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I Was Injured In A Car Accident In Vancouver, What Should I Do?

A Vancouver car accident can be a life-changing event. Even if you feel you have not been injured in an accident, it can take days or even weeks to become aware of the symptoms of related injuries. It is important to defend your legal rights beginning the very day of any car accident, no matter how severe or minor.

When you are injured in a car accident, the first thing you should do is write down your recollection of the event. You may be challenged in court, so it is a good idea to make sure your version of events is clear in your mind. You may need to explain the circumstances several times throughout the course of a court case. It is crucial not to contradict yourself!

The following thing you should do is get a check-up. In the early days after a vehicle accident, only a doctor will be able to notice the subtle signs of injury that could become more serious later. After a thorough review of your health, a doctor can let you know whether a complete recovery is possible, how long it may take and what the related costs may be.

To defend yourself in an accident case, you should take every step possible to show you were not the responsible party. It is a good idea to get your car or truck examined at a service station. In many cases, this can help you prove your vehicle was in fine working condition prior to the accident, so mechanical failure was not a factor.

It is also a good idea to assemble witnesses who can testify that you were healthy and able to operate a vehicle at the time of the incident. If an accident took place over the weekend or at night, it might be more important to show that you were not under the influence of any substances. Character witnesses can testify to your responsible nature, too.

By contacting the personal injury firm of Caron, Colven, Robison, Shafton, you will receive the help you need to defend your rights. Our law firm can take over communication with the authorities and other parties so you are less likely to say things that can be used against you in the courts. Our personal injury attorneys are also skilled in getting you settlements that can help you with medical and transportation costs. Without the assistance of an attorney, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the intricacies of such a case.

Get in a Vancouver car accident? Keep it off social media!

If you get in a car accident, don’t post about it on Facebook. It should stay off Twitter, too.

I know that is hard. Because when something interesting happens to a person, most will tell other people about it. Get a job? Tell everyone. Land a record Steelhead? Brag about it to everyone you see.

The same impulse exists when you are in a car accident. Why? Because it is interesting! There is twisted metal, broken glass. You also get to complain about someone else’s boneheaded driving, which feels good. As far as topics go, a car accident is always interesting.

Despite that, it is a bad idea to post anything on social media that relates to a car accident in which you are involved. Pictures, status updates, location check-ins, everything can be used against you in some way or another.

How? In court! This stuff is admissible.

Now, this isn’t necessarily bad. If, for example, you post, “Got rear-ended and now my neck hurts so bad,” or, “Guy ran a stop sign and slammed into my car,” that wouldn’t necessarily cause you any problems. But this is not what people do on Facebook. On Facebook, you embellish. You crack jokes. You vent your anger. You insert cutesy icons or use antagonistic hashtags. In other words, Facebook is where you express yourself in ways that you never would in court.

In other words, you cannot “unsay” “Got rear ended – nbd tho #superman.” If you delete the post, you can be punished for hiding evidence.

The best way to avoid this problem is to simply resist the urge to broadcast this stuff over social media.

How To Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer

Not All Personal Injury Lawyers Are The Same!

Recent conversations with Washington and Oregon insurance adjusters who specialize in automobile accident injury claims left me stunned. It is obvious that most of the people holding themselves out as capable personal injury lawyer are not. They are not ready to try a case. They are not willing to try a case and, they are not able to try a case. The insurance companies know this and they use it to full advantage. “We are seeing jury verdicts with hardly any damages for pain and suffering” one adjuster told me. Who is trying these cases? What are they doing wrong when instead of a multiple of the medical bills the verdict for mental and physical pain, suffering, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life are fractions of the monetary damages incurred? Have we really reached a point where human suffering has no value? No, we have reached a point where anyone can claim to be a personal injury lawyer, training and experience not required.

First, many of these folks are not even members of the trial lawyers association much less active members. They don’t understand basic principles of personal injury law such as “when does my client have to pay back medical payments for injuries sustained in the crash?”

Second, many of these folks are not working for the client. They have concluded in advance that the best they can do is collect most of the medical bills. They are collecting for chiropractors, personal injury protection carriers and health insurers not representing clients with personal injuries. They are happy to take a third of the medical bills, which often exceed the settlements they get. These attorneys do no one a favor when they roll over for the insurance companies.

