“I think the first duty of society is justice.”

– Wendell Phillips

Frequently Asked Questions

Filing a personal injury lawsuit

Questions about filing personal injury claims and lawsuits in Washington and Oregon

Personal injury is the legal term for injuries and damages to your physical or mental health, caused by the bad conduct or negligence of another person or company.

The category of personal injury law is broad and can include injuries caused in many different ways—such as car crashes, medical malpractice, on a dangerous premises, or by a dangerous product.

It depends on where you could file a lawsuit if your injury claim can’t be resolved.

All personal injury lawsuits have a “statute of limitations”, which varies by the state and the cause of the lawsuit.

A statute of limitations is a law (statute) limiting the time an injured person has to file a lawsuit.

In Washington State, most personal injury claims must be filed within 3 years after the date of the incident. However, there are exceptions depending on the type of claim, or the age of the victim, or other factors.

And in some cases, an injured person has to give notice of their intent to file a lawsuit in a very limited amount of time.

That’s why most attorneys recommend that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Personal injury is the legal term for injuries and damages caused by someone else’s bad conduct or negligence.

personal injury lawyer represents injured people in the process of making sure that the person or company responsible for the injuries is held accountable and pays for the damage.

Personal injury lawyers assist with the process of filing the proper insurance claims, negotiating with the insurance companies and other attorneys, and file civil (not criminal) court cases to protect the rights of injured people.

If you’ve been hurt, or a family member has died, because of someone else’ negligent or bad actions, you should talk to a lawyer.

Sometimes, personal injury claims can be quickly and fairly resolved with insurance adjusters … but remember, they are working for the insurance company—not for you.

You should ask.

An experienced personal injury lawyer should ask you questions about your case, and then be able to tell you about their previous work with similar cases or legal issues.

If you aren’t ready to talk with a personal injury lawyer yet, then you could get a good idea of their experience by reading their client’s reviews. Additionally, look for case examples on the practice area pages of their website, and in blog posts and other articles.

“Damages” is a legal term for money awarded by a court in a personal injury case. When you file a civil lawsuit, you are asking to be fairly compensated for the harm and losses caused by someone else’s bad actions.

Our civil justice system recognizes that no one can undo what happened to cause your injuries. The only thing we can do is to provide a way for you to recover damages.

There are a few different types of damages.

Economic damages: The direct costs for things like medical bills, transportation, lost wages, home assistance.

Non-economic damages: The intangible costs of things like loss of enjoyment, disabilities caused, pain and suffering—these are very important for people with permanent injuries.

Punitive damages: Punitive means to punish, and these damages may apply when a person or company was doing something extremely dangerous, or likely to cause harm.

Not necessarily. We will discuss it with you first.

That depends on the facts of your case. Sometimes, we file a lawsuit very quickly to protect a statute of limitations, or to push negotiations.

It is possible, but most lawsuits filed are resolved before going to a full trial.

An “expert witness” is a person who is hired to review the facts of a particular aspect of a legal case, and give opinions based on their education and experience.

Expert witnesses review the facts of the case, and prepare a report based on their professional opinions. For example, in a personal injury case, the expert witness might be a nurse practitioner who can review all the medical records.

Or, an expert witness might simply answer questions in a deposition (an in-person interview of a party or witness, conducted under oath), or at a trial. The purpose of experts at trial is to help the jury understand the case.

More on personal injury case expert witnesses

It depends on the injuries, the medical prognosis, who you are filing a lawsuit against, and how much investigation is needed.

It could take a few months, or it could take a couple of years.

We can give you an idea of how long it takes to file an injury lawsuit once we’ve reviewed your case. It is important to not pursue settlement of your claim until the full extent of the damages are known.

It can be really hard to have your personal injury case rejected—and lawyers can’t always explain why.

Common reasons a law firm might not take your personal injury case include:

  • The statute of limitations has expired, or is expiring soon.
  • Your case is out of the lawyer’s jurisdiction, or out of their area of expertise.
  • The lawyer doesn’t have the time or resources.
  • There are problems with proving fault or liability.
  • There is no way to recover the money for your damages through insurance or other means.

