Yakima Car Accident Lawyer
Car Accident Attorneys Who Take Your Injury Personally
Being involved in an automobile accident or a truck accident is a negative experience. Being involved in a severe car crash can be traumatic, devastating, and even life-changing. Auto accident victims may find themselves overwhelmed with serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, whiplash, internal injuries, muscle damage, or broken bones, requiring weeks or months of medical attention and recovery. In some extreme cases, family members of an accident victim may be faced with a wrongful death case. During these emotionally difficult times, medical expenses may pile up, during which time a car accident victim and their loved ones continue to lose wages due to their inability to work. Car accident cases put great stress not only on the motor vehicle accident victim but also on family members as well. Working with Abeyta Nelson Injury Law, Central Washington’s most highly-regarded and experienced personal injury law firm, can greatly reduce the trauma of recovering from an auto accident or other serious injury.
Get the Help You Need to Win Your Case from Yakima’s Car Accident Attorneys
Even the best drivers cannot always avoid the negligent actions of others. When the unexpected happens, don’t take a chance on your health or your finances. Eastern Washington’s top auto accident attorneys of Abeyta Nelson Injury Law firm have a combined 100 years of experience handling cases involving car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and truck accidents. We know how to work with insurance companies and how to get outstanding medical bills paid for you and your loved ones. Most importantly, however, our personal injury lawyers know which local and regional medical experts are qualified to diagnose and treat your injuries, how to get you the fair compensation you deserve, recover your lost wages, and how to take appropriate legal action to give you peace of mind and get your life back on track.
Voted Yakima’s Best Personal Injury Attorney since 2017
As proof of our expertise and dedication, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law has been voted Best Personal Injury Attorney in the Yakima Herald-Republic Readers’ Choice Awards in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. We’ve also been voted Best Attorney in the Yakima Valley Business Times Best of the Valley Awards in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Our award-winning personal injury attorneys and legal team have successfully resolved thousands of car accident cases for our clients since 1981, recovering $355 million for our clients over the life of our firm. Terry Abeyta, a nationally-ranked Top 100 Trial Lawyer, has 40 years of experience and expertise to win your case. Rod Nelson has been a well-regarded attorney law since 1978 and has a deep knowledge of all areas of personal injury law. David Abeyta has been in practice since 2010, successfully resolving car accident and personal injury cases. All three attorneys have been honored by Super Lawyers multiple years in a row. James Boyer joined Abeyta Nelson in 2021 with 8 years of personal injury experience.
How Abeyta Nelson Handles Your Car Accident Injury Claim
When you hire the car accident lawyers at Abeyta Nelson Injury Law firm, we handle all aspects of your auto accident injury claim for you. Our experienced legal team works with insurance companies – both the at-fault parties and yours – so you don’t have to deal with the insurance adjusters. Working with all of the insurance companies involved in your claim can be confusing and full of potential pitfalls. When you hire us, our auto accident lawyers will investigate your case, obtain the necessary medical records and wage loss records, negotiate claims for reimbursement by hospitals or health insurance companies, and be sure all legal deadlines are met. At Abeyta Nelson, we get to know our clients and their families, building strong attorney-client relationships as we work with you on your case. We’ll be upfront with you about all aspects of your case, and we’re here to protect your legal rights so you can focus on your medical treatment and recovery. Our experienced attorneys know the laws of motor vehicle liability and insurance inside and out, and we handle all contact with insurance companies for you – taking the hassle out of dealing with adjusters so you can get on with your life.
I Have Good Car Insurance. Should I Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
Like most people, you probably don’t read much of what your auto insurance company sends you, other than the bill. Should you be involved in an auto accident, however, it’s very important that you know what you’ve paid for and how to take maximum advantage of the coverage you have paid for.
Contrary to popular belief, there really is no such thing as “full coverage” when it comes to auto insurance. As is true with many things in life, however, you tend to get what you pay for.
What kinds of auto insurance coverage are offered, and what amounts should you purchase?
Types and Limits of Coverage
Liability coverage protects you or another driver insured under your policy if either of you are found legally responsible to pay for someone else’s injuries, damages, or losses arising from an accident.
This coverage will pay damages for bodily injury and property damage. Bodily injury is broadly defined to include the sickness, injury, or death of another person, and typically includes economic and wage loss as well, provided such losses arise out of a bodily injury. Property damage covers financial losses arising from the damage, destruction, or loss of use of another person’s property.
Since liability coverage protects you and your personal assets, it is one of the most important auto coverages you can buy. Washington law only requires that you have minimum bodily injury liability limits of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident. The lower “per person” limit is the maximum amount of coverage available to a single injured person for a given automobile accident. The higher “per accident” limit is the maximum total amount of coverage the insurer will pay when more than one accident victim is injured in the same car crash. However, no matter how many people are injured or how serious the injuries are, the per accident limit is the maximum amount of coverage available to protect you. These minimum limits are often insufficient to cover the damages caused by a serious accident, especially with medical costs skyrocketing. If your liability insurance limits are not sufficient, the person injured by you may come after your personal assets.
