Auto Accidents

Vancouver, WA Auto Accident Attorneys

Have you been injured in an auto accident or suffered the loss of a loved one? If so the weeks and months ahead can be one of the most difficult times in your life. Dealing with finances and the insurance companies is only half the battle. Your life has changed. Fortunately there are people who understand what you are going through and want to help.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident due to the negligence of another driver, you have certain legal rights that must be protected. To learn more about how our Vancouver, WA auto accident attorney can assist you, contact The Scott Law Firm, PLLC today! To receive a free consultation and speak with a local personal injury attorney who can answer your questions, call: (360) 718-3640.

Types of Auto Accident Cases

Every year thousands of people are injured in auto accidents in Washington and Oregon. According to the most recent data (2015) compiled by the Washington State Department of Transportation:

  • 63% of auto accident are car accidents
  • 19% of auto accident involve collisions with pedestrians and bicycle accidents
  • 18% of auto accident are motorcycle accidents
  • The greatest number of auto accident occurred on Fridays between 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • December sees more auto accident than any other month
  • Inattention/distraction was the most common cause of all auto accident
Compensation in Auto Accident Cases

Below is a summary of the most common types of compensation available in auto accident cases. Not all types of compensation are available in every auto accident case. Additionally, this is not a comprehensive summary and there may be additional forms of compensation available to you that are not listed below. If you were injured in an auto accident and have questions, contact Vancouver, WA personal injury attorney Colin Scott and schedule your free consultation today: (360) 718-3640.

Vehicle Repairs
Fair Market Value
Towing & Storage
Rental Car Expenses
Diminished Value
Past & Future Medical Expenses
Past & Future Wage Loss
Pain & Suffering
Loss of Consortium
Punitive Damages

Vehicle Repairs – If your car, truck, van, motorcycle, or bicycle was damaged in an auto accident and another driver is at fault, you have two basic options: (1) make a claim with the adverse driver’s insurance company (they have 30 days to make a decision unless liability cannot reasonably be determined within this time frame); or (2) make a claim with your own insurance company and pay the deductible (which you can then seek to recover from the other driver’s insurance company). In either scenario, you do not have to accept the insurance company’s “pre-approved” auto repair shop. The insurance company is required to return your vehicle to the same condition it was in before the auto accident occurred, which means if your vehicle is several years old, the repair shop may use reconditioned or non-OEM parts.

Fair Market Value – If your car, truck, van, motorcycle, or bicycle is “totaled” (i.e. the repairs exceed the total value of your vehicle), you are entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle, which in most cases must be paid by the insurance company within 30 days of making your claim. Fair market value is determined based on a variety of factors including the make, model, options, mileage and overall condition of your vehicle. If you are unsure about the fair market value of your vehicle consult Kelly Blue Book values, local dealership prices, bike shops and/or local ads on Craigslist. You may also choose to keep your totaled vehicle, but your settlement check from the insurance company (normally for fair market value) will be reduced by the salvage value.

Towing & Storage – If the other driver’s insurance company accepts liability following an auto accident, they must pay for your towing and storage expenses.

Rental Car Expenses – You are entitled to a rental car for every day you are unable to use your vehicle following an auto accident. The rental car should be equal in value to the vehicle damaged in the collision.

Diminished Value– You are entitled to any reduction in the value of your vehicle due to an auto accident. Frequently this occurs when you have a newer car that sustains moderate to significant property damage. This may also occur when a rare automobile (such as a custom or “classic car”) is damaged, thus affecting the vehicle’s appraised value. When this occurs it may be useful to consult with a qualified appraiser who can examine appraisal figures before and after the collision to determine the vehicle’s reduction in value.

Past & Future Medical Expenses – Your medical expenses following an auto accident are recoverable provided the treatment you receive is reasonable, necessary and related to the collision. The same is true for future medical care recommended by your doctors.

Past & Future Wage Loss – If the injuries you sustain in an auto accident cause you to miss time from work, you are entitled to compensation for lost wages. Loss of future earning capacity is another form of wage loss that occurs when your ability to earn money in the future has been affected by your injuries. Supporting a claim for future wage loss may require testimony from one or more experts hired by your attorney, such as an economist and/or vocational specialist.

