Jennifer Witt

Jennifer Witt

We frequently see our competition post advertising with statements like, "98% success rate" on DUIs. Needless to say, this becomes rather confusing for the general public as they search for legal counsel.

Putting Your Car Crash In The Rearview Mirror

We all make mistakes but not all mistakes are accidents. Law firms and insurance companies typically refer to your trauma as a motor vehicle accident. However, it doesn’t really feel like an accident. Someone crashed into you. Car crashes are tough on the body but they are also tough on the spirit. They involve lengthy medical care and annoying correspondence with numerous insurance companies—medical and auto. Most clients who come to our office want the pain of a “crash” to just end. While you must consult an attorney for legal advice on your specific case, here are some thoughts on putting the crash in the rearview mirror. 

#1 Follow through on your medical care. 

Following the accident, you just want life to return to normal. No one wants to work doctor visits into the schedule. Unfortunately, this is critical. If don’t follow doctor’s orders or you delay in follow up appointments for too long, the insurance company will likely claim that you had a “gap in treatment” and therefore you weren’t really hurt. 

#2 Be 100% honest about your injuries.

While you might feel terrible, it is not the time to be dramatic and make claims that are untrue. Any untruths will significantly damage your credibility and jeopardize the entire case. Be very detailed in how you feel, how any injuries are impacting your daily life, and whether you had injuries from the past. Just because you had a previous injury, it does not mean you won’t be entitled to some compensation for your current injuries. However, if you fail to disclose past injuries, it will appear as though you are making a false claim.

#3 Don’t sign medical release forms without consulting your attorney.

It is not unusual to receive medical authorization forms from the insurance company following an accident. It is very important you discuss any and all forms that you receive with an experience personal injury attorney. 

#4 Be aware of lien letters.

Lien letters or subrogation agreements (your insurance company wants you to repay them from the settlement for any bills they paid) might seem acceptable. Sometimes these arrangements are requested by an insurance company and sometimes medical service providers, or both. There are several issues that can arise with lien letters. In particular, it takes time and money to remove these liens once they are filed. Additionally, not all bills paid by the insurance company are required to be reimbursed. You need to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss these issues. Every case is unique.

#5 Keep paperwork.

Whether it’s a receipt for medical bills or police reports, all paperwork is critical! It is best to get a file to keep all of your receipts and any correspondence from insurance companies. You should also keep a file for correspondence with your attorney. You will likely receive a tremendous amount of paperwork or emails in the months following an accident, so be ready and organized with your information.

#6 ALL “evidence” is important!

You might not consider your totaled car “evidence” (assuming a police report is good enough), but your attorney does not want to see ANY evidence disappear! It is not unusual for one or both insurance companies involved to claim that the facts in the police report are incorrect. They might offer an alternative version with an eye witness. If an expert is needed to refute how the accident and damage occurred, it will be critical to have the car for an examine. 

If you are reading this information and you have been injured in a car crash, please don’t hesitate to contact our office. General information is no substitute for legal advice from an experienced attorney. Every consultation is free and you can ask questions that are specific to your unique situation. You can reach an attorney 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If we aren’t in the office, our calls our routed to our cell phones. So, don’t delay in having your questions answered. We are here to help. During business hours, you can reach our Bremerton office at 360-792-1000 or our Gig Harbor office at 253-312-3838. 

Learn the big D’s of insurance tricks and why Witt Law Group gives them an F!

It is not unusual to have clients walk through the door who tried handling their own personal injury case. They gave it a good try, took a few bruises, and realized that they want nothing to do with this kind of battle. 

If you’re still wondering whether to throw in the towel on self-representation, here are some insurance tactics you should consider. Are you ready to deal with these issues on a regular basis? We like to call the adjusters’ top moves the “Big D’s”—deceptive dialogue, distract, delay, dispute, distorted defense, and discounted offer.

#1 Deceptive Dialogue—

Do you have the sweetest Grandmother ever? Well, wait until you hear from your first insurance adjuster after an accident. You’d think they are just about ready to bring you a home made meal and deliver you to your next doctor appointment…their doctor, of course. Being nice is wonderful but be aware that this conversation is being recorded. First, everything you say will later be used to spin the case against you. Insurance companies make money by NOT paying claims and that includes yours. They also know (from studies they have conducted) that, if they are extremely friendly on those first few calls, you are much less likely to hire an attorney. Second, they know victims without lawyers settle claims for significantly less.

