Personal Injury & Tort Law

Behrends Law is a unique personal injury law firm based in Bothell, Washington. We represent clients in the Seattle area who have suffered life-changing injuries - often spinal cord or brain injuries - that resulted from an accident or neglect of another person or corporation. As lawyers, we know that one of the most important services we provide to people is accurate information. In this spirit, we have provided this comprehensive list of some of the most frequent questions we hear during consultations. It is a compilation of years of experience with tort law and hundreds of hours of client consultations.

We hope that it provides you with some of the basic, but important information you seek while doing research for yourself or a loved one. If you have a question about your case that is not answered here, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Personal Injury & Tort Law

Behrends Law is a unique personal injury law firm based in Bothell, Washington. We represent clients in the Seattle area who have suffered life-changing injuries - often spinal cord or brain injuries - that resulted from an accident or neglect of another person or corporation. As lawyers, we know that one of the most important services we provide to people is accurate information. In this spirit, we have provided this comprehensive list of some of the most frequent questions we hear during consultations. It is a compilation of years of experience with tort law and hundreds of hours of client consultations.

We hope that it provides you with some of the basic, but important information you seek while doing research for yourself or a loved one. If you have a question about your case that is not answered here, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 Continue Reading
Table of Contents

Insightful Answers to Questions About Personal Injury Law

How is a personal injury (PI) claim filed?

“Filing” is a bit of a misnomer. When an individual is involved in a motor vehicle collision, the first step for them is to make sure to get a police report. Once that is accomplished, they should report it to their insurance. Once we are involved, we will collect the individual’s insurance information, such as their PIP claim number, adjuster’s name, and phone number. We will also receive the third-party’s information; meaning, the person who hit our client. That includes a claim number, and the adjuster’s name and number. We will submit a letter of representation to both insurance companies. At that point, the claim is filed with the insurance company, and the client can focus on receiving the medical care they need.

We start with collecting all the information from all parties involved and immediately sending out a letter of representation to the insurance companies to notify them of our intent to represent the client in this matter and direct all statements to us. This quickly free’s you up to get the medical treatment you need while not having to worry about the insurance company. We recommend treatment and track your medical expenses and bills to maximize the settlement you receive at the end of the claim.

What exactly does the attorney do in a PI case?

A personal injury lawyer plays many roles in an injury case. Our job is to advocate. Advocate for the client to insurance companies, and even sometimes doctors. We also defend against insurance companies. Insurance companies are big, multi-billion dollar companies. They like to inflict their will. My job is to inflict my client’s will.

The first and foremost thing that a good personal injury attorney can do is relieve stress for the client – allowing the client to seek and receive the care they need. A good attorney will also assist in getting the client the proper care. This means getting them to the right doctors and making sure all involved know what the treatment plan is.

Another valuable component a personal injury attorney does is be the shield to the client from the various insurance companies. Most, especially companies like Allstate and Farmers, will bombard clients in order to protect their bottom line. Once an attorney is hired, the insurance companies must only deal with the lawyer. These companies often pester clients with calls, leading with, “How are you? You sound like you are feeling much better.” Most normal people do not understand that answering an adjuster with, “Yes, I feel a little better,” will actually result in a lower settlement and the company often cutting off benefits that you’ve paid for in order to ensure you get the proper care.

Obviously, the first goal for a PI attorney is to ensure that the client (1) gets the care they need, and (2) gets appropriate compensation for those injuries. Injuries – some serious – can develop weeks after the accident. Clients who do not go through the process a lot do not necessarily understand that. Compensation includes some intangible things as well. Things like pain and suffering, interruption to your life, anxiety, depression, or loss of wages all should be included in a good PI attorney’s analysis when appropriate.

The final component a PI attorney adds is reducing medical bills and liens. The number one cause of bankruptcy in Washington State is unpaid medical bills. A good PI attorney ensures that all bills are paid, there are no existing liens, the client gets fairly compensated beyond those bills, and the PI attorney’s bottom line never comes before the client’s.