The next time I hear an adjuster say “but we settle cases like this for that amount all the time”, I won’t have to ask “who actually takes these offers?” I will open the nearest Vancouver or Clark County Washington phone book and turn to the personal injury lawyer ads. I can tell who takes those inadequate settlements by looking at the phone book because I know who does not try cases.

If there is one question you have to ask before you hire a personal injury lawyer it is “how many personal injury cases have you tried?” Make them tell you.

Ask about the seminars that lawyer has attended while you are at it. Have they been to any of the advanced trial practice seminars such as the TLC, AAJ College of Advocacy or Ball-Keenan?

If you are in an auto accident, have a personal injury claim, are injured by a defective product or premises do yourself a favor and hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, not someone fishing for a case they can settle quick and cheap.

Deadly Distraction: Car accidents and Cell Phones

As a Vancouver, Washington personal injury lawyer, you might be surprised to hear how often I see injuries caused by cell phone use. No – I don’t mean overuse injuries caused by excessive gabbing. I mean rear-end collisions caused by people who are using their cell phones while they are driving.

I know – we always post about this, and you always read about it in the news.

But that is because it is a really, really big deal. Last week, an 89-year-0ld woman in North Dakota was killed by a driver who, according to police, was using Facebook on her cell phone when the collision occurred. Read about it here. 

The CDC says that 9 people per day die as a result of distracted driving.  As many as one quarter of all car accidents involve cell phones, according to another group. 

So if you are tired of hearing us talk about it, you can imagine how tired we are of seeing lives ruined by it.

As a lawyer, I have two bits of advice: while you drive, do not touch your cell phone. If someone hits you with their car, call a lawyer who can help you investigate the collision – including facts relating to cell phone use – and inform you of your legal rights.

Wrongful deaths on the rise: car accidents in Clark County

Fatal car accidents in Clark County are skyrocketing at an alarming rate, according to an article in the Columbian.

The disturbing trend goes like this. In 2012, 19 people died in traffic accidents in Clark County. In 2013, 18 people died in traffic accidents in Clark County. This year, in contrast, 24 people have already died in traffic accidents in Clark County.

When asked for any possible explanation, law enforcement can conceive of none.

“There are no common themes,” said Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Dennis Pritchard, who supervises the deputies that investigate traffic fatalities. “We’ve got them in every corner of the county.”

While these numbers speak for themselves, it is easy to lose sight of the human impact that each and every Clark County car accident – fatal or not – has on the people involved. I see this every day as a Clark County personal injury and car accident lawyer. Even “smaller injuries” – let alone catastrophic injuries and fatalities – can exact a huge toll on the injured person.

I encourage everyone to do everything within their control to avoid car accidents: use defensive driving, keep your phone out of arm’s reach, and be smart. For those of you who drive safe and are injured by someone else, my advice? Call us. 

Car accidents in Vancouver: Make sure you are covered

I probably get five calls a week from people in Clark County who have been injured in a car accident and who lack the financial resources to recover from the collision. Medical bills, wage loss, property damage, rental cars – these things add up quickly. Indeed, as a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver, Washington, I am daily reminded that a) car accidents are expensive and b) people often lack the money they need to get lives back on track after a collision.

My advice – across the board, 100 percent of the time – is to make sure that you have sufficient insurance coverage in case someone else hits you with their car. No, it does not matter how good of a driver you are. Let me explain why.

Insurance is a service that allows all drivers to equally share the risk of driving. Since everyone who drives faces the same amount of risk, the logic goes, we should share the risk of driving. That is why almost every state (except for Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Virginia) requires all drivers to have liability insurance. For Washington, see RCW 46.30.020.

Under liability insurance, you pay a monthly premium to your insurer. When you cause someone else injury or death with your car, or if you damage another person’s property with your car, your insurance company pays for your liability in that situation.

