Many injured people feel overwhelmed and anxious after an accident, and end up calling the first attorney they see on television or the yellow pages promising to get them the “money they deserve.”
But what should you look for in a personal injury attorney? Is falling for that slick ad promoting “six figure settlements” going to get you the best advocate (and best outcome)? Not necessarily. So, what should you consider when selecting an attorney for your injury claim?
Attentive and Available. Big law firms have a lot of staff, high overhead, and need to churn a lot of cases to support those expenses. Non-attorney staff take the lead in managing cases, usually until they are ready to go to trial. Your attorney will likely not be familiar with your case until it is ready to settle or go to trial. But, when an attorney has an intimate knowledge of the details and impact of your injuries on you along the way, it results in better outcomes – both at settlement and at trial. This requires the attorney to be in contact with you and monitoring your treatment from the beginning.
Knowledge and Experience. A brand new attorney may offer a lower fee, or seem to make up for lack of experience with their motivation, but outcomes are better with an advocate who has experience and knowledge. 90% of cases settle, but trial experience is important – it sends a message to the insurer that your attorney is ready and willing to litigate, and (if your case doesn’t settle) having an attorney who has seen the inside of a courtroom will likely improve the case outcome.
Caring and Compassionate. You should feel like your advocate cares and wants to get the best result for you. Your attorney should genuinely care about your treatment, and have compassion for your struggles. This warmth not only helps you feel comfortable throughout the process, but it shows to a jury – and results in better outcomes.
Bottom line: You need your attorney to be a part of your team.
We are on your team during treatment. We are there to make sure your insurance company is treating you fairly and paying your medical. We are there as a sounding board for you during your treatment plan and recovery. We can suggest specialists for your treating doctor to consider for you.
We are on your team when you’re done treating. When it’s time to put together a settlement demand to the at-fault driver’s insurance company, we will know and understand what you went through during treatment because Breckan will be communicating with you throughout – resulting in superior settlement demands and higher settlements.
We are on your team when we go to trial. If we can’t get the insurer to offer a fair settlement, we will be your champions before, during, and after trial. Breckan has trial experience, and is comfortable in front of a jury. We will make sure that you know what is happening and are comfortable at each stage of litigation. We strive for excellent outcomes – but it is also important to support our clients throughout the process.
Personal injury consultations are complimentary, and we work on a contingency fee structure (no fee up front, no fee if we don’t recover for you).
Governor Inslee just made Washington's pending e-notarization law effective immediately. This allows remote notarization and witnessing of estate planning documents immediately (there was already approved legislation, but it would have been several months before the activation date).
Please - there is no reason not to ensure you have made adequate legal preparations for this pandemic. At the least, ensure that 1) you have a clear Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions so there is no confusion/delay at the hospital, 2) you have an Advanced Healthcare Directive that provides clear instruction to your medical providers and loved ones regarding life sustaining measures (e.g. ventilator, artificial nutrition, and similar treatments), and 3) you have a Durable Power of Attorney that gives someone you trust the power to act on your behalf if you were to become ill and under self-quarantine.* We are offering discounted "COVID-19 Preparedness" packages on a sliding fee scale to Washingtonians, and are committed to the most efficient turnaround to ensure that you are prepared heading into the coming weeks (or months).
Fill out the contact form below for a discounted estate planning consult - and let me know in the comments if you prefer a video conference consult or a telephone consult.
*Now is also an excellent time to ensure that you have a Will or Trust as well - but the documents I listed are most critical to the current situation.
Breckan Law PLLC continues to follow evolving recommendations by the CDC and state/local government officials as we all work together (apart) to get through this pandemic.
Until further notice, the office will be fully operational on a virtual platform. All consultations will be discounted and available through your choice of Facetime, Skype, Zoom, or Telephone. We are generally also happy to accommodate another technology of your choice.
Nearly all signatures can be obtained by simply sending you an email with a link to click to place your e-signature.
Original signatures are very rarely required - when they are required, an attorney and mobile notary can come on site and (in compliance with CDC recommendations) obtain the original signatures. This process usually involves 1) an outside location with a flat surface appropriate for signatures, 2) only necessary persons present, 3) all persons maintaining at least a six foot distance at all times, 4) disinfectant of all surfaces, pens, and documents. This process is only if you are not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, and have not been diagnosed with the virus.
With these tools in place, we will be able to serve both new and existing clients in all of our practice areas.
We look forward to doing our part to get through this challenging crisis faced by our community and country. Throughout, we will be advancing justice - every step of the way.
