If you are not at fault and you are injured in a car accident, then you may be able to make a claim against the other driver's insurance company and/or your insurance carrier. Recovery varies greatly depending on the type of injury, and the kind of insurance you and the other driver have at the time of an accident. Generally speaking, in Washington State an injured party is entitled to compensation for both general and special damages.
If you are at fault and you are injured in a car accident, then you may be able to receive compensation for your injury if you have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage through your insurance carrier. If you have PIP coverage, then your own insurance company compensates you for special damages only--not general damages
WHAT ACTION SHOULD YOU TAKE IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOUR ACCIDENT?
If you are injured in a car accident, then you need to collect the following information from the other driver: Name and phone number of the other driver, License plate number, vehicle registration, and insurance information
SHOULD YOU TAKE PHOTOS OF THE DAMAGE?
It depends. You should always keep a disposable camera in your car, but photographs of a car accident can be very helpful or extremely harmful. Use your judgment, for example:
If the vehicles sustain little or no visible damage, then photos of property damage can cast doubt on the existence and/or severity of your injury.
But if the vehicles sustain a lot of physical and visible damage, then photos can help your case tremendously.
SHOULD YOU CALL THE POLICE?
Yes. If you believe you are injured in a car accident, then you should call the police and have the officer fill out a police report. During the investigation, the police officer should ask you if you are experiencing any pain. Make sure you are specific about where you are feeling pain, because the officer documents your complaints in the police report. Later, you can use the report as part of the evidence of your injury claim
SHOULD YOU FOLLOW UP WITH A HEALTHCARE PROVIDER?
Yes. One important way an insurance company evaluates your a claim is with documentation of medical treatment by a healthcare provider. Therefore, if you are injured in a car accident, you should see a medical professional for a physical examination. A healthcare provider can set up and provide a treatment plan for you, if needed. Also be aware that if you receive treatment through a medical professional, then you may be asked to provide the insurance company with your medical treatment records and bills.
SHOULD YOU RECEIVE TREATMENT FROM A MEDICAL DOCTOR, CHIROPRACTOR, OR PHYSICAL THERAPIST?
Go to a medical doctor first, because if you are injured in an accident, an insurance company typically wants to see that a medical doctor has examined your injuries first. Also, the treatment your medical doctor recommends depends on the type of injury you sustain. An insurance company can compensate you for treatment with a medical doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist, but your claim for compensation is much stronger if your doctor refers and monitors your progress with other healthcare providers.
WHAT KIND OF COMPENSATION ARE YOU ENTITLED TO RECEIVE FOR YOUR INJURY?
In Washington State, you can receive compensation for both general and special damages.
Special damages represent medical expenses and wage losses.
General damages represent the pain and suffering you experience from an accident and the subsequent recovery period. Typically, an insurance company looks at what social and physical activities you participate in before your accident, and how they are affected by your injury after the accident. For example, if prior to an accident you play on a soccer team, but as a result of your injury you cannot play soccer. Also note the following:
* Depending on the severity of your accident and subsequent injury, an insurance company can view general damages with a lot of skepticism.
* Your claim is stronger if you can provide an insurance company with additional documentation such as a note from a soccer coach stating that you cannot continue playing soccer because of your injury.
SHOULD YOU HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT YOU AGAINST AN INSURANCE COMPANY?
It depends. Certainly you need an attorney to represent if you have been in a significant accident with serious injuries. However, if you have sustained an uncomplicated soft tissue muscle strain, and subsequently receive treatment for a few months that results in a full recovery, then you may be better off handling the claim yourself.
A personal injury attorney takes your case on a contingency basis, which means that you do not have to pay attorney fees until the insurance company compensates you for your injury. However, be very careful when you sign a contract with a personal injury attorney on a contingency basis, because even though you are not paying attorney fees, you are responsible for the costs of litigation, whether or not you receive any compensation from an insurance company.