Jennifer Witt

Jennifer Witt

One might assume that the biggest risk for handling an auto accident or other injury case is that a non-lawyer will receive less compensation for their injuries. While that is statistically very true, we find the biggest risk is the long term issue with your credit due to mishandling of medical bills.

 

YOU are responsible for getting those medical providers paid

 

Most injury victims do not realize that the at-fault party will NOT pay your medical bills while you are treating. Only after settling the case, are you provided the money necessary to pay for those medical treatments. But, the trick is that you are deemed to know how much you should have settled for so those providers are all paid. That is a BIG challenge and risk! And, don’t forget that, if your medical insurance company paid the tab while you were treating, you are required to pay them back! If you have an ERISA plan, that could be dollar for dollar even if your settlement is less than the amount you owe back!

 

Even the most careful and clever folks become victims

 

Trick #1—You will rarely know what you owe back (i.e. subrogation) for at least several months following your treatment. If you do not know what you owe to every provider, you risk accepting too little money from the at-fault driver and you will be paying out of your own pocket! This happens to many people every year because they accept a settlement in the first few months after the accident and have no idea what their actual pay back will be.

 

Trick #2—The medical providers have up to one year to bill for their services. If they think they will get more money out of a personal injury settlement compared to the contractual amount with medical insurance, they wait that year out. Perhaps your regular insurance amount to pay back might have been $250 for the Emergency Room physician but, without that contractually reduced amount, you have to pay the total $950 since you settled under the one year mark.

 

Trick #3—In many cases, no one is paying those medical providers while you are waiting to settle your case. In rare cases, the provider will “hold” the bill or go ahead and submit to your medical insurance. However, a majority of providers will simply send you to collections or file medical liens. This causes many people to feel “forced” to settle before they really know the extent of their injuries and how much they will need to pay back. To avoid harming their credit, they prematurely negotiate an inadequate settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Again, this leads to issues with trick #2 (over paying for services) and also undervaluing the actual out of pocket expenses you owe.

 

It's not you...even lawyers struggle with this stuff!

 

We recently attended a continuing education class that discussed the value of various software programs to manage medical records ledgers and records requests. The presenters made a point that, in a large survey of personal injury attorneys around the country, most reported that they spend between 30%-50% of their time simply managing medical bills and provider liens. That is a lot of time and we’re talking about people who do this every day!

 

Don’t get duped!

 

Don’t get duped by the insurance companies. You will get an offer within a week or two of your accident and a few more in the month or two following it. Insurance companies know they will pay pennies on the dollar if they can get you to settle before you realize what you owe for your care. Be very careful because you are deemed to know the law and the consequences of your actions when representing yourself. Don’t put yourself in a financial mess. Personal injury lawyers only make money if you make money. This is called a contingency fee. And, according the insurance council’s own inside study, injured parties who are represented by an attorney receive nearly 3x more in their settlement than those representing themselves.

 

Personal injury lawyers don’t get paid unless you do..so take the time for a free consultation!

 

So, on top of avoiding the risk to your credit or being “upside down” on medical bills, you are wise to partner with an injury lawyer to go over the facts of your case. Consultations are free and there is no obligation. Protect yourself from further financial injury by just taking a few minutes to know the risks of your case.

 

You do not need to live in Kitsap County to use our services! Just call. We have offices in Poulsbo, Gig Harbor, and Bremerton but, with new covid protocols, we are now handling about 95% of our cases via phone or zoom. You have no risk by calling or signing up with us. If calling isn’t your thing, you can start by texting or emailing. We’re flexible and we’re here for you 7 days a week so there is no reason to take the risk with medical liens! Get help today.

Years ago, an advocacy group called The American Association For Justice (AAJ), reviewed thousands of court documents, complaints, and materials from litigation, and records from the SEC and FBI to determine just who was the worst insurance company in America. Their report shed some very disturbing truths about an industry that runs phenomenal ad campaigns to convince the public they are on your side.

 

What the advocacy group discovered is that three of the worst ranked auto insurers had developed certain profit strategies at the direction of consulting company McKinsey & Co.—and it proved to be very profitable. Allstate, State Farm, and Farmers all hired McKinsey and were given strategies that put profits over policyholders. While the report has not been updated, we can tell you, from our perspective, not much has changed. We hear about and experience the same ruthless tactics.

