The Harper Law Blog

The Harper Law Blog offers news, announcements, thoughts and articles on life, law and our practice areas of emphasis.

10 False Assumptions Made After an Auto Accident

Posted Thursday, January 28, 2016 by Ed Harper

What would you do after being involved in an auto accident? Would you call the police? Would you document the scene? Would you schedule an appointment with your doctor right away?

These are all things to consider after being involved in an auto accident. With 25 years of legal experience, these are the steps to take should you ever find yourself in one.

Here are 10 False Assumptions that some people make when following a car accident:

  1. Insurance company and insurance company representatives are on your side.

  2. The other driver admitted fault for the accident, so I don’t think I need to call the police.

  3. The property damage estimate is accurate because a professional adjuster looked at my car.

  4. I had prior injuries, but the insurance company will believe those injuries were fully resolved at the time of this accident.

  5. My injuries are not that bad and will probably just go away with time.

  6. The insurance company for the at-fault driver will believe me when I tell them how much my bodily injury hurts and how it has affected my life.

  7. The pain has gone away for the most part, so I really don’t have to follow my health care provider’s instructions.

  8. All my medical bills will be covered because someone admitted they were at fault for the auto accident.

  9. My neighbor settled their claim by themselves and obtained a good settlement, so I can too.

  10. I can expect to receive full compensation, including my lost income, because I will be treated fairly.

Hear more about these steps in the latest Conversation with Ed at Spirit 105.3.

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Resolving a Personal Injury Claim - LISTEN

Posted Thursday, January 28, 2016 by Ed Harper

Spirit 105.3’s Conversation with Ed

Have you been injured in a work-related injury, auto accident, medical malpractice? Hear from Ed Harper by clicking the link above on how resolving a personal injury claim doesn’t have to be a long battle you have to deal with alone. Thank you Spirit 105.3 for this Conversation with Ed!

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What to Do Immediately Following an Auto Accident

Posted Monday, January 25, 2016 by Ed Harper

I thought it would be fitting to compile a “What to Do Immediately Following an Auto Accident” list, based upon frequently asked questions.

Often when suffering from shock or experiencing a rush of adrenaline from injuries which can stem from accidents, important steps can be overlooked when making decisions. This list would be useful to keep in your vehicle, should you be involved in or witness an accident to ensure you don’t find yourself in a predicament later on. What you do at the scene is of utmost importance.

The following is my advice based on 25 years of legal experience of what to do immediately after an accident, and in the days to follow:

AT THE SCENE

1. MEDICAL ATTENTION. After determining if anyone is hurt, CALL 911. Ask for a police officer to be sent to the scene, even if no one is injured or the property damage does not seem to be extensive. Creating a record of the collision is of absolute importance, and is vital in the investigation process.

2. ASSESS THE SCENE. If safe to do so, get out of your vehicle to assess the accident and vehicle damage.

3.MOVING YOUR VEHICLE.** Unless you or others are in danger, wait until after the police have arrived and told you it is okay to move your vehicle.

4. TAKE PICTURES. If you have a camera accessible, take pictures from all angles. Take photos of the location, vehicles involved, and anything important to the scene of the crash.

5. OBTAIN INFORMATION. From all drivers, passengers, and witnesses, obtain names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and insurance information (from drivers). For all vehicles, write down the make, model, year, and license plate number.

FOLLOWING AN ACCIDENT

1. NOTIFY YOUR AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY. If you have personal injury protection (“PIP”) or medical payments (“medpay”) through your auto insurance, you can make a claim for your benefits. Be sure the PIP adjuster advises you of all benefits you are entitled to receive and answers all of your questions. These benefits may include medical costs, wage loss continuation, loss of services, and other items of coverage.

2. IF INJURED, SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION. If you have not seen a physician, and you suspect you may be injured, go to your primary care physician as soon as possible. Creating a record of your injury is MANDATORY. Your primary care physician will record your symptoms, and refer to a correct specialist if needed.

3. INFORM YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER. Tell them what happened and how you are feeling. It is very important to inform them of each and every new and different symptom which, in your mind, was caused by the accident. This will ensure your provider can accurately diagnose which injuries were caused in the collision, and provide an objective basis for their diagnosis.

4. KEEP A DIARY OR PAIN JOURNAL. Absolutely. This will be of utmost value when memories fade, and the chronological order of events is jumbled. This can be protected by attorney-client privilege if you hire an attorney. Write down your symptoms and activities you are having trouble with, and write REGULARLY. Consistency is important, and can indicate improvement in symptoms.

