Jennifer Witt

Jennifer Witt

If you have searched the internet to find a value for your injuries, you have likely noticed a big difference in estimates. In part, this is due to the fact that “whiplash” injuries (sometimes called minor impact soft tissue injuries or MIST) vary so much in their physical damage to the vehicle, emergency response at the time of the accident, medical treatment, follow-up care, loss of income, as well as pain and suffering. Additionally, depending on the state you are located in and even the specific county in which a jury would be empaneled, your odds of a jury finding in the plaintiff’s favor can vary widely.

 

Victims always want a nice calculation such as three times medical expenses. However, that is simply never the case. If you “under-treated” “over-treated” or were inconsistent in making your medical appointments, be prepared for a fight from the insurance company. If you’re handling your case without a lawyer, be prepared for the adjuster to spring this on you at the end of your treatment period.

 

Despite the inconsistent settlement amounts and jury verdicts, there are some truths for soft tissue injury victims. First, because your injury is not visible to a jury, it is important to have your injury documented by a medical professional. Second, because juries tend to be skeptical about injuries they can not see, make sure your treatment behavior is consistent with someone claiming to be truly hurt. For example, do not plan to successfully assert that you have been in so much pain that you can’t get out of bed but, at the same time, you never went to see a doctor. This can be tricky for a person without insurance but, if you talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer, he or she will typically know of service providers who will hold your bill until the case settles. Third, do not exaggerate your claim. Sometimes, people get bad advice from friends that if you “rack up your medical bills, you will get more money.” This could not be further from the truth. Reasonable care is the key. If you “over-treat” be prepared to get stuck with some of the medical bills and no money in your pocket for pain and suffering.

 

The moral of the story is that you need to seek legal advice from an injury lawyer in your area. If you were injured in Bremerton but seek advice from a lawyer who practiced in Los Angeles, be prepared for quite a shock when it is time to settle your case. Geographical differences in personal injury cases are quite substantial. The insurance companies are well-versed in the jury verdicts of every county in the country. They know the range in value of your case and they are rarely going to venture outside of the range.

 

If you want accurate information, make sure you keep all of these factors in mind. Contact a local personal injury lawyer so you are prepared. Let the attorney know if law enforcement did a report (determining who was at fault), whether you were transported to the hospital, who responded to the accident, and any treatment providers you have seen since the date of the accident. Your lawyer will confirm whether the at-fault driver had insurance and whether the policy will be large enough to cover your treatment.

 

For more information about valuing your injuries from an auto, pedestrian or bike accident, contact Witt Law Group for a free consultation. Do not seek legal advice about your accident, injury treatment, or how to value your case from random “injury calculators” or generic non-local websites. On top of your physical injuries, you will likely injure your case!

There are many reasons a person can benefit from having a private attorney on the case before the arraignment. If you have been arrested, received a summons to appear, or you are trying to help a loved one through the process, here are several reasons to consider seeking legal advice before your first appearance:

1) If you are arrested and in custody, a lawyer can help explain the bail process and get you connected with someone who can get you released before court. Studies show that defendants who are in jail throughout the criminal justice process have worse outcomes.

2) If you have received a summons to appear, you likely need some guidance on what that means and how to best proceed. Receiving a summons can be frustrating to the accused because they are often mailed many months after an incident took place when memories are fading or perhaps the defendant had no idea she was being investigated. Defendants are often very confused when a summons arrives in the mail. It helps to investigate and discuss the criminal charge being alleged before you walk blindly into court.

3) Many people have difficulty getting time off of work on short notice to appear in court. If you make contact with a criminal defense attorney earlier enough, he can typically waive the arraignment, which excuses your presence.

4) In some situations, the case can be resolved before your arraignment! If there is enough time, we can work on a Compromise of Misdemeanor or a Pretrial Diversion Agreement. These options apply to certain criminal charges and, if the State is amenable, we can have an arrangement prepared before your arraignment.

5) If the case does not resolve before arraignment, we can usually get the conditions of release to be more favorable. For example, if the Prosecutor is requesting an ignition interlock, we will have our clients get an alcohol evaluation prior to the arraignment. This allows the Judge to better determine whether that condition should actually apply and gives you a better chance of avoiding these costly conditions of release.

6) Hiring a private attorney allows you to speak with your counsel and get legal advice before walking into court for the first time. This does not happen when you are waiting to be assigned a public defender. You have to wait until after an arraignment to schedule a meeting with a public defender. Depending on how much time you allow, your private defense attorney might be able to develop a comprehensive strategy before the arraignment.

