Unless you were not injured or have fully recovered from minor injuries, the answer is no.
Insurance companies often offer quick settlements, but an early settlement can be disastrous if your injuries turn out to be worse than you first thought. Insurance companies have access to sophisticated databases for valuing claims and do so day in and day out.
The playing field is not level. It makes sense to at least consult with an experienced bicycle attorney before accepting an offer.
How long do I have to settle a claim for injuries on my bike?
Generally, in Washington State, the statute of limitations provides up to three years from the date of a crash to settle a claim or to file a lawsuit to preserve the claim.
But there are exceptions to the three year rule. If a governmental entity was negligent, you must first file a formal notice of claim within this period with the correct entity and wait a minimum amount of time before filing suit.
If someone intentionally injured you in Washington State, then you only have two years from the date of the crash to settle the claim or to file a lawsuit to preserve the claim.
Other states and different claims have different time periods. If you are unclear about what statute of limitations is applicable, just call Washington Bike Law for a free consultation. It's best not to wait until the last minute before consulting a lawyer.
Should I first try to settle my bicycle claim myself and get a lawyer if I don't like the insurance company's offer?
Usually not. While Washington Bike Law certainly can't guarantee a specific outcome, unless you have very minor injuries, having legal representation from the beginning is likely to be helpful.
People who are represented by an experienced attorney frequently obtain a higher net settlement than they would obtain on their own. By waiting to get a lawyer on your side, you may create problems with your claim that are difficult or impossible to undo.
Remember, the bike lawyers at Washington Bike Law work on a contingency fee, not an hourly rate. If you think that you may ultimately use an attorney, you owe it to yourself to make the attorneys "earn their keep." It won't cost you more to have legal representation from the start and it doing so may keep you from damaging an otherwise solid case.
How long does it take to settle most bicycle accident and personal injury cases?
It depends. The truth is, you can probably settle your case faster without an attorney, but that settlement may also be far less than the fair value of your claim.
Unless you are certain that a settlement offer represents all the money that might reasonably be obtained from every potentially responsible party and every insurer, you should not even begin negotiations until you are fully healed (or a doctor says that your injuries are permanent).
While most cases settle within a few months after clients recover from their injuries, many cases go on for years before an insurance company will agree to a reasonable settlement or a verdict is paid. If you are represented by Washington Bike Law, you will have an experienced bike lawyer representing you every step of the way.
Will pursuing a bicycle claim be time consuming?
Often, the answer is no. Most bicycle claims settle before a lawsuit is ever filed.
If you are represented by Washington Bike Law, your lawyer will work on the legal aspects of your claim so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries. Much of what Washington Bike Law's bicycle attorneys need from you can be accomplished over the phone or by email.
Over the years, Washington Bike Law has represented clients who were injured in Washington State but lived in other states, countries or even continents. Many of these cases settled without the clients ever having to make a special trip to Seattle.
While Washington Bike Law's attorneys prefer to meet with clients in person, they realize that your time is important, and won't waste it.
On the other hand, if you file a lawsuit, you will need to be more involved in your case. Your bicycle attorneys at Washington Bike Law will take the time to ensure that you are prepared and understand the process each step of the way. They will also work to schedule events to minimize the intrusion in your life.
Will I have to go to trial?
It depends. The attorneys at Washington Bike Law have the experience to accurately estimate the potential value of bike crash claims and the reputation to reach fair settlements for their bicycling clients before trial.
Approximately 90% of the bike cases handled by Washington Bike Law settle without ever filing a lawsuit. Washington Bike Law participates in alternative dispute resolution methods including mediation and arbitration.
King County and many other counties in Washington State use a system called Mandatory Arbitration. If you and your attorneys value your claim at less than an amount set by each county, you can arbitrate it rather than going through a jury trial. For claims that don't involve catastrophic injuries, arbitration can be faster, less expensive, and may even result in higher awards than those of a jury.
However, if your claim is potentially worth more than the arbitration limit, it is usually better to wait for a trial date where there is no cap on the amount that you can recover.
Should I go to trial?
It depends. The bicycle attorneys at Washington Bike Law enjoy litigation and are dedicated advocates for their clients. Going to trial can mean a significantly higher result. For instance, Bob Anderton tried a case where the other side refused to pay more than $50,000 at a formal mediation. They offered $75,000 just before trial, but a jury ultimately awarded the client $850,000. Of course, Washington Bike Law can't guarantee this kind of result. Often, people do not want to take the risk of a trial. However, Washington Bike Law's lawyers have obtained verdicts in numerous cases where the insurance companies' lawyers claimed that the injured bicyclists were fully at fault. Even if you are willing to go to trial, unless the defense is refusing to engage in good faith negotiations, it usually makes sense to try and settle your claim before filing a lawsuit. Having skilled bike lawyers on your side may mean that you won't need to go to trial to obtain a fair result.