What to do after a car accident in Washington state

Stay calm, get help, and speak with an attorney before negotiating with insurance companies

Even a minor automobile accident can be a major disruption to your life. There’s the physical and emotional recovery, medical bills and discussions with insurance companies, all while potentially missing work and missing the use of your vehicle.

Speaking with an attorney may feel like another daunting task on your to-do list, but it can make life easier — and typically leads to better results.

“My goal is for our clients to focus on getting healthy again. Let me worry about accessing records and filing paperwork,” says Sheila Rowe, a paralegal at Walton Law in Snohomish County. “We have a really good system in place to keep everything on schedule, and like to work proactively to anticipate our client’s needs.”


Automobile accident? Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Stay calm: “A vehicle accident is a jarring experience, and you may forget things you already knew. Stay calm, and make sure everyone involved is OK,” Rowe says.
  2. Call the police: It is important to get a police report of the incident, so make sure you request that they attend the scene. “If a 9-1-1 representative asks about injuries, say you don’t know yet and you’d like to get an officer’s assistance. Unless there is a major natural disaster or emergency going on elsewhere, police should attend the scene,” Rowe says.
  3. Take pictures: It may seem strange to take photos or video at the scene, but that evidence will be extremely valuable in the event of a personal injury case. Take photos and video of your injuries as well.
  4. Seek medical attention: You may feel OK at first, but then you may develop symptoms later. Don’t try to ‘tough it out.’ It’s important to get assessed and treated as soon as possible to establish a record of your condition and any changes.
  5. Talk to a lawyer before speaking with the insurance company: “Be cautious about any conversations with an insurance company — don’t sign anything and don’t record a statement. I’ve heard of cases where an insurance company started a phone call with ‘How are you?’ and the client responded, ‘I’m fine,’ which was then used to try to prove that they weren’t injured,” Rowe says.

If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident in the Puget Sound region, Walton Law offers free and confidential consultations, where there is no pressure to use their services.

“I’m more than happy to speak with anyone — even if they think there’s nothing we can do, even if they don’t have insurance. We just like to help.”

Walton Law is a client-based firm (not volume-based), which means they always have time to give clients personalized service. The firm recently opened a new office in Mountlake Terrace, expanding its service area from its existing Bellingham office. To learn more, visit waltonlawapc.com or call (360) 526-6899.

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