7) As an added bonus, a good private attorney will keep you apprised of all court dates. It is important to never miss court! Failing to Appear (FTA) negatively impacts your attorney’s negotiating power and potential positive resolutions for your case. However, do not expect a public defender to email or call you to remind you of a court date. They have far too many cases to add that to their “to do” list. That is not the case with private counsel—expect to get regular reminders.

There are many more reasons to seek counsel before arraignment but, basically, everything runs more smoothly if you are prepared. If you are unsure whether you need counsel, it is best to seek a free consultation and discuss your concerns. We are available 7 days a week and can handle everything over the phone. If you prefer to meet in person, we have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo, and Gig Harbor.

For more information on hiring an attorney before your arraignment: 

↓ Watch our video below ↓

There is a lot to deal with following a car accident. Most injured victims will deal with pain, healing, medical bills, stress and even anxiety about the accident. However, many of our clients are unpleasantly surprised to find that their insurance rates will be raised even when the accident was not their fault. Talk about adding insult to injury!

 

In the State of Washington, approximately 20% of drivers on the road are uninsured. If you are hit by one of them, your UIM/UM and PIP coverage can help. It’s never great to have to use your own insurance when injured due to someone else’s negligence but it is better than nothing. Make sure you have that coverage! 

Will My Premiums Increase?

While your own insurance can help in this situation, there might be a financial consequence—your premiums increase. We have been asked in the past to “do something” about the unfair practice but our hands are tied. In most states, insurance companies are permitted to raise your rates. You can complain but it will rarely make a difference.

 

What is particularly troubling about this practice is that it is often the poorest in our community who get hit with the greatest premium increase. The study done by Consumer Federation of America found that the insurance companies added a greater premium hike to people who were deemed less educated and lower income. Hopefully, the lawmakers of Washington will crack down on this practice. 

Insurance Company Decisions Are Tied To Profits

As we have said in the past, insurance companies are tied to profits. The bottom line dictates most of their responses. Whether it is “low balling” the settlement offer or raising rates on innocent accident victims, get prepared. The State of Washington does not prohibit “not-at-fault premium penalties.” However, since not every company does this, find a knowledgable insurance agent to help you navigate this issue. Drop the unfair company and find one that will truly stand by you!

 

If you have been injured and need help navigating all of the insurance challenges, we are here for you. We truly enjoy getting accident victims the settlement they deserve. Our consultations are free and, if you are too injured to come into one of our offices, we can handle everything over the phone or come to you. Don’t delay. Personal injury cases have a statute of limitations and you can be barred from bringing a case if you wait too long.

 

December 22, 2019

Designated Drivers Beware

 

Are you planning to attend holiday parties as the designated driver? Good for you! Just remember that there is some risk in taking on that role if you also use marijuana.

 

Many recreational users of marijuana don’t understand that THC levels remain high enough to be cited for DUI days after their last use. The levels of THC will certainly depend on how often you use, how active you are, how long you have regularly used marijuana as well as other physiological factors. However, it is very important that you understand there is always a risk for prosecution. Even smoking the day before you are pulled over can pose a risk of being charged with a crime—we have seen it.

 

Additionally, don’t think that “just one drink” will keep you free from prosecution. We have represented people arrested by law enforcement for DUI with blows as low as .03 and the State did not drop the DUI charge. This year alone, we have represented more than a dozen clients charged with DUI with blood alcohol at or below .06 under the “affected by” prong of the statute. The State prosecutes these charges just as aggressively as an .08 or above. While the DOL jurisdiction for suspending your license occurs when you blow an .08 or above, the prosecuting attorney will still seek criminal remedies that impact your driving and cost you in terms of fines, restitution, emergency response restitution to the law enforcement agency, and legal fees.

 

The moral of the story—if you use marijuana, you should consider using Uber for your designated driver. Also, the “one drink” plan is not a risk-free plan. The safest plan in terms of avoiding a criminal charge and getting home safely is to stay off the road if you use any marijuana or plan to indulge in alcoholic beverages.

 

Have a safe and crime-free holiday season! We want the Christmas tree to be the only twinkling lights you see.

 

If an issue does arise, do not hesitate to contact our office. While we handle auto accidents all over the State of Washington, we primarily handle criminal matters in Kitsap County and Pierce County as well as all cities in between. We have office in Bremerton, Poulsbo, and Gig Harbor for your convenience and offer free consultations. Over the holidays, we will have the office phone forwarded to our cell phones so do not delay in seeking legal advice if you or a friend need help.

