What is uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?

When the person responsible for your injuries (called the “third-party”) has low liability insurance coverage, insufficient to compensate for the harms and losses caused by that person, we are often able to obtain the limits of their liability coverage. The minimum amount of liability coverage required by Washington law is $25,000.

The next layer of coverage is the “uninsured” or “underinsured” motorist coverage (UIM) on your own insurance policy. That layer of insurance coverage can be claimed if you are not “made whole” by the first settlement. Your insurance company stands in the shoes of the offending driver and becomes your adversary, they will argue against you, even though they are your insurance company.

Your UIM coverage is available to make up the difference between what you received from the third-party insurance and your actual damages. This means that your own insurance company can take into account that you have already received $25,000. This is referred to in the industry as the “offset.”

Before we can accept a limits offer from the third-party, Washington law requires that we offer your own insurance company a chance to step in and pursue the lawsuit against the third-party. The reason for the rule is that your insurance company has a “subrogated interest” which allows them to recover their potential losses from the 3rd party. By settling and signing a release of all claims, you extinguish your insurance company’s subrogated interest.  This is typically done through a “Hamilton” letter which was derived after the case of Hamilton v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Washington. 107 Wash.2d 721, 733 P.2d 213 (1987).

As an example, suppose the person responsible for your loss has significant personal assets, but only $25,000 in liability insurance. You would be entitled to pursue your lawsuit all the way through a jury trial to a verdict and then collect the $25,000 of liability insurance. In addition, you could collect the rest of your judgment against the personal assets of the at-fault party.

Since your insurance company also has an interest in your lawsuit, they are entitled to pursue the assets of the 3rd party if they want to. All your insurance company has to do in order to step into your shoes and finish the lawsuit against the 3rd party is pay you the $25,000 that the third-party insurance is willing to give you. In other words, your insurance company gets a chance to “buy” your lawsuit if they really think it is worth pursuing personal assets of the at-fault party. This seldom happens, but your insurance company must nevertheless be offered the opportunity to step into your shoes to protect their own interests.

In some cases, where liability is hotly disputed, we may still be able to settle a claim by taking an offer which is close to limits. The advantage is that the risk of an unfavorable verdict is eliminated. You are still entitled to bring a UIM claim, but in such a case your insurance company would still be entitled to an offset of $25,000, even if you settle with the 3rd party for $23,000. By settling for less than the limits with the third-party and eliminating the risk of an unfavorable verdict in this example, you are giving up the $2,000 difference between $25,000 and $23,000.

We always recommend that drivers carry UIM coverage on their auto policies.  It is the only way to make sure you are covered even if you are injured by someone with inadequate insurance coverage.

We are happy to discuss this matter, or any other matter pertaining to your personal injury case free of charge.   Please contact us at www.bfrinjurylaw.com.

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What is uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?

Rules of the Roundabout!

Do you know the rules of the Roundabout?

Some of us drive them every day at places like Burnham Drive in Gig Harbor or in Silverdale and they are becoming far more prevalent here in Washington. You may have witnessed some pretty incredible driving maneuvers at roundabouts, or even been involved in an accident. Roundabouts are a pretty good area to observe road rage as well. Have you ever see someone just stop for no reason while they are inside the roundabout? Or how about stopping prior to entering even when there are no cars? WSDOT has a great page

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covering the basic rules for roundabouts, please familiarize yourself with them. We’ve represented several clients who have been injured because other drivers did not understand the rules of the roundabout. Be careful out there!  www.bfrinjurylaw.com

Rules of the Roundabout!

I’ve been injured at work; what is a “3rd party”claim?

If you are injured while on the job you have a workers compensation claim often referred to as a Labor and Industries (L&I) claim in the state of Washington.  Your medical bills are covered by L&I, and there are also benefits for lost earnings, and compensation through the workers compensation system if you are left disabled or even unable to work.  Even if your employer was “at fault” for your injury, your remedy is through the L&I system, you can’t file a lawsuit against your employer for the injury.  If your at fault for your own injury while working you are still covered by L&I.  There are often disputes related to L&I claims ranging from whether an injury was on the job or not, to disputes about the nature and extent of injury or disability and what medical care is necessary.  Workers compensation or L&I attorneys represent injured workers who are in these disputes and also work hard to insure their clients are not short changed or treated unfairly within the workers compensation system.