#2 Distract

You will be required to provide ridiculous amounts of information. Much of it will be irrelevant (your lawyer would tell them to pound sand). The process is meant to frustrate you and delay the process. They will tell you their file isn’t complete so they can’t make an offer. When you produce this random information, they will eventually spin it as the reason they would like to offer you more but just can’t. After so many months of waiting and digging up random paperwork, you’ll be ready to take whatever they offer.

#3 Delay

This tactic comes in many forms. First, it will be similar to distracting. They will claim they just don’t have all of your medical records. Then, they don’t have all of the bills. Next, they need more information from the other side. Awww….so sorry about the wait. Later in the case, they will claim you need to see one of their doctors. If you’re lucky enough to be offered a settlement, they’ll put the wrong name on the check, the wrong amount, or perhaps send it to the wrong address. Darn…sorry about the wait (but thanks for letting us rack up a bit more interest on that money we’re holding). Finally, if they don’t offer you a settlement and you must go to trial, they will refuse to work out any settlement until right before trial. The longer they hold onto your money, the better for the insurance company profits.

#4 Dispute

This is a game you can’t win. If you took your doctors advice and popped the ibuprofen and tried to rest for a week or two, they’ll claim you had a “gap in treatment” that is unreasonable. Clearly, you must not have been hurt. If you go right to treatment and work diligently to get better, they’ll claim you “over treated” and your medical care was unnecessary, therefore they aren’t paying for it (this can happen even with your own PIP). Remember those early phone conversations that were so sweet and concerned? You’ll notice a change of tone now.

#5 Distorted Defense

This is a subset of the “delay” tactic. The insurance company will claim that the police report is wrong. All along, everyone understood the accident was not your fault. Now, the insurance company no longer follows the police report. Most frustrating, the insurance company doesn’t have to be justified in it’s position, it can just take this hostile position. If you don’t want to go to trial, you might be out of luck.

#6 Discounted Offer

You’re nearing the end of the painful process. Unfortunately, the end might happen to coincide with the end of the year. This is when the insurance companies prey on your “holiday” vulnerabilities. You need a check to pay for gifts and they are happy to throw you a low ball and “get in the mail asap.” Don’t assume the check will actually get to you during the holidays. Refer to #3. However, they will lock down low settlement offers during this time when most people are desperate. This treatment isn’t just for people representing themselves. Adjusters know that attorneys have to present all offers to clients so they throw out lower offers during this time to everyone. The benefit of legal representation is that your attorney can discuss the realities of this tactic and whether it is better for you, long term, to pass on the discounted offer.

For obvious reasons, we give most insurance companies’ defense tactics an “F” when it comes to truly helping an injured person. Typically, these tactics come before making sure the accident victim is being treated fairly and justly. The insurance companies don’t make a profit if they can’t keep settlements low. It doesn’t matter if a low settlement is unjustified in your particular case—it’s justified in the name of profits.

If you are unsure whether to hire an attorney, contact our office for a free consultation so you can educate yourself about the specific challenges related to your case. Every case is unique and your representation should make sense for you. Our attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call and we can travel to you in the event your injuries limit your mobility. You can reach us in Gig Harbor at 253-312-3838 or Bremerton at 360-792-1000. You may also CLICK HERE to fill out our online contact form.  We are here to help at any stage of your case.

To add insult to injury, the insurance companies can sometimes play games with your claim. You can avoid some of the shenanigans when it comes time to settle, if you keep a few things in mind.

The Three Simple Steps

1) If you are hurt, get medical attention. This may seem like a no brainer but many people like to take the "wait and see" approach following an auto accident. Unfortunately, this can hurt your case. The insurance adjusters like to call this a "delay in treatment" and allege that, if you were truly hurt, you would not have delayed treatment.