If you have been injured in an accident and have been told by your treating physician that you will likely need future care, it is important that you understand what that means for your personal injury case. For those victims who are on Medicare, will be a Medicare beneficiary within 30 months, or have a “realistic expectation” of becoming a Medicare beneficiary due to Disability Benefits, it is important that you keep in mind the concept of a Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (MSA).

 

The purpose of a MSA is to avoid shifting the financial burden to Medicare if you are being compensated for future care in your personal injury case. For example, if part of your $300,000 settlement is in consideration for medical care you need in the future, Medicare should not be on the hook later to pay for that care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid expect that you have placed some portion of your settlement into a specially designed Trust for future medical care.

 

Things To Consider For An MSA

 

When determining whether your case might fall within the conditions for a MSA, here are some criteria to consider:

Are you a Medicare beneficiary (due to age or disability benefits) and your total settlement value is greater than $25,000?


Is there a “reasonable expectation” that you will become a Medicare beneficiary within 30 months of the settlement date and the anticipated settlement amount for future medical expenses, disability, and lost wages is expected to be greater than $250,000.


A “reasonable expectation” occurs when:


a) you have applied for Social Security Disability

b) you have been denied Social Security Disability Benefits but plan to appeal

c) you are in the process of appealing a denial of Disability Benefits or re-filing for Disability Benefits

d) you are 62 years and 6 months old

e) you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) but do not yet qualify for Medicare based on ESRD.

 

Things To Consider For An WCMSA

 

If you are settling a Workers’ Compensation case and a portion of the settlement is to pay for future medical services related to the workers’ compensation injury, you will need to do a separate analysis to determine if a Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) is necessary. 

 

These issues can be complicated but the purpose is simple. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) want to make sure the victim is not burden shifting future medical payments to CMS. If you receive money for future medical care, that money may need to be put in a special Trust to ensure that future care is paid for with this money rather than CMS money. To avoid future penalties, being denied future benefits, or facing other civil actions taken against you, contact our office for a free consultation to determine if you need an experienced attorney to assist with your case. Most personal injury victims have a much better financial outcome if they have legal representation and hiring an attorney can be critical for someone who is receiving benefits from Medicaid or Medicare.

 

Witt Law Group is a personal injury / auto accident law firm based out of Kitsap County Washington. We have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Gig Harbor for your convenience. If you have any questions about an MSA, please give our personal injury lawyers a call. 

For various reasons, people leave the State of Washington with unresolved legal issues. More often than not, a person is under investigation for a crime but not yet charged when they move. By the time the prosecutor’s office charges the case, the mailing address provided months or years earlier is no longer valid.

Delays In The State Bringing Charges 

 

In recent months, we have experienced in increase in cases where DUI cases have been charged a year after the person was originally arrested and released. When the toxicology lab returned the blood result, the accused person had been living in another state for many months. Often, the only reason the person knows they have been charged with a crime is that notice of a warrant appears on a background check for a new job.

 

If you have unresolved criminal charges or have been notified that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, it is critical that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Hiring private defense counsel will cost money but it can help get you back to “normal” much faster and, hopefully, allow you to keep your job.

 

How the Witt Law Group can help:

 

1.  We will determine if charges have been filed or a record has been created. Additionally, we will determine whether a warrant has been issued.

 

2.  We will determine if there are any critical timelines that you may have missed and whether there is a way to remedy the missed deadline.


3.  We will determine the jurisdiction of your matters or matters. This means we need to figure out where you were charged—city, state or federal charges.


4.  We will determine whether you left the state “pre-resolution” of your case—meaning the case is unresolved. If you were arrested and left before your arraignment, you will likely need to appear in court with an attorney to help quash your warrant before we begin negotiation of your case. If you left post-resolution of your case, we will facilitate bringing your case back to a status of compliance.

Every Case Is Unique

 

Criminal charges are common but the facts of every criminal case is different and the challenge in resolving the case is always unique. To really understand the path that your unresolved case could take, it is best to contact an experienced lawyer right away. Discuss the unique details of your case so you know how to move forward. Delaying will only cause more unintended negative consequences. If you found this article interesting, CLICK HERE to see all of our blog posts. 

If you were recently arrested or received a summons in the mail to appear on a criminal charge, it is important that you deal with your legal issues promptly. Around the holidays, many people want to put off dealing with the cost and the stress of the criminal justice system until later in the new year. This can be a very bad decision that leads to more negative consequences than anticipated.