After nearly a decade practicing “full scope” family law, it became apparent that that traditional model no longer works for most people who need help.
Full scope representation is when you hire an attorney to handle all aspects of your case - they normally file a notice of appearance or otherwise advise the Court that they are your “attorney of record” and thereafter receive all case-related correspondence, are responsible for managing the case, and the client’s involvement is reduced to a minimum. Most attorneys require a minimum fee deposit - generally in excess of $3500.00 or more - to undertake a full scope representation; frequently, that amount will be depleted and you will have to replenish. It is not uncommon for even simple cases that go to trial to cost upwards of $20,000.00 or more in fees and costs.
Most people cannot and/or do not want to spend $20,000.00 or more to end their marriage and resolve any custody, support, and property issues. With guidance from an attorney most people can, however, handle their own cases with more confidence and get better outcomes.
We have developed a boutique family law practice that caters to your individual needs and budget. Some clients just need an initial $150 flat fee consult - for others, after the initial consult, we tailor a set of additional services based on your needs and budget. This “limited scope representation” may include preparing your pleadings, assisting you to prepare for court, or it may include an ongoing consultation arrangement throughout the case. We have a wide range of both flat fee and hourly arrangements ranging from $150 to $2,500.00, depending on your needs.
The next step is to contact us for a consultation - There is no time like the present, reach out to us today.
(Okay, “stupid” was a little harsh - but I needed an “attention grabbing” title).
Because, in fact, many (most) people I talk to have used some version of these to justify putting off thinking about how their loved ones would handle the necessities of their death should that most unfortunate event occur. Having an appropriate estate plan in place (even a simple Will) is an incredible help to our loved ones - it gives them the directions they need to navigate the necessities of our death - during a time when even small decisions are made profoundly difficult with grief.
"I/We don't have enough money or assets."
Estate planning isn’t just for determining how your stuff is split up. As alluded to, grieving family members do not want additional decision-making burdens such as trying to recall whether you wanted to be cremated or buried, or how to deal with your social media accounts. There are many, many issues that we can address in an estate plan that are not directly related to property or money.
Maybe you don’t have much now - but do you hope to? Our estate plans are meant to ensure that your basic intentions are followed even if you forget to update your plan - whether or not you go from being nearly broke to a multi-millionaire by the time you pass.
“I/we are too young to need it.”
Anything can happen, and who will take care of your kids/future kids if something happens to you? Who do you want making those decisions - you (now) or a stranger in a black robe (Judge) after it’s too late? This is heavy stuff to think of - but do you want your kids to go through the uncertainty of where they will live, while also grieving the loss of you?
Even if you don’t have (and don’t plan to have) children, why not have this adulting thing taken care of? Then you can bask in your superb level of responsibility, and rest easy knowing that your loved ones will have your clear instructions should it become necessary (seriously, the worst thing is to be sorting out a loved one’s disorganized estate and funeral/disposition arrangements while also mourning their passing).
“I don’t need one, because if I died, everything just would just go to my kids/spouse/family, right....?”
I contemplated using a facepalm emoji here (because of the *very expensive* probates that result from people assuming their situation was “super simple”) but opted to keep it professional.
Don’t assume that “everything” would go to your spouse or kids. The laws of intestate succession (super fancy term for dying without a will) are not always intuitive. It can become complicated depending on many factors that may or may not apply to your situation. And, even if you have a “super simple” estate - why would you want to make the burden of your death any more than it has to be? Give your family and friends a final gift - peace of mind while they grieve for their loss.
For a flat $150 consultation fee, you can at least know whether and what your situation requires for an estate plan.
We prepare ahead of time with information provided by you, so that we both receive value for our time and we can really discuss what you need without added pressure of a “sales environment.” We won’t sell you a $5,000.00+ trust if that isn’t what you need - and we don’t need to because of our value paid/value received consult policy
”But do we have to go to Court...?”
One of the most common reasons people give to avoid confronting disputes in their life are the costs of the resulting conflict, and not just financial costs.
Litigation is invasive and often contentious - the process itself often destroys relationships and results in an artificial “winner” and “loser” when a more flexible solution may have created at least some value for both (or all) involved.
Enter the concept of “alternative” dispute resolution - resolving conflicts without suing each other. Resolutions tend to be interest-based and take into account the circumstances, resulting in sustainable solutions that can even improve relationships.
Someone trained in dispute resolution can help either by very effectively negotiating for you in an advocate role, or by taking a “third party neutral” role (often called a mediator or facilitator) where she does not represent any one party but instead helps them to reach agreements on difficult issues.