 

ALLSTATE

 

As part of the McKinsey strategy, Allstate employees were directed to force injured victims to accept low ball offers otherwise the party would face the “boxing glove” strategy. This is where the company beats up on the injured party with deny and delay tactics until you accept the low offer. In fact, if a lawsuit was filed, the Allstate representative was directed to do everything possible to fight the case and pay nothing. For this reason, it became even more difficult for Allstate policy holders to get legal counsel willing to represent them in court. Their strategy was successful. Prior to McKinsey’s “help,” Allstate paid out claims at nearly 63 percent of premium income but, within 10 years of the new strategy, paid only 47 percent. At the same time, it doubled its profits. It had so much extra profit that the company began buying back $15 billion of its own stock.

 

In a separate investigation on homeowners’ claims, AAJ reported that Allstate agents were told by supervisors to lie and blame house fires on arson so they could avoid paying on the claim. It was Allstate whistleblowers who were able to help investigators determine the McKinsey strategy formulated for Allstate. While Allstate is routinely sued for unfair tactics, not much has changed. CEO Thomas Wilson has made clear, “our obligation is to earn a return for our shareholders.” Mr. Wilson is paid approximately 17 million a year in salary to make sure shareholders are happy even at the expense of policyholders. 

STATE FARM

 

Not too far behind Allstate on the naughty list is State Farm. They also hired McKinsey & Co. to create a strategy that reduced pay outs to policyholders and would increase profits for shareholders. As it turns out, McKinsey is pretty good at what it does. They created an equally lucrative and offensive strategy for State Farm. In fact, the AAJ noted that State Farm has become notorious for its deny and delay tactics.

 

While the AAJ report highlighted more of State Farm’s homeowners disasters, it is reminiscent of what we see when handling auto claims. One particularly egregious example of “avoid paying at all cost” was an investigation into the handling of claims following the Northridge earthquake. State Farm employees testified that company officials forged signatures on earthquake waivers to avoid paying claims. When the company was sued, they withheld this evidence. This is precisely the reason we always ask for proof of PIP rejection by the policy holder. In the State of Washington, if the insurance company can’t produce your signature rejecting Personal Injury Protection, you are deemed to have it—a very important benefit in a personal injury case.

 

FARMERS

 

While we agree with AAJ’s evaluation of unpleasant insurance tactics, the order of the list might need to be changed. Currently, we find Farmers to be a tie for #1 worst company as voted by our staff and lawyers. It’s hard to keep the blood pressure down with some of the tactics used in the initial phone calls. However, we generally push our way to a new adjuster or move to file suit fairly quickly on these claims. Life is too short to deal with deny and delay games.

 

One of our favorite examples from the AAJ’s report was the case of Ethel Adams, a 60 year old woman who was involved in a multi-vehicle accident that left her in a coma for 9 days. She was eventually confined to a wheelchair. Farmers response to her claim was that the at-fault driver had a moment of “road rage” so his intentional behavior could not be an “accident” under the policy. Therefore, there was no insurance coverage for her injuries. Farmers received severe negative attention from policyholders on this story but, eventually, it was a threat from the Washington State Insurance Commissioner to take legal action against Farmers that made them change their tune. Wouldn’t it be nice if all injured parties had the weight of the Insurance Commissioner on their case?

 

AREN’T THEY JUST TRYING TO KEEP RATES LOW?

 

The storyline most often told by insurance companies is that, “if people make claims, your premiums will go up.” First, you have insurance to help in times of loss and injury. Getting help when you need it is the reason you pay those very calculated premiums. And, make no mistake, those calculations leave insurance companies with plenty of reserves on hand in times of emergency. Those reserves also make shareholders a tremendous profit.

 

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the total assets for the US insurance industry is nearly 10 trillion dollars. For frame of reference, that is about half of the United States GDP. Let’s just say that the insurance industry is in no way suffering for profits or in need of raising your rates $200 so they can make a profit. Do not fall for the guilt trip that getting paid for your injuries somehow increases your neighbor’s rate. That is the choice of the profit-driven insurance machine.

 

THE TAKE-AWAY

 

If you have one of these companies, it doesn’t mean you need to switch. It just means that you may or may not deal with problems listed by the AAJ. We would like our clients or potential clients to be aware that certain companies come with baggage. Their business philosophies will impact your coverage as an insured and as an injured party. If you are already injured, we can’t undo the companies involved. However, if you want peace of mind that you won’t be exposed to an excess judgment if you hurt someone or be stuck with medical bills if an uninsured person hurts you, try to discuss these issues with your insurance broker. If you want our input on how companies are as far as personal injury cases, we are happy to elaborate. Feel free to call anytime.

