Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Motor Vehicle Accident Settlement in Washington State

            There is a lot of stress that comes from getting into a motor vehicle accident. Aside from the obvious anxiety related to the physical and emotional injuries arising from the accident, there is also the stress of getting compensated. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) gives several suggestions to aid in getting the proper amount of compensation for injuries. These suggestions are helpful for both minor and severe

·         Document everything. Save every memo, e-mail, prescription order, and receipt that's related to your medical care. Include names and dates on every document.
·         Keep receipts of all injury-related costs. This may include child-care expenses, canceling airline tickets, or paying for taxi service.
·         Provide before and after photos. Take photos of your injuries and retrieve recent photos before the car accident occurred to compare them with.
·         Keep diligent records of how much time you've lost at work. You may even ask your employer to provide a letter verifying how much income you've lost.
·         Maintain a daily diary, documenting your recovery. Be specific: pain levels and your emotional state. This will aid in your quest for compensation should you suffer from long-term, lingering effects.
·         Hold firm against a quick settlement. Don't agree to anything until you know for certain the short- and long-term effects of your injuries. The insurance company's claims adjuster will try pressuring you into an immediate agreement in an effort to avoid paying out future compensation for lingering medical problems.
·         Hire a personal injury attorney if you feel you're being pressured to agree to a quick settlement, or if you think the compensation is inadequate, or even if you don't understand the claims process. These lawyers will level the playing field, as it were, bettering your chances of receiving fair compensation.
            To get a better idea of what the insurance company is considering when determining what compensation it will offer you, the DMV has further provided a list of factors that claims adjusters take into consideration. Having this information can help with knowing what to have prepared when consulting with an attorney and negotiating with the insurance company. Having this information organized and ready in a timely manner following the accident will help when reaching a settlement.
·         The police report (and whether you obtained a copy). The report will provide specific accident-related details, and will list the investigating officer’s name and badge number. An insurance company claims adjusters will often confirm the claims an injured party makes.
·         Whether or notand how quicklyyou sought medical attention. Visit the emergency room or your physician as soon as possible after an accident.
·         Whether or not injuries you suffered post an auto accident were pre-existing. If you had existing injuries or health conditions prior to the accident, ask your physician to take new x-rays or ultrasounds of those injured areas. Comparisons in the pre-accident scans and the post-accident scans can help to show that the accident did in fact cause additional damage to the area.
·         DUI/DWI charges and other citations related to the accident.
·         Statements that you make to other drivers or passengers after the accident. Keep in mind that although your emotions might be intense following a car accident, you should avoid making promises or statements of blame.
·         Witness testimonies.
·         Photographs taken of the accident scene.
·         Records and documents that validate the number of days and wages you lost due to the accident.
·         Personal injury limits written into your car insurance policy.
            According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), in 2011 there were 454 fatalities, 2,122 serious injuries and 43,015 minor injuries from motor vehicle accidents in Washington State. Unfortunately, you never know who will be driving. While it is possible to drive cautiously and take steps to prevent accidents, it is not possible to control the actions of other’s operating a motor vehicle. It is possible, however, to be as prepared when it comes time to get compensated for an injury.
For more information consider contacting a Seattle Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer.
Weitz Law Firm520 Kirkland Way, Suite 103
Kirkland, Washington 98033







Monday, June 24, 2013

Tort Liability vs. No-Fault Insurance

           Liability insurance is a requirement in all 50 of the United States. There are variations on liability insurance, but the two main categories are No-fault and Tort Liability. Washington is a tort liability auto insurance (i.e. “fault” liability) state. It is important to understand the distinction between tort liability insurance and no-fault insurance when filing your personal injury claim. Presently, 38 states are tort liability states and the remaining 12 are no-fault. There are certainly pros and cons to both, but, given that the vast majority adheres to the tort liability system, it appears that one is superior. The following breakdown is intended to provide just the foundation of how Washington’s tort liability system works and how it can be distinguished from its counterpart.


            The primary benefit of no-fault insurance is that the injured driver does not bear the burden of proving the other driver is at fault or civilly liable for his medical and other various expenses. This process can be time consuming and expensive. The liability insurance each driver carries in no-fault states pays for the insurance policy holder’s injuries regardless of who caused the accident. While this system has the benefit of compensating victims who have insurance, and simultaneously sparing them the task of proving fault, the downside is that the not-at-fault injured party forfeits the opportunity to bring a civil lawsuit against the responsible party for pain and suffering and emotional distress. Liability insurance may cover medical bills, lost wages and other expenses, but it also seals the end of the case. Many drivers who are injured have a valid case which is barred following recovery. The 12 states under the no-fault system are:

• Florida
• Hawaii
• Kansas
• Kentucky
• Massachusetts
• Michigan
• Minnesota                                                                          
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Dakota
• Pennsylvania
• Utah 