There are scenarios where an injured worker will have a claim that is covered by L&I but you will also have a separate claim against a “3rd party.”  This simply means that the injured worker receives L&I benefits but they also have the right to pursue a claim against an outside party.  For example, we represented a firefighter who was a passenger in a fire truck responding to call.  While the fire truck was driving to the scene of the call, another driver out on the streets was completely ignorant to the fire truck’s sirens and horns, proceeded to blow a stop sign, and T-boned the firetruck.  As a result our client, the firefighter, was injured and required surgery.

Because this incident was on the job the firefighter’s claim was automatically subject to  the L&I system.  All medical treatment, payment of medical bills, and payment for missed time was governed by L&I.  However, the firefighter had the independent right to make a claim against the car that ran the stop sign, just like anybody else who is injured in an auto accident.  The firefighter’s claim against the at fault car that ran the stop sign is the “3rd party” claim.

When an injured worker recovers money from a 3rd party and L&I has paid medical bills and wage loss, inevitably L&I has legal rights to reimbursement.  They automatically have a lien against the settlement.  However, this is an area where thorough understanding of the law can make a tremendous difference in the amount of money the injured worker actually retains.  There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into negotiating and ultimately determining what part of the 3rd party recovery actually gets paid back to L&I.

In the case of our firefighter client, the at-fault car that ran the stop sign had no insurance and no assets.  We were able to pursue the claim against our client’s own UIM policy.  Because the UIM policy was paid by the firefighter he did not have to reimburse L&I.  RCW 51.24.030 see also Frost v. L&I.  [We highly recommend that anyone who has a job that requires a lot of driving to have a UIM policy, and make sure your employment activities are not excluded.  This would include all emergency responders; delivery drivers; anyone who might get in an auto accident while working].

If you are injured on the job, we are happy to consult with you free of charge.  It may be that your claims are limited to the realm of workers compensation.  However, you may also have a 3rd party claim which will allow you to recover more money for damages than you could through L&I alone.

We have represented numerous clients in this predicament and there are complex rules and law related to these scenarios which can dramatically impact how much compensation the injured worker receives. Contact us to discuss further.

I’ve been injured at work; what is a “3rd party”claim?

What if the driver that caused the wreck flees the scene of the crash?

If you suffer personal injuries as the result of the negligence of a hit-and-run driver, you may still recover for your lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering as if you knew the identity of the driver by bringing a claim under your own auto insurance.  These provisions are often referred to interchangeably as “UM” or “UIM” benefits (underinsured motorist or uninsured motorist).  In Washington State this form of coverage is called “underinsured” coverage and is governed by statute at RCW 48.22.030.

A “phantom vehicle” is a term used to describe a vehicle that caused the accident, but did not make physical contact with the insured or the vehicle.  Of course they’ve left the scene and nobody knows who the vehicle operator was.  An example might be where you are forced into a tree on the side of a roadway because you need to take evasive action to avoid being struck head on by a vehicle coming the opposite direction that crossed the center line.  Of course there is no way to identify that car because they have left the scene and are unable to be located.  This is why they are referred to as “phantoms.”  To obtain coverage for a phantom vehicle you need evidence beyond just the testimony of the insured.  So an independent witness that can attest to seeing the phantom vehicle is critical.  In limited circumstances there might be video footage that can be used

If you or your vehicle was actually hit by a vehicle that fled, the actual damage (property damage) alone is typically enough to get an underinsured motorist policy to apply.

When you bring an uninsured motorist claim, it is a claim based on contract, you have paid a premium to have this protection just in case you are injured by a phantom vehicle, a driver with no insurance, or a driver with not enough insurance for the damages you’ve incurred.  However, just because it is your own insurance company, doesn’t mean your insurance is working on your behalf when you make an uninsured motorist claim.  To the contrary, under the applicable laws, your own insurance company actually “stands in the shoes” of the at fault party so they will assert any defenses that the at fault party would.  This means that your injuries and damages claims are all subject to challenge by your own insurance company.  Many people are confused by this, because they do not understand why the insurance company that they have loyally paid premiums to for years is now challenging them and arguing against the claims that are being made.

If you are a pedestrian and are injured by a hit and run driver, you may also look to your own uninsured motorist provisions as a potential source of coverage.  Sadly, this type of thing happens often.