 

We hope you have a safe and healthy New Year.

Which insurance company and policy amount is best for you?

 

Do not choose the cheapest. While it may be tempting to save a buck, auto insurance is one policy that is likely to get used. And, if you have teen drivers in the house, your odds increase even more. If you choose a small policy or a company that is known for denying claims, the rest of your life might be turned upside down.

  

Uninsured or underinsured drivers

 

Since the State of Washington allows drivers to have a minimal policy of $25,000, many people incorrectly assume that the minimal policy will be enough in an accident. If you only tap another driver, that might be the case. In the case of a soft tissue injury to an otherwise healthy person, you might also be okay with a $25,000 policy. However, if the person suffers a concussion, lacerations, or any broken bones, there is no way that a $25,000 policy will be enough. A non-overnight visit to the Emergency Department is billed between $3500 to $10,000 depending on the imaging and the level that the hospital codes the visit. If the injured person is admitted to the hospital, the medical totals will immediately exceed $25,000 and that won’t include lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages.

 

If you choose to carry a $25,000 policy, be aware that the injured party can sue you for additional money. In many cases, the injured party will need to sue you to avoid their own bankruptcy due to medical bills and lost wages. And, if you have any assets, you will be in jeopardy of losing those assets.

  

What if you are hit by someone with a low policy who does not own a home or have any other assets?

 

The best way to protect yourself is to carry a high Uninsured/Underinsured policy as well as a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy. In the State of Washington, you automatically have PIP unless you signed to decline the coverage. If you have a soft tissue case with a lot of medical care, your injuries may not warrant a lawsuit yet you need more than $25,000 for adequate compensation. In the case where you have $10,000 PIP and also a $25,000 Underinsured Motorist policy, these back up policies can be used to reach the equivalent of $60,000 in care and compensation. A $60,000 soft tissue case is highly unlikely but, in the case of some unusual complications due to your injuries, you would have reasonable coverage to cover damages.

  

What if I have a policy with $100,000/$300,000 coverage but I own my home and have good income, am I still at risk?

 

While the odds of an accident occurring where the medical care requires more than $100,000 is lower than a small soft tissue case, we have had quite a few this year. In those cases, the at-fault driver is at risk of personal financial loss to cover the additional expenses. If you are concerned about losing your assets or income, it would be smart to talk to your insurance carrier about an umbrella policy.

  

What if I am hit by someone without insurance?

 

This is the worst. You have damage to your car and injuries to your body but you’re also paying for someone else’s negligence. Hopefully, you have great health insurance, PIP, Uninsured Motorist coverage and your auto policy is with a company that has a good reputation. Many will deny or delay claims for so long that you eventually give up trying to get help. The adjusters get bonuses for this so there is incentive to convince you to stop seeking care or compensation. If this happens to you, try contacting an attorney to help you with a bad faith insurance claim.

  

Be aware that nearly 1 in 5 drivers in Washington do not have insurance. So, you are playing Roulette every time you drive. That doesn’t account for those negligent drivers who cause serious injuries and only carry the lowest required coverage of $25,000. With a looming economic impact due to covid shutdowns, be prepared for those numbers to increase. Unfortunately, it will be up to you to make sure you are not at financial risk due to someone else’s negligence.

 

If you have any questions about this blog or are in need of a free consultation, please contact our office. We work evenings and weekends so don't hesitate for peace of mind. 360-792-1000

 

If you are seeking a drug and alcohol evaluation because your lawyer thinks it’s a good idea or you have been ordered to do one, it is important to know a few things.

 

#1

 

First, Prosecutors and Judges do not want you to “shop around” for a good evaluation. If you have been ordered to get one following a plea or a guilty verdict, you better choose wisely the first time. This means do your research with reviews and referrals. Your lawyer may have a strong opinion about where you go. 

 

Unfortunately, there is an inherent conflict at most of the chemical dependency treatment providers because they are both evaluators and treatment providers. By this, we mean that if you are found to have a “problem” with drugs or alcohol, the treatment that is suggested can be completed and is billed by the same company that does your evaluation. If you think that gives them a reason to find you have a drug or alcohol problem…well, it might. Evaluators should be professional and keep their financial incentives separate from their judgment but some locations have a reputation for doing the opposite. So do your homework in advance. If there are a lot of complaints about unfair or exaggerated evaluations, take that into consideration.