These are general reasons and may not apply to your specific situation.

Keep reading: Reasons a lawyer might reject your personal injury case.

Finances and Costs

Questions about lawsuit expenses, lawyer fee agreements, and other financial questions about personal injury claims

We need to review the facts of your case before assessing the value. If you have been seriously injured, we will need opinions from your doctors and we may need expert witnesses to review the claim before we know the full value. If we are handling a wrongful death case, we will need to work with expert witnesses to assess the damages.

It is important to carefully assess all the details associated with a claim. A client cannot come back in the future and seek additional monies.

Please, be wary of any lawyer who would tell you what your case is worth before they know the facts.

No. Paying the advanced case costs is part of the risk that an attorney takes with a contingency fee agreement.

A contingency fee means a lawyer only earns a fee by successfully resolving your case. 

Personal injury lawyers usually take a percentage of the total amount of money you get at the end of the case. This means that lawyers have financial incentive to help you get the case done as successfully as possible.

It also means that we incur the risks of litigation: if we aren’t successful in your claim, we don’t get paid an attorney fee.

Most personal injury lawyers receive a fee around 33 1/3 %, and up to 40%, when a case goes to trial. 

Our contingency fee depends on the facts of your case.

After we negotiate a settlement on your behalf or are successful at trial, the insurance companies send final documents to our office.

We will review and sign the final documents with you, and then the insurance company sends a final check to Coluccio Law in trust for you.

We deposit it into a trust escrow account, and then pay your outstanding bills, our fee, and your net settlement payment. The disbursements are only made after your approval.

We advance all court fees and all of the cost of the litigation.

While we can advance court and litigation costs, an injured person will need to continue to pay any medical bills not covered by their insurance, even when the injuries were not their fault.

When it is difficult or not possible to pay medical bills not covered, we work with the providers to assist our clients.

You can get a full itemization of your case costs any time you ask for it; otherwise, we will review it at the conclusion of your case.

Most medical providers will need to be paid before your case has concluded. You should tell your doctors that you have a lawyer, and sign any releases they need to be able to talk with us.

If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, you will likely have coverage through your automobile insurance policy.

If you have health insurance, once your automobile insurance coverage is exhausted, you should be covered as usual. Your automobile insurance carrier and health insurance company may need to be reimbursed out of any other insurance payments at the end of your case. Unfortunately, no personal injury lawyer can protect you from the enormous costs of doctors and hospital care.

Working with us

Questions about what you need to do to work with a lawyer

If you send a message, you will get an email or call back as soon as possible. 
If you call, a receptionist will answer. They will ask a couple of basic questions— name, contact info, where the crash happened. 
Then, they will check to see who is available on the legal staff.  
We will talk a bit about what happened, and answer any questions you have, or what other information we might need. 
If we can help you, we’ll send over a new client packet. If we are not the right lawyers for you, we will do our best to get you to another lawyer or other resources.
Note that we cannot give you specific legal advice! Lawyers are only allowed to give advice to clients — and that is for your own protection.  


First and foremost, take care of yourself, your health and your family, and follow the recommendations of medical providers.

Please return our calls and emails promptly; we will do the same for you.

We will gather a lot of information from you initially; later, you may need to answer additional questions (interrogatories) or provide additional documents. Eventually, you may need to give a recorded statement under oath (deposition) or participate in mediation.

It depends on what is happening in your case. We check in with clients often, and notify you of developments, but we encourage you to get in touch if you have questions.

Yes. Call or email Kevin Coluccio, and he will respond as soon as possible.

Be aware that if he is in court, or taking a deposition, he may not return your call promptly, and it may be better to get in touch with his paralegal, Wanda.

It depends on a lot of factors: severity of injuries and future medical treatment, access to insurance policies, and other complications. Some cases can be concluded quickly, but others take several years.

To work with Coluccio Law, clients will need to sign a few basic documents.

