Frequently Asked Questions
- Will I have to go to court?
- What if my injury happened in a crash that I was partly responsible for?
- What do I risk financially if I launch a personal-injury claim?
- How does an insurance company get what they need to offer a full settlement?
- How do I know if I have a case in the first place?
- How long does a personal-injury claim take?
- What are policy limits, and how will they affect your claim?
- What does a successful personal-injury case look like?
- What is subrogation, and how will that affect your settlement amount?
- What's the difference between legal fees and legal costs?
- How does a personal-injury lawyer get paid?
- What is the process of a personal-injury claim?
- What do the terms liability, negligence, and damages mean?
- How can I deal with my immediate medical bills?
- How long do I have to file a personal-injury or wrongful-death claim?
- What happens when a minor is injured?
- What is a soft-tissue injury?
- How do the Brett Law attorneys determine what an injury claim is worth?
- What is a wrongful death claim?
- What are Under-insured Motorist coverage and Uninsured Motorist coverage?
One of the advantages of working with the injury attorneys at Brett McCandlis & Brown is that they are dedicated to working closely with clients to make decisions throughout the claim process.
In the earlier stages, the Brett Law attorneys engage in negotiations with the insurance adjuster of the at-fault party, to achieve a full settlement that meets the approval of our clients. If an appropriate settlement offer doesn't come, our lawyers are perfectly willing to launch a lawsuit and take the claim to court.
What this means for our clients is that they will be directly involved in the decision to go to court or not. Your attorney will discuss clearly and honestly with you the benefits and risks of this path, and the potential for obtaining a higher verdict amount than the settlement offer given. They will explain the process of launching a lawsuit, how it will affect the client, and how long it will take.
Typically, the Brett Law attorneys represent clients who are injured by a negligent party. But sometimes, a client is partly at fault for the injury or accident.
Even in cases where a client is partly at fault, the Brett Law team has successfully achieved exceptional results.
Since every injury and every claim is different, our legal team will fully analyze the circumstances that led to the injury, and will determine if a personal-injury claim is valid and likely to be successful. If we don't think we can help you, we will tell you up front.
Very often, we hear from people who have been injured but who are worried about going through the insurance-claim process. Sometimes they feel that they could handle the claim themselves. Sometimes they are concerned that the claim process will be expensive, will involve out-of-pocket payment, or will result in a huge bill at the end.
At Brett Law, we understand these concerns, and we can set your mind at ease.
The Brett Law attorneys have handled hundreds of insurance claims throughout their 40-year history, and we know that most people have never been involved in a claim before.
Since our attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis, there are no up-front fees. Any fees our attorneys are paid come from the final settlement or verdict, at the very end of the claim. If the claim is not successful, our attorneys are paid no fees at all.
So then, the only financial risk of launching a personal-injury claim is that if the claim is unsuccessful, you may be responsible to pay any costs that accrued during the management of the claim.
What kinds of costs might you be responsible for?
Typically, legal costs include:
Costs for ordering copies of medical records and bills;
Costs for hiring medical or occupational experts to prove damages;
Costs for court reporters to attend depositions of witnesses and experts.
These are all costs related to the building and management of the claim itself.
In Washington State, the law says that these costs must be kept separate from legal fees paid for legal services. In the unlikely event that a claim produces no settlement or jury verdict, these costs must be paid by the client.
When the insurance claim process is begun, the Brett Law attorneys and staff collect important information regarding our clients' injuries and accidents. This information includes medical records and bills, police collision reports and investigations, photos of the injuries and vehicle damage, photos of the crash scene, witness statements, and other documentation.
Then, our legal team compiles this documentation into a compelling package that provides the insurance adjuster the entire story of how our clients received their injuries, how serious they are, and how the at-fault party was responsible. The Brett Law attorneys make a demand for a full settlement for every claim.
The insurance adjuster then evaluates the documentation to place a value on the claim. They look for any opportunity to under-value the claim, to place blame on our clients, and to otherwise keep the settlement offer low.
Our attorneys have found that when we provide all client records in a complete, organized, and compelling manner, that the insurance adjusters are much more likely to make full settlement offers. If they don't, our attorneys begin the negotiation process, working with our clients every step of the way to ensure a full settlement or to make the decision to launch a lawsuit.
The Brett Law attorneys hear everyday from people who have been injured and who need concrete answers about whether they have a valid personal-injury claim. When you call Brett Law, we will discuss with you how your injury happened, how badly you are injured, and who the at-fault party is. It is the answers to these questions that help determine if your claim is valid and likely to be successful.