 Reasons To Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney

 

There are many reasons to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately but here are just a few:

1. Evidence can be more difficult to collect the longer you wait. For example, if a video of the incident would be helpful to your case, be aware that videos are often deleted or destroyed after weeks or months. Additionally, witnesses are harder to track down over time and their memories are less clear. Therefore, your exculpatory evidence could be gone by the time your attorney requests it.
2. There are criminal and civil timelines that absolutely inflexible. For example, if you miss your DOL deadline on a DUI, you will be suspended.
3. Appearing with an attorney can help a person be released on their personal recognizance. If you fail to appear at a hearing, it is likely that a judge or a prosecutor will believe you are a flight risk and your conditions of release will be much tougher when you finally appear.
4. Proactive measures need to start immediately. The time between your arraignment and your pretrial is valuable time! Your attorney can help you by creating a roadmap of proactive steps that facilitate a more positive resolution of your case.

If You Are Unsure About Hiring A Defense Attorney

 

If you are unsure of how to handle your criminal case and need to consult with an attorney, give our office a call. We can help inform you of the risks you could be facing if you delay. Our consultations are free and we have offices in Poulsbo, Bremerton and Gig Harbor. If you are interested in more articles on the law or criminal defense, CLICK HERE to read our blog.

Choose your insurance coverage wisely 

Recently, we were dealing with a first party agent regarding a car accident case. We were commiserating about the difficulty of dealing with the agent of a certain company. This person mentioned that everyone in the industry knows this company is intentionally difficult. They are terrible as third party but also terrible with their own insured as first party. She stated that, “Everyone in the industry knows they are impossible to deal with!” Even if you just need a rental car, they will make it so difficult that you give up. We would probably have to second that sentiment (although there might be a tie with another company). 

When you are choosing auto insurance, be sure to check the reviews of any company you’re considering. Saving a few bucks on your premiums may not be worth it. Check reviews online, ask around, and contact insurance agents. Make sure you make an informed decision. There can be a big difference in customer service among the various companies. Your premium might be higher for a certain company but your stress after an accident could be much lower!

 

“My case is worth 3 times my medical expenses”—Problems With This Personal Injury Myth

 

One of the most common myths when handling injury cases is that there is some magic “multiplier method” for getting a certain amount of money offered by the third party insurance company. Most often, we hear 3x medical costs. We’ve even heard as high as 7x medical! That would be awesome! That sure would make our work a LOT easier!

 

Origins Of The Myth 

 

So how did this myth get started? Well, it was somewhat true decades ago. Unfortunately, the myth continues in various forms all over the internet. Today, the multiplier myth is most often used on click bait websites to help simplify the personal injury process and get a person to sign up with a law firm. This myth is also passed along by friends who tell the injured person, “I got 10x my medical bills and I was hardly hurt!” The friend forgets to mention a few facts such as it happened in California in the 90’s, she was scarred by some object in the car, there was a permanent disability as defined by the AMA guidelines, or she actually broke a bone but decided not have the surgery (which was part of the settlement offer). Then, the person who is injured in “reality land” now assumes that if he or she racks up enough medical bills, there will be a much bigger settlement at the end. Much to the victim’s disappointment, she racked up $25,000 worth of medical bills and receives a $15,000 settlement offer for her soft tissue/whiplash injuries. Not good.

 

While it is true that “medically necessary” treatment has an impact on the value of a case, the insurance companies are always on the look out for injury victims who are faking or exaggerating claims. They hammer those individuals the most. They want the plaintiff’s attorney to file a lawsuit after a low ball settlement offer because the adjuster firmly believes a jury will not like the client. There are many studies to show that it’s a pretty successful strategy.

 

Once a lawsuit is filed, the third party is permitted to see a full medical history. They will poke around looking for ANY past injuries or issues to explain that your past medical conditions are the real problem. If the insurance company believes you are faking any of your symptoms, be prepared for an independent medical exam request. Their experts want to establish that you are a malingerer or committing fraud by faking your claim.

 

The third party experts might employ Waddell testing, the Autobiographical Implicit Association Test, or any other series of exams or tests to establish that your injuries are not real or are exaggerated. They can prove their assertion if the tests establish there is inconsistency between your physical findings and your stated symptoms. The goal is to make a pitch to the jury that you are faking it. So, while it’s important to be detailed as you describe pain and symptoms, never exaggerate to a medical professional. People who exaggerate run the risk of a physician labeling you a malingerer.

