Can I handle my claim myself?
A.Unless your case is very minor, it is not likely that you will wind up with more money in the end by trying to handle the case yourself. And there is every reason to think you may inadvertently harm your case considerably.
In the first place, the insurance company has no reason to offer you a fair settlement. They know you canâ€™t make them pay. And, quite frankly, they also know that you donâ€™t know what you are doing. They can exploit your inexperience and powerlessness at a time of personal crisis.
In addition, even small mistakes on your part can seriously effect the outcome, or even preclude your recovery altogether. If you have suffered significant harm at the hands of another, it makes no more sense to try to handle the claim yourself than it would to try to treat your own serious illness. In both cases, it is wise to seek competent professional assistance as soon as possible.
What should I do first?
A.There are a number of steps you can and should take yourself to protect your personal interests:
If you have been physically injured, make sure that you seek prompt medical care, and be sure to tell your doctor about each injury. Not only is this important for your own health, but it will also help document what you have suffered. Take photos of your injuries so that others can see and understand later what you have been through.
If the incident is an automobile collision, make sure that the collision is reported promptly to the police. Get the names, addresses and phone numbers of the other parties, and any witnesses. This is extremely important. Do not make statements yourself about the facts of the collision. Take photos of the vehicles, and of the scene where the collision occurred. Do not delay in doing this.
Contact your own insurance company to report the accident. You may also have coverage under your own insurance for medical bills and repairs to your car regardless of whether the other party is at fault. This can provide a ready means to pay for these unexpected expenses, without having to depend on handouts or a quick cheap settlement from the responsible party (or their insurance company).
If you are injured on the job make sure that the incident is properly and promptly reported and documented. Again, you will want to get the identify information on any witnesses.
If you have been injured by some product, such as a tool, appliance, or piece of machinery, preserve the item if you possibly can. Take photos of the item and record any serial numbers and identifying information on it. Preserve any manuals, warnings, warranties, and records of maintenance, use, and purchase. Similarly, you should preserve the medication, container, package insert, and proof of purchase if you are concerned about the ill effects of a medication or food products you have used.
Donâ€™t provide a verbal, or written or recorded statement to someone else's insurance company. You are not obligated to make such a statement, and they will only use it to your detriment if they possibly can.
Do obtain the services of a qualified, experienced attorney at the earliest possible time. He or she can then immediately act to preserve evidence and document the facts of the incident which lead to your harm. The attorney will also take whatever steps are necessary to preserve your legal rights to recover to the full extent permitted by law. The earlier your attorney is involved in your case, the better the job they can do for you.
How do I select an attorney?
A.Although it may seem a difficult task to find the right law firm for you, the questions you must ask are simple:
- Do the attorneys have experience in my kind of case?
- Do the attorneys have a proven track record of success in my kind of case?
- Do other members of the legal profession hold the attorneys in high professional regard?
- Does the firm have the staff and financial resources to vigorously prosecute my claim?
- Do I feel personally confident and comfortable with the attorneys who represent me?
When you have suffered severe harm, you can be sure that the insurance companies will oppose your claim with experienced attorneys and vast financial resources. If you have suffered harm through the professional negligence of a doctor or lawyer, they will attempt to justify their acts and defeat your claim through the most vigorous defense possible. You may be sure that their attorneys are not defending such cases for the first time. It is essential for you to select legal counsel who are experienced in handling cases like yours. To view a representative sample of cases we have handled click here. To view a list of presentations made at seminars for other lawyers, click here. To view a listing of Bob Dawson's publications on litigation topics, click here.
DawsonBrownPS is not a large factory law firm, nor are we store front lawyers. There are no beginners here. We screen our cases carefully to insure that our resources and skills are well suited to our clientsâ€™ needs. If we accept your case, every necessary resource is devoted to insure a successful outcome. Every client has one specific attorney who will handle the case, and every client has a specific paralegal assigned to the case. In all but the simplest cases, the primary attorney will be joined by a second experienced attorney for the final preparation before trial, and the actual trial of the case.
Needless to say, serious personal injury and professional malpractice cases are expensive to prosecute. Such cases can only be won through the testimony of highly qualified professional experts who will support your side of the case. In a professional negligence case which goes to trial, such costs can exceed $100,000.00. Before you select your attorneys, you must be sure that the attorneys you choose have the financial resources to prosecute your case fully and vigorously.