2) Once you start treating, don't take a "vacation" from treatment without consulting your doctor and your attorney. You completed your MRI and X-rays. Now, you're following through with the recommended chiropractic care. You're two months into it but hockey season started and, between work and driving kids to practice, you just don't have time to get to your appointments. There are two big problems with this scenario. First, you aren't following medical advice and could cause your injury to get worse by way of your own behavior. Second, you just made the insurance adjuster's day! This is called a "gap in treatment" and is synonymous with "obviously, your client isn't really hurt" due to your ability to just stop treatment. Gaps in treatment are a killer for personal injury claims. Furthermore, when you jeopardize your case though delay or gaps in treatment, you put the medical care providers at risk for denial of payment for services. If you can just quit treating, the adjusters may claim the medical services weren't necessary in the first place.

3) If you know that the other driver was 100% at fault, there is no problem making recorded statements to the third party insurance company. Again, that sounds logical and reasonable. However, adjusters don't get paid for being reasonable. In most cases, they get "bonuses" for denying claims or keeping settlements low. Furthermore, there is no rule that says they can't later assert that the accident was your fault. After all, if you said you "felt terrible" about the accident, that statement can be construed several ways. Probably, you meant that it was an unfortunate way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon. However, taken out of context, the adjuster might assert that you were feeling remorseful about your negligence in causing the accident. Think the police report stating it was other driver's fault will save you? Think again! Liability can always be disputed. Don't make statements that can later be twisted and used against you.

If You Were Injured, Give One Of Our Offices A Call

Witt Law Group is a personal injury law firm located in Bremerton and Gig Harbor Washington. We handle personal injury and auto accident cases all over Western Washington.  If you were injured in an accident, call our Bremerton Office at (360) 792-1000 or our Gig Harbor Office at (253) 312-3838 or CLICK HERE to fill out our online contact form.  We can schedule a free, private consultation at one of our offices, or at a location of your choosing.   

Have A Teen Driver in the House? A Quick Look at the Intermediate License

If you have a teen driver in the house, you are probably familiar with the Intermediate License. This license imposes certain conditions and restrictions on drivers between the ages of 16 and 18. You can find the full statute at RCW 46.20.075 but the some of the important restrictions include:

1) For the first 6 months of an Intermediate License, the driver can have NO passengers under 20 years old other than immediate family members. Sorry cousins!

2) Once the first 6 months have past, the driver has an additional 6 months in which no more than 3 passengers under 20 years old (other than immediate family members) can be in the vehicle. Carpooling is great for the environment but be careful if you’re in this restricted period!

3) For the first 12 months of an Intermediate License, the teen may not drive during the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless you are driving with another licensed driver who is over the age of 25. There is an exception if you’re working on a farm during those hours (but let’s hope not). So, if your parents let you go see your favorite band in Seattle, make sure you don’t get stuck in traffic on the way home. Heavy concert traffic is not a defense to driving at 1:00 am so plan accordingly.

4) This one might surprise some people. A teen driver may not use a cell phone even with a hands-free device! There are a few exceptions but they pertain to reporting illegal activity or emergencies. Being late to your friends house is not an emergency.

Can I Bend The Rules Just A Little Bit? 

I look like I’m 20 years old so how can an officer catch me?

If you are an incredibly safe and conscientious driver, you might get away with having too many passengers in your vehicle (but we don’t recommend testing that theory). In RCW 46.20.075(6), the statute notes that the above restrictions may only be enforced as a secondary action. This means that the driver is violating some other rule of the road (speeding) and then the officer notices that there are 5 passengers in the vehicle. The officer may inquire whether the passengers are immediately related to you. The exception to the secondary citation, is the restriction regarding cell phone usage. Using your cell phone (even a hands-free device), is a primary offense and the officer may pull you over even if you are not committing any other traffic violation.

Practically speaking, don’t test the “I look older and I’m a safe driver” theory. If an officer finds it suspicious that there are 5 teenage passengers in your car, there is a good chance he or she will find some reason that you have violated a rule of the road. You may have signaled your intention to turn but not with adequate warning. We all make little mistakes on the road and it’s fairly easy to give cause for a stop. Since traffic accidents are the #1 cause of death for teens, safety concerns for the driver and teenage passengers are going to be paramount when an officer considers stopping a car full of teenagers. It might seem unfair or targeted but a teen driver should not test the restrictions.

So what’s the big deal if I happen to drive my 4 teenage friends home at 2:00am?

