When you accidentally cut your hand while cooking dinner, you can accept the pain, the bandages and even the ER bill. But what if someone walked up to you and cut your hand? It would be harder to accept. That’s because someone else is responsible. Someone else could have prevented the pain, the bandages and the medical bills.
Now apply that example to a car accident. Someone else was at fault, even if it was an accident. Why should you have to pay for the fallout?
Thanks to Washington State law, you don’t have to. You can file a personal injury claim to recover compensation. Ahead, we’ll discuss the Washington State personal injury claims process. For more information, reach out to Will & Will today.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is a lawsuit that a plaintiff (the injured person) files against a defendant or defendants (the person or people who caused the injury). If this lawsuit is successful, the plaintiff is awarded compensation intended to match the financial and nonfinancial ways the accident harmed them (damages). The defendant must pay this compensation.
You can file a personal injury claim for almost any kind of accident that someone else caused through negligence. For example, if you slipped and fell on a spill in a grocery store, were bitten by your neighbor’s dog, or got rear-ended by a semi-truck, you could file a personal injury claim in Washington State.
According to Revised Code of Washington, Section 4.22.900, any party who bears a part of the fault for the accident that injured is liable for your damages. That means they are legally obligated to compensate you.
A Step-by-Step Guide to the Personal Injury Claims Process
Below, we discuss the step-by-step process for filing a personal injury claim in Washington State. After you have received proper medical care, you can take the following steps to file your claim.
Step #1: Put Together Your Complaint
The first step in the Washington State personal injury claims process is putting together the papers you will file with the court. This document — known as a “complaint” or “petition” — will provide the basis for your claim. Your complaint will need to describe what happened, how was the at-fault party negligent and how much compensation you want.
Once you have filed your complaint with the court, you will have to send the defendant a summons that lets them know you are suing them.
Step #2: Get the Timing Right
The personal injury claims process in Washington state has a lot of moving parts, many of which involve strict deadlines for filing paperwork and taking other actions. The biggest deadline is the statute of limitations. This is the amount of time you have from the date of your injury to file your personal injury claim. In Washington, you have three years (Revised Code of Washington, Section 4.16.090).
That may sound like plenty of time, but when you factor in recovery time, the time it takes to build and support your claim, and the time it takes to fill out all the paperwork correctly, it’s an easy deadline to miss.
On top of that, you have various other deadlines to keep in mind. For instance, if you wait too long between filing your complaint and having the summons served to the defendant, your claim might be in trouble. Confusing deadlines are one of the top reasons why people hire personal injury lawyers to help with their lawsuits.
Step #3: Discover and Review
After the defendant has had the opportunity to file a response to your initial complaint, the pre-trial discovery process can begin. This is when your attorney and the defendant’s attorney ask for evidence and witness statements from each other. They use this to build their arguments.
This process can take a long time because all of the evidence must be reviewed. And if there is new evidence, both sides must have a chance to look at it. Once the discovery process has ended, the defendant can ask the court to throw out the case if your argument or evidence is weak or flawed. With an experienced attorney’s help, this bid to end your claim should not be successful.
Step #4: Begin Settlement Negotiations
If the defendant and their attorney are willing to negotiate, this is when you can begin negotiating for a monetary settlement. Typically, the stronger your personal injury claim is, the more likely the defendant is to offer a settlement.
During this part of the personal injury claims process, the two sides discuss terms and argue over what a fair settlement looks like. This happens outside of court. If both sides reach a settlement agreement, the claim ends there.
Step #5: Go to Court
If a settlement is not reached, it proceeds to court. The two sides present their cases in front of a judge and/or jury. The timeline varies from case to case and can last anywhere from a day to a week or longer. At the end, the judge or jury will determine whether the defendant is guilty of what you have accused them of and to what degree.
Then, they decide how much compensation the defendant must pay you. Throughout this process, having a trusted legal ally on your side is an invaluable asset. At every bend in the road of the personal injury claims process, there is a hazard that could threaten your ability to recover compensation. On top of this, an experienced lawyer will help you maximize your compensation.
Navigate the Personal Injury Claims Process With Ease
The steps above offer an overview of the process, but there are many variables that can affect your personal injury claim. Because each situation is unique, it’s important to partner with skilled legal counsel to develop a plan of action. This takes the burden off of your plate so that you can focus on healing while your lawyers focus on fighting for you. To avoid common mistakes and maximize your compensation, reach out to the trusted personal injury lawyers at Will & Will. Call 206-209-5585 or contact us online to get started.