The process is voluntary, flexible, and completely tailored to each situation. Agreements as to some or all issues are put into writing and are binding on everyone who signs.
Costs can vary widely depending on the complexity of issues, preparation required, anticipated length of mediation, and whether any ongoing/future involvement by the mediator is contemplated. But early intervention dispute resolution will always be less expensive than litigation.
If you have a dispute and want to discuss our mediation/facilitation services, contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss what we can do to help.
Please do not share any information you would not want disclosed in the initial contact - if you decide to propose me as a mediator to the opposing party, I have found that full disclosure of any communications to that point helps overcome any initial skepticism that I have been biased by being contacted first by the other party.
Also, when acting as a mediator, I am not acting as anyone’s attorney or giving legal advice. I may give opinions on likely legal outcomes but any such statements are opinion only and not meant as legal advice to be relied upon. Additional explanation and clarification of my mediator role is provided in our intake materials, but it is important to be clear that even though I practice law as an attorney-advocate that my role is very different when acting as a third party neutral (such as being a mediator).
Recently we have seen the issue of bullying take center stage in Yelm, WA. A series of Facebook discussions on the local Yelm pages motivated the local newspaper to run a series on bullying – including its most recent article entitled “When Bullying Crosses the Legal Line.” Available at: http://www.yelmonline.com/news/article_99929f50-578f-11e7-a0ad-678975ccddaa.html (Online subscription required for access)
The article provided some good quotes from school officials and the police about bullying and harassment in general. But it was not intended as a clear guide of what a parent (or student) should do if a kid is being bullied. Day to day coping mechanisms are essential – but no one (adult or child) should have to implement daily coping mechanisms just to participate in their daily life! As adults we sometimes take for granted the laws and procedures put in place to protect us from the bullies in the world. If everytime you went into work, someone called you names, whispered behind your back, spread rumors, etc. – and human resources did nothing but tell you how you can change your own behavior, rather than imposing consequences on the perpetrator – what kind of message would that send to the bully?
If your child stands up for him or herself, and the bullying does not stop – perhaps it is time to enforce some consequences on the bully and those allowing the bullying to continue. Just like in the adult world, perpetrators must be held accountable in order for their behavior to change. Your child should not have to rely on their own coping mechanisms just to function in the face of bullying – adolescence is difficult enough, am I right?
Mediation and other types of Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Before going to the court system for relief, it may be advisable to contact the Education Ombudsman. The Education Ombudsman is an office that works across the state to mediate between families and schools.
Their website is: http://oeo.wa.gov/. If you don’t believe the school has adequately addressed the issue, the next step may be to get the EO involved. This also begins to develop a case history and foundation should additional steps need to be taken if mediation does not result in positive changes.
You can also employ the services of a mediator or collaborative lawyer to help you solve the issues. This serves a dual function of laying a foundation for future litigation if attempts at resolution fail.
Anti Harassment Order (“AHO”)
Although it was mentioned in the article, a civil anti harassment order is not a viable option to deal with most bullying situations.
It is very difficult to obtain an anti-harassment order against another minor. The statute provides that the only way a court will issue such an order is “in cases where the person to be restrained has been adjudicated of an offense against the child protected by the order, or is under investigation or has been investigated for such an offense.” RCW 10.14.040 (7):
And, even if the child has/is being investigated, the court still may not issue the protective order. It must consider “among the other facts of the case, the severity of the alleged offense, any continuing physical danger or emotional distress to the alleged victim, and the expense, difficulty, and educational disruption that would be caused by a transfer of the alleged offender to another school.”
In sum, before you file for an AHO you should already have an open police report, and followed up to ensure that there is an active investigation. Gather your own evidence, witness statements, and school records and request that the case file be updated with that information. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes persistence to actually get a case opened – police tend to be much more dismissive of “schoolyard issues” than say, for example, domestic violence allegations. Once there is an active investigation, then you can try to obtain an AHO – without at least an active investigation, the statute does not allow the court to issue an AHO between minors.
Having an attorney involved can help you to gather and present a case to the police to get the underlying investigation started before pursuing the AHO.
Litigation (or at least the threat…)
Sometimes the only way to make people and institutions accountable is via our justice system. If you have tried to work with the school, called the Education Ombudsman, and reported the issues to the police to no avail – what is your remedy? You and your child have legal rights. Education is a fundamental right.