  • A Contingency Fee Agreement that goes over when and how we will be reimbursed for our expenses and paid for our work.
  • A Release of Information that allows us to collect records on your behalf.
  • A HIPAA release so that we can collect medical records.

If we don’t have the time to fully work up your case the way it deserves, then we won’t take your case.

We are committed to providing each of our clients with the time and resources to successfully handle their case.

Insurance Companies

Questions about making an insurance claim for injuries and damages, dealing with insurance adjusters, and protecting your legal rights

In your own insurance policy, the Policy Declarations page is the quickest way to understand your benefits after a collision.

Look for sections on Personal Injury ProtectionCollision CoverageLiability Coverage and Underinsured/Uninsured Coverage.

 A Guide to Understanding your Insurance Policy

If you were in a crash caused by someone else, then you will need to file a claim with that driver’s insurance company.

Liability coverage is the bare minimum of auto insurance, and is required by law if you own and operate a car in Washington.

If you were in a car crash caused by someone else, that person’s liability insurance is supposed to pay for your medical bills and other damages.

Your own liability insurance does not cover your injuries, or damage to your vehicle, unless the other driver’s coverage is not sufficient.

Yes, but only after your Personal Injury Protection has been exhausted.

If your health insurance does pay for medical care related to your injury claim, you may need to reimburse them out of proceeds of any settlement or verdict.

The same is true for your Personal Injury Protection: the carrier will be entitled to reimbursement. There are some exceptions to reimbursement.

We will work with you and any lien holders to maximize your part of any settlement or verdict.

If your own car insurance company pays your bills and expenses after a crash, they can try to recover their costs from the insurance company of the person who caused the crash.

This complicated process is called subrogation. It is a process to reimburse your insurance company and medical insurance carrier for your success in obtaining a verdict or settlement.

If you plan to agree to a settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you need to let your own insurance company know first.

If you have an attorney, they will deal with the insurance adjusters on your behalf.

If you are a Coluccio Law client, you don’t have to say anything. We will talk to the insurance companies on your behalf.

Initially, we will want the name and contact information for any insurance adjusters who have contacted you.

We will also need a copy of your insurance cards, and any policies you have.

It depends on where you are in the claim process.

If you have filed a crash claim with your insurance company and haven’t received a claim number or heard from an adjuster, you need to contact them again to make sure the claim was processed.

If you filed a crash claim and received a claim number, then you should be able to check the status of your claim via the insurance company’s website, main phone number, or through the assigned insurance adjuster.

But if the insurance adjuster isn’t responding to calls or emails within a few business days, you may need to call and politely ask for the adjuster’s supervisor. If this problem continues, consider sending a letter detailing your attempts to reach the adjuster and their failure to respond.

If it is the other driver’s car insurance company that isn’t responding to you, you may need to speak to an attorney.

About Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Questions about filing wrongful death claims and lawsuits in Washington State

A wrongful death suit is a civil lawsuit, filed against the people or companies who caused or contributed to a “wrongful death.”

Wrongful death is the legal term for an unnatural death, resulting from an injury or incident, caused by the bad conduct or wrongful acts of another person or a company. It does not mean that there was necessarily any criminal action or intent to kill the victim. Wrongful death claims can arise from:

Filing a wrongful death suit is complicated. It may require an investigation, and hiring expert witnesses. A lawyer’s job is to help clients navigate this difficult process, and make it as painless as possible.

If you have questions about wrongful death, please contact us directly at 206-745-3889.

There’s no real average wrongful death settlement, just like there’s no real average death.

These cases depend on factors like how old the person was when they died, the circumstances surrounding their death—and the ability to hold someone legally and financially accountable for it. There are many more factors that are considered.

We do have jury verdicts and past settlements, that help us evaluate the best possible outcome for each case. Talking with a lawyer will help give you a better idea of what is possible in your particular circumstances.

“Damages” is a legal term for money awarded by a court. When you file a civil lawsuit, you are asking to be fairly compensated for the harm and losses caused by someone else’s bad actions.

