Being in a car accident can be terrifying, especially if the accident results in injuries. If someone was injured due to another driver’s negligence, they should request compensation from that driver or the driver’s insurance company. Here’s what you need to know about collecting compensation for medical expenses after a car accident.
Who Was at Fault for the Accident?
How damages may be awarded is affected by whom the court holds responsible for the accident. Across the U.S., three types of comparative negligence apply, depending on the state where the accident occurred.
- Contributory negligence. This type of negligence is used only in a handful of states and has the most extreme approach: It says that if the injured person is even the slightest bit at fault for the accident, they have no ability to receive compensation from the other party, even if the other party had far more fault in the accident.
- Modified comparative negligence. Several states use this, with a slight variance among them. This says that they can’t claim compensation if the injured person is either 50% or 51% responsible for the accident. But if they’re found 45% responsible, they can still receive 55% of whatever they were awarded.
- Pure comparative negligence. This type of negligence says that if the injured person is 99% responsible for the accident, they can still receive 1% of the awarded damages. For example, say a drunk driver hit a car that ran a red light, and the latter’s driver was injured. The court could find that the drunk driver was 60% responsible while the car that ran the red light was 40% responsible. If the driver who ran the red light is awarded $10,000, they will receive $6,000 instead.
The state of Washington follows pure comparative negligence.
How Do I Get Compensation for My Medical Expenses After a Car Accident?
It’s highly advisable to work with an experienced car accident attorney who understands Washington’s complex personal injury laws and knows what courts look for when it comes to determining liability and awarding damages. Sometimes people think they can just reach out to the other driver’s insurance company and everything will happen automatically, but unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, it may be necessary for the injured party to file claims with their own health insurance to pay medical bills upfront. If the injured driver has personal injury protection (PIP) coverage with their auto insurance, that will often cover injuries regardless of fault. However, it’s optional coverage in Washington state, so not everyone has it.
If you do receive compensation from the other party after the accident, but you’ve already had your bills paid from your health insurance and/or PIP coverage, you will have to pay those back from any funds received from the accident.
Another important factor is the statute of limitations. In Washington, people have three years from the accident date to file claims or lawsuits. If the statute of limitations has passed, getting a court to hear the case is nearly impossible.
What Car insurance is required in Washington State?
Washington State requires all vehicle owners to have the following:
- Bodily injury liability of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
- Property damage liability of $10,000 per accident.
These are minimums. For additional premiums, it’s possible to have higher coverage.
Additional insurance options are optional in Washington state, including the PIP described above.
- Uninsured motorist. This type of insurance helps pay the bills if you’re in an accident with a driver who either doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough to cover the expenses. People aren’t required to take this type of insurance in Washington, but insurers are required to offer it to everyone.
- Medical payments. No matter whose fault the accident was, this type of insurance covers medical expenses for the driver and any passengers in the vehicle.
- Collision. This covers damages from vehicle accidents, whether the cars hit each other or hit a fixed object.
- Comprehensive. This covers non-collision situations such as theft and vandalism.
What Should I Do if I Was Injured in a Car Accident?
If you’re physically able, collect the names and contact information of the other driver(s) and any potential eyewitnesses. Make a note of any commercial or residential buildings that might have security cameras that caught the accident on video.
Then it’s imperative that you see a doctor as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. Some injuries don’t manifest symptoms right away, including severe ones, and they can become life-threatening before someone notices any signs of pain or infection.
Once a doctor has checked you out, call Church & Page at 509-638-1414 to request a free consultation. We can walk you through what needs to happen for you to receive compensation for your injuries and what the best approach for that is.
One thing we ask you not to do: Engage in any communication with the other driver’s insurance representative or lawyer. Their goal is to remove as much responsibility as possible from their client, so they could try to get you to indicate that you think you were at least partly to blame for the accident. They could also try to convince you to accept a much smaller settlement than you may be eligible for. Don’t respond to any communications; instead, refer them to your attorney.