5. BEFORE GIVING A STATEMENT TO AN INSURANCE COMPANY… CONTACT AN ATTORNEY. You should immediately contact an attorney who practices in personal injury claims before giving a statement. This will be a written record of YOUR version of what happened, and you will be asked about your injuries. It is only mandatory to cooperate with your own insurance company, contrary to what other representatives may say. The other insurance company is an adversary, and should be treated as such.

6. FOCUS ON GETTING BETTER. Hiring good legal counsel will ease your mind, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your attorney. A legal claim for personal injury takes time, and you want to allow your body to heal. While you’re going through the process, trust your attorney, and place your focus on your health.

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Auto Insurance – What to think about when signing up for a new policy

Posted Friday, June 05, 2015 by Ed Harper

When signing up a client with a new insurance policy, an auto insurer must follow several steps:

First, Washington state law RCW 48.22.085 requires all auto liability insurers to offer personal injury protection (PIP) to their clients. Clients do not have to purchase this, but to decline they must do so in writing. If a client decides after initially rejecting PIP that they want it, they must submit a written request for the insurer to include PIP in the policy. PIP covers medical bills, some wage loss, funeral expenses, and loss of services up to the limits of the specific insurance policy.

Also, Washington state law RCW 48.22.030 requires all auto liability insurers to offer underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage and uninsured motorist (UM) coverage to their clients. As with PIP, if a client decides to decline UIM, they must provide a written rejection. The purpose of this insurance is to cover expenses caused by another motorist who either doesn’t have any insurance coverage (UM) or whose insurance policy only covers part of the expenses (UIM) because their policy limit is lower than the damages. It is important that clients understand what the limits of their own policy are in relation to the UM/UIM they are considering since the more coverage their policy provides, the more likely it is that another driver’s policy will not cover as much. Even if the other motorist is at fault, a client’s insurer might not have to pay all expenses unless the client’s policy includes sufficient UM/UIM.

Auto liability insurers must be clear about the terms in the policy, including explaining terms that are not readily understood. Similarly, the client should make a reasonable effort to understand the terms and agreement. However this can be tricky if a term has a meaning within an industry different from the meaning in plain English. One example is the term “full coverage” which in the auto insurance industry can refer to collision and comprehensive coverage only. Note that this does not have to include either PIP or UM/UIM coverage, for example. Keep that in mind when signing up for new insurance and be careful to understand the terms in the agreement.

It is important to know that UM/UIM coverage does not cover all property damage. Another type of coverage is uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD). Be sure to understand the property damage limit of your UM/UIM coverage since it may or may not apply in certain cases, such as for a hit-and-run. However, rather than buying many specific policies, an umbrella policy is one way to extend your liability limits of an insurance policy through a single addition. It provides coverage for injuries you or your loved ones may have caused; property damage; and, some personal liabilities and lawsuits. If you already have auto insurance but realize you want more, it is one way to protect yourself without buying more auto-specific insurance.Thanks goes to Daniel Dedo for helping assist in this blog post!

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Insurer's Duty to Defend their Insured

Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2015 by Ed Harper

A question arose recently in our office regarding a potential injury claim arising from the driving of car through a parking lot. Fact scenario: Driver who has a automobile policy of insurance is driving through a parking lot. The driver notices a pedestrian in the rear-view mirror clutching their lower leg/foot and hobbling to the curb.

The Good Samaritan driver turns car around and asks the pedestrian if they are ok. Pedestrian proceeds to respond, “no, you hit me” claiming the car drover over her foot.

The issue arises whether the driver’s insurance policy will cover the “accident”.

  • Bottom line: Yes, if the policy was in place at the time of the incident.
  • Terms: Insured – is the person who has purchased the policy
  • Insurer – is the insurance company providing the policy
  • Analysis: the insurance company has a duty to defend in this scenario. This duty to defend is one of the primary duties contractually undertaken by an insurer when it issues a third-party liability policy. Harris, Washington Insurance Law, 3rd Edition Sec. 11.01.

Some benefits of this coverage is the security knowing that the potential claim(s) will be defended and the insured’s interests will be protected. The primary requirement for an insured is the claimed loss is covered by the insurance policy. This means the event must be within the scope of the agreement and within the policy period.

The policy will likely require the insurer to defend even if the allegations of a claim are “groundless, false, or fraudulent”. State Farm v. Emerson, 102 Wn.2d 477, 485-86, 687 P.2d 1139 (1984)

Thus, one is protected from this incident in the parking lot up to the limits of the insurance policy.

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