Our civil justice system recognizes that no one can undo what has happened. The only thing we can do is to provide a way for you to recover damages for that loss

Economic damages in a wrongful death case are the hard costs and expenses, like any final medical bills and funeral or burial expenses. The loss of the future wages of the person who died may also be included.

Non-economic damages are the intangible costs, like the person’s suffering before their death, and also the loss of that person’s companionship in the lives of remaining family members.

Generally, the next-of-kin, or the closest family member to the deceased, files the wrongful death lawsuit.

In Washington State, this may be a spouse, parent, child, or sibling. It is usually the same person who would open an Estate on behalf of the family.

The designated representative protects the rights of all those entitled to damages under the law. But we often talk with relatives who are gathering legal information, and will not be the designated representative.  

We start an investigation. Sometimes, this is as simple as obtaining police and witness reports. In more complex cases, we look to expert investigators to help us piece together what happened.

Attorney Kevin Coluccio has been investigating wrongful death cases for more than 30 years, and has accurately assessed fault in hundreds of cases.

There’s a statistical process, using government guidelines. It is based on a lot of different factors. 
We know that a wrongful death case doesn’t bring back someone you love. It is just the closest thing to “fair” that our justice system can do: provide the remaining family with monetary compensation.
It is not perfect, but it is as close to justice as we can get. 

It depends on how the death occurred, who you are filing a lawsuit against, and how much investigation is needed.

It could take a few months, or it could take a couple of years. We can give you an idea of how long it takes to file a wrongful death lawsuit once we’ve reviewed your case.

It is important to not pursue settlement of your claim until the full extent of the damages are known. We are careful to consider all aspects of the damages caused by a wrongful death.

It depends on how the death occurred.

Car crash: If the person died in a car crash that was caused by someone else, then that driver would be responsible and their car insurance company should pay. It is rare (although sometimes possible), to have a person pay out-of-pocket in a wrongful death lawsuit. If the vehicle that caused the fatal crash belonged to someone other than the driver, then we would look at the owner’s insurance policy as well.

Truck crash: Crashes involving commercial motor vehicles or semi-trucks are a little different. In those situations, the responsibility for paying a wrongful death settlement might be the insurance companies for the truck driver, the truck owner, the motor carrier (who hires drivers and arranges routes). In some situations, a truck crash is caused by defective parts: then it may be the insurance company for the mechanic and shop, or even the manufacturer, who takes responsibility for the lawsuit.

Medical malpractice: A wrongful death claim from a medical malpractice case may be paid by the insurance companies from the hospital or medical facilities, and/or the policies for the individual doctors and medical practitioners. In these cases, the people who caused or contributed to the death were at work: their personal assets are not at risk.

Product liability: When a death is caused by a defective or unreasonably dangerous product, you may be able to hold the manufacturer responsible.  In these cases, most often, qualified and experienced experts are needed to analyze the products.

Your lawyer should be able to answer any questions you have about how your wrongful death settlement is paid.

Wrongful death claims can be complicated.

You should talk with an attorney, if for no other reason than to make sure all aspects of your claim are considered.

Wrongful death is the legal phrase for an unnatural death, resulting from an injury incident caused by the bad conduct or wrongful acts of another person/company.

Personal injury is the umbrella term for injuries and damages caused by the bad conduct or wrongful acts of another person/company.

If those injuries resulted in death, then it is a wrongful death case.

A wrongful death is basically the most extreme personal injury someone can suffer.

It can be a really difficult decision. A lawyer may need to turn down a potential wrongful death case because there’s not enough evidence, or because it would be impossible to prove what happened.

When our office decides to take a wrongful death case, we commit to fully investigating and understanding the circumstances surrounding the death.

We put in the work to put forth the best possible case, and get you the best possible result.

When a person dies, all of their assets and debts have to be counted. The law says that we have to set up an “estate”, a separate legal entity, to pay the person’s debts and distribute their assets.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the deceased person is represented by that estate. If we win the lawsuit, then the estate pays the hard costs of the lawsuit, and distributes the proceeds.