If you suffered injury and damages in a hit and run accident, schedule a free consultation with us and we will evaluate your options. See more at www.bfrinjurylaw.com

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Premises Liability (Slip and Fall)

Injuries incurred from falls or dangerous conditions on land or in buildings are perhaps the most common accidental injuries in the United States. This area of the law is complex. There are many variables which go into the analysis of whether the facts of the case are sufficient to take the matter to a jury. Each case must be evaluated on its own because of the complexity of the issues. You should definitely obtain an attorney’s opinion here.

This area of the law covers numerous situations:

  • slipping on ice in a parking lot;
  • tenants who are injured by a landlord’s failure to maintain a safe rental;
  • motel or hotel guests who are injured because of unsafe stairways;
  • children who are injured by unsafe conditions on land or in a building, even if they are not there without permission;
  • tripping over an unsafe shopping cart used for big-box purchases at Best Buy, Costco or other retail stores;
  • tripping over parking lot curbs or holes in the pavement or sidewalks in disrepair;
  • convenience stores who fail to protect customers from reasonably foreseeable criminal conduct by 3rd persons (for example, allowing consumption of alcohol in the parking lot);

A lawsuit for negligence requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, that the defendant negligently breached his duty and, as a result of the defendant’s negligence, plaintiff was injured.

In premises liability cases, the nature of the duty owed depends on the location of the incident and the relationship between the defendant and plaintiff. For instance, if one is invited to a friend’s house for dinner, the law describes that person as a “licensee”. The duty of a homeowner to a licensee or social guest is a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring a person who is on the land with permission and of whose presence the owner or occupier is, or should be, aware. The duty includes a duty to warn of dangerous conditions, the existence of which the social guest might not be aware.

If one goes to a retail store to shop, that person is described by the law as an “invitee”. The duty of a store owner to a customer is a duty to exercise ordinary care to maintain in a reasonably safe condition those portions of the premises that such person is expressly or impliedly invited to use or might reasonably be expected to use. The store owner’s obligation includes the duty to discover unreasonably dangerous conditions and to correct the dangerous condition.

If a person is on land or in a building without permission, law describes that person as a “trespasser”. The duty of the owner to a trespasser is a duty not to engage in willful or wanton misconduct only.

There are exceptions and permutations of the rules depending on such factors as whether the owner of land maintains an “attractive nuisance” such that he could expect young children to be enticed and attracted because of youthful curiosity. Contact us at www.bfrinjurylaw.com and we can provide a free case evaluation.

Premises Liability (Slip and Fall)

Your loved one has died and another party was at fault, what are your options?

Losing a loved one is often a shock, but losing a loved one due to the negligence of someone else compounds the grief and anger after the death. The first three of the four general stages of grief, (1) shock and denial, (2) anger, (3) depression, and (4) acceptance, are often prolonged and harder to overcome when a beloved family member is taken wrongfully from us.  There are many excellent clinical psychologists  and counselors in our community who are available and to whom we can refer you to who are experienced in helping people handle their grief.

Legal claims for wrongful death in Washington State are covered by sometimes confusing and overlapping statutes. At Becker Franklin Rovang we focus exclusively on personal injury and wrongful death claims and provide free consultations to discuss your rights and options. If we serve as your attorneys we advance the costs and we only charge a fee as a percentage of the total recovery at the conclusion of the case.

Washington’s general wrongful death statute allows for “statutory beneficiaries”, who are certain designated relatives, to recover damages. As one might expect, the deceased’s surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, and/or children or stepchildren are all statutory beneficiaries. If the decedent was a single adult without children, then surviving parents or siblings have authority to recover damages, but only if they were financially dependent on the decedent for support at the time of death.

The damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death case may vary based on how the circumstances of the case fit the different Washington statutes. Generally, survivors  may recover medical bills for the care of the person, funeral expenses, loss of love and companionship, and future economic losses. There are special rules for children who have lost a parent and a court approval process is required in the event of a settlement.

We are truly sorry that your family has suffered a great loss. We understand  how difficult the loss of a loved one can be. We encourage you to seek legal assistance. By turning over the legal issues to experienced attorneys, one suffers one less burden during the experience of the grieving process. We are available to meet with you at our office in Port Orchard, or at a location convenient to you.  See more at www.bfrinjurylaw.com

Your loved one has died and another party was at fault, what are your options?

