Our Tacoma personal injury attorneys work on a Contingent Fee Basis.
No Recovery! No Fee! (Costs Only)
So Why Do We Need Attorneys?
When you are hurt in an accident, you are entitled to fair compensation for your damages. A good attorney will be able to make sure that your rights are protected. A good attorney will also be able to answer your questions, and explain the process, so that you can properly appreciate what your rights are, and what you should be entitled to as compensation for your damages.
An insurance adjuster is accountable to the insurance company. They are paid to protect the interests of the insurance company. This means the adjuster is not going to put the interests of the accident victim first. The adjuster wants to save money for the insurance company. That means they want to pay as little as possible on any injury claim.
If you hire an attorney, you gain the services of a licensed professional whose first duty is to protect your interests.
And having a lawyer on your side means that, if you are injured in an accident caused by another party's negligence, you can maximize your chance to be fully and fairly compensated for all your losses.
REFLECTIONS ON JURIES AND FAIRNESS.
They say that nothing is certain in life except for death and taxes.
"Uncertainty" can be easily found in the legal arena. When an accident victim asks what compensation is fair for his suffering, the basic rule is that if the case goes all the way to trial, the question will be answered by the jury. Yet review of published jury verdicts will show that juries can make very different awards even for what appear to be very similar fact patterns.
So what factors make a difference?
The skill of the lawyers and the credibility of the parties and witnesses are very important. But a big variable at trial turns on the values and beliefs of the particular jury. No two jurors will have exactly the same values or biases. Such values are shaped by the unique life experiences we have endured, and the unique lessons we have learned (consciously and subconsciously), through childhood to the present.
Depending on those life experiences, one juror may be predisposed to favor a defendant (even before hearing a single fact) while another juror may be predisposed to favor an accident victim. Rarely does any juror consciously think about how much their ability to be fair or impartial is being influenced by their past experiences. So it is up to the attorneys, during the jury selection process at the start of a trial, to try and identify both those potential jurors who will be most open minded and also those who may be the least open minded.
Yet none of this "uncertainty" means that our system is broken or unworkable. It simply means that our system is human.
As attorneys, we do our best to make sure the sometimes long journey to justice follows the surest path available. But in the end, if a case doesn't settle, then the road will likely lead eventually to a jury. And if a case must go all the way to a jury, then it is that jury (with all their human strengths and weaknesses) who will decide what is fair.
MAKING INSURANCE COMPANIES PLAY FAIR!
In a recent legislative session, a Bill was passed to protect the people of Washington from Insurance Company abuse. That Bill had a simple premise: that insurance companies needed to treat their own customers fairly.
When an insurance company unreasonably refuses to pay medical bills, or unreasonably refuses to honor the terms of its insurance contract, this Bill allows the consumer to sue the insurance company, and to recover the costs of that lawsuit if the consumer is successful.
To keep that Bill from going into effect, the Insurance Industry spent millions of dollars to try and convince voters that the Bill should be rejected. TV Ads (paid for by the Insurance Industry) falsely claimed that only greedy lawyers would benefit from the new law, that consumers were already fairly protected from insurance abuse by existing law, and that the new law would cause everyone's insurance rates to rise because of frivolous lawsuits.
These Insurance Industry arguments were without merit.
The argument that only greedy attorneys benefit from the new law is clearly erroneous. Under old law, a consumer forced to sue their insurance company because their medical bills were not being paid could recover the value of those medical bills, but could not recover the expenses of the litigation or their attorney fees. So suing your insurance company to force them to honor the contract could be prohibitively expensive.
But under the new law, if a consumer files a successful lawsuit because their medical bills are not getting paid, the insurance company can be ordered to pay those medical bills AND ALSO damages (such as the costs of the lawsuit).
In such cases, clearly the consumer benefits from the new law.
The argument that insurance rates would rise if the new law goes into effect was similarly without merit. Think about it this way: Under the new law, insurance companies are simply required to have a REASONABLE basis before denying a claim payment. This means that under the new law, an insurance company is only going to be paying extra damages in those cases where it acted unreasonably.
This law creates an incentive for the insurance industry to treat its policy holders fairly. Indeed, as long as an insurer acts reasonably, and pays the bills it should be paying, all will be well.
THAT'S WHY THE CITIZENS OF WASHINGTON VOTED YES ON R-67.
RECENT UPDATES IN THE LAW
The law is often in a state of flux, and rules that seemed to apply a few years ago may not be the rules that apply tomorrow. Changes can come about through new acts of legislation. Changes can also come about through new decisions from our appellate Courts and from the Supreme Court.
One recent development in Washington insurance law has proven very favorable to the rights of accident victims who carry PIP coverage on their auto policies. When a motor vehicle accident occurs, the at-fault person's insurance company generally won't pay a penny towards medical bills or lost wages until the injured accident victim is ready to settle their entire bodily injury claim.
But settling a claim prematurely is rarely wise. And that's where PIP coverage through your own auto insurance policy can be so important. PIP coverage helps protect accident victims by quickly stepping in to cover their medical bills and wage losses resulting from a car accident, so that those things are taken care of as they arise. This frees up the injured person to concentrate on getting better, without the need to worry about trying to prematurely place a settlement value on their entire bodily injury claim.
Later, when the accident victim is ready to settle their bodily injury claim, the PIP insurer would seek reimbursement for the bills and lost wages it paid, from the final settlement.
In earlier times, the PIP insurer would generally demand (and receive) 100% reimbursement for those PIP payments it made. However, the Washington Supreme Court, in a series of decisions, has established that the PIP carrier must contribute to the costs and legal fees incurred by their insureds to secure the settlement, before the PIP carrier can seek reimbursement.
In simple terms, what this means is that when an accident victim hires an attorney to help settle an injury claim, the PIP insurer benefits from the services of the attorney too, and thus must reimburse their insured on a pro rata basis for that portion of the costs and attorney fees that benefitted the PIP insurer.
Under the old rules, if PIP paid $3,000 for medical bills, etc., PIP would demand reimbursement of the full $3,000 of the settlement, without contributing at all towards the costs.
Under the new equitable sharing rules adopted by the Washington Supreme Court, a PIP carrier that paid $3,000 would not be entitled to reimbursement of the full $3,000. Instead, the insurer would only receive perhaps $2,000, with the remaining money going back to the accident victim (reimbursing the victim for the PIP insurer's share of the attorney fees & costs necessary to secure the final recovery).
The bottom line is that this change in the law directly benefits the accident victim. And we think that's a pretty good result.