Often we hear from injured people who were at fault for an accident, or who were partly at fault. Since every injury and every accident is unique, the Brett Law attorneys and paralegals work with every injured person to evaluate a potential claim.
This is a hard one to generalize, because every claim is different. We've had claims that were very straightforward and could be completed in a few months. We've had claims that involved more severe injuries, more complicated insurance policies, or multiple at-fault parties, and these claims can take years. Talk with your Brett Law lawyer about the aspects of your claim and how long it may take.
Very often, a successful claim is one that secures the insurance policy's limits for our client. Every insurance policy has a dollar amount that is the top limit available for a settlement. No matter how severe our client's injuries, no matter how high their medical bills, the most the Brett Law attorneys can attain for their client's settlement amount is the dollar amount of the policy.
This is often a shocking truth for our clients. In Washington State, it is common that a driver will only carry the minimum amount of policy limits required by law, which is $25,000. For a serious injury or accident, this amount barely covers a single surgery or a few days in the hospital. That is why it is so important for any driver to also purchase Under-insured Motorist (UIM) and Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. Read about UIM and UM insurance coverage in the Frequently Asked Questions section.
At Brett Law, we believe that a successful personal-injury claim is one where our client receives a settlement that not only covers their current medical bills and costs, but also provides funds to help them with life going forward. Many injuries can have a permanent negative affect on our clients' lives, and we believe that the settlement should provide compensation for those effects.
Also, sometimes an injury will be severe enough that is interrupts or derails a client's career, requiring a client to change fields, get more professional training, or quit working altogether. In this case, your Brett Law attorney will calculate the value of these damages, and will make sure that these costs are factored into your settlement.
Subrogation refers to the process that your own insurance company uses to get reimbursed for the money they have already paid toward your injury claim. After a client is injured, their health insurance company makes payments towards the client's medical treatment. Their health insurance company has the right to recover that money it has paid toward your treatment.
Subrogation matters to you if:
- You have a covered loss, and
- You submit a claim to your insurance company, but
- Another party is actually responsible for all or part of the damages.
If your own insurance company decides to pursue subrogation, the company will work to recover the damages from the responsible party. Your Brett Law lawyer will negotiate with your insurance company to reduce or erase the amount they are seeking in subrogation, which will increase the amount you get to keep from your settlement.
Legal fees are the amount billed to a client for legal services performed by your attorney and the legal support team.
Legal costs are the costs associated with the handling of a claim. These can include the cost of ordering medical bills and records that the attorneys use to prove your claim, the costs of acquiring police collision reports, the cost of hiring a court reporter for a deposition, and the cost of hiring experts to support your claim.
The Brett Law attorneys work in a contingency-fee basis. This means that you pay us only if the case is successful. A contingency fee is usually used only in cases where money is being claimed, like with personal-injury claims.
At Brett Law, we accept a fixed percentage of the final settlement or verdict. Our fixed percentage is one-third of that final amount. When we win the case, the our fee comes out of the money awarded to you. If we lose, neither you nor we will get any money, but you will not be required to pay your Brett Law attorney for the work done on your case.
According to Washington State law, you will have to pay all legal costs related to your case. These costs include court filing fees for legal documents, the cost of ordering medical records, and the costs related to hiring legal experts and deposing witnesses.
The Brett Law personal-injury lawyers are responsible for managing your injury claim. Here is an overview of the general injury-claim process:
We offer a no-cost, no-obligation consultation where we will learn about your injury or accident, learn about your medical treatment, property damage, and other losses you have suffered. We will talk with you about liability, and which party may be at fault for your injuries.
We will discuss with you your potential claim, its strengths and weaknesses, and will help you decide if you would like to move forward.
If you decide to work with us, and we think your claim has merit, we will sign a document called a Retainer Agreement which defines the costs and fees associated with your case, and gives all the details about how we will get paid.
Your paralegal is your support system
Once we decide to work together, you will be introduced to your paralegal, whose job it is to manage the day-to-day processes related to building your claim. Your paralegal will begin collecting all of your medical records and bills, so we can prove to an insurance adjuster the extent of your injuries and losses. Your paralegal will reach out to the insurance company of the at-fault party, and to your insurance company, and will serve as the person who communicates with them throughout the process. You will no longer be directly contacted by either insurance company.