If you enjoy having driving privileges, it is a big deal. According to DOL, even one violation means that you will have to abide by the passenger and nighttime driving restrictions until you are 18 years old! You and your parents will receive a warning letter regarding your first offense. If you have a second violation, your license will be suspended for 6 months or until you are 18 years old. Your third violation will get your Intermediate License permanently suspended until you are 18 years old.

What about accidents that aren’t your fault?

Well, this is the only concerning part for us as a parents. Understandably, teens who cause accidents might need a little more “growing time” before being back on the road. However, a teen who was involved in an accident “where no one was cited or was found to have caused the accident” (RCW 46.20.075(8)(c)) is still considered in violation of the Intermediate License restrictions. Consequently, a teen driver involved in an accident should be extra vigilant in requesting an officer to investigate. Based on the simple reading of the statute, the teen driver has the burden to establish that he or she was NOT the cause of an accident. Even if the teen was not cited or found to be at fault, the accident can be a cause for a first warning or a full suspension of the teen’s license.

What if I get pulled over for speeding, nighttime restrictions, and talking on my cell phone? Does this lead to one warning or will I be suspended due to the three separate violations?

According to DOL, this is ONE violation. Hence, in the above scenario (assuming you’ve had no other other violations on other dates), you will only be issued a warning letter. The violations are date-based. However, there is a caveat to this bit of information. Occasionally, when a teen receives a speeding ticket as well as a violation of a restriction, such as driving between 1am and 5am, a ticket will be issued and simultaneously a “violation notice” for the nighttime driving will be sent to DOL. It is possible that DOL will fail to notice that the speeding and the restricted nighttime driving occurred on the same date. In that case, DOL might send a letter notifying the teen that their license will be restricted for 6 months. This can be remedied by immediately notifying DOL that the incidents occurred on the same date.

Penalties For Violations While On An Intermediate License

The penalties can come generally from one of three events. (1) The teen disobeys the restrictions that are conditions of the intermediate license (i.e. having young passengers in the car, or being out too late), (2) if the teen breaks one of the "rules of the road" (i.e. speeding or the like) and (3) if the teen is involved in a collision, even if it is not their fault. There is a "step up" in consequences for each progressive violation, as shown below:

• First Violation: The Washington State Department of Licensing will mail a written warning to the teen's house. 

• Second Violation: The Washington State Department of Licensing will send a letter indicating that the teen's license will be suspended for six months, or until the teen turns 18 (which ever comes sooner.) The teen's license becomes suspended. 

• Third Violation: The teen's license will be suspended until the teen turns 18. So, for example, if the teen has two violations within the first six months after obtaining their license at 16, they potentially can be suspended for a year and a half!


If Your Teen Has A Violation, Contact Us Right Away!

If your teen has been stopped and cited for anything, we can often assist by challenging the ticket in Court.  On many occasions we can beat the ticket or change it to something that will not be reported to DOL.  Call our Bremerton office at (360) 792-1000 or our Gig Harbor office at (253) 312-3838 or CLICK HERE to fill out our online contact form.  At Witt Law Group we know how important it is to keep those teen drivers driving themselves to their own soccer practices!  We do whatever we can to help keep kids licensed.  

The moral of the story, be a safe driver, don’t violate the Intermediate License restrictions, and don’t ignore any warning letters or notices from DOL!  But if things go sideways, give our office a call. 

Shoplifting falls under the Theft Laws in Washington State. While there never has been an actual "shoplifting" statute, many years ago, some Counties or Cities would charge the crime as "Theft 3 - Shoplifting." It was not a correct statement of the law and I have not seen a shoplifting offense charged that way in many years.

Shoplifting is Theft in The Third Degree

What most people think of as "shoplifting" is charged by Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (District Courts / Municipal Courts) as Theft in the Third Degree. In the Revised Code of Washington it appears as 9A.56.050 - the theft of property or services that does not exceed $750 as well as a couple of other scenarios regarding merchandise pallets and beverage crates. Theft in the Third Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor, which means that an individual can be sentenced up to a $5,000.00 fine and up to 365 days in jail. This is also the lowest level of theft, with Theft Two and Theft One both being felonies.

Upon reviewing recent crime data, we noticed that there were quite a few "shoplifting" arrests in 2017. Shoplifting is unusual in that there is often more variation in the why and who commits this crime. The spectrum ranges from a situation that was an accident all the way to Organized Retail Theft.