Seems simple, right? Well, it gets more complicated. Your insurance company pays for your liability only up to your policy limits. A policy limit is the maximum amount of money that your insurance company will pay under your insurance policy.  In Washington, every driver must have policy limits of at least $25,000 for bodily injury liability (with a total of $50,000 in case two people are injured). See RCW 46.29.090.  These laws, when taken together, means that every driver in Washington should be automatically ready to pay for $25,000 for injuring another person with a motor vehicle.

There are two main problems with the scheme. First, not everyone buys liability insurance. In fact, Washington has fairly high level of uninsured motorists, with anywhere from 16-30 percent of motorists failing to purchase sufficient coverage. Second, car accidents routinely cause more bodily injury than $25,000. If this happens, and if you’re the at-fault party, you’re probably on the hook for the excess judgment. Believe me, you would be surprised to know how often a person lacks sufficient coverage to cover the damage and injury they cause with their motor vehicle. 

If you are not the at-fault party, luckily, liability coverage is not the only kind of coverage. All motorists  can (and should – that’s my advice 100 percent of the time!) buy uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage (frequently referred to as “UIM” coverage). You buy these policies from your own insurance company in addition to your liability coverage. With this coverage, if you get injured by a person who lacks sufficient insurance coverage, your own insurance company covers whatever that driver cannot (up to the policy limits, of course). Additionally, personal injury protection or “PIP” coverage must be offered by all insurers, and provides easy access to quick money for some costs associated with a motor vehicle collision, including medical expenses, lost wages, etc. For more information on these policies, see Bill Robison’s post from last year, which can be seen here.

In the end, my message is simple: make sure you have full insurance coverage! If you get hit by an uninsured or undersinsured driver, you will need it.  Money – easy, quick access to it – can give you the flexibility to lessen the impact that a motor vehicle collision has on your life.

 

After a Clark County car accident, you might see a drone in the sky

Watch the skies above Clark County, for risk-busting, profit-maximizing drones, sent by an insurance company to investigate the immediate aftermath of motor vehicle collisions. It could happen soon. And it’s not my idea; it’s theirs. 

In 2012, there were 3,800 reported car accidents in Clark County. That’s a lot of spying to do. With that much air traffic, I hope they are insured.

 

Distracted Drivers

It is hard to believe that the publicity surrounding the effects of distracted driving has made no apparent dent in this dangerous practice. Leaving my office each evening I count numerous drivers on the phone as they hit the streets. Stopping at a street corner every driver seems to have a phone pressed to their ear as they roll through the crosswalk without looking, narrowly missing pedestrians and sometimes other cars.
Within days one motorcyclist was killed and another injured by a distracted driver in our county. The increase in high speed rear end collisions is largely due to drivers who do not even brake, they have no clue traffic ahead has stopped.
Driving while talking on a cell phone is equivalent to driving after several drinks. Texting while driving is even worse, yet we see drivers doing both everywhere we go.
How can this practice be stopped? Major penalties are one way. Making sure juries hear about it is another. The best way is personal responsibility. Don’t answer or attempt to initiate a phone call while driving. Your life depends on it.

But officer, I was in the Crosswalk!

This is meant to follow up on the recent studies focused on trying to figure out why drivers run down pedestrians in crosswalks during right or left hand turns. Trucks are particularly notorious for doing this due to their many blind spots.

A recent newspaper article brought to mind my experiences with what I refer to as “the pedestrian as an immovable object” problem. Basic physics dictate that in a collision “mass wins”. This means the big object, in these cases the car or truck, wins in the collision. As a result pedestrians struck in crosswalks are RARELY if ever still in the crosswalk after they are hit.

In some cases the pedestrian is knocked out of his or her shoes. Unfortunately, in many cases all we know is that the pedestrian had no shoes when admitted to the hospital. In one case the “witnesses” were critical of the victim because “she was outside with no shoes on”.  None of them thought that perhaps she was literally knocked out of her shoes, as she was.

A common phenomenon is that “witnesses” hear the collision or the screech of brakes. Only then do they look. What they see is the pedestrian lying in the street sometimes far from the crosswalk. The natural conclusion is the pedestrian was jay walking. Of course the fact that the car is stopped mid-crosswalk or just past it, is over looked. In these cases the police report claims the pedestrian was not in the crosswalk. That conclusion is false. It is impossible for a pedestrian to stop a car or truck. Physics won’t allow it.