Pain & Suffering – General damages (also referred to as “pain and suffering”) is one of the most hotly contested areas in personal injury law following an auto accident. It includes both physical and emotional pain. Despite what an insurance adjuster may tell you, there is no “formula” by which to measure pain and suffering. The best way to value the general damages in your case is to speak with an experienced accident attorney in your area whose practice is dedicated to handling personal injury claims.

Loss of Consortium There is a separate and distinct claim called “loss of consortium” that is available in some situations following an auto accident. Loss of consortium is intended to compensate certain family members for the loss of emotional support, love, affection, care, companionship, assistance, and physical intimacy caused by the injury or death of a loved one.

Punitive Damages – In certain cases where a defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious, punitive damages may be available. Just like the word sounds, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant (as opposed to merely compensating the plaintiff) and are rare in auto accident cases.

Frequently Asked Questions in Auto Accident Cases

How long do I have to make a claim?
Should I accept a settlement offer from the insurance company?
How do I get my vehicle repaired?
Do I have to use the insurance company’s “approved” auto repair shop?
What is a “diminished value” claim?
Does the other driver’s insurance company have to pay for my rental car, towing and storage?
What happens if my vehicle is declared a total loss?
What if my vehicle was customized or modified before the accident?
How do I settle my property damage claim?
Additional questions about auto accident cases in Washington or Oregon?

How long do I have to make a claim?

In the State of Washington, the statute of limitations for injuries sustained in an auto accident is generally 3 years from the date of the accident, whereas Oregon generally allows up to 2 years from the date of the auto accident. Keep in mind this time limit may vary depending on the facts in your situation. That is why you should contact an experienced auto accident attorney instead of relying on the internet to identify the applicable statute of limitations in your case.

Should I accept a settlement offer from the insurance company?

All too often people make the mistake of settling their personal injury claim too soon following an auto accident. In many cases the insurance company will contact you, sometimes within days after the auto accident occurred, and offer a cash settlement for a nominal amount (typically anywhere from $500 to $5,000). Due to the physical, emotional, and financial stress caused by your injuries, you may be tempted to accept their offer. There are many good reasons you should resist this temptation.

In order to fully evaluate your losses, it is necessary to have a complete understanding of the nature and extent of your physical and emotional injuries. It is not possible to determine this until your medical condition stabilizes and you have reached what is referred to as “maximum medical improvement.” Therefore it is generally advisable to wait until after you are finished treating before engaging in settlement negotiations with the insurance company.  (This does not mean you should wait to speak with an attorney!)

It is also unwise to engage in settlement discussions until a thorough investigation has been performed. This includes identifying all the parties who are potentially responsible for causing your injuries, assessing theories of liability, and amassing all the evidence in your case. This takes time, money, and legal expertise—resources that are not available to the average person who is trying to resolve an auto accident claim on their own. Therefore, it can be extremely beneficial to hire an attorney who can handle these matters for you, which will allow you to focus on getting the treatment you need to reach maximum medical improvement.

Finally, it is important to remember insurance companies have interests that are opposite yours and they will try to settle your claim for as little as possible. Insurance companies also have the advantage of employing hundreds of defense lawyers who work for them day and night. Having an attorney at your side can help level the playing field and significantly improve the odds of obtaining a successful result in your auto accident case.

For all of these reasons it is important to discuss your auto accident case with an attorney before attempting to settle your claim on your own. Our firm offers free consultations and will be happy to speak with you about your personal injury claim at no cost. To receive a free consultation with a Vancouver, WA accident attorney, contact The Scott Law Firm, PLLC today! Phone: (360) 718-3640.

How do I get my vehicle repaired?

First Option: Make a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. If you choose this option, the first thing you will need to do is contact the other driver’s insurance company. The insurance company will then set up a claim number and assign an adjuster to the claim. After the claim has been set up, you will need to wait for the insurance company to complete their investigation and determine whether they will accept or deny your claim (usually this must be completed within 30 days).