            On the other hand, the remaining 38 states have some form of tort liability insurance. In a “fault” liability state, establishing which party is at fault is essential to recovering damages. At the same time, there are fewer restrictions to recovering full damages for all injuries. An injured party can file a claim with her insurance company, and still later file a lawsuit against the driver for pain and suffering or emotional distress. The injured party has more choices. She can: 1) file a claim with her own insurance company for medical expenses, 2) wait to recover while attempting to recover from the other driver’s insurance company or 3) file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. Furthermore, in “fault” liability states, insurance companies will pay depending on what percentage a driver is at fault. Because there are less restrictions on how to recover in Washington, if you feel that you were not adequately compensated by you or the other driver’s insurance company, you still have the option of pursuing a personal injury claim in court.

For more information, consider contacting a Seattle Personal Injury Lawyer.


                                                                                         Weitz Law Firm
                                                                                            520 Kirkland Way, Suite 103
                                                                                            Kirkland, Washington 98033


The Basics of a Personal Injury Claim


Personal Injury claims are governed by Civil Tort Law. Essentially, a tort is civil wrongful conduct which leads to harm of another. Torts include unintentional wrongs, such as negligence, and intentional wrongs (“intentional torts”), such as trespass. Personal Injury claims are brought on the grounds that an injury has occurred as a result of another’s conduct, and the injured person deserves to be compensated.

TYPES OF LIABILITY: The two ways a defendant can be found liable for a personal injury claim are negligence and strict liability.  


A cause of action for Negligence occurs when the defendant’s conduct fails to meet the standard of care toward others that a reasonable person would meet in the same circumstance. Unlike an “intentional tort” (e.g. assault and battery), negligent conduct is unintentional: occurring when the defendant fails to act with the required care rather than overtly acting to harm another.

SUCCESSFUL NEGLIGENCE CLAIM: A finding of negligence requires that four things be present: (1) A duty of reasonable care; (2) the defendant’s conduct breached that duty; (3) that conduct was the cause of the harm and (4) actual harm was suffered which has a legal basis for compensation. 

DUTY AND BREACH: In order for negligence claim to survive, it must be found that the defendant owed a duty of reasonable care to the plaintiff. Although answering the question of whether or not there was a duty can be tricky, there are some guidelines to help identify when a duty does exist.

A duty exists when: (1) the defendant created the harmful circumstances which led to the plaintiff’s harm (e.g. speeding causes a harmful car accident); (2) the defendant did not cause the harmful circumstances, but acted in a way which caused the plaintiff to justifiably rely on the defendant’s aid and the defendant failed to render such aid (e.g. defendant tells car accident victim he will get help and then fails to do so); and (3) when there is a “special relationship” between the defendant and plaintiff (e.g. doctor/patient or guardian/child).

If it is found that the defendant did owe a duty of care to the plaintiff and, based on his action or lack thereof, failed to meet that duty, it must then be showed that the plaintiff suffered harm and defendant’s breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the harm.

PROXIMATE CAUSE: The requirement for proximate cause in a negligence claim is satisfied when the plaintiff’s injury came about as a direct result of an unbroken chain of the defendant’s conduct. In a nutshell, if the plaintiff’s harm would not have occurred absent the negligent conduct of the defendant, and there were no intervening causes outside of the defendant’s control which led to the harm, it is likely that the court will find there was proximate cause.


Another basis for a personal injury claim is strict liability. It is not necessary to show that the defendant acted in any way which breached a duty of care. It is only necessary to show that the defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s harm and the claim falls appropriately under the category of strict liability. Examples of strict liability cases are abnormally dangerous activities (e.g. storing of explosives) and injuries caused by animals (e.g. dog bites).   

There is a set amount of time in which a personal injury claim can be brought following the injury. In Washington State there is a three (3) year window to file a claim for a personal injury. However, preparing a successful personal injury claim takes time and anyone seeking to do so is encouraged to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

For more information consider contacting a Seattle Personal Injury Attorney.

                                                                                                      Weitz Law Firm
                                                                                            520 Kirkland Way, Suite 103
                                                                                            Kirkland, Washington 98033



Increase Rates of Motorcycle Accidents in Summer Months

            As June comes to a close and July approaches, Washington residents will see in increase in sunshine and all that it brings: joggers, picnics, swimming, and, unfortunately, motorcycle collisions. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), motorcycle related accidents and injuries see a significant increase in the months of July, August and September. The WSDOT reports that in 2011 alone, 2,199 motorcycles were involved in a collision. Those collisions resulted in 70 fatalities, 365 serious injuries and 1,816 total injuries overall. The great majority of fatalities and injuries are to the driver rather than the passenger. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WFSC) further reported that 2012 saw an increase to 83 fatalities.  