Finally, you must be personally confident and comfortable with the law firm and the individuals who work on your case. DawsonBrownPS takes pride in the warm and enthusiastic relationship we maintain with our clients. Our attorneys are also honored to have been selected by other law firms to represent their clients, or to associate as counsel on their cases. We would like to think that in choosing the attorneys of DawsonBrownPS, you can have confidence that you have made the same decision made by leading members of the legal profession for their own clients.
How does DawsonBrown handle a Personal Injury case?
A.Your personal injury claim may result in your first substantial contact with the justice system and with attorneys. You are not alone if you approach this situation with some anxiety and with many questions.
While strategies vary, DawsonBrownPS usually follows certain basic steps in our effort to secure fair compensation for our client's injuries and losses. Weâ€™ll explain these steps here, and the part you will play in them. Although the large majority of injury cases are settled out of court, we describe the process from initial conference through a jury trial.
If you have questions about any of these steps, we encourage you to ask us for further explanation.
Initial client conference.
At our first meeting, we will obtain information about the incident, your injuries, and losses. We also will discuss the strength of your case and make initial recommendations on how to proceed.
In this meeting, we also will talk about the fee for our services. If it is agreed that we will represent you, a written agreement clearly setting forth financial arrangements will be prepared and signed.
Most of the time, DawsonBrownPS performs legal services on a contingency fee basis. This means we receive an agreed upon percentage of the compensation we collect for you. If there is no recovery, there is no charge for our legal services.
You will be responsible for the out-of-pocket expenses of preparing or litigating your claim. In almost all cases, DawsonBrownPS will advance these costs, which are reimbursed after the claim is concluded.
Generally our next step will be to contact the insurance company of the person or business responsible for your injuries, to tell them DawsonBrownPS now represents you. From then on, our office will handle all communication with the opposing party. It is absolutely critical that you do not discuss your claim with anyone outside our office.
Contact with your insurance company.
Sometimes an injured person has personal insurance that may provide medical, wage loss and home care benefits. In such a case, we work to obtain these benefits for you. If your injury resulted from a motor vehicle collision in which the responsible driver was uninsured or inadequately insured, you may have additional benefits under your automobile insurance policy. If so, we will pursue these benefits for you.
Contact with medical providers and employers.
We will obtain copies of medical records and bills from your doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers. If you are still in treatment, we will regularly update this information. At appropriate times we may consult with your doctors to obtain their opinions about your injuries, treatment, disabilities, and need for future care.
If you have lost wages or suffered other financial losses, we will take steps to document these losses. This may require consulting your employer or examining your financial records.
Investigation of your case.
We will seek to obtain all the relevant facts surrounding the incident that caused your injuries. Frequently, we will take statements from witnesses, obtain police reports, and take photographs of the area where the injury occurred.
We may hire investigators and researchers for some of these tasks. We also may retain experts, such as engineers, designers, accident reconstruction specialists, medical experts and other professionals, to determine and document the cause of the harm you have suffered.
Analysis of your case.
After our investigation is complete, we will analyze and evaluate your claim. Often, we will research relevant points of law and review reports of jury verdicts in cases similar to yours. We also may consult with experts to assess the strength of your case and its monetary value. We will then present our recommendations on how to proceed.
It is often difficult to estimate the amount of time it will take to investigate and evaluate a claim. In many cases, our clients remain under lengthy medical treatment, and the full consequences of their injuries are not readily known.
Only when your medical condition has stabilized will we be in a position to fully evaluate your claim. Until then, please be patient, and be sure to contact us with any new information.
After we have explained our evaluation and recommendations to you, we usually contact the opposing side, or their insurance company to explore the possibility of settlement. Settlement negotiations may be quite brief, or lengthy.
Many cases are settled at this stage without need for further legal action. However, the insurance company may refuse to admit its insured's responsibility or pay an amount of money that fairly compensates you.
If negotiations do not result in an out-of-court settlement, a lawsuit may be filed. We may also file a lawsuit if the time allowed by law to do so is about to run out.
Commencement of the lawsuit.
When a lawsuit is filed, you are named as the "plaintiff," and the person or company responsible for your injuries is named as the "defendant."
We prepare a summons and complaint, which generally describes the facts of the incident and the nature of your damages. The defendant then provides these papers to his or her insurance company. The insurance company's attorneys are required to file an answer, usually stating reasons why the defendant should not be legally responsible.
"Discovery" of evidence.
