The Seattle Law Firm of Dixon & Cannon, Ltd.

What to Know About Car Accident Injuries

Who is responsible for causing your accident?

If you are not at fault and you are injured in a car accident, then you may be able to make a claim against the other driver’s insurance company and/or your insurance carrier. Recovery varies greatly depending on the type of injury, and the kind of insurance you and the other driver have at the time of an accident. Generally speaking, in Washington State an injured party is entitled to compensation for both general and special damages.

If you are at fault and you are injured in a car accident, then you may be able to receive compensation for your injury if you have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage through your insurance carrier. If you have PIP coverage, then your own insurance company compensates you for special damages only–not general damages.


For more information about general and special damages, see What kind of compensation are you entitled to receive for your injury?.

What action should you take immediately after your accident?

If you are injured in a car accident, then you need to collect the following information from the other driver:

  • Name and phone number of the other driver
  • License plate number, vehicle registration, and insurance information

Should you take photos of the damage?

It depends. You should always keep a disposable camera in your car, but photographs of a car accident can be very helpful or extremely harmful. Use your judgment, for example:

  • If the vehicles sustain little or no visible damage, then photos of property damage can cast doubt on the existence and/or severity of your injury.
  • If the vehicles sustain a lot of physical and visible damage, then photos can help your case tremendously.

If you take photos and later make an injury claim, then an insurance company has the right to look at those photos.

Should you call the police?

Yes. If you believe you are injured in a car accident, then you should call the police and have the officer fill out a police report. During the investigation, the police officer should ask you if you are experiencing any pain.

Make sure you are specific about where you are feeling pain, because the officer documents your complaints in the police report. Later, you can use the report as part of the evidence of your injury claim.

Should you follow up with a healthcare provider?

Yes. One important way an insurance company evaluates your claim is with documentation of medical treatment by a healthcare provider. Therefore, if you are injured in a car accident, you should see a medical professional for a physical examination.

A healthcare provider can set up and provide a treatment plan for you, if needed. Also be aware that if you receive treatment through a medical professional, then you may be asked to provide the insurance company with your medical treatment records and bills.

Should you receive treatment from a medical doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist?

Go to a medical doctor first, because if you are injured in an accident, an insurance company typically wants to see that a medical doctor has examined your injuries first. Also, the treatment your medical doctor recommends depends on the type of injury you sustain.

An insurance company can compensate you for treatment with a medical doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist, but your claim for compensation is much stronger if your doctor refers and monitors your progress with other healthcare providers.

What kind of compensation are you entitled to receive for your injury?

In Washington State, you can receive compensation for both general and special damages.

General damages represent the pain and suffering you experience from an accident and the subsequent recovery period. Typically, an insurance company looks at what social and physical activities you participate in before your accident, and how they are affected by your injury after the accident. For example, if prior to an accident you played on a soccer team, but as a result of your injury you can no longer play soccer. Also note the following:

  • Depending on the severity of your accident and subsequent injury, an insurance company can view general damages with a lot of skepticism.
  • Your claim is stronger if you can provide an insurance company with additional documentation such as a note from a soccer coach stating that you cannot continue playing soccer because of your injury.

Special damages represent medical expenses and wage losses.

  • Medical expenses can include doctor bills, doctor referrals for medical tests, medicines, etc. These expenses also include mileage traveling to and from your doctor visits.
  • Wage losses can include the days you lose from work, and the hours lost for time spent in treatment during employment hours. And depending on your injury, it can also include lost seniority or promotion at work.

You may also be able to receive compensation if you have to hire a professional to clean your house, or maintain your yard during the period of your recovery from an accident.

Should you hire an attorney to represent you against an insurance company?

It depends. Certainly you need an attorney to represent you if you have been in a significant accident with serious injuries. However, if you have sustained an uncomplicated soft tissue muscle strain, and subsequently receive treatment for a few months that results in a full recovery, then you may be better off handling the claim yourself.

A personal injury attorney takes your case on a contingency basis, which means that you do not have to pay attorney fees until the insurance company compensates you for your injury. However, be very careful when you sign a contract with a personal injury attorney on a contingency basis, because even though you are not paying attorney fees, you are responsible for the costs of litigation, whether or not you receive any compensation from an insurance company.

  • Litigation costs can include court filing fees, costs of transcribing depositions, costs for hiring experts, etc. And depending on your case, litigation costs can range from only a few hundred dollars all the way up to several thousands of dollars.
  • If you sign a contract with a personal injury attorney, and an insurance company awards you financial compensation, the attorney can take up to 40% of the final settlement–not including costs. If the claim and potential amount of recovery are small, then this may result in less money for you.

If you hire an attorney, what kind of attorney should you choose?

If you decide to hire an attorney, it is crucial that you choose someone who is experienced in personal injury cases and who understands the insurance process. You need an attorney who can negotiate your case aggressively, and who is not afraid to go to trial if the insurance company is not willing to compensate you fairly for your injury.

When you meet with an attorney to discuss legal representation, ask about his or her background, and find out what kind of courtroom experience he or she has. The quality and experiences of your attorney have a significant impact on the amount of recovery you can receive.

Why should you listen to us?

We are former senior trial attorneys for insurance companies, and Dixon & Cannon, Ltd. can provide you with many legal advantages that not all attorneys can provide. For example:

  • We have an insider perspective of the insurance claim process.
  • We have successfully defended many cases.
  • We know meritorious claims are worth much more when the evidence is presented with knowledge and expertise.
  • We have worked with claim representatives on a day-to-day basis, and we understand the factors they consider most important in evaluating claims.
  • We have appeared regularly before arbitrators, mediators, and juries, and we have seen the kind of legal arguments that result in big awards, and those that have lead to much more modest sums.
  • We use our experience and knowledge to successfully and compassionately represent injured persons with meritorious claims.

If you have questions about a car accident injury, call us for a FREE 30-minute initial consultation at 206-957-2247.  We can help!

Dixon & Cannon, Ltd. is licensed to practice law in the States of Arizona and Washington. This Web site is created for your general information only and does not represent legal advice. An attorney-client relationship between you and our law firm is not created by you reading this information or calling us. If we decide to work together, we sign a contract to establish our attorney-client relationship.