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What is a reasonable amount for my pain and suffering in a fatal car wreck?

Seattle, WA |

I was a passenger in my friend's car. Alcohol involved. He swerved 2' to the right and the front bumper caught on a fence adjacent to the shoulderless road and spun the car into a telephone pole, centering impact on driver's door. He was killed instantly, skull crushed, brain matter all over me and inside of vehicle. I was taken to the E.R. and received x-ray and released. My elbow was bruised but it healed. Medical Bills (approx. $2,700) were paid. I have no lasting physical injuries. I still have emotional consequences, nightmares occasionally and replay/flashback the horrid events of that evening two months ago daily. I missed two days of work and my following 9 day vacation was filled with grief, stress and depression. I may seek psychological counseling in the future.

Attorney Answers 6

  1. As important as it is to seek counseling after the traumatic event that you have described, it is also crucial to obtain legal advice. There's absolutely no way to put even a reasonable 'ball park range' on the case over the computer based on a paragraph. Retain an experienced trial attorney in your jurisdiction.

    Here is a link to an article on how insurance companies evaluate claims:

  2. It sounds like your mental anguish exceeds your physical pain. If you intend to claim damages for PTSD, you need a diagnosis of PTSD. I agree that you should hire an experienced lawyer in your area.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

  3. You will need to have your case evaluated by an attorney licensed to practice in Washington State. The biggest issue you have to address first, from a legal standpoint, is not how much your case is potentially worth, but whether your claim will be barred or substantially reduced on account of your having gotten into a car with a driver who had been drinking and assumed the risk of your injuries. How many drinks the driver had, whether you were drinking as well (and if you also observed your friend drinking beforehand and/or were drinking with him), how drunk he and you were, etc., all play a role. Washington is a comparative negligence state, meaning the amount of your claim is reduced by the percentage of fault you have for the accident, and may be barred in some cases by your knowingly and voluntarily engaging in activity that is inherently dangerous (choosing to get into car with a drunk driver at the wheel). Thus, even if your claim could could be valued in a particular amount by a jury, the jury would be instructed to reduce the amount by your percentage of fault. In some cases, the legal defense of assumption of the risk could work to bar any recovery at all. Only a Washington attorney familiar with personal injury cases can best advise you, and you may wish to seek out more than one opinion. On an entirely unrelated issue, are you familiar with what your friend's auto insurance liability limits were at the time of accident? Did you have separate underinsured motorists coverage on your own policy in greater amounts than your friend's liability limits? These policy limits may also define the maximum you could ever recover, regardless of the value of your claim.

  4. Do seek professional help to deal with your grief and the trauma to you. Whether you can recover pain and suffering will depend on several factors, including available insurance and the alcohol issue. Do consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the specifics of the accident and how it has affected you. An attorney can also help you get the psychological help you need, both for your own recovery and to support your claim for damages if that is appropriate.

    Please call us or another experienced personal injury attorney to scheduled a free consultation.

    Sue Holm
    Leonard W. Moen & Associates
    947 Powell Ave SW, Suite 105
    Renton, WA 98057

    Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice. It is merely intended to provide general information to aid the poster in finding answers to the problem posed. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. In most cases, it is best to contact an attorney directly to find answers to your problems.

  5. You will need to see a lawyer! In Washington State if alcohol contributed more than 50% to the cause of the collision then you may be forclosed from any damages. That has been interpreted to mean that if you had alcohol in your system and you knowingly got into a car with someone that was drunk you may lose any claim that you have. Secondly, if you are continuing to have emotional consequences (and frankly, who wouldn't) you should seriously seek out some professional help from a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional. Good luck.

  6. That is an absolutely horrific scenario. I can't even imagine the difficulties you must be going through. Please accept my sincere condolences regarding the loss of your friend.

    You have written to a legal website, so here is the law on the subject. The negligence of a driver cannot be imputed to his passenger. WPI 72.03. But the failure to object to the driver's alcohol consumpution can be charged as negligence to the passenger. Amrine v. Murray, 28 Wn. App. 650 (1981). There is a statute in Washington that provides that if the plaintiff (you) are found to be more than 50% at fault for an accident due to your own intoxication, you are barred from any recovery. RCW 5.40.060. So if the fact finder (judge or jury) concluded that you were more than 50% at fault for the accident for failing to object to the driver's intoxication, you would be barred from any recovery. If you were found to be less than 50% at fault for the accident due to a failure to object to his intoxication, that would only proportionally reduce your recovery rather than eliminate it. The facts and circumstances of what you and the driver were doing prior to the accident and your condition when getting into the car will determine how much of a factor this is. But were the passenger and you have stated that the driver swerved to the right causing the accident, so it sounds like you might not be found to be at fault for the accident at all. These are very fact specific inquiries.

    In the meantime, it is essential that you get psychological evaluation and treatment for what you are going through. This both documents your mental injury and allows you to get the best treatment to recover from your injury. The fact is you may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, given what you have said above. If so this needs to be evaluated and diagnosed, and then it can be treated.

    So you need to seek this sort of psychological help, and you need to see an experienced person injury attorney to sort out your ability to make a recovery under the facts of your case.

    Again, my heart goes out to you for this horrible event that you have experienced.

    Dave Richardson

    David B. Richardson
    2135 - 112th Avenue, N.E., Suite 200
    Bellevue, WA 98004
    425-451-2661 (Fax)

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