First, we see if the person had written a will before they died: a will usually names a Personal Representative to handle the Estate. However, since a crash death is sudden and unexpected, we often find that the deceased person did not have a will.

In that situation, we have to find someone to take on the duties and tasks of a Personal Representative. It is extremely difficult for a surviving spouse or immediate family member to do this while in mourning. We can help you find a local attorney, or identify an extended family member, to handle the role of Personal Representative. The representative of the Estate protects the rights of all of the beneficiaries.

Once the Estate is established, the legal process of probate can begin. Probate is the court process that confirms the deceased person’s estate is properly settled, with the debts paid and the assets—including any wrongful death settlements—distributed.

As personal injury lawyers, we handle the liability and damages issues related to car and truck collisions. Probate is a different type of legal proceeding: we work with attorneys who specialize in probate to make sure that everything is accounted for, and that you are treated fairly.

For any free consultation with Coluccio Law, if you send a message, you will get an email or call back as soon as possible.

If you call, a receptionist will ask a couple of basic questions, get your contact information, and put you in touch with the first available member of the legal staff. If attorney Kevin Coluccio is available, he will speak with you directly.

In the first conversation, we will ask you questions about the person who died, when and how they died, and determine what other information we might need to start an investigation and open a wrongful death case.

We will try to understand if it is possible that another person’s bad actions caused your person’s death. If so, we would want to act quickly to preserve evidence and help you protect your legal rights.

If we are not able to help with your case, we will do our best to refer you to another legal resource.

About Truck Crash Cases

Questions about commercial motor vehicle and truck crash cases

“Truck” is just a faster way of saying “commercial motor vehicle.”

We work on cases involving crashes with semi-trucks, garbage trucks, flatbeds, heavy equipment—vehicles a driver needs a special license to operate.

No good, honest lawyer should answer a question like this. 
The truth is, we need to know about the crash facts,  the injuries, the losses and damages, to give you a solid estimate of your case value. 
Often, it takes awhile before we know the full extent of your injuries and damages. Let us know if you want to talk about it.
It depends on the case, but justice can be expensive. That’s why we pay the costs up front, and our clients reimburse us when we win. 
Common costs in truck crash cases include:
  • Court filing and service fees: $500-$1000
  • Medical bills and records: $50 – $500
  • Investigators: $1000-$2500
  • Expert witnesses: $2500 + 
  • Depositions (recorded statements): $2500+
There might also be fees for mediation or arbitration, and the cost of trial exhibits. 
You can ask to see a statement of costs at any time.
It is possible, but not likely. 
There are many steps between filing a lawsuit and going to trial. The court system is set up to encourage us to come to an agreement before the trial date. 
But we are always preparing for trial in the background – and we are ready for it. 
Can you take out your own appendix? Can you repair your own home foundation? 
You can try— but unless you’re an expert, it could cause a lot of damage. 
There are some types of personal injury claims that you can handle yourself. If your injuries are very minor, and there is only one insurance company involved, then you can probably make a claim and get a close-to-fair settlement. 
Truck crash cases are different. Different rules and laws apply to commercial motor vehicles (trucks). The injuries and damages are usually much more serious. And their insurance companies and lawyers are very aggressive. 
You should talk to a lawyer—or, to a few lawyers—before you try to handle it yourself. 
We believe drivers should take responsibility for their own actions. 
Nearly all of the truck crashes we see were the very predictable result of bad driving choices – not inevitable, unforseeable “accidents”. 
Dropping a glass of milk on your clean floor is an accident.  Stepping on the dog’s tail is an accident. 
Getting high and driving an 80,000-lb semi-truck at 75 mph is a choice. 
That’s why we often use “crash” or “collision” instead of “accident”. 
If the trucker got a citation from police, then they will need to take a drug test. This is an FMCSA (federal) rule for truck drivers, so it is the rule in every state. 
If the trucker did not get a citation, then it is up to their employer – unless someone was killed in the truck crash. Employers are only required to do a drug test after a crash if someone died.   
It’s hard to know for sure without a full investigation—that’s why we hire professionals. But there are some clues that might indicate a distracted truck driver.
With a police report:
The police report will show if a trucker admitted to distracted driver. If police officers talked to crash witnesses, their statements may include observations of distraction.  People might say they saw the trucker “looking down” or holding something, or had seen the truck swerving. In our own investigations, we find that witnesses have a lot more details than the police report.  
Without a police report:
You can guess that distraction may be a factor in a truck crash if there was no other clear reason for it. For example, a trucker rear-ends a car that is stopped and signaling a turn, without slowing down, on a clear and dry day. 
No. It is very rare— and expensive— to go after a truck driver’s personal assets. 
Usually, the truck driver was on the job at the time of the crash: the employer’s insurance company pays any settlement or trial verdict. 
That’s why we all have insurance. 
The short version: “Wrongful death” is exactly what it sounds like—causing an unnatural death. 
The longer version: “Wrongful death” is the legal term for an unnatural death, resulting from an injury or incident, caused by the bad conduct of another person or a company.
It does not mean that anyone intended to kill the victim.
Wrongful death claims can come from car crashes, semi-truck crashes, being hit by a vehicle, a work injury, etc. 
While they are not quite the same as other personal injury claims, the process is similar. 

