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How to know if you need a lawyer when you’ve been injured

SPONSORED — Washington saw about 35,000 injuries from car crashes last year, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. They ranged from minor to serious, some even fatal.

When you’ve been hurt in an auto accident caused by a negligent driver, you likely feel overwhelmed by emotions and unsure of what to do. First, you need to be seen by a medical professional to determine the extent of your injuries. Taking care of your health and the health of anyone else involved in the accident should be the priority.

Once you’ve been evaluated, you can choose your plan of action going forward.

Should you contact a lawyer?

When an accident results in no injuries or only minor injuries, there is a chance you may be able to handle the insurance claim process yourself. In a minor accident, you should gather insurance and contact information from the other involved parties, take pictures of the damage, file a police report, and contact your insurance company.

It may seem counterintuitive, but avoid apologizing or admitting fault during these interactions. Instead, let the insurance companies get statements and determine who’s legally at fault.

You may decide at a later time that you would like to speak to a lawyer, so be aware that Washington has a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims.

If an accident victim suffers serious bodily injury, however, it’s crucial to contact a lawyer right away. The urgency stems from the need to collect evidence and witness statements before the scene is disturbed or witnesses become difficult to locate.

Your lawyer can also handle a number of other responsibilities associated with filing a claim:

• Reconstructing the accident
• Inspecting the vehicles involved
• Communicating with insurance adjusters
• Collecting medical reports and bills
• Consulting with an independent medical expert
• Writing and filing a demand letter
• Understanding state accident laws
• Negotiating settlements

In cases where the date of the accident just recently occurred, your lawyer may advise you to wait to file a claim until the extent of your injuries and their long-term impact is known.

“Medical evidence is crucial to any car accident injury claim, and it’s important that you see a doctor as soon as you are able,” says Chris Davis, principal attorney at Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle. “Clear and timely medical records can help support your claim and limit the insurance company’s defenses.”

What is your case worth?

An experienced personal injury lawyer will tell you there is no reliable formula for determining an amount before going to court.

“There are two types of damages that are recoverable in an automobile collision claim; economic damages and non-economic damages,” Davis says.

These damages include past and future medical bills, lost wages, mental and physical pain, and emotional distress.

Davis knows that the ins-and-outs of insurance and personal injury law can be complex and overwhelming to some. That’s why he wrote “The Ten Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Washington Accident Case,” a hard-copy legal guidebook about car accidents designed to educate people about their legal rights and how the insurance claims process works. Tens of thousands of people have received free paperback copies of the book since Davis authored and published the first version in 2007, and his office still sends out free copies every day.

You can order your free copy of “The Ten Biggest Mistakes” or any of the other books in the Washington Accident Books series online or by calling Davis Law Group’s office in Seattle at 206-727-4000.

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