These are the most common terms used in personal Injury law:
The statute of limitations is essentially how long you have to file an injury claim against the at-fault person, business, or insurance company. For example, Washington State has a statute of limitations of three (3) years on most injury claims.
If you are getting close to three (3) years from your injury and are still hurting, you need to find a personal injury attorney like The Advocates. Your attorney will be able to file your case with your county’s court system so that you can continue treatment and still receive a settlement for your ongoing injuries.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is very useful to you should you ever get into a motor vehicle accident. However, PIP is not required in Washington State. When you first sign up for car insurance your insurance agent should ask if you would like PIP added to your policy. If you reject, you will have to sign a waiver form (if they do not ask and you do not sign a PIP waiver, you automatically have PIP on your policy).
PIP can be used whether or not you are at fault for the accident. If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist who is hit by a motor vehicle, the at-fault driver’s PIP will also cover you. Here are just a few of the injury-related bills that PIP will pay for:
- Hospital visits
- Urgent care or clinic visits
- Chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage visits
- Time loss if you are unable to work
- Household help if you are unable to complete chores around the house
Underinsured Motorist coverage (UIM) is another car insurance policy addition that is useful in a motor vehicle accident. All insurance policies have limits, which is the most the insurance company will pay out. If the at-fault driver’s insurance limits do not cover all your medical bills, then a UIM claim will be opened with your insurance. Once the claim is open, your attorney will send a demand to the insurance adjuster and hopefully receive a settlement without the need to file a lawsuit. It is essentially the same as a liability or UM claim.
Many insurance adjusters and policies use UIM and UM interchangeably; however, it’s good to know the difference between the two. A UIM claim will only be opened if your liability claim settles but doesn’t cover all of your expenses. A UM claim will only be opened if the at-fault driver has no insurance.
A contingency fee is the money your personal injury attorney receives only after your case settles. This fee is a usually a percentage of your settlement and can be found in your contract. Contingency fees are very common in personal injury cases and sometimes fluctuate percentages based on whether or not the attorney will have to file a lawsuit. Always make sure you know whether or not your attorney works on a contingency fee basis.
Liability is a term used to describe responsibility for something. For example, the driver that caused a motor vehicle accident is liable for the accident. In Washington State, liability for an accident can be split when no one is sure who caused the accident.
Liability insurance is a type of general insurance that covers damages from an accident you have caused. Liability insurance is required in Washington State on all car insurance policies. The at-fault party’s liability insurance will pay for a plaintiff’s injuries once a liability claim is opened. The minimum limits for liability insurance in Washington State are:
- $25,000 of bodily injury or death of 1 person in any 1 accident.
- $50,000 of bodily injury or death of any 2 people in any 1 accident.
- $10,000 of injury to or destruction of property of others in any 1 accident.
Uninsured Motorist coverage (UM) is a car insurance policy addition that can help you in a motor vehicle accident. If the at-fault driver does not have any insurance, you would be unable to file a liability claim to receive a settlement. However, if you added UM to your own policy, you can open a UM claim to receive compensation for your injuries. A UM claim works the same way a UIM or liability claim works. Your attorney will send a demand to your insurance adjuster and hopefully obtain settlement without filing a lawsuit.
Many insurance adjusters and policies use UM and UIM interchangeably; however, it’s good to know the difference between the two. A UM claim will only be opened if the at-fault driver has no insurance. A UIM claim will only be opened if your liability claim settles but doesn’t cover all of your expenses.
The plaintiff is the person who opens a claim against another party. In personal injury cases, the plaintiff is usually the person who was injured and the defendant is the person who either directly or indirectly caused the injury.
Depositions are sworn statements obtained out of court and written down if needed for a lawsuit. Depositions can be requested by either the plaintiff’s attorney (requesting to depose the defendant) or the defendant’s attorney (requesting to depose the plaintiff). During a deposition, you will be asked questions about what occurred during and after the accident by the opposing party’s attorney. A court reporter will also likely be present to accurately record what is being said.
Before your deposition, your attorney will discuss with you the ins and outs of giving a statement. Your attorney will also be with you during the deposition. However, you will be unable to ask your attorney any other questions while the deposition is taking place. Some questions asked by the opposing attorney can cause stress or annoyance, but if the questions become too bothersome, your attorney may object to them.
Workers compensation is a type of insurance that pays for medical expenses and time/wages lost for workers injured while on the job. If you are injured on the job, rather than use your health insurance, you should instead use your workers compensation. In Washington State, most workers compensation claims are handled by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). If you are injured on the job, you will have to open a claim with L&I and have it approved in order for your expenses to be paid. When you go into treatment, you will give the L&I claim number to your providers for payment.
During your treatment, L&I will obtain reports of your treatment and close your claim when a physician has declared you are back to your pre-injury status. However, sometimes L&I closes claims without a physician’s approval while you are still seeking treatment. In these cases, your attorney will petition L&I to reopen your claim.