Before trial, each side has the right to obtain evidence and testimony through a process called "discovery." The purpose of discovery is to permit each side to learn what evidence the other side has.
Discovery can take many forms. One method is "interrogatories," which are written questions prepared by one side to be answered in writing under oath by the other. We and you will prepare these answers together to insure your rights are protected.
Another common discovery method is the "deposition," in which a party or witness is required to answer questions orally, under oath, in the presence of both sides' attorneys. A court reporter records the testimony. Before your deposition we will prepare you fully to answer the questions. And we are present with you at all times during the deposition to insure no improper questioning occurs, and to insure your interests are protected.
Under the rules of discovery, the defendant may have the right to have you examined by a physician who will report his or her findings, and who may testify on the defendant's behalf.
We will keep you informed and prepared for these discovery proceedings, if and when they occur.
During discovery, the possibility of a favorable settlement again may arise. We will advise you of any significant progress in settlement negotiations. We also will make recommendations on how to respond to all offers. However, the final decision of whether to accept or reject a settlement offer is yours.
Going to trial:
If your case cannot be settled, we will try your case in court. A jury trial proceeds as follows:
Jury selection: The judge and both attorneys will question potential jurors about their background, attitudes, and any previous knowledge of the case. Each side has the right to dismiss a limited number of prospective jurors from the jury panel. In addition, each side can ask the court to dismiss individuals who show obvious bias or prejudice.
Opening statement: After the jury is selected, each attorney may make a statement explaining the nature of the dispute, and the evidence to be presented during trial.
Presentation of witnesses: As plaintiff, your case will be presented first, through the testimony of witnesses and introduction of exhibits. After we present your case, the defendant's case is given. Each witness for one side may be cross-examined by the other side's attorney.
Jury instructions: After all the evidence is presented, the judge will instruct the jury on the legal rules the jury must follow in deciding the case.
Closing argument: After the jury has been instructed, the attorneys present summarizing statements in favor of their clients' positions.
Jury deliberations: The jury then will decide the case. First, the jury must decide whether the defendant is legally responsible for the plaintiff's injuries. If the jury decides this is so, it then must decide on the amount of money the plaintiff will be awarded.
CLOSE COMMUNICATION WITH OUR CLIENTS:
Throughout this process, we will strive to keep you informed of significant developments in your case. We also will send you copies of correspondence and court documents that we prepare or receive.
One of DawsonBrownPS legal assistants will be assigned to your case and will work with the attorney who represents you. If you have any questions or new information, you can always contact the legal assistant who is working on your case. In addition, you should not hesitate to contact your attorney if you feel the need to do so.
As your attorneys, we cannot guarantee that a specific result will be obtained. However, we do promise to apply our best efforts on your behalf. In return, we ask that you give us your best efforts, your cooperation, and your trust.
We appreciate your interest in our firm, and look forward to the opportunity to serve you.
How much do you charge to review a case?
A.We do not charge for the initial appointment to discuss the facts of your case, or for initial investigation where that is appropriate. Similarly, in professional negligence cases, we normally do not charge for the initial review of legal files or medical records. Where it appears that the case has merit, we will enter into a specific written agreement with you regarding attorney fees, and the case costs.
What is a contingency fee?
A.In a contingent fee agreement, the attorneyâ€™s fees are dependent upon a successful outcome of the case. If there is no recovery, then no fee is owed. Most people who have bodily injury or professional malpractice claims choose contingent fee agreements because they cannot afford to pay for the service of an attorney on an hourly basis. In a contingent fee case, the lawyer is ultimately paid out of the fund created by the settlement or recovery. Essentially, the lawyer is not paid until the case is over.
Contingent fees are open to negotiation between attorney and client. In a few specific types of cases (such as claims in behalf of children, or against the Federal government) the attorneyâ€™s fees may be limited by statute, or subject to court supervision. Contingent fee agreements must always be in writing, and signed by both attorney and client.
What about costs in my case?
A.In most cases we will advance the costs necessary to investigate, develop and prove your case at trial. At the end of the case any costs we have advanced are reimbursed to us, assuming we have made a settlement or recovery for you.
It is important for you to note a distinction between attorneyâ€™s fees, and case costs in contingent fee cases. The ethical rules of the State Bar of Washington require that the client remain financially responsible for the costs advanced under a contingent fee agreement, even if there is no recovery. This is in contrast to the rules applicable to contingent attorneyâ€™s fees. In a contingent fee case, the client pays nothing for attorney fees if there is no recovery.