Second Option: If the other driver wasn’t insured, their insurance company is taking too long to resolve your claim, or you would simply prefer to deal with your own insurance company (which can be to your advantage in some situations following an auto accident), you can opt to get your vehicle repaired using your own insurance company. The first thing you will need to do is contact your insurance company and confirm you have first party collision coverage, then pay your deductible. Also be sure to ask your insurance company whether you have rental car coverage on your policy and, if so, how long they will pay for you to use a rental car following an auto accident. After you have completed these steps and your vehicle is repaired, you may then seek to recover the expense of your deductible from the other driver’s insurance company plus any rental car expenses you incurred.

Do I have to use the insurance company’s “approved” auto repair shop?

No. If your claim is accepted and the cost of repairs does not exceed the value of your vehicle, you are entitled to choose the auto body shop where your vehicle gets repaired. The insurance company is then required to pay for repairs that will return your vehicle to the same condition it was in before the auto accident occurred. Keep in mind that if your vehicle is several years old or has a lot of miles, the insurance company may only be required to pay for used or reconditioned parts to repair your vehicle. If you have questions about getting your vehicle repaired following a car accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident, you should consult with an experienced auto accident attorney.

What is a “diminished value” claim?

You are entitled to any reduction in the value of your vehicle due to the collision. Frequently this occurs when you have a newer or more expensive car that sustains moderate to significant damage in an auto accident. When this occurs it may be useful to examine appraisal figures before and after the collision to determine the vehicle’s reduction in value. For a small fee (usually less than $500), many authorized dealerships will offer this service.

Does the other driver’s insurance company have to pay for my rental car, towing and storage?

Yes, provided the auto accident was the other driver’s fault and they were insured. If this occurs, you are entitled to a rental car for every day you are unable to use your vehicle following the auto accident (also referred to as “loss of use”). The rental car should be equal in value to the vehicle damaged in the collision. For example if someone rear-ends your brand new BMW, you should be provided with a rental car of equal value such as an Acura, Cadillac, or Mercedes while your vehicle is in the repair shop.

What happens if my vehicle is declared a total loss?

If your vehicle is “totaled” in an auto accident that wasn’t your fault (i.e. the repairs exceed the total value of your vehicle), you are entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle, which generally must be paid within 30 days of making your claim. Fair market value is determined based on a variety of factors including make, model, options, mileage and condition. If you are unsure about the fair market value of your vehicle, check with Kelly Blue Book. Searching your local classified ads or Craigslist for similar cars, trucks, vans or motorcycles can also help provide a frame of reference. Alternatively, you may elect to keep your vehicle, but the settlement check you receive will be reduced by the salvage value.

What if my vehicle was customized or modified before the accident?

If your vehicle was already customized or modified before the auto accident occurred (e.g. custom paint, performance upgrades, after-market stereo, etc.) you should provide this information to the adjuster who is handling your property damage claim along with receipts. If you do not have receipts, you can provide photos and try to estimate the fair market value of the custom parts that were damaged using local classified ads (such as Craigslist) or consult a qualified appraiser.

How do I settle my property damage claim?

Once the insurance adjuster handling your property damage claim has completed their investigation, they will offer you a check to settle your property damage claim. Before accepting this check, make sure you are satisfied with the amount offered. Examine the property damage estimate and any other items warranting your attention. Make sure the check includes the cost of transferring your tags, plus any prorated annual tax and/or registration fees. Also make sure that you are reimbursed for any towing and storage fees as well as rental car expenses (a.k.a. “loss use claim”). If you are unable to settle your property damage claim on your own, or if you have questions about this process, you should immediately consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Additional questions about auto accident cases in Washington or Oregon?

If you were involved in an auto accident in Washington or Oregon and have questions, contact the Scott Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation and speak with a Vancouver, WA accident attorney who can answer your questions: (360) 718-3640.

Disclaimer: Web content is not legal advice. Using this website does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about a legal matter, you should consult with an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the appropriate jurisdiction and is familiar with the facts in your situation. To learn more about how The Scott Law Firm, PLLC can assist you with a personal injury related matter, contact our office today for a free consultation: (360) 718-3640.