I got the driver’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, insurance company and policy number. I took all the photographs that I needed to prove that he was at fault, we exchanged information and I went on my way.
My Experience with Insurance Adjusters
I called the other driver’s insurance company as soon as I got home. I told the insurance adjuster that their insured had hit me in a parking lot and that he had also admitted fault several times. She said that she needed my insurance information before she could process the claim. I was reluctant to give it to her, but decided to give it to her anyway knowing that I was not at fault for the accident.
She told me that she wanted to get my statement, and briefly mentioned that she would to record the conversation. Knowing what I know about insurance companies, I recognized this as a trick to get me in an unprepared state of mind to say something damaging about my claim, and to have it recorded to be used against me.
I told her that I knew she could not record the conversation without my consent. She told me again that she could not process the claim or determine liability without taking a recorded statement from me. I told her that I had pictures but she never asked me to email them to her. After I finished the statement she told me that she was going to talk to the driver that her company insured and then get back to me.
Over the next two days, I received multiple voicemails from the insurance adjuster I had already spoken with. She continued her demands for a recorded statement, which I declined. I said that if she wanted to record a statement from me then I would at least need a copy of the transcript, which she said she could not provide.
The insurance company continued with these charades for a few more days before I eventually told the adjuster that I would have to get my husband, attorney Chris Davis, involved if she didn't close the claim and accept that the other driver was 100% at fault. She said she would review the claim and get back to me soon. The next day I received a voicemail from her saying that they would accept full responsibility for the parking lot accident and left instructions on how to get my claim processed quickly.
Think about it: if this is the way they treated me over a minor fender bender, just imagine how they would treat a person who has been seriously injured in a car accident. Whether it is a small parking lot accident or a major injury collision, insurance companies are in this business for profit and will do whatever it takes to maximize that profit. Insurance adjusters are given bonuses for minimizing payouts to their own policyholders.
It's very important to keep a cool head when dealing with an insurance company, as it's much easier to avoid making damaging statements when your emotions are under control. Collect as much information as you can at the accident scene, and remain diligent in your communication with the insurance company to ensure you don't fall victim to their profit-maximizing tricks.
REPORT: Parking Lot Accidents: Help with Handling Your Parking Lot Claim
Source: Washington Accident Books and Reports
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What Should I Do If I Am Injured In A Hit-and-Run Accident?
If you were injured in a hit-and-run accident, you may be upset, confused and have no idea what to do next. If you are considering your legal options, it is highly recommended to contact a personal injury attorney immediately.
In the very unfortunate case of a hit and run accident, in which the driver is never identified, you can file a claim against your own insurance company.
Insurance Issues in Hit-and-Run Accidents
Assuming that you have suffered a high level of damages in the form of medical bills, lost wages and other costs associated with this accident that you were not liable for, of course you want to know who will pay your bills.
Always remember that every case is unique, therefore the exact circumstances will typically determine your best course of action. However, in a case such as a hit-and-run accident, you may potentially be able to file a claim against your own insurance carrier depending on the type of insurance coverage you have.
If you have uninsured motor vehicle coverage, that type of coverage on your policy will typically cover the damage that has been caused by a hit and run driver, or sometimes known as a phantom vehicle. This means that your insurance will be responsible for paying your medical bills, loss wages pain and suffering, etc.
The tricky part is: what if my insurance doesn’t pay? Well, this is where the assistance of an attorney steps in. This is an example of tactics that the insurance company will use, to deny and delay claims. A legal professional will be able to represent you in order to receive fair compensation for your injuries.
Seattle’s Hit and Run Accident Attorney
If you have been the victim of a hit and run accident, as a driver of another vehicle, as a pedestrian or a bicyclist, you should contact Davis Law Group immediately. Attorney Chris Davis has represented many victims of hit-and-run accidents in Washington state. Call Davis Law Group at (206) 727-4000 to schedule a free consultation today.