On average, we find that we can negotiate insurance liens down by 20 percent beyond the 33% immediate reduction. While this is not a guarantee in your case, and each case is different, we are confident that we will have similar success here. So, if we are successful in reducing the medical liens in the hypothetical settlement above, the insurance company would accept approximately $5,333.60. The additional $1,333.40 reduction would be added to your take home.

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Can I file a claim without an attorney?

Absolutely. There are some cases in which we suggest that the client not hire an attorney. If we cannot add value to your case, we will not take it. While it can still be a difficult process for the client to wade through the various insurance companies and their tactics, some cases do not require an attorney.

How much does a personal injury attorney cost?

Typically, in Washington State, a client will pay one-third (33%) of whatever the total settlement is. Clients do not pay up front. The fee comes out of whatever the negotiated settlement is. For example, when we negotiate a $1,000,000 claim, our fee is $330,000. Our client data actually reflects that we reduce our fee over 80% of the time. This means the client pockets more. As they should.

Fairness is also very important to us. We will never take more than our client receives; you suffered the injuries, and we should not benefit from your misfortune.

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Can I file a claim without an attorney?

Absolutely. There are some cases in which we suggest that the client not hire an attorney. If we cannot add value to your case, we will not take it. While it can still be a difficult process for the client to wade through the various insurance companies and their tactics, some cases do not require an attorney.

How much does a personal injury attorney cost?

Typically, in Washington State, a client will pay one-third (33%) of whatever the total settlement is. Clients do not pay up front. The fee comes out of whatever the negotiated settlement is. For example, when we negotiate a $1,000,000 claim, our fee is $330,000. Our client data actually reflects that we reduce our fee over 80% of the time. This means the client pockets more. As they should.

Fairness is also very important to us. We will never take more than our client receives; you suffered the injuries, and we should not benefit from your misfortune.

What percentage does a personal injury attorney take?

If we do negotiate a settlement, our typical fee agreement allows us to collect one-third of the gross settlement. We reserve the right to reduce our fee, but we cannot take more than one-third, which is standard in our industry.

What is a settlement?

A settlement is a compromise negotiated with the at-fault insurance company. The client agrees to not sue the person who hit them for a particular sum of money.

How long does it take to finish my case / when do I get paid / how do I get paid?

It varies. The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is generally three years. This means a client has three years to resolve the claim, or the attorney for the client needs to sue the at-fault driver.

Resolving liens and medical bills take various amounts of time, depending on the amount of the settlement and the number of bills. The statute of limitations for resolving liens is generally six years.

The amount of time a client’s case will take is dependent upon the client’s needs, injuries, treatment, prognosis, and various bills. On average, our office closes most non-life threatening injury claims within six to eight months.

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Questions to ask when deciding on an attorney for your case?

Experience is important. How many PI cases have you done. What makes your office uniquely situated to advocate for me, in particular. A client’s relationship with their personal injury attorney is unlike many other relationships. It is more than a mere transaction. A good PI attorney is an attorney, as well as a partial doctor, counselor, and full-time advocate. We have even watched kids for clients going to doctor’s appointments.

Are there any unique rules in Washington state or local counties/municipalities that could affect my case?

That is a big question. I can discuss particular cases, such as Mahler, which deals with liens, or other important cases.

How long from the date of the injury do I have to file a claim?

The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is three years. This means that if the claim is not negotiated with the insurance company within that time

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Questions to ask when deciding on an attorney for your case?

Experience is important. How many PI cases have you done. What makes your office uniquely situated to advocate for me, in particular. A client’s relationship with their personal injury attorney is unlike many other relationships. It is more than a mere transaction. A good PI attorney is an attorney, as well as a partial doctor, counselor, and full-time advocate. We have even watched kids for clients going to doctor’s appointments.

Are there any unique rules in Washington state or local counties/municipalities that could affect my case?

