What is the Personal Injuries Claims Process in Washington?Request Free Consultation
If you’ve experienced an injury due to someone else’s actions or inaction, whether in a car accident, slip-and-fall, through a defective product, or any other accident caused by another’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may be feeling the life-altering effects and wondering where to turn to take back control. When an accident causes your life to suddenly revolve around medical treatments, pain, and temporary or permanent disabilities, gaining compensation for your damages is the first step toward maximizing your chances for a full physical and financial recovery.
The aftermath of an accident can be traumatic, but understanding the process for filing a personal injury claim in Washington can help provide a pathway toward recovery.
Understanding Washington’s Statute of Limitations for Accident Claims
Every state has a statute of limitations for the amount of time in which an injury victim can file a claim for damages. This time limit helps to prevent ongoing threats of lawsuits and ensures that cases come to court while the evidence and witness testimony is still available, fresh, and uncompromised. Washington’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is 3 years from the date of the accident or injury-causing event.
The first step toward filing a personal injury claim is doing so in a timely manner. Not only does filing promptly — or as soon as you understand the scope of your injury and its economic and non-economic effects — benefit your case, but most courts will simply throw out a case if the statute of limitations has passed.
Determining the Right Court for Your Case
Washington’s legal system is complex and difficult to navigate. Determining which court has jurisdiction over your case is a necessary step toward starting a civil claim. An experienced personal injury attorney in Washington understands how to ensure your claim is filed in the appropriate jurisdiction with the proper paperwork so it can quickly move forward.
Drafting a Summons and Complaint
Once you and your attorney identify the correct jurisdiction for your case, the next step is properly drafting the summons and complaint. The summons is the official notice in writing that you’ve filed a complaint. The summons alerts the court and the defendant and allows the defendant 20 days to respond. Failing to respond to your summons means you can seek a default judgment in court.
The summons includes no specific information about the details of the case but provides an initial alert.
The official complaint in a personal injury case does include the specifics of the lawsuit, including when, where, and how the accident occurred, your resulting injuries, economic and non-economic damages, and any interactions with the defendant. Your attorney will arrange for the proper party to serve these documents correctly and in a timely manner.
The Discovery Process in Washington Personal Injury Cases
After the summons and complaint process is complete, the case moves into the discovery phase. Attorneys for both parties exchange relative information during this period and work on investigating the details of the case, including examining police reports, medical reports, and any existing video of the accident. If there were witnesses to the accident, they may be deposed during the discovery process so their testimony is on the record.
In some cases, defendants file counterclaims during this period in which case the plaintiff must respond appropriately by filing an answer to the counterclaim to the court.
After the discovery phase concludes, negotiations begin between the plaintiff and the insurance company of the defendant in the hopes of gaining an appropriate settlement. A skilled attorney knows how to draft a compelling demand letter that often resolves the matter in a settlement. In some cases, the negotiations go into mediation or arbitration in a final attempt for an out-of-court settlement. Only if these attempts fail does the claim move forward into litigation in court as a lawsuit.
A good attorney is prepared to argue aggressively on your behalf in court in order to gain compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering so you can focus on your recovery.