Your claim will go through a traditional injury-claim process, which includes:
While you complete your medical treatments related to your injuries, your paralegal will continue to collect your records, will correspond with the insurance companies, and will keep your attorney informed of all progress.
Once you are done with your medical treatments, your attorney and paralegal will begin writing your demand letter. This letter is the first step in the negotiation process with the insurance company. It will include a description of your accident, a detailed description of your injuries, and a demand for a dollar amount for your settlement.
From here, your attorney negotiates with the adjuster at the at-fault party's insurance company. Depending on the limits of the insurance policy, on the level of your injuries, and other factors, the insurance adjuster may accept the demand amount, or may counter with a different settlement offer.
This process of negotiation continues until a settlement amount is agreed upon. You as our client will be involved every step of the way, and will have the final say in accepting or rejecting the settlement offer.
If a settlement amount cannot be agreed upon, the next step is to launch a civil lawsuit.
What does the civil-lawsuit process look like?
When your Brett Law attorney launches your lawsuit, a series of legal documents is filed with the court. Your attorney and paralegal will work together to create these documents, and will file them in compliance with the required deadlines.
Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney and paralegal may begin to contact witnesses, the at-fault party, your doctors, experts, and others who may be interviewed (deposed) to record officially their testimony of what occurred and how your injuries have affected your life, your career, and your family. You too may be deposed.
Your attorney will produce a document with a number of questions that the at-fault party must answer, related to the accident, to their background and experience, to their work history, and other aspects of their life.
You will also be expected to answer questions from the attorney on the opposing side. These questions will be related to your background, your professional life, your past injuries and accidents, and other questions. The opposing side will also be allowed access to all of your past medical records, which they will analyze to try to identify if your injuries could have been caused by something other than the accident.
A court date will be arranged, and a series of documents will be required leading up to trial. Throughout this entire process, your attorney will remain in contact with the insurance adjuster, and more settlement negotiations may occur. Often, a good settlement offer is received during this phase if you approve.
If no settlement offer is accepted, the claim goes to trial. Your attorney will work closely with you to prepare you for this process. Both sides will present their evidence and information, and a jury will decide if the at-fault party should be held liable for your injuries, and how much that party should pay you.
After someone is injured, the first thing that must be determined is whether that person has a valid personal-injury claim. To learn this, we must ask two main questions:
How badly is the person injured?
What was the cause of the injury?
The answers to these questions are related to three legal terms:
Was the injury the result of someone's negligence, and is that person liable?
What are the damages?
1 – Liability - Liability needs to be determined, because in personal-injury law, a claim can only be successful if the injury was caused by the negligence of another person, company, or other kind of entity. So, if someone is injured in a car crash that was their own fault, there can be no personal-injury claim.
Partial liability is when both drivers are partially at fault. This is a more complicated type of personal injury claim, but it is possible to have a successful claim, depending on the circumstances of the accident and injury. The Brett Law attorneys are particularly skilled at analyzing an accident to prove liability.
So, when you call Brett Law to discuss your injury, accident, or potential personal-injury claim, liability is one of the first things we will talk with you about.
2 – Negligence - Generally speaking, when someone acts in a careless way and causes an injury to another person, under the legal principle of "negligence" the careless person will be legally liable for any resulting harm.
3 – Damages - The calculation of damages in a personal injury case largely depends on the losses suffered by the injured party. Damages commonly include medical expenses, or the cost to replace destroyed property. However, damages can include so much more. If the injury kept you out of work, you can ask for lost wages. If you won’t be able to work in the future, you can ask for future lost wages, known as loss of earning capacity.
The answers to these questions will help determine if you have a valid personal-injury claim.
To ensure that you continue to receive the highest quality medical care and to protect your credit, it is important to immediately pay medical bills. As a part of our representation in your personal injury claim against a drunk driver, Brett Law attorneys and staff will manage payment of your medical bills.
Your priorities are to find the best medical care, follow your doctor’s advice, strive to reach the best possible medical recovery, and send all your bills to the Brett Law office. In turn, we will coordinate the paperwork to obtain payment of those medical bills through your own medical coverage; the insurance coverage of any parties involved in the accident; state and federal medical payment programs; or by arranging with your health care providers to hold collection until you receive your settlement or verdict.
Your good health is too important to sacrifice quality medical care because of financial considerations. Take care of your health first, and your Brett Law attorney will coordinate payment of your medical care as part of our service in your personal injury claim.