That is a big question. I can discuss particular cases, such as Mahler, which deals with liens, or other important cases.

How long from the date of the injury do I have to file a claim?

The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is three years. This means that if the claim is not negotiated with the insurance company within that time

What is the difference between filing a claim and a lawsuit?

A claim is filed with the insurance company. A lawsuit is filed in the appropriate court and served upon the person who hit the client.

Do I have to go to court if I hire an attorney?

No. Most cases resolve well before filing or trial.

If a case goes to trial, does it cost me any money?

No. It will cost nothing out of pocket, all costs incurred by Behrends Law will be paid after settlement is reached

How long does a trial take?

It depends. Trial is rare, but in the event the case proceeds to trial, it can take up to 14 months to get to trial. Trial itself can be one day or several weeks, depending on the complexity of the case.

What and who are all the parties involved in a personal injury trial?

Our client (person making claim, also referred to as “the first-party”), the person at fault (the person against whom we are seeking a claim against their insurance, also referred to as the “third-party”), the insurance company, experts if we need them, treating doctors, and of course your legal team.

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Why are some cases settled vs trial?

Success stories? In a confidential settlement, we secured policy limits from both the at-fault and the client’s under-insured motorist policy for a herniated disc. Settlement exceeded $300,000.

In a recent motor vehicle collision, our client suffered a torn meniscus, among other minor injuries. Medical expenses totaled under $25,000. We secured over $200,000 from the at-fault driver’s policy and the client’s under-insured motorist policy.

A client suffered a herniated disc in her lower back which was exacerbated by a car accident. Medical bills totaled under $20,000. We secured a settlement of $90,000.

These are just a few. But there aren’t like a billion of them.

Insurance considerations

Insurance will consider your previous and current medical history, police reports from the accident, and similar cases that they have handled. Often times, insurance companies will seek to shirk responsibility for injuries that are pre-existing but exacerbated by an accident. This is why you hire a lawyer. Washington State law does not allow insurance companies to do this. We ensure they do not.

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Why are some cases settled vs trial?

Success stories? In a confidential settlement, we secured policy limits from both the at-fault and the client’s under-insured motorist policy for a herniated disc. Settlement exceeded $300,000.

In a recent motor vehicle collision, our client suffered a torn meniscus, among other minor injuries. Medical expenses totaled under $25,000. We secured over $200,000 from the at-fault driver’s policy and the client’s under-insured motorist policy.

A client suffered a herniated disc in her lower back which was exacerbated by a car accident. Medical bills totaled under $20,000. We secured a settlement of $90,000.

These are just a few. But there aren’t like a billion of them.

Insurance considerations

Insurance will consider your previous and current medical history, police reports from the accident, and similar cases that they have handled. Often times, insurance companies will seek to shirk responsibility for injuries that are pre-existing but exacerbated by an accident. This is why you hire a lawyer. Washington State law does not allow insurance companies to do this. We ensure they do not.

How small of a case is too small?

No case is too small for us to review. We offer free reviews of any case, and clients have nothing to lose by getting honest advice.

What is a contingency fee?

It is a fee agreement that is contingent on the lawyer securing you some money. If the lawyer gets nothing, you pay nothing. Contingent fees must be reasonable. One-third is generally considered reasonable in the industry.

What types of personal injury cases do you handle?

We take motor vehicle collisions, pedestrian accidents with motor vehicles, machinery injuries, animal bites, wrongful death, and injuries from falling.

Other questions/subtopics related to a particular type or class of case you have experience with or would like to target (spinal cord injuries, for example)

We have a lot of experience with spinal cord injuries. Sonny personally suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident, and was straddled with over $100,000 in medical bills. He negotiated the case and resolved the bills, while pocketing a fair settlement.

Sixty-percent of our cases involve spinal cord injuries at this date. We are familiar with the injuries, the good doctors, and the appropriate surgeons and costs.

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