 

Additionally, if you haven’t been ordered to do an evaluation and are simply having one done in preparation for your case, you can choose to go to more than one location. However, when possible, simply choose the best place you can based on research and stick with the one evaluation. That evaluation should be sent to your lawyer ONLY.

 

#2

 

Second, you will be answering written questions and oral questions. Be prepared. Don’t show up uninterested or “bothered” by the evaluation. That is usually seen as lacking awareness of your problem. If you’ve been arrested for an alcohol-related offense, you, by definition, have a problem. The issue the evaluator is trying to resolve is to what extent you have a problem and whether you will continue to have that problem. If you don’t have a problem, participate fully so they can figure that out.

 

Furthermore, do not minimize things that should not be minimized. Even if your criminal charge is a one time occurrence, don’t minimize the fact that you got arrested, perhaps hurt someone or yourself, or could have endangered others. Basically, don’t try to “outsmart” the evaluator by choosing the “right” answer. There really are no perfect answers. The best thing you can do is be respectful, responsive, and take responsibility for your mistakes. Making a terrible mistake on one occasion does not mean that you need treatment. If you don’t know that you made a mistake, it might indicate that you do need treatment. So, don’t try to play games.

 

#3

 

Third, you will be taking a UA at some point during your evaluation. Do not show up with any substance, including alcohol, in your system! This would seem like a no brainer but it happens all the time. If you can’t show up sober to an evaluation, you have a problem. Similarly, do not try to “cheat” the UA. These are highly sensitive tests and it WILL pick your THC, alcohol, or any other substance. It will also pick up your diluted sample. So, drinking a gallon of water before your UA will only mean that your test is labeled deceptive and counted as a positive. Not a great way to start the evaluation process.

 

If you have questions about what to expect, where to go, or any other questions before your evaluation, contact your lawyer as soon as possible. If you think you will test positive for THC because you used two weeks ago, you might want to delay your evaluation. These are issues you can discuss with your criminal defense lawyer. For some folks, a positive THC test will not matter and for others it could make a big difference on the outcome of your case. Every case is unique and the outcomes vary wildly depending on every detail. Do not take legal advice from blogs or from friends. Get advice from a lawyer who can go over your particular facts and give experienced advice.

 

If you would like to know more about chemical dependency assessments, CLICK HERE.

 

If you haven’t hired a lawyer yet, Witt Law Group offers free consultations. If you have a criminal case in Kitsap or Pierce County, give our office a call. 360-792-1000. We answer evenings and weekends so don’t hesitate to get peace of mind.

 

 

The short answer is that you probably don’t. The reason is that the State of Washington has certain statutory requirements and, additionally has additional time enhancements if a child in the vehicle. In most cases, if you have a DUI or Physical Control conviction or plea, you will be required to have an IID for at least one year. Additionally, if you are charged with reckless or negligent driving within 7 years of another alcohol-related driving offense, you can be required to put in an IID for the new non-DUI charge.

 

While some states have exemptions that help avoid the installation of an ignition interlock device, Washington only has the Employer Exemption. The vehicle can’t be for commuting and the employer must fill out the declaration. This is not an option for those with a CDL. However, if you are not a professional driver but drive a work vehicle during work hours, this can be an option to keep your job.

 

Many people struggle with the upfront costs of an ignition interlock device and it is possible you may be able to seek financial assistance for reimbursement. This option is through the Department of Licensing. You will need to fill out their financial assistance form and they will determine if you qualify based on indigency. As assistance you can refer to the DOLs indigent guidelines chart.

  

2020 poverty guidelines for Washington State

 

People in Family / Household Annual Income Monthly Income
1 $15,950 $1,329
2 $21,550 $1,796
3 $27,150 $2,263
4 $32,750 $2,729
5 $38,350 $3,196
6 $43,950 $3,663
7 $49,550 $4,129
8 $55,150 $4,596

 

•  For families/households with more than 8 people: add $5,600 annually, or $467 monthly, for each additional person.

Source: Washington DOL

 

There is one other option for those who qualify for a Tolling Medical Exemption. This is not really an exemption that allows you to drive, like the Employer Exemption, but it does allow for the clock to start ticking on your Ignition Interlock time requirement.