If your injury occurred more than one year ago, you may have a statute-of-limitations problem. The statute of limitations requires that a claim be filed within a certain period of time after the accident or you will forever lose the right to do so. Depending on the manner in which you were injured, the statute of limitations could be three years, two years or less from the date of injury.
Also, if a minor was injured, the statute of limitations is different as well, so it is crucial to have a trained professional evaluate how the statute relates to your particular situation.
To avoid a problem with the statute of limitations, do not delay in contacting a Brett Law attorney. We offer a free case evaluation to determine the likelihood of a recovery and the likely range of any recovery.
If you have a son or daughter under the age of 18 who was injured in an accident, there are special procedures which must be followed in order to complete a settlement.
Settling the injury claims of minors, people under the age of 18, requires court approval. The purpose of requiring such approval is to protect the minor child’s settlement funds until they reach adulthood at age 18. Once a judge approves the settlement, the net settlement funds are placed into a blocked account which can only be accessed by court order or after the minor child turns 18.
Washington State Law (SPR 98.16) requires that court approval be obtained in every settlement of a claim, whether or not filed in court, involving the beneficial interest of an un-emancipated minor. The court is required to determine the adequacy of the proposed settlement on behalf of the minor child and reject or approve it.
State Law sets forth basic guidelines for approving a minor settlement, the various counties vary greatly in how they administer minor settlement approvals. However, there are typically three steps to completing a minor settlement.
Step 1: A petition must be filed in the court which contains certain information about the minor child and the proposed settlement.
Step 2: A Settlement Guardian Ad Litem (often referred to as an SGAL) must be appointed by the court for each minor child. The duties of the SGAL include gathering all relevant records, including medical treatment records and insurance records. This usually includes interviewing the minor child’s parents and if appropriate, the minor child, too. After conducting an investigation, the SGAL files a written report to help the judge decide whether to approve the proposed settlement and if so, under what conditions.
Step 3: Once the SGAL has completed his or her report, a Hearing to Approve Minor Settlement will be scheduled. The attorney of the minor child as well as the parents and the minor child are required to attend that hearing. At the hearing, the judge reviews the evidence, including the SGAL’s report and may ask questions if needed. After reviewing the evidence and conducting the hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to approve the proposed settlement.
The judge’s decision is contained in the Order Approving Minor Settlement. If approved, the judge will also set conditions for where the net settlement funds will be kept until the minor child turns 18. Most of the time, the funds are placed into a blocked savings account or Certificate of Deposit. If the net settlement funds are significant (more than $25,000), the funds may be placed into a different type of account, including annuities, trusts or structured settlements, which sometimes pay benefits past the time the minor turns 18.
Here at Brett Law, our attorneys are experienced in handling settlements of minor children, and can help parents and their children navigate the procedures for obtaining the best settlement conditions possible. Our attorneys have been appointed regularly as Settlement Guardian Ad Litems, and we understand the state laws and the variations in each of the counties. When our client is a minor child, we know how to work with the court and the SGAL for the benefit of our clients under the age of 18, to get those “minor” settlements approved, no matter how large.
Every day we get calls from people who have suffered soft tissue injuries in car accidents. Every single day. So it seems a good idea to talk about what a soft tissue injury is, why this type of injury is so common, and what can be done to resolve it. Also, we should talk about how this law firm helps people with soft tissue injuries.
Soft tissues are defined as tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body, not being bone. These include tendons, ligaments, skin, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Symptoms of a soft tissue injury can include swelling, bruising, pain, headaches, muscle spasms, weakness, numbness, and loss of movement in the injured area of the body.
Damage to these tissues is a common result of an auto accident or other type of injury accident, even if the accident impact is not severe. This occurs when the force of a collision causes either direct damage, such as bruising, or indirect damage, such as tearing or twisting, of the soft tissues.
During an accident, the people inside the vehicle are usually jostled around quite a bit during impact. Since soft tissues are designed to be very flexible and movable, they can be easily damaged, even during a very minor car accident. Often, the symptoms of such injuries are not felt until hours, days, or even weeks after the accident. They can disrupt sleep, work, recreation, all aspects of daily life. And the symptoms can be incredibly painful, sometimes more painful and difficult to resolve than a broken bone or other more severe injury. Frequently the injury can take months to heal, and sometimes the symptoms can be permanent.
