Frequently Asked Questions
The following information is general in nature, may not apply to your particular situation, and should not be substituted for personal legal advice.

General
Criminal
Personal Injury
 

General      

Can I get advice over the telephone?
We will conduct an initial evaluation over the telephone to determine whether our firm is best suited to address your legal issues. If we are unable to assist you, we will guide you to attorneys whose practice emphasizes the area of law you need.

How much is a consultation?
If our firm can meet your needs, we will set up a free consultation. We will set aside 30 minutes to 60 minutes to meet with you to discuss your case in more detail.

What are your office hours?
Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Because of the nature of our work, we are often in court or at meetings. Nevertheless, please call or send us an email at our firm address of [email protected] We make it a high priority to respond to voicemail messages and emails as soon as possible.
 

Criminal      

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
There are actually three types of criminal charges. A misdemeanor is any criminal charge that has a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A gross misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. A felony is defined as any criminal charge that has a maximum penalty of a year and a day in jail up to life, with the exception of Aggravated Murder cases in which the death penalty is sought. The maximum fine for a state felony is $20,000.

Should I contact an attorney if I am under investigation but have not been charged?
You should contact legal counsel immediately upon learning that you are under investigation. An attorney can advise you of your right not to provide statements that could incriminate you, as well as inform you of the possibility that search warrants may be executed, telephones may be wire tapped and financial statements may be subpoenaed. The scope of an investigation depends on the nature of the potential criminal charge. An attorney experienced in both state and federal court can give you proper advice regarding your constitutional rights.

If I am charged with a crime, will I have a trial by a jury?
Both the state and federal constitutions provide that all criminal charges be tried before a jury. For misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges, the trial is before a jury of six. Felonies are tried before a jury of twelve. If you waive your right to a jury, your case will be decided before a single judge. A person can waive their right to a jury trial at any time. However, once it is waived, you will likely not regain the right to a jury trial. Therefore, never waive your right to a jury trial without first consulting with an experienced trial lawyer.

What is an arraignment, and do I need a lawyer at my arraignment?
An arraignment is your constitutional right to know the charges that have been brought against you. It is a formal proceeding before a judge that starts the clock that provides that your case be tried within a reasonable amount of time. In state court, in-custody defendants must be tried within 60 days. Out-of-custody defendants must be tried within 90 days. In federal court, defendants must be tried within 70 days.

In most courts, arraignments are also the time to determine whether a person should be in custody while the case is pending or released on bail/bond or on the person's promise to appear. Whether you need an attorney to be present depends upon the charge and the court in which your arraignment is scheduled. Some courts will have a public defender available for the limited purpose of representing you at arraignment. The public defender will not represent you on the remainder of your case unless you qualify for public defense services. However, courts are not consistent as to the availability of public defense attorneys. Therefore, you should consult with an attorney to know whether retaining private counsel is necessary before appearing at your arraignment
 

Personal Injury      

What should I do after an accident?
If you have been injured as the fault of another, be sure you have all the necessary insurance information of the person who caused the accident. Besides insurance information, be sure you have the person's full name, address, telephone number and, if available, email. After your accident, be sure you fill out a traffic accident form. These can be obtained from the Washington State Patrol or from any local law enforcement agency.

The first priority, however, is your health. Make sure that you are checked out by a physician as soon as possible. Often the trauma of an automobile accident causes a person's body to mask pain. It may take several days before you begin to feel stiffness, headaches or other injuries.

Chronicle your injuries. Use a journal, photographs, and even video if necessary. If you end up initiating a lawsuit, you may not be asked to recite how you felt right after the accident until a year or two later. Chronicling your day to day injuries and recovery will help you recollect when you are later asked to testify.

How soon should I call an attorney?
You should contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can advise you on the best way to deal with the insurance company, or if that attorney accepts your case, he will deal directly with the insurance company. One of the first things that will take place is that you will receive calls from both your own insurance company and the insurance company of the person who caused the accident. These telephonic interviews will be recorded. Be sure that you have a lawyer who can assist you through the interview process.

Is there a deadline for filing a lawsuit?
Both the Washington state and the federal judicial system have specific deadlines for filing a lawsuit. For most personal injury actions there is a three year statute of limitations. However, intentional acts have a shorter statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitation has passed, you will not be able to file suit to recover damages for your injuries.

How much is my case worth?
There is no exact formula. The value of each case is specific to its facts. We assess the value of cases based upon our own professional experience, researching past verdicts and settlements, and conducting a peer review of your case with other experienced attorneys.

Should I accept an insurance company's settlement offer?
Be aware that an insurance company may offer you an initial settlement offer that is below the actual value of your case. A check waved in front of you is very tempting, especially in these difficult economic times. If you accept the settlement offer, any future medical care will have to be paid by you personally and will not be covered by your own health care insurance. Therefore, it is important that you not accept any insurance company's settlement offer without first consulting with an attorney.

Can I settle without going to court?
Most cases are resolved without the need to go to trial. It is our practice to first put together a detailed summary of your case requesting payment of compensation. The summary would include a detailed account of your injuries and a deadline for the insurance company's response. If they do not respond within that time frame, we will then initiate a lawsuit. Once a suit has been initiated, the parties will have an opportunity to exchange information and learn more about your case. After that process, typically only a small fraction of cases proceed to trial. In most courts, it is less than five percent.