            The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that motorcycle accident related injuries have increased on the national scale as well. In 2011, motorcycle fatalities increased to 4,612 from 4,518 in 2010. Furthermore, 55 out of every 100,000 registered motorcycles were involved in a fatal crash, compared with only 9 out of every 100,000 cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Motorcyclists were about 30 times more likely than car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled in 2011 and five times more likely to be injured.

            Despite the gradual rise of motorcycle accidents, Washington State still does not require motorcyclists to carry motorcycle insurance. Although insurance is not mandatory, the data suggests that purchasing motorcycle insurance is wise choice for those who enjoy their two-wheeled vehicles. Two important forms of insurance are Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Bodily Injury Insurance (BII). The distinction between the two is discussed on www.dmv.org.

PIP covers physical injury to the person covered by the policy only. It does not cover any injury or damage caused to other motorcyclists, drivers, pedestrians or property. The purpose of PIP is to cover medical-related costs including, but not limited to:

·         Health insurance deductibles

·         Co-Payments

·         Doctor’s visits

·         Hospital stays

·         Dental Care

·         Psychiatric visits

·         Prescription drugs

·         Home-nurse care

·         Funeral costs

·         Lost wages

BII covers those things that PIP does not. Where PIP protects the holder of the insurance policy, BII covers medical-related expenses of other parties. BII covers the following:

·         Doctor's visits

·         Hospital stays

·         Prescription medications

·         Physical therapy

·         Home-health care

·         Lost work wages

·         Funerals

*Can also pay policy carrier’s legal fees if sued as a result of the accident.

            While there are additional forms of motorcycle insurance, these two types of policies are fundamental in ensuring the motorcycle driver, other accident victims and the victims’ families are protected in the unfortunate case of physical injuries. For more information, consider contacting a Seattle Motorcycle Accident Lawyer.

                                                                                         Weitz Law Firm
                                                                                         520 Kirkland Way, Suite 103
                                                                                            Kirkland, Washington 98033

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Injuries from Dog Bites

Dog Bite Injuries

Every year in the United States approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur. The majority of bite victims were familiar with the dog and the incident occurred either on the victim’s property or close by.

Liability: In Washington State, dog bites are a strict liability crime (RCW 16.08.040). For a strict liability crime, it is not necessary to prove that the defendant acted with negligence or recklessness. A dog bite victim only needs to show that his injury was proximately caused by the defendant's conduct.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites: A dog owner is strictly liable for damages caused by the owner's dog, so long as:

1. The victim is in a public place OR

2. The victim is lawfully in or on a private place, including the dog owner's property, either through express or implied consent

The dog owner is strictly liable regardless of whether or not the dog has displayed any previous aggression or if the dog owner was aware of the dog’s propensity to bite. Washington State does not allow the dog “one free dog bite” that some other states allow.

Negligence Suit for Dog Bites: In the event that the strict liability statute is not satisfied (e.g. the victim is not lawfully on the property where the dog bite occurred), there is still potential for a negligence lawsuit. A negligence cause of action arises when evidence can be shown that a dog owner: (1) knew of his dog’s propensity for violence; (2) failed to use reasonable care in controlling the animal to prevent injury; (3) the injury was reasonably foreseeable and (4) the owner’s negligent conduct was the proximate cause of the injury.

Dog Bites and Children:  The majority of dog bites that occur in the United States every year involve children. Statistically, children between the ages 5 and 9 are at the highest risk and half of all dog attacks involved children 12 years or younger. Of dog bites that required emergency room treatment, 82% involved children 15 years or younger. Of dog bite fatalities, 70% involved children 10 years or younger. More than half of injuries involving children involve the head, face and neck.

*Dog Bite Statistics from American Humane Society

Settlement: Most Homeowner’s Insurance policies cover dog bites. In 2012, State Farm alone paid out more than $108 million as a result of dog bites. The insurance industry as a whole pays more than $1 billion annually. According to the Insurance Information Institute:

Dog bites accounted for more than 1/3 of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2012. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $29,752 in 2012, up 1.2 percent from $29,396 in 2011. From 2003 to 2012 the cost of the average dog bite claim increased by 55.3 percent. The number of claims dropped slightly to 16,459 in 2012 from 16,695 in 2011.

Dog bite victims can be compensated, not only for medical expenses, but for lost wages/earning capacity and pain and suffering resulting from the bite. Consulting with a dog bite attorney can help victims of dog bites get the appropriate settlement.

For more information or legal assistance consider contacting a Seattle Dog Bite Attorney.

                                                                                         Weitz Law Firm

                                                                                            520 Kirkland Way, Suite 103

                                                                                            Kirkland, Washington 98033