For your own protection, you should therefore buy the highest liability coverage limits you can afford. Purchasing high liability limits is also important because these limits will determine the amount of underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) available to you. You should buy the highest per person coverage you can afford and that coverage amount should be the same coverage as your per accident limits. This is known as a “single limit” policy. Under such a policy, any one person can recover up to the limits, and this same limit will be the maximum the insurer will pay if more than one person is injured in a given accident. A single limits policy thus provides you with more protection than the split “per person”/”per accident” liability policy. If you can afford it, you should buy at least $500,000 single-limits liability coverage. You should have property damage liability coverage of at least $50,000 and preferably $100,000. If you have had other automobile accidents, however, or have a bad driving record, you may not be able to purchase coverage above the minimum limits required by state law.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP):
PIP pays for medical expenses and wage loss for you and other passengers in your vehicle, regardless of who caused the car crash. It also covers pedestrians and bicyclists who are injured in an accident with you.
Although you are not required to purchase PIP coverage, it is not only recommended that you do so, but you should buy the maximum amount of PIP coverage available.
PIP coverage provides for payment of medical expenses, wage loss benefits, burial expenses, and other services such as home nursing care and domestic help during recovery from a personal injury. Unlike health insurance, there is no deductible or per visit out-of-pocket payment. So long as the charge is reasonable, necessary and accident-related, PIP should pay 100% of a given medical bill. Thus, even if you have medical insurance, it is still recommended that you purchase PIP coverage on your auto policy. PIP benefits are limited by a maximum dollar amount and for a specific period of time, whichever comes first.
State law requires that PIP coverage be offered and that it meet certain minimum requirements. You will automatically have PIP coverage in the minimum amounts identified below unless you (or your spouse on a joint policy) reject this in writing. For medical expenses, the minimum coverage is $10,000 for bills incurred within three years of the auto accident. Funeral expenses up to $2,000 must be covered, and wage loss benefits for one year after the accident (with a 14-day waiting period) up to $10,000, must also be offered. Benefits for such services as home nursing care and domestic help – known as “essential services”- must be available for a minimum of $5,000. (RCW 48.22.095).
Insurance companies are, upon request, also obligated to offer higher PIP coverage – at an additional cost – for payment of medical expenses up to $35,000, and for loss of services up to $40 per day for up to one year from the date of the accident. (RCW48.22.100).
Despite the trend toward making PIP coverage more available, many insurance companies are becoming increasingly aggressive in restricting payments for treatment they consider “unreasonable” or “unnecessary.” For instance, insurers are increasingly likely to attempt to cut off PIP payments before one year when chiropractic care is involved. Usually this is done by them demanding that you attend an “Independent Medical Examination” (IME) with a doctor of the insurance company’s choosing. If you refuse to attend such an examination, your PIP benefits will also likely be suspended or terminated. You should immediately talk to a car accident lawyer if your insurance company attempts to restrict your PIP coverage following an accident, or demands that you attend an IME.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM):
Despite the fact that car insurance is mandatory in Washington, many people nevertheless drive without any insurance or without adequate insurance to fully compensate an accident victim. As noted above, mandatory insurance laws require liability coverage of only $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident, which given rising medical costs is often insufficient to cover the damages caused by a serious auto accident.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) covers you, members of your household, and other people riding in the car against damages caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, up to the amount of the UIM coverage purchased. This coverage also extends to you or members of your household who may be injured by an uninsured/underinsured motorist while you are a pedestrian or riding a bicycle.
That’s why it’s important if you experience an injury or loss caused by a driver who is uninsured or underinsured, to have your own UIM. UIM coverage is considered so important that the law requires insurance companies to offer it to all customers (RCW 48.22.030). The amount of UIM coverage offered must be the same amount as your liability coverage unless you make a written request for less coverage. Again, UIM coverage will exist by law unless it was rejected by you (or your spouse on joint policies) in writing.
As with PIP coverage, UIM is affordable coverage that should always be purchased. You should never waive coverage or reduce the amount below your liability coverage in order to cut costs on your policy. Consider paying a higher deductible or even dropping collision or comprehensive coverage instead. There are simply too many uninsured and underinsured motorists on the road today. You may also buy UIM property coverage to pay for damage to your vehicle caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. You will not need coverage limits any higher than the value of your vehicle. This coverage overlaps with collision coverage since both cover damage to your vehicle, but there may be different amounts for the deductible.
Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle from an auto accident or collision regardless of who may be at fault. Collision coverage pays for repair or replacement of a vehicle, up to the fair market value of the vehicle, subject to a deductible which may range from $25 to $1,000. You can reduce the cost of this coverage by choosing a higher deductible amount. Your cost can also be reduced by not carrying collision coverage on older vehicles that have lower values.