According to Stacey Gendreau, a former Asset Protection and Profit Manager for both Sears and Target (now a local real estate agent who chases down steals and deals on homes!), organized theft is big and costly. Generally, the "ring leaders" pay a certain sum of money to individuals, usually people dealing with addiction, to go into a store and steal certain items. The shoplifter gives the merchandise to the "leader" and is paid a nominal fee, which is typically used to buy drugs. The security personnel for the stores will watch the shoplifters routinely take the stolen merchandise to the same people and thereby catch the "organized" portion of the ring.

Clearly, to combat the large profit losses due to organized theft, it is imperative that loss prevention get to the root of the problem. And, from a defense attorney's perspective, we need to know where on the spectrum of "why" the client falls.

What to do if you are accused of Shoplifting

If you or a friend are ever arrested due to shoplifting, it is important to share with your attorney why you think this happened. The best legal representation depends on an honest and open dialogue about criminal history as well as issues impacting a client's life. If you are involved with an organized theft ring, make sure you disclose this to your attorney. Every case is unique and the defense must reflect the unique circumstances. Furthermore, whenever addiction is the source of the problem, it is in the client's best interest to share this information so alternative resolutions, such as drug court, can be considered.

Generally speaking, thefts can be resolved in the District and Municipal Courts in a number of ways. Probably the most favorable (and available by statute in all jurisdictions) is a Compromise of Misdemeanor (see our website blog for a discussion on COM). Very simply stated, it is the repayment of the value of the property / service in exchange for the victim signing a document stating that they no longer wish to see the Defendant prosecuted.

Additionally, there are different versions of Diversion Agreements. Pierce County calls them a Continuance Without Findings, Kitsap County calls them Pretrial Diversion Agreements, Jefferson County calls them Motion For Stipulated Order of Continuance. They are basically all the same thing - the Defendant enters into a contract with the Prosecuting Attorney in which the Defendant waives all of their substantial trial rights and waives speedy trial out a number of years. If the Defendant abides by the strict terms of these agreements, the Theft charge would be dismissed. But, if the Defendant violates the terms of the agreement, then the Defendant typically gets convicted of the underlying Theft charge. When a person violates on of these agreements, it is typically because they get arrested for a second crime.

An individual can always set a matter for trial - but that decision can not be taken lightly. That is something a defendant and their attorney should decide after they weigh all the risks of going to trial.

Lastly, a Defendant can plead guilty to a Theft. A person has a right to do that, but we typically discourage it due to the long term negative consequences of having a Theft charge on your record. A theft conviction can preclude you from getting certain jobs or security clearances, and the conviction will most certainly be used against you if you are ever arrested again for another crime.

Finally, this analysis only applies to individuals being charged as adults, if the matter is in Juvenile Court, the penalties and possible resolutions are completely different.

The attorneys at Witt Law Group have been handling Theft 3 or Shoplifing charges around Western Washington since 2004.  We have offices in Gig Harbor and Bremerton for your convenience.  You can call us anytime for a free consultation  at (253) 312-3838 (Gig Harbor) or (360) 792-1000 (Bremerton) or CLICK HERE to fill out our online contact form.


This is one of the most common questions asked each week. Potential clients want to know whether spending the money for an experienced criminal defense attorney will make a difference. Hopefully the detailed explanation of how I review a criminal case will help you better understand.

How Will You Help Me?

When a new criminal defense client calls, the most important question we answer is, “How are you going to help me?” Some people want to know why they should hire a private attorney rather than try to qualify for a public defender. Others want very specific instruction on how I plan to defend their charge. While specific advice is hard to give before I know all of the details and have read police reports, there are some tactics or tools that I always consider when looking at a defense case.

First, I read the police reports and any other documentation surrounding the charge. I’m looking to determine whether the arrest was a lawful arrest under the 4th Amendment. Additionally, I’m looking for “suppression” issues. This means that the evidence exists but, based on procedural problems, I ask the court to make a finding that the State can not use that evidence in a future hearing or trial. In essence, I’m trying to take away the State’s evidence that would be used against you. For example, a 17 year old is at a party and consuming beer. A police officer comes through the door and sees the minor drinking beer. The officer then asks the 17 year old for her age and the minor tells him that she is 17 years old. Without more follow up, the officer arrests the juvenile for MIP (minor in possession). At trial, the juvenile’s answer, “I’m seventeen,” is suppressed because the officer did not read Miranda warnings to her. Age is a required element that the prosecution must prove at trial. However, with no evidence of age (since her response is suppressed), the state can not prove the crime of MIP.