 

For example, if you are required to have an IID for one year, you could apply for this tolling application on the Washington Department of Licensing website and, if you were approved on February 1st of 2021, you could apply to reinstate your license one year later in 2022. You are NOT automatically allowed to drive and you may NOT drive during this medical tolling period. However, if you qualify, it allows you to wait the year without paying for the install and maintenance of the device in your car. Again, you must have a medical condition that meets the qualifications for the tolling exemption and be approved by DOL.

December 12, 2020

Can I Beat My DUI?

Often, law firm ads will give defendants an impression that “beating a DUI” is a likely outcome. While it would be impressive to think that hiring just the right lawyer will get your case dismissed, that is not how criminal defense works. If you fall for it, you may have been suckered out of a lot of money for a hollow promise or gimmicky ad.

 

Simply put, if you are seeing the “get your DUI dismissed 95% of the time” ads, there are not a few top lawyers who get all the dismissals and 99% who are just terrible at their job and can only plead you guilty. While there are certainly more experienced defense lawyers, the outcome of your DUI greatly depends on your lawyer’s strategy, experience, willingness to educate the client as well as the motivation of the client to take proactive measures. This is where the evaluation and other actions can work to your favor. CLICK HERE to learn more evaluations.

 

The truth is that fewer than 2% of DUIs go to trial and outright dismissals occur less frequently than that. So, you have a 98% chance of NOT “beating” the DUI. Every experienced and successful defense lawyer will certainly review discovery for legal challenges but, the truth is, law enforcement makes DUI arrests for a living and they’re pretty good at it.

 

So why would I hire a lawyer if I can’t get my DUI dismissed?

 

Your attorney at Witt Law Group will use his or her history as a former prosecutor and years of defense experience to find every legal challenges possible to try for that dismissal or to create a solid trial case. However, if that does not look promising, you will want a lawyer who knows the options and realties in the jurisdiction where you were arrested. In the case of a DUI, local is always better. If an out of town lawyer does not about the PDA options, do not expect the prosecutor to enlighten them. Our lawyers know the culture of Kitsap as well as the municipal courts of Poulsbo, Bremerton, Port Orchard, and Gig Harbor and the fact that we can get a resolution that works within your goals—even if it isn’t in the form of a straight dismissal.

 

For some clients, success can be getting a really tough DUI into some kind of pretrial diversion agreement. Another client might simply want to keep a security clearance and avoid jail time. Make sure you convey to your attorney what success means to you. Since you have about a 98% chance of NOT getting a dismissal or winning at trial, it is important to set your priorities with your attorney.

 

If you are unsure about your odds in your case, the only way to know what can happen is to talk with a local attorney where you were charged. A local experienced criminal defense attorney will know how the prosecutors in that area handle a DUI charge, a refusal, or a high blow. The details make a difference and so does the jurisdiction. If you were charged in Kitsap District, you can expect a very different outcome than if you were charged in Mason County. For further discussion of your Kitsap or Pierce County case, give our office a call for a free consultation. 360-792-1000.

There is no clear answer on this. First, it depends on enforcement. Second, it depends on the type of enforcement. Will it be a warning, a fine, or an arrest? Third, if you opened the door, did you lie to the officer or obstruct in some way? Your arrest might have to do with making a false statement, resisting, or obstructing. Finally, are you really going to open the door???

This morning we read that the Oregon Governor is announcing arrests for those gatherings over six people. The issue is that some folks, including governors, seem to forget that they may give executive orders but that doesn’t mean there are officers prepared to enforce it. If a governor announces that it is illegal to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wednesdays, I will venture to guess there will be zero arrests on Wednesdays for that violation. Why? Well, officers are usually busy at the holidays with DUI arrests, shoplifting, and assaults. PB & J eaters are not making it to the most wanted list.

What about Washington?

 

In Washington, it remains to be seen whether law enforcement would respond to a neighbor calling 911 about a gathering. To be sure, we have all had that neighbor who will call whether you have 6, 7, or 8 people—even if everyone lives under one roof. They will call. But, will dispatch send an officer? Honestly, we are curious ourselves.