Comprehensive (or “Other than Collision”):
This coverage protects your vehicle from damage caused by fire, theft, vandalism, weather, glass breakage and contact with an animal. Note, however, that this coverage usually does not cover such “portable” items as cassette tapes, CDs, personal music devices (iPods, etc.), tapedecks or cell or car phones. Coverage for these items can typically be added by specific endorsement. The recommended deductible for comprehensive is $100 -$500.
Other Insurance Options:
Other coverage which is typically offered includes towing and car rental. For a small additional cost, these benefits are usually worthwhile to have on your policy, as towing and car rental costs can be substantial if you are hit by an uninsured driver and have no other way to obtain coverage for these items.
Who is Covered?
Generally, if married, it is wise to have both partners listed as named insureds on the auto policy because under some policies there is broader coverage for named insureds than for other persons insured under the policy, such as non-spousal family members or other residents of the household. Similarly, if you cohabitate with another, and regularly drive their vehicle, or if it is available for your regular usage, you need to be a named insured on the vehicle’s policy, or you may not be covered if you cause an auto accident while driving such vehicle.
Although a policy usually only has one or two named insureds, there can be a limitless number of “other insureds” under a policy. The language of the policy tells you who the other insureds are. Family members of a named insured are generally considered as insureds under the typical automobile insurance policy. There may be limitations, however requiring that the family member be related by blood, marriage, or adoption and a resident of the same household as the named insured. Children temporarily away at college are usually covered under their parent’s policy. Unmarried cohabitants are usually not considered members of the same family, and thus, as noted above, should be added to the policy if they will be using the vehicle to ensure that they will be covered. Divorced parents with joint custody of children who split time between homes should, to be safe, add the child to their respective auto policies if they will be driving either parent’s car(s).
Coverage is also normally extended to anyone who uses an insured vehicle with the permission of a named insured as long as their operation of the vehicle is within the scope of the permission at the time of the accident.
What Vehicles are Covered Under Your Car Insurance Policy?
Newly Acquired Vehicles:
If you buy a new vehicle, it is generally covered under your existing auto insurance provided that: (1) all of your vehicles are insured by the same company; and, (2) so long as you add the vehicle to your policy within 30 days of the date you acquire it. You will have only the same coverage(s) as with your existing vehicle(s), so it is important that you consider adding additional coverages such as collision, or increasing your limits, when you trade in an older vehicle for a newer, more valuable one.
Temporary Substitute Vehicles:
This coverage can vary greatly. Generally, a vehicle that is temporarily being used because of a breakdown or servicing of an insured vehicle will be insured under your auto policy. A rental vehicle will often – but not always – qualify as a temporary substitute vehicle. Be sure to check your policy for what coverage applies to your use of a rental car. Also, remember that vehicles that are provided to you for your work by an employer are almost never covered under your personal auto policy, so be sure that your employer has insurance in place on the work vehicle.
If you regularly drive a vehicle provided by your employer, ask them to be sure they have and maintain UIM coverage on the vehicle, as usually, your own UIM insurance policy will not apply to a work vehicle not owned by you. If the employer does not have UIM coverage on the work vehicle, ask them to add it. If your employer cannot provide UIM coverage, you can typically buy your own endorsement to add UIM coverage to a vehicle you don’t own and should do so.
Your Time for Making a Claim is Limited by Law.
For every injury or death claim, there is a period of time during which you must file your car accident claim with the court or the claim will be forever barred. This time limit is called a “statute of limitations.”
In Washington, the period for bringing an injury or death claim is usually three years from the date of the auto accident, but there are some exceptions. The period for bringing a claim for injury to a child does not begin to run until the child’s 18th birthday. A claim arising out of the death of a child, however, is usually limited to three years. For accidents that occur in other states, the period may be as short as one year from the accident.
Although you may have longer to actually file your claim with the court, generally, the sooner you can consult with a personal injury attorney following the accident, the more that attorney can do to help you on your claim.
An auto accident can leave victims vulnerable to car insurance claims adjusters who pressure accident victims to settle for less. In addition, although It’s hard to believe, your own car insurance company may not have your best interests in mind. Certain insurance companies are known for their aggressive and sometimes misleading handling of insurance claims, delaying payment, denying valid claims, writing insurance policies that are impossible to understand, and putting pressure on people to take settlement offers that are too low. Although it’s always a good idea to file a police report at the scene of an accident, signing insurance documents, especially at the accident scene when emotions are high, could mean that accident victims agree to settle for much less compensation than deserved. Always consult with an experienced auto accident attorney before you talk with an insurance adjuster of the at-fault driver.
Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys After Your Auto Accident
Call the law offices of Abeyta Nelson Injury Law today for a free case evaluation with our experienced car accident attorneys. Since opening our doors in 1982, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law has created a team of staff and attorneys who listen to our clients, provide thoughtful legal advice, communicate well and truly care about each and every case. We take your auto accident injury personally.