After reviewing all police reports and charging documents on face value, I look beyond what is in the reports to see what other evidence exists. This evidence may contradict police reports or add new facts that shed a different light on the conduct. I’m looking for material from dash cams, body cam video, video from parking lots, documented proof of an alibi, proof of police equipment malfunction such as a breath test machine, complaining witness bias, and investigation misconduct such as a pretextual stop. A pretextual stop is when an officer pulls you over for X but they want to arrest you for Y. They use the X stop to snoop for evidence of Y, which they could not otherwise acquire but for the X stop. Unlike the suppression issues above, the type of evidence I’m looking for at this point will go to weight rather than admissibility of evidence. Essentially, I’m discrediting and weakening the evidence and the State’s case as a whole.

What If The State Has A Strong Case?

If I find the State’s case to be solid (they can meet their burden of proof on all of the elements of the crime), I look for the best options to mitigate damage for my client. For example, I might suggest we approach the victim about a Compromise of Misdemeanor. This means my client pays an agreed amount to the victim that I negotiate in exchange for the victim signing a document that will effectively dismiss the case. This works in most cases but not all. For example, you can not do this on a DUI or any domestic violence case. If the case is not resolvable by a Compromise of Misdemeanor, I look to see if we can resolve the case with a Pretrial Diversion Agreement (PDA). A PDA is a contract you enter into with the Prosecuting Attorney that, over time, results in your case being amended to a lesser charge or dismissed. The client must agree to long term conditions that may involve treatment or restitution to a victim. Finally, I sometimes consider a Deferred Prosecution if the State will not agree to a PDA. A Deferred Prosecution is a five year program that consists of two years of treatment followed by three years of unsupervised sobriety. Typically, I do not suggest these for a person on their first DUI. You only get one Deferred Prosecution in your lifetime so it must used very carefully.

Witt Law Group is a DUI defense and criminal defense law firm located with offices in Bremerton and Gig Harbor Washington.  We can be reached in the evenings or on weekends to answer questions about your case.  Please give us a call or fill out or online contact form and someone will generally reach out to you within an hour.  

December 22, 2017

Auto Accidents

Have you been injured in a car accident?

Injuries from car accidents are incredibly common and come with a host of additional problems such as property damage, lost wages, high medical bills, and mental health challenges that arise from stress, depression, and anxiety. There is so much more to an accident than pain and suffering. We understand it all and we can help. For a free consultation call (360) 792-1000.

  • Annually, there are more than 100,000 accidents in Washington State
  • More than 500 people died last year in car accidents
  • Nearly 2,000 people were victims of serious injury accidents
  • More than 15,000 teen driver accidents occurred

As you can see, accidents impact a large number of Washington citizens. The cost in terms of lost time with family and friends, lost wages, painful hours spent at medical providers, and the obvious loss of normalcy often greatly exceeds the pain and suffering an injury victim must endure. To add insult to injury, soft tissue (whiplash) victims often find themselves explaining to people that they do have a real injury. Some of the most painful injuries cannot be seen so there is little sympathy for the victim.

No obligation. We are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for personal injury victims. Call / text (360) 792-1000 or contact us through email.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is my first step after an accident?

Always contact a lawyer. Even if you decide you don’t want to hire a personal injury lawyer, you should be informed of the process that is about to take over your life. It is important to know the tricks that significantly reduce your chances of a positive outcome and could even leave you owing money for the negligence of another.

Do I need a collision report?

Yes, an accident report is very important for establishing liability. It does not rule out challenges that the at-fault driver's insurance may assert regarding liability or allocation of fault but it serves as strong evidence for liability disputes. If you were in an accident and law enforcement did not come to the scene, you can still file a report at Washington State Patrol's website.

Downloadable Collision Report

What are the officers doing at the scene of the accident?