Thanksgiving might be canceled but not the Fourth Amendment

 

If you have a Karen who has and will be calling regardless of your gathering size (and we are not encouraging or promoting large gatherings), be aware that you still have the 4th Amendment even in a pandemic. Government cannot demand you open your door because the neighbor says you have five cars in the driveway and yesterday you had four cars. If your instinct is to open the door, does the officer have clear view of a large gathering or some other evidence of a crime? Will you be answering the officer’s questions? If so, it is your answers, rather than the gathering, that might get you into trouble.

Your guests might want a Covid test but also check them for warrants

 

In the interest of you getting back to turkey and pie, we will keep this short and sweet (leaving out the pages of case law and constitutional analysis that could go into this blog) and let you know that, if an officer responds to your neighbor’s complaint, in nearly all circumstances, you do not need to open your door.

However, if you cause a scene or flip the officer off from the window, you’re probably opening the door on trouble. Officers have a way of finding a way to arrest someone if they are hellbent to do so. For example, does a registered owner of one of the cars in your driveway have a warrant? Depending on your buddy’s situation and reason for an arrest warrant, the officer might get a warrant to enter. Best not to test that theory.

So, in a very brief summary, unless there is evidence of a crime occurring, the officer can’t knock down your door. Cars in your driveway might suggest a large gathering but it also might suggest you have a chop shop. That last one isn’t good either but, in any case, if the officer wants to enter, she will need a warrant. This will bring into question the veracity of the statements made by the complainants (Now, I’m talking to you Karen. You better not be lying when call 911! Making a false statement is a crime.) If you are in Washington State and your third serving of stuffing is interrupted by a knock at the door, give our office a call. We expect the phone to be pretty quiet. Unless you have firearms going off and drunk wrestling in the front yard, we really doubt you will see law enforcement today. We sure hope not!

Happy Thanksgiving! Don’t go spreading anything but holiday cheer!

There are many factors that will contribute to the overall success of your case. An attorney will look at injuries, witnesses, whether the at-fault party was cited, when you began your medical care and where, how consistent that care has been, and, most importantly, are there any funds for recovery. Typically, a search for insurance policies is one of the first things a law firm will do when they take on a new client.

 

What kind of insurance concerns are there?

 

•  The most obvious concern for a fair settlement is whether the at-fault party has insurance. It’s even better when that insurance company has a good reputation. Some companies have very clever commercials but very terrible policies when it comes to reimbursing injury victims.


•  Another relevant insurance question is whether you, the victim, have good insurance. Basically, do you have PIP to cover medical bills immediately or even lost wages. If not, you will have to wait until the resolution of the case to get paid back for lost wages. Additionally, if you have UM/UIM, you are in a better position in the event the at-fault party has a small policy ($25,000). If your bills are $50,000, the small policy won’t adequately compensate you. Your attorney would get third party to tender the policy limits and then open a UIM (underinsured motorist) claim to seek additional money from your own carrier. This way, your medical bills are covered and, if subrogation can be reduced, you should end up with a fair amount of money in your pocket.


•  If neither you nor the negligent party has insurance, you can always try to seek compensation from the• Washington State Crime Victims Compensation Fund. There are a significant number of limitations to using these funds, including subrogation should you recover money in a lawsuit, but it is worth looking into if no insurance exists.


•  Finally, if the at-fault party was charged with a crime at the time you were injured, you can reach out to the prosecutor and see if there is an opportunity for restitution. Typically, the prosecutor’s office will send out a form called the Victim’s Impact Statement and this should include instructions to include your losses. However, since every jurisdiction handles criminal matters differently, it is best to reach out to the prosecutor’s office handling your situation within a few weeks of your accident.

 

Should I be concerned about other insurance tricks?

 

Absolutely! These are just some of the initial concerns to consider when valuing your case. Of course, all medical care must be deemed relevant and necessary, too. Insurance companies like to devalue a case by claiming your treatment was not related to the accident—even when it clearly was. They also like to argue that you had gaps in your treatment and, therefore, you are not truly injured. There are many tricks insurance adjusters use to keep from paying fair settlements and it is always a good idea to seek legal counsel at the beginning of your accident.

 

Does it cost any money to get advice from a personal injury attorney?

 

No. It costs you nothing to speak with a personal injury lawyer because they are only paid based on contingency—meaning, if you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid. Always take the time to do a free consultation and learn whether you are on the right track for your case and whether a lawyer can help you get a better settlement based on the facts of your case.

 

The lawyers at Witt Law Group are always available to discuss your case. We work evenings and weekends, too. Don’t delay in getting advice. It will cost you nothing to call but, long term, it might cost you significantly if you don’t. 360-792-1000.

