Personal Injury in Washington
It's important to understand the context for what is called a “tort,” or a personal injury claim. Essentially, it's a civil claim seeking dollars as restitution for harms caused by another person or entity. For example, consider as a useful metaphor the idea that if someone breaks your window, they are responsible for repairing and replacing the damaged glass.
This legal remedy involves three primary issues: liability, causation, and damages. Liability is proof of who's at fault and responsible; causation is proof that a specific act of negligence caused a particular harm; damages are proof of the harms and losses that are directly caused by the negligent act.
The evidence of damages can include things that can be calculated like treatment expenses and wage loss — as well as things that are not subject to quantifiable measurement or calculation, like quality of life and emotional distress. You are often the source of the proof of your own claim. For instance, if you go to the doctor for treatment, that creates positive proof I can use as your personal injury attorney. If you do not go for treatment, that creates negative proof the opposing side can use.
Keep in mind that the “burden of proof” (meaning evidence that is “more probable than not”) is always on the injured party. Let’s take a closer look at the three primary elements of restitution our Issaquah personal injury attorneys will seek out.
Liability comes in many shapes and sizes. In a vehicle incident, it's clear that Washington has “rules of the road” based on specific statutes and standards. Frequently, however, if there's no investigation at the scene or independent witnesses, it's often a "he said or she said" dynamic.
There can be many contributing causes in any incident. Some of those are directly related to the weather, or the design of the highway, or the perceptions or distractions of other things going on in vehicles, such as texting. The most fundamental causation principle can be summarized as the "but for" test: “but for” the negligent actions, would the harms and injuries have occurred?
It is also helpful to understand that causation in the medical world may have a specific definition, and even though medicine is incredibly important in the legal environment, it's frequently more important to think about causation in terms of the "but for" perspective. I often use non-medical witnesses like family members, coworkers, and others to prove that the injured person did not have these harms, problems, symptoms, or limitations before the accident, and that they did have these harms after the accident. This is just one of the reasons why its so important to hire the right personal injury attorney in Issaquah and surrounding areas of Washington.
Injury claims typically involve different kinds of harms/damages, including economic losses and non-economic losses:
Economic losses: These are losses that can be calculated. In a typical personal injury case, harms involve past reasonable and necessary treatment expenses and future reasonable and necessary treatment expenses. There are other economic losses like past and future wage loss or lost earning capacity due to injuries. Note that future losses are frequently calculated based on opinions of doctors, experts like life-care planners, economists, and others, so there's always the perspective that future losses are inherently ambiguous or speculative.
Non-economic losses: These are losses that cannot be calculated. They include emotional distress, past and future physical and emotional pain, as well as quality-of-life issues. These are factors to be included in a personal injury claim as they are components of the harms caused.
The Role of Insurance Companies
Although an overview of liability, causation, and damages is a helpful way to understand personal injury claims, it is also true that these legal distinctions do not address or anticipate the evolving roles of insurance companies. Insurance is often based on a variety of complex factors, including contractual relationships, reimbursement rights, state and federal statutory limitations, and more. To fully understand your situation, you’ll need to understand the nature of insurance companies and their culture.
Impersonal & Indifferent
My perspective on the insurance industry sees the corporate world as dominated by economics and indifference. To the insurance culture, you are not a person. You are only a file, nothing personal…but the industry gets premiums on the front end, and any claims that they have to pay, they prefer to delay as long as possible and pay as little as possible. Simple economics, perhaps — but for many years, my team of personal injury attorneys in Issaquah and I have viewed the industry as hostile, indifferent, and inhumane.
However, "it is what it is" as an industry, and most of the factors and indifferent claim evaluations are generated from their computer system and their algorithms/software, where they input metrics and factors of age, gender, pre-existing conditions, and dollar value of property damage to the vehicles (as a way to assess the physics of the impact and the potential for harm and injury). My point is there are many arguments that insurance companies make to defend their own evaluations, which are applied to tens of thousands of cases on a daily basis. Again, as a person bringing a claim for harms caused by an insured, you are just a file — and they want you to go away. Our team of liability and insurance lawsuit attorneys in Issaquah is here to make sure you are more than just a file.
Here are a few of the standard insurance defense arguments that may be utilized. Remember, the injured person always has the burden of proof to establish liability, causation, and damages to defeat each of the following:
Denial of the Event Itself
The insurance company argues that this incident never even happened, all in an effort to create ambiguity and confusion, all of which ultimately helps defeat your personal injury claim. Don’t forget that the injured party has the burden of proof, and in creating doubt or ambiguity, the defense is focused on reducing the momentum of the injured person’s legal case. These tactics serve the insurance industry as a whole.
Denial of the Negligent Party’s Fault
If you can prove the accident did happen, they might argue it was not the fault of the negligent party, or that it was also partly your fault (this is called comparative negligence and reduces damages), or that it was the fault of another party over whom they had no control.
Denial of Your Injuries
Insurance companies might deny that you were injured. If you can prove you were injured, they then could challenge the severity of the harms and argue that the injury is not as bad as you claim. They may argue that you really suffer from a pre-existing condition (the natural progression of which would have led to this condition and treatment anyway). They will often claim your doctors and other providers are biased or incompetent, and they will hire insurance examiners (called IME doctors) to minimize any harms caused.
All of these arguments are made just to challenge your ability to carry your burden of proof. Insurance companies want to create ambiguity and confusion in order to strengthen their side.
How The Pearson Law Firm, P.S. Can Help
As the insurance industry relies on their tactics of ‘Deny, Delay, and Distort,’ my team of Issaquah personal injury attorneys and I work diligently on all issues, including harms and damages. My approach to submitting claims for review, negotiation, and potential resolution includes calculating the treatment expenses that have been incurred due to the injury and separating those from any unrelated conditions, and providing a detailed timeline and chronology when needed. The insurance industry will always document gaps in care and will want to argue that if there was a gap in care of six months, it means the person was fully recovered, or wasn't really hurt — or if they were hurt, there must be something else that happened during the gap in treatment. At The Pearson Law Firm, P.S., we'll strive to counter these tactics and pursue the compensation you need with our talented group of liability and insurance lawsuit attorneys in Issaquah.
A Proactive Approach
Considering the context for personal injury claims, and the attitude and arguments the insurance industry will predictably make in every case (again, subject to their algorithms, and having nothing to do with the human beings involved or accepting responsibility for the harm caused), I take a proactive approach to reviewing the merits on liability, causation, and damage issues. The potential downsides of your case need to be anticipated as defense arguments and proactively dealt with in advance through witnesses (such as treating providers) and with adequate documentation.
The legal process is such that the more I try to obstruct or evade or not address an issue, or be silent on a particular topic, the greater the interest shown by the insurance industry. That’s why my approach is to be forthcoming within my team and with you as my client. Be aware that you are always subject to the judgment and the perception of others; whether something is "half-full" or "half-empty" is largely influenced by how you and I present the facts.