In most cases, law enforcement will come to the scene of an accident and conduct an investigation, make observations, collect witness information, and generate an accident report. Depending on the injuries sustained, the officer will ask the parties to make statements about the accident. This can be a bit tricky. If you are in shock or sustained a concussion, you might not be in the best situation to make accurate statements. Even stating, “I’m sorry” conveyed in compassion that you and the other party are in a terrible situation, can later be used to assert that you meant the statement as an apology for fault. It is always best to avoid any discussion of fault or making any statements that could be used to insinuate acceptance of fault.

I was taken from the scene by ambulance and did not receive an exchange of information or a collision report. What should I do?

Depending on the severity of the injuries, the report should be available via the Washington State Patrol website shortly after the accident. It may take several days or weeks before the officer files the report. If you hire Witt Law Group, we can pull the collision report and any additional information from local law enforcement who may have arrived on scene. Additionally, we will contact the witnesses on your behalf.

How can I help my case?

If you are coherent and able to speak with witnesses, you can ask them to take video and pictures of the scene. They should also try to gather as many names and phone numbers of people who witnessed the accident. If you were unable to get photos of the scene, it might still be possible for you or your attorney to get video from nearby homes or businesses. While an investigating officer should be collecting witness names and numbers as well as pictures, sometimes the scene is chaotic (such as rush hour) and details might be missed or witnesses drive away. It is always best to have more evidence to establish who is the at-fault party. In the absence of clear evidence, insurance companies often try to shift the blame to you.

What if the adjuster already offered me money to settle?

Be very careful about this decision. Whether you are informed or not, you are held to the same standard as a lawyer when it comes to knowing the law on subrogation. This means that you are likely required to pay back all money that was paid on your behalf for care. If you were taken away in an ambulance to the hospital, you may not receive the 4 or 5 bills that will result from that one visit for several months. If you accept a settlement offer of $5,000 but your medical bills subrogation is $10,000, you are on the hook for the additional $5,000 out of your own pocket. Once you agree to settle, you can not go back and ask the insurance company for more money because you did not realize there were thousands of dollars of unpaid medical bills.

Why am I being sent to collections?

Chaos with medical bills and collection is one of the most common reasons new clients contact us. The problem is that the “order of operations” on paying medical providers is very tricky. Believe it or not, the at-fault driver’s insurance is NOT paying your medical bills while you are treating. 

At the end of your case, following a settlement or jury award, your attorney will “pay back” the medical providers’ liens as well as L&I, Medicare, or any other medical insurance liens, or PIP (this process is often referred to as subrogation). Until the case settles, there are several options for avoiding being sent to collections that you can discuss with your lawyer. 

One of the first steps to avoid being sent to collections is to provide the correct insurance policies to your medical team. For example, if you have PIP, you want to provide that policy information immediately to your medical provider because PIP must be exhausted before your medical insurance or Medicare/Medicaid can begin paying your bills during the duration of the case. If you make this mistake, all billing will have to be reimbursed and re-billed in the proper order. Do not try to handle this process alone. Most often, injury victims will injure their credit in the process.

What type of damages can I recover?

Pain and suffering is the most obvious claim for damages but that category covers a lot of things. It can include all the ways in which your pain impacted your previously normal life. Perhaps you can no longer be intimate with your partner due to neck or back pain and you can’t lift your young children. Perhaps you missed out on a family vacation to Disneyland because you are no longer able to join in on rides. There are many short and long term consequences to living with pain that may fall under this category.

Medical expenses is the category that scares people the most. If you were in a car accident and went right to the emergency department to be checked out, you are likely looking at $3,000-$7,000 in bills depending on how many X-rays or other imaging was ordered. If you went via ambulance, you can add another thousand to that total. Medical bills quickly add up. If you include follow-up care like chiropractic or physical therapy, you could be looking at $10,000 more in bills. Contrary to popular belief, the insurance company does not just pay 3x medical and the more you rack up in bills does not equate to a higher settlement.

Medical care must be within reason and, if you go over the reasonable medical care for your type of injury, it is likely you will be paying out of your own pocket. There are a lot of moving parts after an accident and it is critical that you understand what the reasonable limits are on certain injuries and how subrogation (pay back) works for your unique case. We will need to know whether you have medical insurance, PIP, UM/UIM, and determine all sources of insurance so that we can give you advice on how your case might resolve financially. If you would like to know more about PIP benefits, check out our PIP link.