Common (and useful) Latin Legal Terms

Latin Legal Terms

Here you can find latin legal terms used both in Ancient Rome and in the present times, in the modern legal system. If a certain expression has two or more possible translations, here we give you only what it means in the legal context.

ab initio
From the beginning

actus reus
A guilty deed or act

ad hoc
For this purpose

ad infinitum
To infinity, without limit, forever

alibi
Elsewhere, at another place

amicus curiae
Friend of the court (i.e., impartial spokesperson)

Braccae illae virides cum subucula rosea et tunica Caledonia-quam elenganter concinnatur!
Those green pants go so well with that pink shirt and the plaid jacket!

certiorari
A write from a High Court to Lower Court

corpus
Body

corpus delicti
The body of the offense

de novo
Starting afresh

Ecce hora! Uxor mea me necabit!
look at the time! My wife will kill me!

erratum
Having been made in error.

et alii (et al.)
Among others

et cetera
And other things. Generally used in the sense of “and so forth”.

et sequens (et seq.)
And the following ones. Used in citations to indicate that the cited portion extends to the pages following the cited page.

et uxor (et ux.)
And wife. Usually used instead of naming a man’s wife as a party in a case.

et vir
And husband. Usually used instead of naming a woman’s husband as a party in a case.

ex parte
From [for] one party A decision reached, or case brought, by or for one party without the other party being present.

ex post facto
From a thing done afterward Commonly said as “after the fact.”

ex post facto law
A retroactive law. E.g. a law that makes a past act illegal that was not illegal when it was done.

Fac ut gaudeam.
Make my day.

in loco parentis
In place of a parent

inter alia
Amongst other things

ipso facto
By that very fact

Lex clavatoris designati rescindenda est.
The designated hitter rule has got to go.

lis pendens
Suit pending Often used in the context of public announcements of legal proceedings to come.

locus
Place

mala fides
Bad faith

mandamus
We command A writ issue by a higher court to a lower one, ordering that court or related officials to perform some administrative duty. Often used in the context of legal oversight of government agencies.

mens rea
Guilty state of mind

Mellita, domi adsum.
Honey, I’m home.

modus operandi
Manner of operation A person’s particular way of doing things. Used when using behavioral analysis while investigating a crime. Often abbreviated “M.O.”

motion in limine
Motion at the start. Motions offered at the start of a trial, often to suppress or pre-allow certain evidence or testimony.

nexus
Connection

nolo contendere
I do not wish to contend. A type of plea whereby the defendant neither admits nor denies the charge.

non sequitur
It does not follow, i.e., an inconsistent statement.

Nullo metro compositum est.
It doesn’t rhyme.

Non curo. Si metrum non habet, non est poema.
I don’t care. If it doesn’t rhyme, it isn’t a poem.

nunc pro tunc
now for then An action by a court to correct a previous procedural or clerical error.

pendente lite
while the litigation is pending. Court orders used to provide relief until the final judgement is rendered. Commonly used in divorce proceedings.

per capita
by the head. In the context of estate planning, dividing money up strictly and equally according to the number of beneficiaries.

per contra
by that against. Legal shorthand for “in contrast to”

per curiam
through the court. A decision delivered by a multi-judge panel, such as an appellate court, in which the decision is said to be authored by the court itself, instead of situations where those individual judges supporting the decision are named. It is used when all the judges are in agreement on the decision.

prima facie
On the face of it

pro hac vice
For this occasion

pro tempore
For the time being

Quo signo nata es?
What’s your sign?

Radix lecti
Couch potato

re
In the matter of…

Re vera, potas bene.
Say, you sure are drinking a lot.

stare decisis
The decision stands. The obligation of a judge(s) to stand by a prior precedent.

sui generis
Unique

Sic faciunt omnes.
Everyone is doing it.

subpoena duces tecum
bring with you under penalty An order compelling an entity to produce physical evidence in a legal matter.

Te audire no possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.
I can’t hear you. I have a banana in my ear.

Totum dependeat.
Let it all hang out.

Trial de novo
New trial. In the context of personal injury cases, the term refers to one parties request for a trial to a jury because they are dissatisfied with the results of a mandatory arbitration under the Superior Court rules.

Ventis secundis, tene cursum.
Go with the flow.

Vescere bracis meis.
Eat my shorts.

For other useful information concerning personal injury law visit us at www.bfrinjurylaw.com

Common (and useful) Latin Legal Terms