What is the time limit (statute of limitations) in my case?
A.The time limitations to file a lawsuit, or present a claim vary dramatically depending upon the subject matter, the parties, and the specific facts of a case. Special statutes govern the presentation of claims against public entities. Where injury does not become apparent until many years after the initial event or exposure, the statute of limitations may not expire for many, many years. Different rules apply in the case of children, or the mentally incapacitated. Questions may also arise as to when an injured party should reasonably have discovered that they have been caused harm by another.
It is not possible for us to give you accurate advice here about the statute of limitations in your case. What is important for you to understand is that you must not delay having your case reviewed by an attorney. Do not assume that you have plenty of time.
How much might I recover?
A.There is no crystal ball, or formula to predict at the outset what the settlement value or jury verdict might be in your case. Each case depends on its own specific facts. Your case might be worth much more, or less than that of your neighbor or relative. The ultimate value of your case will depend on many factors, such as the difficulty of proving liability, the nature and extent of your injuries, the nature and extent of your permanent disability, your economic losses such as lost wages and medical expense, disfigurement if any, and many other considerations. Ultimately, the true value of your case is the amount a jury will award if your case is well presented.
As the particular facts in your case are developed through investigation and discovery, our experienced attorneys can give you more specific evaluations based on the unique facts of your case, a comparison with settlements and jury verdicts in similar cases, and our own experience with cases like yours.
Will my case go to trial?
A.Statewide, the majority of claims settle before trial, and that is true of claims handled by our office as well. But the quality of a settlement is directly related to the ability and willingness of a claimantâ€™s attorney to take the case to trial. No insurance company is going to pay full value if they know the claimant is going to fold and compromise on the courthouse steps.
Because we cannot know in advance which cases will settle before trial, we prepare all cases in the same manner. In this way we know that if a reasonable and fair settlement cannot be reached, we are prepared to take the matter to trial for our clients.
If, after thoroughly investigating the case, we determine that your case has no merit then we are ethically bound not to present that case in court.
Do you handle cases for children?
A.The attorneys of DawsonBrownPS have handled many, many cases for children. Special rules control the handling of minorâ€™s cases, and any settlement or judgment is subject to court supervision. There are also special rules regarding the statutes of limitation in cases for minors. Under some circumstances, a minor may be able to bring a claim even years after he or she was originally injured, such as during the birth process. In other types of cases, that would not be true.
Once again, it is not possible for us to give you accurate advice here on the internet about the statute of limitations in your childâ€™s case. What is important for you to understand is that you must not delay in having your childâ€™s case reviewed by a professional. Do not assume that you or your child has plenty of time.
What if I was hurt at work?
A.A person injured during their employment will almost always have the right to receive immediate workers compensation (â€śL & Iâ€ť) benefits for medical care and lost wages without regard to who is at fault for the injury. This can be an important resource in time of need. There can also be an L & I award for permanent disability. Â does not handle L & I claims, but we can help you find an attorney who is experienced in this area.
Generally these L & I benefits are much less than you would be entitled to recover from the party who is responsible for your injuries. Often a person who is injured at work can still sue the party responsible for his or her injuries, or bring suit against the manufacturer of machinery which caused the harm. These are called â€śthird party suitsâ€ť or â€śproducts liabilityâ€ť suits, and you can bring such a suit in addition to your L & I claim.
Third party and products liability claims are a complex area of the law, where immediate, thorough investigation is often critical. DawsonBrownPS has experience with such claims. What is important for you to know is that you should not assume you are limited to L & I benefits for your job site injury. If you have suffered significant harm on the job, you should have your claim evaluated immediately by an experienced attorney for a possible third party or products liability claim.
What if my claim is against a governmental body or agency?
A.There are special rules which apply if you need to bring a claim against a governmental agency or entity. Speaking very generally, it is often necessary to present a formal written â€śclaimâ€ť as a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit. This can be true whether you are focusing on the local, regional, state, or even federal level. It is also true when you are involved with quasi-governmental bodies such as a port authority, or hospital district. These claims requirements operate in addition to the statutes of limitation which are also applicable to your case. Sometimes it may not even become apparent without prompt, thorough investigation that the party responsible for your injuries is a governmental body against whom a â€śclaimâ€ť must be filed.
What if an uninsured (or underinsured) motorist injured me?