About Car Crashes in Washington

Questions about what to do after a car crash in Washington state

A: First, STOP. Never drive away from the scene of a crash, regardless of severity. 2. Ensure the scene is safe by getting out of harm’s way, putting on your hazard lights or using a flashlight. 3. Call the police. 4. Take pictures of the crash and ensure you have an accurate record of the facts. 5. Ensure information is exchanged between parties: this includes information from witnesses as well as the name, address, and phone number of all people involved in the accident, including passengers. 6. Seek medical attention immediately if necessary, and report your accident to your insurance company as soon as possible 7. Consult a personal injury attorney to protect your rights and ensure you are receiving the best care and full compensation for your injuries suffered because of another’s negligence. 

Being involved in a car accident causes adrenaline to be released into the system. This adrenaline rush can often make people feel fine initially, even if they are in fact injured. It is best to consult with a doctor if you are injured before going back to work to prevent further injury. 

Typically, most insurance companies consider 72 hours to be a reasonable amount of time to see a doctor after being involved in a crash. 

Common side effects after being involved in a car crash include headaches, cuts and burns,  back pain, pain to the shoulders and neck, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), abdominal pain, numbness, tissue damage and fractures, and varying degrees of physical and emotional damage. 

Yes. The police report is the official account of what happened. Once the police have filed a report, you can protect yourself from fines and rising insurance rates. In addition, if there is no official police report, auto repair shops may not repair your vehicle’s damage. 

After a shocking event like a car crash, our bodies respond by releasing adrenaline and endorphins. This biochemical surge is the body’s way of responding to danger. However, this can mask the physical symptoms of injuries for hours or even days.

Even if you didn’t go immediately to the emergency room, you need to seek medical treatment for your injuries. The most important thing you can do is take care of yourself.

Here’s how to figure out what will be covered by car insurance:

A quick guide to understanding your car insurance policy

Using PIP insurance after a crash: 5 things you need to know

Coluccio Law Information

Attorney Kevin Coluccio has been licensed to practice law in Washington State since 1986. He has always limited his practice to helping injured parties and families involved with wrongful death claims.

About Kevin Coluccio

We just ask that you get the recommended medical care, and return our calls and emails promptly. We will do our best to resolve your case as successfully and as soon as possible.

Most personal injury lawyers receive a fee around 33 1/3 %, and up to 40%, when a case goes to trial. 

Our contingency fee depends on the facts of your case.

Yes. Call or email Kevin Coluccio, and he will respond as soon as possible.

Be aware that if he is in court, or taking a deposition, he may not return your call promptly, and it may be better to get in touch with his paralegal, Wanda.

Talk to a Lawyer

Attorney Kevin Coluccio has been helping injured citizens get justice since 1985.

He has helped hundreds of people get through a difficult process – find out if Coluccio Law can help you.