In the case of school bullying, you would probably have claims against both the bully (and his/her parent(s)) and the school itself. (Another blog post will address parental liability for their childrens' actions specifically)
The seminal Washington case setting school liability is McLeod v. Grant County School District No. 128, 42 Wn.2d 316, 255 P.2d 360 (1953). A school and student have a special relationship, and thus a school has a duty of care to students. This standard has been applied on several occasions to impose liability on a school for anything from shop class accidents to sexual molestation by a teacher.
More recently, the duty of the school to protect against bullying came up in Hopkins v Seattle Public School District No. 1, No. 73147-5-I (July 18, 2016).
In Hopkins, the plaintiff was struck by another student and suffered a broken jaw. Because "School districts owe a duty to protect the pupils in its custody from dangers reasonably to be anticipated— including the foreseeable misconduct of third-parties" (McLeod), Hopkins claimed that the school district should have reasonably anticipated that the other student (who had a history of behavioral problems and aggression) would attempt to assault him, and should have protected him from that assault.
The case was on appeal regarding a claimed error in the instructions given to the jury on the "special relationship" between the school and the student, so the decision does not include a lot of background facts such as whether the school knew about prior incidents of bullying involving the perpetrator. But the case does establish that a school can be held liable for not foreseeing and preventing harm caused by a bully, at least under some circumstances.
Also in 2016, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that, in some circumstances, a school can be liable for failing to protect a student from conduct that occurs off campus by a third party. Liability for a breach of duty while a student is in custody is not cut off merely because the harm does not occur until later. The Supreme Court clearly held that "…districts have a duty of reasonable care toward the students in their care to protect them from foreseeable dangers that could result from a breach of the district's duty. While the location of the injury is relevant to many elements of the tort, the mere fact the injury occurs off campus is not by itself determinative…. As the Idaho Supreme Court noted in a somewhat similar case, " the relevant inquiry is to the location of the negligence rather than the location of the injury." N.L. v. Bethel School District, 378 P.3d 162 (Wash. 2016)
In NL, the school principal was informed that an 18 year old student was a sex offender with predatory characteristics, yet the principal did not inform the student's teachers or coaches as was school policy. N.L. was a 14 year old who was taken off campus by the 18 year old and raped.
Making the jump from imposing liability for an off campus rape of a 14 year old by a fellow 18 year old student who was a registered sex offender to imposing liability for off campus bullying may seem far fetched. But the duty to reasonably foresee harm caused by a fellow student exists regardless of the degree of resulting harm. And, a school district is liable for harm which occurs off campus as a result of the school's breach of its duty to reasonably foresee and protect from that harm. Situations can be imagined where a school fails to recognize bullying and intervene to protect the bullied from the resulting harm - both physical and mental/emotional - that would occur both on and off campus.
In conclusion - even if you don't want to actually sue the school district, you are more likely to get officials to take your case seriously if you put together a foundation documenting the bullying and how it is effecting your child and his or her ability to attend and participate at school. Retaining an attorney to articulate your case and what you want done can also be an effective method of communicating that you are serious about your child's wellbeing and right to an education free from fear.
We are committed to advancing justice for our clients and our community. The community aspect of our philosophy includes ensuring that our institutions, including education, remain accountable. If you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss your options to address a bullying problem, feel free to call, email, or a submit a confidential inquiry via the link on our homepage.
Breckan Law PLLC is very excited to announce that we have secured a new location to better serve our clients and community.
The new location is just one block from our current location.
We will not have a physical location between September 16th and October 1st as we relocate. We will of course still be available to meet with clients and will arrange to do so at mutually convenient locations during those two weeks.
Our new location features private, off street parking behind the building for client privacy; a large conference room that can accommodate meetings, mediations, and depositions; original hardwood floors; multiple entrances that will allow us to provide supervised visitation services for the community; and other features that will enhance our ability to serve clients and community.
Please stop by and see the new place after October 1, 2016!
When you have decided to separate from your spouse (or, if you are seriously contemplating separation), one of the best steps you can take is to pay for a consultation with a knowledgeable, experienced advocate who seems to actually care about your unique situation.
A good consultation will answer your immediate questions and help to formulate your exit strategy (or, potential future exit strategy).
Our consultations begin with you sending us an email with 1) the questions you want to make sure are answered at the consult, 2) a brief description of your situation, and 3) anything you believe is of particular relevance. We work with your schedule to set up the appointment to meet in our office. (We can also arrange a telephonic or video call if you are not in the Olympia/Yelm, WA area). Payment of $150 is collected at the beginning of the appointment.