A.Unfortunately, there are still drivers on the highways who have no insurance, or inadequate insurance, despite the requirement in Washington that all motorists must be insured. By law, all insurance companies operating in Washington must offer uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance to their customers such as you. Even if you do not have uninsured motorist coverage yourself, it may still be available to you through the driver of the car in which you were a passenger.
In such cases your claim is made directly against the insurance company which has sold the uninsured motorist coverage. Most such claims are resolved through settlement, or by arbitration with the insurance company. The insurance company then has the right to seek reimbursement from the uninsured motorist.
DawsonBrownPS attorneys have handled many uninsured motorist claims.
Can you tell me more about unfair Insurance Practices?
A.When you purchase insurance coverage from an insurance company, you have a contract with the insurance company that they will provide you with the protection you are paying for. If they fail to do this, they are very likely in breach of their contractual obligations to you.
In addition to contractual obligations, insurance companies also have obligations to you by virtue of the statutes and administrative rules which regulate the insurance industry. The best known of these obligations is spelled out in R.C.W. 48.01.030, which requires that your insurance company deal with you in â€śgood faith, abstain from deception, and practice honesty and equity in all insurance matters.â€ť
There are many ways that a violation of these duties can arise, but some of the more common examples would be:
- A failure to acknowledge that the insurance applies to you.
- A failure to provide you with a defense if you are sued.
- A failure to make a reasonable settlement of claims made against you.
- A failure to make a reasonable settlement to you for harm you have suffered.
- A failure to pay personal injury protection (â€śPIPâ€ť) benefits for medical expense you incur in an accident.
- A failure to pay disability benefits.
- A failure to life insurance benefits.
Law suits against insurance companies for violating these types of duties are called â€śBad Faithâ€ť cases. Our attorneys are among the law firms in Washington that have significant experience in this complex and hard fought field of litigation.
If you feel that you have suffered significant harm because of the manner in which an insurance company has dealt with you, we would be happy to discuss the matter further.
For a representative sample of Bad Faith cases handled by the attorneys of DawsonBrownPS, click here.
What is Medical or Legal Malpractice?
A.We all must trust our personal health care, and legal affairs to professionals who have specialized knowledge in fields which are unknown to us. In most cases we are well served by dedicated professionals. But in every case, these professionals are also human beings. And since they are human beings, they make errors. Fortunately most such errors are relatively harmless, or can be quickly cured. But in some cases, the consequences can be catastrophic.
Stated broadly, all professionals have a duty to perform their services as a reasonable and prudent practitioner of that particular profession. Where harm results because the practitioner has breached that duty to you, it is they, not you, who must bear the responsibility for harm caused by such negligence.
Professional negligence claims are among the most complex, hotly contested, and expensive forms of personal injury litigation. The investigation and proof of such a claim can only be made with the assistance of highly qualified professional consultants in the given field.
DawsonBrownPS attorneys have experience handling professional negligence claims for plaintiffs. We carefully screen all such cases to insure that we undertake only meritorious cases with significant damages. If you feel we could be of assistance to you, we would be happy to discuss your case.
Click here to view a representative sampling of professional negligence cases handled by the attorneys of DawsonBrownPS.
Can you tell me more information about Personal Injury?
A.If you have been seriously injured it is almost certain that your life is in disarray. You may be in pain, and unable to attend to your work and loved ones. You will be incurring substantial unexpected financial obligations. And it would be surprising if you were not confused, fearful, and angry about what has happened to you. You have questions â€“ lots of them, and you need help.
Weâ€™ve set out answers below to a number of the most common questions. These arenâ€™t a complete treatment of the subject, theyâ€™re just the beginning.
Personal injury law is highly complex and varied. Each fact situation is unique. We might take a different approach, or give a different answer if that is appropriate to your particular case. Please feel free to call if we can provide information more specific to your own circumstances.
Do you have any other questions?
A.We would be happy to try to answer any additional questions you may have. This is something which can best be done through personal contact, rather than over the internet. Our attorneys are available to answer questions over the phone. However, the best way to find out about a particular case is to arrange for a free appointment.
To do this, please contact our experienced paralegals, Cortney Jones or Brenda Dawson. You can do this by telephone at (206) 262-1444, by fax at (206) 264-8888, or fill out our contact form here.
We have tried to set out below some of the most common questions you may have when you need legal assistance because someone has wronged you. Please select those categories which apply to your case.