 

A fair number of clients come to us after trying to settle their own personal injury case. There are certainly times when a lay person can neatly wrap up an accident case by themselves but those cases usually do not involve bodily injury. For example, if someone hits your truck while you are inside a store, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting your truck repaired or replaced with a third party property damage adjuster (particularly where you have video). However, be very cautious about accepting a settlement amount and signing releases if you are unrepresented. The primary reasons for this caution is:

1) If you received medical treatment, most providers have an entire year to bill you for services. Quite often, the hospital will bill for services but the ER physician’s bill is separate and comes later. If you missed that bill, you are still on the hook to pay it (the average ER doctor bill is about $900). You might also have X-ray or imaging bills that will be coming separately. All of these providers must be paid with your settlement. The third party (at-fault) insurance adjuster will send a release that clearly indicates that you must pay any bills related to the accident.


2) In almost all cases, if your insurance (PIP, medical insurance, L&I, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.) paid any bills, you are required to pay them back. This is called subrogation. If you accepted a settlement that is smaller than what you owe, you will be in debt after your settlement. This is the reason third party adjusters call a lot right after the accident. They want you to settle the case before you realize how much you owe back in medical payments. A settlement of $1000 might sound like a lot until you realize that you have $10,000 in medical bills simply from the one ambulance ride, the 3 hour visit to the Emergency Department, the ER doctor, the imaging, and lab work. More often than not, we see well over $7,000 from the initial hospital visit immediately post-accident (that is for victims who have no broken bones or serious head injuries).


3) Even if the offered settlement says the third party insurance will pay “all reasonable and necessary medical expenses” to date plus $3000 for your trouble, that does not mean all of your medical bills will get paid. Every month, we have insurance adjusters decide that certain aspects of someone’s care was not “necessary” in their eyes. Likely, it will be ridiculous but they will simply refuse to pay that portion of a bill. If you signed the settlement, there won’t be much you can do to refute their version of “necessary.”


4) If you have Medicare or Medicaid as insurance, realize that you may be precluded from having coverage for any additional medical care related to the accident following your settlement. In certain cases, you are supposed to get a “set aside” that acts like a savings for accident-related future care. If you accept a settlement without a set-aside (and it was required), you will be personally responsible for any further medical care.


5) If you accepted settlement money for lost wages, this is a taxable event. Just like paying taxes on earned income, you could be required to pay taxes on the portion that you accepted specifically for lost wages. So, if you accepted $2,000 in lost wages, it may not in fact be $2000 in your pocket. Your gross settlement is not always the amount of money you are “entitled” to under all of the rules and tax realities.

There are many other reasons you should be cautious in handling your own personal injury case. First and foremost, the adjusters do not owe you any fiduciary duty and will not advise you of all of the legal ramifications of your settlement. In most cases, you will receive more money in your pocket if you have a lawyer handle the case and manage the above noted risks.

If you are unsure whether your injury case warrants hiring a lawyer, call for a free consultation. Every case is unique and it doesn’t cost anything to ask the questions. Since personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, it will cost you nothing to hire a lawyer at Witt Law Group. We are based in Kitsap County, Washington with offices in Poulsbo, Bremerton and Gig Harbor. We’re here 24/7 so don’t hurt your case by delaying!

Just when we thought we had seen everything...Zoom court! Our clients have been great but we've seen a few defendants who were not well-advised before their appearance.

Here is our top 10 list of how to manage yourself in a virtual/zoom court hearing:

1) Do not appear from your bed.
2) Wear a shirt.
3) Do not simultaneously play video games.
4) Do not use the screen as your mirror (i.e. do not check your hair and makeup on the zoom screen).
5) Do not have a pot leaf on your shirt or as your background.
6) Do not appear via your phone while you are driving.
7) Do not have someone in the bathroom in your background.
8) Mute your television or radio.
9) Do not smoke any substance.
10) Do not eat or drink.


Believe it or not, we've seen 9 out of 10 (one of the above was actually another lawyer ?‍♀️).


If you ever have questions about any courtroom protocol, feel free to call our office. While it has been somewhat entertaining to see all the ways people "appear" in court, not following proper protocol can hurt your case. Don't let that happen.


If you're unsure about what will be happening in your hearing, how to dress (no suit necessary), or whether you will need to speak to the Judge, give us a call to clarify.