by Ryan Pauley of The Pauley Law Group
Many people don’t know what type of insurance benefits they have under their automobile policy until an accident occurs. Two of the most important benefits under any automobile policy are Personal Injury Protection (commonly referred to as “PIP”) and Underinsured Motorist Insurance (commonly referred to as “UM”).
PIP coverage pays for any of the costs associated with medical treatment that is related to the auto accident that you were involved in. PIP can also cover lost wages and any other expenses incurred because of the crash, but these amounts are usually limited to a weekly dollar amount. The two most common PIP coverage amounts in Washington State are $10,000.00 and $35,000.00.
UM coverage provides benefits to the victim in the car crash, when the person responsible for the accident has little or no insurance to pay for the costs and damages that resulted from the crash. The minimum UM benefit coverage that a person can purchase in Washington is $25,000.00. This amount can be as high as $100,000,000 (one hundred million?) and of course like all insurance the more benefits you get the higher is the cost.
When a person in Washington State purchases automobile insurance, the Company providing the policy has a duty under state law to offer both PIP and UM insurance to the purchaser. If the purchaser declines PIP and/or UM coverage, the insurance company must obtain a written waiver form the purchaser in writing which declines the purchase of these benefits. If the insurance company fails to obtain this written waiver, then it is required to provide the purchaser with the state minimum benefits at the insurance company’s cost.
For example, assume I purchase an automobile policy in Washington State and decline both PIP and UM benefits to keep the premium low. The insurer then fails to obtain a written waiver from me stating that I am declining PIP and UM coverage. I then purchase the policy. The next day I am involved in an automobile crash and the person causing the crash has no insurance. Under Washington law, the insurance company who sold me the policy must provide me with $10,000.00 in PIP benefits and $25,000.00 in UM benefits at its own cost.
If you can afford it always purchase PIP and UM benefits. With the costs of medical treatment and the number of people who drive without insurance these days, it is too much of a risk to not have these benefits. If for some reason you didn’t purchase these benefits, and you are involved in a crash, make sure your attorney checks to see if you signed a written waiver for your insurance company that waives PIP and/or UM coverage. If your insurance company cannot produce this waiver, demand that they pay benefits.
To learn more about Ryan Pauley and The Pauley Law Group visit http://www.pauleylawgroup.com/blog/i-don%E2%80%99t-have-pip-or-um-coverage-or-do-i
by, Ryan Pauley
After you’ve decided that you need a personal injury attorney, you have to decide which one to select. Although there are thousands of attorneys practicing personal injury law in the Bellevue and Seattle area, the following should help you narrow your search to the best person who can represent you.
Narrow Your Search – The first step in locating an attorney is to narrow your search to attorneys who specifically practice personal injury law. I know this is a basic step, but it cannot be under estimated because not all lawyers practice personal injury law. In fact, most have no experience in this area whatsoever. I’ll admit that before becoming a personal injury attorney, I, like many others, thought that personal injury was as a basic area that any attorney could practice. However, after practicing in this area for the last two years I can tell you that it is a highly complex area and the attorney must donate at least a substantial portion of his or her practice be effective.
Narrow it Again – Once you’ve narrowed your search to personal injury lawyers, narrow it again and find a personal injury attorney that has experience representing clients who have been injured in the same way as you. For example, if you’ve been involved in a low impact car accident, find a personal injury attorney that focuses his or her personal injury practice on low impact car accidents. Conversely, if you’ve been injured in the course of treatment by a doctor or other health care professional, narrow your search to personal injury attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice. Again, personal injury law is very broad and has many unique practice areas. Therefore, you need to find a personal injury attorney who has experience representing plaintiffs that have experienced an injury similar to yours.
Find out the fee – Personal injury attorneys generally charge a contingency fee. This means that there are no upfront attorney fees, but the attorney will receive a percentage of any settlement he or she recovers for you. In a contingency fee situation, if you recover nothing, your attorney receives no fees from you. The most common amount is thirty-three percent of the total recovered but that could increase if your case requires a trial. If the attorney refuses to take your case on a contingency, I suggest going elsewhere.
Communication not Location – Communication with the attorney is much more important than his or her location. Years ago it was important to have a lawyer that was a few minutes from your work or home. However, thanks to cell phones and email, this is no longer the case. During the course of the representation, you will likely meet with your attorney between two to five times. In contrast, you’ll speak, or should speak, to him or her more than thirty times. Therefore, it should be much easier to contact your attorney than to physically see him or her. In addition, to facilitate communication with your attorney, make sure you have the attorney’s direct line and email address. Also, arrange a time and day to speak every two weeks on the phone so that you can provide one another with updates on the case.
Like the Lawyer and the Person – After narrowing down your choices using the above criteria, it will ultimately come time to meet with the attorney or attorney(s) during an initial consult. First, if you have personal injury case, the initial consult should be free. If an attorney attempts to charge you for an hour of his or her time, take your business elsewhere. Assuming the consult is free this will be your opportunity to learn about the attorney. During the consult I suggest asking the lawyer to explain his or her experience and why he or she believes they are the most qualified attorney to represent you. In addition to these professional questions, make sure to get an idea of who the attorney is as a person. Remember, you will be spending significant time dealing with this individual. Therefore you should have a good idea of who they are before you agree to form this professional relationship.
In addition to learning about the merit’s of your case, the initial consult will serve two other purposes for the client. First, you will learn more about the attorney professionally and personally. Second you will see a glimpse of the attorney’s advocacy skills as he or she attempts to persuade you to retain him or her as your lawyer. If after this conversation, you believe the attorney is the right person from the job, then your search is over. If you don’t feel confident with the attorney, don’t be afraid to keep looking for another “needle”.
Ryan Pauley is an attorney with Pauley Law Group in Seattle Washington, and serves clients in both Seattle and the Eastside (Bellevue, Kirkland). Ryan’s personal injury practice focus on injuries resulting from low impact car accidents. Ryan earned his law degree from Seattle University School of Law in May 2008 where he graduated with honors. During law school, Ryan worked in the legal department at Insightful Corporation where he drafted and reviewed contracts and licensing agreements. Ryan also volunteers as a lawyer at the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic where he is working on a clemency petition for a man convicted under Washington State’s “three strikes” law.
If you would like to contact Mr. Pauley you can call his office at 206-684-9454 ext. 9654, or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like more information about Mr. Pauley please visit his web site at http://www.pauleylawgroup.com.
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Dr. Michael Weir is the clinic director at Bellevue Whiplash Center at Back in Action Chiropractic. We will also be hosting a variety of relevant guest bloggers to help you understand your injuries better.