Why not just call around to find a "free" consultation? The old adage "you get what you pay for" comes to mind. Primarily, free consultations are offered for the purpose of enticing new clients. Free consultations are not designed or intended to provide the person any real value - they are targeted to get the person signed up as a client. (The exception is if you have a personal injury case; it is industry standard to provide free personal injury consultations)
The bottom line: If you provide value for your consultation, you are more likely to get a valuable consultation. When scheduling a paid consultation with an attorney, pay attention to whether they want to be prepared for your meeting. We don't need every detail for a consult, but an attorney should at least want an understanding of the basic and most important facts as well as your initial thoughts and goals.
Email us today to schedule your consultation: email@example.com or simply click on the mail icon below.
It is tempting to choose the most inexpensive insurer possible when selecting auto insurance. No one intends to actually use the coverage; many people would not even carry it if it wasn't required by law.
Selecting the right insurer and coverage may end up being one of the most important decisions you make. Some insurers routinely violate their duties to their insureds, and fail to comply with state laws that protect consumers.
Whether you are on the receiving or giving side of a collision, the resulting impact on your life will be largely dictated by how your insurer handles the claim.
For example, if you are in a collision and have PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance - regardless of fault, you are entitled to reasonable medical treatment that is related to your injuries from the collision. How your insurer determines what is “reasonable” and “related” however, varies from carrier to carrier. USAA, for example, outsources the administration of its PIP coverage to a company called “Auto Injury Solutions.” I have found that PIP coverage is routinely cut off without reason, and well before the coverage limit is reached with USAA. This frequently causes insureds to delay treatment that is necessary both for their recovery, and to prove their damages in a case against a third party driver’s insurance coverage. Insureds frequently have to threaten or file a lawsuit against their own carrier, just to obtain the benefits to which they are legally entitled!
Another example arises when you are either the at fault or non fault driver, and a claim is filed for property and injury damages resulting from a collision. If you were at fault (hey, these things happen – doesn’t mean you’re a bad person), your interests are served when your insurer settles with the person you have injured in a timely and fair manner. Even though you have paid your insurance premiums, your insurer can choose not to settle, thus exposing you to additional liability. You also may be subpoenaed to produce documents and evidence, be deposed, and testify at trial – just to save the insurer money that should go for the damages caused. Meanwhile, the harm that you have caused to the injured person is compounded over time – justice delayed is justice denied. Some insurers are more notorious than others at making unreasonably low offers and denying resolution of claims.
What if you are not at fault? While you are suffering the debilitating effects of the collision, the opposing insurance company is focused on finding ways to delay and deny the compensation to which you are entitled. Your (justifiable) anger is increasing, and you feel victimized all over again for an incident that wasn’t your fault in the first place!
What can you do as a responsible insurance consumer?
1. Be selective about the carrier you choose.
Do not just pick the cheapest carrier. Sometimes the least expensive carrier will be the right choice – but not always. For example, I would not have Geico coverage if it were half the cost of the next option, because you are paying for future headache. Our office has had good results with Progressive in third party liability cases.
Ask your friends and neighbors what their experience has been – especially if they have actually had to resolve a claim of some kind.
2. Opt to carry both PIP and UIM coverage.
PIP is important even if you have health insurance, because you will likely have to pay less out of your own recovery for subrogation interests. UIM is equally important because 1) many people drive without insurance, even though it is against the law, and 2) even if the other driver has minimum liability limits, the minimum limit is not nearly enough to compensate for most damages arising out of even relatively minor collisions.
3. Be informed, and be assertive.
If you are the at fault driver in a collision, be proactive with your insurance company. Be skeptical if they downplay the other side’s alleged damages. Cooperate entirely, but make sure that they are aware that you want them to settle for policy limits so that the insured person is made whole, and so that you can go on living your life. Your premium is likely to go up regardless – delaying in order to settle for less only benefits the insurer, not you.
If you are not the at fault driver, do not give any statements to the third party insurer. Contact an attorney as soon as practicable; experienced counsel will guide you through the process, and take the stress of dealing with insurance companies off of you. Have patience: Sometimes it can take years to reach a settlement or verdict, but each time someone accepts a less than reasonable settlement, it just makes it harder to obtain justice for others.
If you have been in a collision, or are having a dispute with your insurance company, call us for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
Upcoming blog posts will cover:
1.Navigating Insurance terms: UIM, PIP, First Party, Third Party
2. Subrogation, Auto Collisions, and Personal Injury Protection
Do you have any questions about insurance law or personal injury claims? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment suggesting topics for future posts!
Breckan Law PLLC