 

Obtain Guidance For Your Personal Injury Case 

 

If you have questions about treatment or projected settlement figures, talk with your attorney. And, most importantly, don’t seek treatment simply to bolster the medical bills in your case. It will hurt you in the long run. The nature of the injury will dictate the range far more than the treatment. If you broke your arm but decided to forego an optional surgery, your broken arm will be compensated at a much higher amount than a person who has whiplash and elects to treat with various providers for more than a year. Additionally, where your accident happened can be one of the biggest predictors of the amount an adjuster will offer. The insurance companies are keenly aware of jury awards in various cities and counties. If your accident happened in a county where juries typically don't offer much for soft tissues injuries, expect your settlement offer to reflect that information. This doesn't mean you have to accept the low offer but it's important to understand how your local jury might respond if you take the case to trial. 

 

Every case is unique and it’s important to be informed by accurate information and not anecdotal stories. Again, always consult with your attorney about questions and don’t rely on internet searches about case results from a decade ago. If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation. Don’t compromise that settlement by listening to bad advice.

Most crimes at the misdemeanor / gross misdemeanor do not have “sentencing guidelines” like crimes do at the felony level. Driving While License Suspended in the First Degree (or Habitual Traffic Offender Status) is one of the few exceptions to the rule. For a conviction, the punishment is harsh and escalates rapidly for each offense. DWLS 1 has by far the most severe mandatory sentencing for any crime at this level.

A person is designated a Habitual Traffic Offender by:

1) Accumulating three major traffic offenses within 5 years. (major traffic offenses are DUI, Reckless Driving, Hit and Run, Driving With A Suspended License, Eluding, Vehicular Assault, and Vehicular Homicide), or
2) Accumulating twenty driving infractions within 5 years.

The Department of Licensing determined the 5 year period based on the violation date and not the date of conviction.

Loss Of Driving Privilege

 

Being designated a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) in Washington State can have devastating consequences to you. There is mandatory jail time for those who violate the driving restrictions and there is a lengthy restriction period of 7 years. During this period, the person may not drive. There is no occupational, restricted, ignition interlock, or other alternative licensing options. This suspension is set by the Department of Licensing and is separate from any other driving penalties set by a court due to a criminal conviction.

There are only a few options to restore your license following a HTO designation.


1) You do not drive for the entire 7 years and then you follow the protocol as designated by the DOL to reinstate your license. You must take proactive steps as your license is not automatically valid after the 7 years.
2) Petition for a early reinstatement 4 years after you were first designated a HTO. The details are below. If you are successful with this petition, you may still need to comply with extra conditions such as an ignition interlock on your vehicle and carry SR-22 (high risk) insurance.
3) Seek a stay on your revocation based on your alcohol or drug dependency. This can only be done after you have completed a 2 year treatment program and you meet other conditions of the review. You will be on “probation” for the remainder of the 7 year HTO period but, if you keep an ignition interlock and high risk insurance, you will be able to restore your driving privilege.

Reinstatement Hearings

 

According to the Department of Licensing, you may qualify for a reinstatement hearing if:

1) You have been designated HTO for at least 4 years,
2) There is no evidence that you have driven within the past 2 years,
3) If you had conditions regarding alcohol or drug treatment, you have met all of those requirements,
4) You are not suspended for non-compliance with your treatment,
5) At least one year has passed since any previous reinstatement requested have been denied.

CLICK HERE for info on how to request a Reinstatement Hearing

Additionally, if your license has been suspended for other issues such as unpaid fines, there may be other conditions (such as payment of fines or child support) that you must comply with before you can seek to have your license reinstated.

Drug and Alcohol Dependency

 

You may qualify for a “stay” on your revocation if you meet certain conditions. At your DOL hearing, you would need proof that you have been assessed “substance dependent,” you have completed a treatment program and are compliant, you are not in HTO status for violating a previous stay or probation, and the offenses leading up to your revocation were due to alcoholism or drug addiction.

Consequences of Conviction

 

Each progressive conviction for DWLS 1 has exponentially harsher minimum sentences. For the 1st offense, the minimum is 10 days. The 2nd offense carries a minimum sentence of 90 days, and the 3rd offense has a minimum of not less than 180 days in jail These are charges not to be taken lightly.

If you are facing a designation of Habitual Traffic Offender, it is critical that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Occasionally, there may be a challenge to the validity of the designation but time is of the essence.

Do not ignore the warnings by the Department of Licensing or drive once you are notified of the designation. Even if you believe it to be inaccurate, you do not want to compound the problem with additional criminal charges. At Witt Law Group, we offer free consultations. If you are unsure of how to proceed, give our office a call.