What to do about soft tissue injuries? First, see your doctor. Not just a chiropractor, a massage therapist, or an acupuncturist. While these treatments can be very effective in alleviating the discomfort from soft tissue injuries, your medical doctor can help determine if there is a deeper or more severe injury present, and can determine the best course of treatment.
Further, if your accident results in a personal injury claim, then your insurance company takes the opinions of medical doctors more seriously than those of chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists.
Follow your doctor’s advice, and if your symptoms don’t begin to improve fairly quickly, get re-evaluated. While soft-tissue injuries can take a very long time to heal, be aware that a change in symptoms can indicate a more serious underlying injury.
There are two ways to estimate the monetary settlement value of a claim, and our attorneys use both to in any personal-injury accident claim.
To find a total claim value, we add up the amounts you are entitled to for property damage, medical expenses to date, future medical expenses, lost earnings to date, future lost earnings, and general damages for pain and suffering.
Since damages such as general damages for pain and suffering are difficult to evaluate, the second method of assigning a monetary settlement value is also used. Your attorney will review state, regional and national publications and databases to find similar claims with similar injuries and liability patterns to develop a statistical analysis of your claim’s value.
For any serious injury or major accident claim, an injured person should not attempt to estimate the value of a potential claim without professional assistance. At Brett Law, we offer a free case evaluation to determine the likelihood of a recovery, and the likely range of any recovery.
When a loved one dies from injuries caused by someone else's actions, that is called a wrongful death.
In legal terms, wrongful death refers to a fatality that occurs because of the negligence or misdeeds of another person, corporation or entity. Personal injury torts hold a person or entity (defendant) accountable for causing damages to another person (plaintiff). If your loved one died because of another's fault, your attorney must prove that the four critical components of negligence exist in your wrongful death claim:
the defendant had a duty to the deceased;
the defendant failed in that duty;
the fatality was caused by the defendant's breach of duty; and
the survivors are entitled to damages as a result of the loss of their loved one.
A personal injury death lawyer will immediately obtain all records, witness statements and evidence to support your wrongful death claim. In more complicated cases, your lawyer may hire engineers to reconstruct the collision, civil engineers to evaluate the effect of the highway design, or mechanical engineers to evaluate any equipment malfunction. Brett Law has the resources, experience and understanding to effectively represent you in your wrongful death claim.
Who can file a wrongful death suit?
A wrongful death claim against the negligent party is generally initiated by or on behalf of the spouse, children or family of the decedent; however in some unique situations, someone other than the deceased's immediate family may be entitled to recover damages if they relied upon the deceased for support.
What types of money damages can be recovered?
Medical Expenses - All medical costs should be repaid to you including ambulance and hospital bills, and charges for surgery. Depending upon the type of insurance coverage you or the other party purchased, you may be entitled to payment of these bills regardless of who caused the accident.
Funeral Expenses - You are entitled to a sum of money that will enable you to pay for your loved one's internment.
Lost Future Earning Capacity - The deceased person's estate is entitled to a sum of money to compensate for the lost capacity to earn income in the future.
General Damages for Pain and Suffering - The claimant may be entitled to be compensated in dollars for the pain and suffering that the deceased person suffered. The Brett Law wrongful death attorneys are exceptionally skilled at assessing the dollar amount of the loss.
As you can see, a wrongful death claim is complicated, and very difficult for a grieving family to go through. The Brett Law attorneys have worked closely with families to help them through the process, to buffer them from the insurance companies, and to make sure that the wrongful death claim results in an outcome that family members are at peace with.
In the case where the policy limits don't cover the cost of our client's injuries and losses, our attorneys look to the client's own insurance policy to obtain the remainder of the money needed to recover financially. Typically this will come in the form of a Under-insured Motorist Claim (UIM), or an Uninsured Motorist Claim (UM).
Under-insured Motorist Claim: This is a claim against our client's own insurance policy, as long as that policy has a UIM provision in it. When the at-fault party has a low policy limit, and when our client has a UIM provision in their own policy, the Brett Law attorneys will file a claim to obtain the UIM limits as well.
Uninsured Motorist Claim: This is similar to the UIM claim, except it is used in the case when the at-fault party has no insurance at all.
Both of these coverage types serve to provide funds for someone who has been injured, and who cannot get fully reimbursed for their damages due to low policy limits of the at-fault party.
It is crucially important to carry both of these types of coverage in your insurance policy. If you aren't sure if your policy currently includes UIM and UM coverage, call your insurance agent right away. These types of coverage can be the saving grace after a serious accident.