When the point of impact is within the crosswalk, even at low speeds, it is virtually impossible for the pedestrian to remain in the crosswalk. In one case no fewer than four “eye witnesses” told the officer the pedestrian was running across the street outside the crosswalk. Interviews showed not a single one had actually seen the pedestrian prior to hearing the impact, they then saw her flying through the air. The jeep that hit her was stopped with its over half its length still in the crosswalk.

These cases can be very difficult. The authorities cannot be counted on to perform a complete investigation. They simply don’t have time and their job is to determine if a prosecutable crime was committed. That means proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases the standard is “more likely than not”. The longer the time between the accident and beginning a real investigation the harder it can be to determine the actual point of impact.

It is amazing how few people understand the physics of a collision. To get past this problem hiring an experienced personal injury attorney, SOON after the collision is essential. Nothing can be taken for granted. Just as in motorcycle cases, the eye witness testimony cannot be trusted and a careful and prompt investigation is essential.

Often pedestrian cases will either be rejected by attorneys based on the police conclusion the pedestrian was not in the crosswalk or will be considered a “slam dunk” when the police get it right. As a result evidence is not documented and witnesses not located and interviewed until, “surprise” liability is denied.

Next, “Was the pedestrian dragged?”

Before You Hire a Vancouver Washington Personal Injury Lawyer

The process of hiring a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver can be difficult and it is normal to feel overwhelmed.  A good lawyer will help you win your case, and look out for your interests. There are many issues to consider when choosing a lawyer. Be sure to interview a number of different Vancouver lawyers to be absolutely sure you find the lawyer who will best handle your case. A good place to start is an internet search using Google, Bing, Yahoo, Avvo, Lawyers.com or other tools to run down information.The following questions are intended to help you in the selection process as you choose the right Vancouver attorney.

  • Start with: Have you tried a case like this? Have you arbitrated a case like this? Many who call themselves “personal injury” attorney’s have never tried a case.
  • What training do you have in this area of law? Do not be afraid to ask for documentation of education including continuing education. This is a very important part of selecting the right lawyer for your needs.
  • Do you teach this area of practice to other lawyers? A sure sign of a quality lawyer is acceptance as a teacher among peers.
  • What is your work experience in your areas of practice?  Many lawyers dabble in personal injury and wrongful death cases hoping to pull in a case and make a quick settlement. You do not want a divorce lawyer handling your serious personal injury or wrongful death case. Don’t be afraid to ask how many cases the lawyer has taken to trial or arbitration.
  • What is your rate structure? We believe graduated rate structures are a come on and an indication the lawyer is not willing to fight for you. In our office at Caron, Colven, Robison, Shafton, most personal injury and wrongful death cases are charged a contingent fee of one third at every stage of the proceedings. We do not demand a higher fee to do what you hired us to do, go to trial. We aggressively pursue our cases and anticipate filing most of them.
  • Have you handled this type of case before? Ask for examples.  While not completely necessary to know, it can ease your mind to know that your lawyer has worked on cases like yours in Vancouver, Portland and Southwest Washington.
  • Does the attorney handle appeals? Most aggressive and experienced personal injury, litigaton, insurance law and wrongful death attorneys will have some appellate decisions listed under their name.
  • How are litigation costs handled? Serious personal injury lawyers do not ask you to pay up front or force you to finance your personal injury or wrongful death case as you go. A law firm that cannot afford to fund your case is not a good choice.
  • How will you keep me posted on the progress of the case? Before hiring a Vancouver lawyer make sure you understand how they plan on communicating the details of the case with you. When you are harmed in an accident in Vancouver, contact the law firm of Caron, Colven, Robison & Shafton today for a free initial consultation.
  • Look carefully at the fee agreement. Are you being asked to pay overhead in addition to a contingent fee agreement? Is the agreement more concerned about the lawyer getting paid after you fire them than anything else? Graduated fees are often a sign of a lawyer who does not want to take your case to trial. A low 25% fee followed by 33.33% to 50% fees if the lawyer actually has to go to court can be intended to force you to settle short.