Lost wages and loss of opportunity for advancement, bonuses, and other compensation are all common losses that occur after an accident. Most people handling their own case fail to maximize this aspect of their claim. If you had to leave work to attend physical therapy or spend long hours on the road to get to your medical provider, you can also claim medical travel and treatment time. Don’t miss out on being compensated for your time.

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Can my lawyer make more money than me?

This can happen at other firms. At Witt Law Group, we have never accepted more compensation than our clients receive. We will literally move our money to your column if it looks like a settlement will be unfair. Good luck trying to get another firm to put that in writing.

If you want to know how personal injury attorneys get paid, check out our Fees link. It is your injury and your settlement so it makes sense that you want to know if you will come out ahead. On some small accidents, the settlement may not be large and it’s important to know that you will be the priority in terms of physical and financial recovery.

Do lawyers specialize in personal injury?

Lawyers who help accident victims understand Tort law. This area of law is extremely broad but it essentially covers wrongs or injuries done to an innocent person. There are unique elements of each claim but the lawyer has to address each case with consideration for the duty, the breach of duty, causation, and injury.

The most common sticking point in most personal injury cases is causation. From the start, the at-fault party’s insurance will claim that it was not their insured’s fault, there was contributory fault, or the injuries claimed are not related at all to the accident. Even when an officer provides an accident report, the third party adjuster will argue facts and theories that have nothing to do with the reality of the accident. If the adjuster will not accept the reality of the situation, the injured person’s attorney may have no choice but to file a lawsuit.

Why hire Witt Law Group?

Every client has a story to tell. We want to tell yours. 

No accident is the same and, therefore, the impact to your life is unique. The details of that impact might unfold immediately or it may take some time to discover just how much you have lost. We will work patiently with you so that we capture your authentic story. Whether you lose your ability to make a living or need long-term care, one thing is for sure, your life will change after an accident. It is important that you have passionate advocates fighting for you. 

The insurance companies report billions in profits every year because their job is to report to shareholders. To be successful in this endeavor, they must pay the least amount of money to accident victims. Profit is the bottom line. You can help their shareholders or you can let us look out for your future. 

Personal injury accidents are personal for the attorneys at Witt Law Group. We will take on the stress of dealing with the insurance adjusters, the investigation, and managing the tedious task of medical bills and ledgers. Your job is to heal and our job is to make sure you receive the best settlement or jury award possible for the pain, injuries, and inconvenience you had to endure.

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Get help now

Whether you choose to handle your case alone or you hire the Witt Law Group, get educated and prepared. There are so many factors that occur in the early part of your case that can dictate whether you will end up with a fair recovery. Remember that a consultation is free and worth your time. You will likely discover that the earlier you get an attorney involved in the process, the easier the transition back to normal life. Your attorney will take over all contact with the insurance adjuster and keep track of your treatment providers and bills. Your job is to heal. Our job is to present your injuries and damages to the insurance companies and argue for a fair settlement that accurately reflects the pain and damages you’ve suffered.

December 22, 2017

Jennifer Witt, Partner

Jennifer graduated Magna Cum Laude from Gonzaga School of Law in 2000. During her time at Gonzaga, she was the Vice-President and the President of the Moot Court Council. She was also a member of Gonzaga’s National Trial Team and was honored with numerous academic awards for oral advocacy competitions as well as research and writing. Since graduating, Jennifer served as a Law Clerk, worked for a county prosecutor’s office and a city attorney’s office, was an investigator, and volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Jennifer considers one of her most important accomplishments to be founding a nonprofit that helped provide clothing and shoes to nearly 30 schools in her community.

December 22, 2017

Ryan Witt, Partner

Ryan graduated from Gonzaga School of Law in 2001 and was hired as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Pierce County. He left that position and became a felony level Deputy Prosecutor in Kitsap County until 2004. Ryan is an extremely experienced trial attorney who has been an advocate in hundreds of trials at all levels of state and federal courts. Ryan’s extensive experience as a former Prosecutor gives him an advantage in advocating in criminal defense cases. Understanding both sides of the legal system is a tremendous asset for a trial attorney.