Q&A with a Personal Injury Attorney
We sat down with Mark E. Olmsted, Attorney at Law, and asked him a few questions. First, a quick look at who he is and a condensed version of what he does and has done:
Raised in Spokane Washington. Undergraduate degree from Washington State University, B.A. in History, minors in Political Science and Business, 1989. Law School: Willamette University College of Law, J.D., 1992. Assistant Editor, Willamette Law Review, 1991-1992. Bar Admissions: Oregon State Bar, 1992 (admitted to practice in all state and federal courts); Washington State Bar, 1993 (admitted to practice in all state and federal courts); Passed Hawaii bar in 2015 anticipate admission this fall. Law Firm: Mark E. Olmsted, PC, owner, 2007 to present; Hoffman Hart & Wagner, partner, 2000-2007; Hoffman Hart & Wagner, associate, 1996-1999; Safeco Insurance Company, staff attorney, 1992-1995. Area of practice: Civil Litigation with a focus on injury accidents and insurance cases. Personal: Married with a sixteen year-old son. Hobbies and Interests: playing and coaching basketball, road biking, running, golfing, spending time with family.
Here are our questions and Mark's answers:
Q.) How long have you been in practice?
A.) I have been in practice in Oregon since 1992 and Washington since 1993. This year I passed the Bar Exam in Hawaii and hope soon to realize some opportunities to represent local people injured while on vacation in Hawaii.
Q.) What drew you to this line of work?
A.) As a kid I was fascinated by Perry Mason and concluded that being a litigator was about the coolest job around. I envisioned a stable of smart investigators running down every lead, exposing the opposition in court, and winning every case. When I got out of law school, my best opportunity to litigate was a job defending car accident cases for an insurance company. It was no Perry Mason experience, but I did learn how to try injury accident cases. I also learned that every person involved in accident litigation experiences a lot of stress--some people literally obsess until their case is resolved. Over time I realized my role was not just to win, or maximize the legal position, but to help clients get a good result without the process ruining their year.
Q.) What are the legal implications of being in an accident? What are injured persons' basic rights? Are there dos and don'ts?
A.) Some of the legal implications of being in an accident are beyond your control. In serious injury accidents, the person responsible for causing the accident certainly has financial exposure to the injured party. Luckily, the law mandates liability insurance. However, the legal minimum insurance limit of $25,000 per person does not go very far these days in protecting you. If you have assets to protect, talk to your agent about getting higher liability limits. This will also increase your uninsured motorist limits which protects you in the event you are injured by an uninsured, or minimally insured driver. If you caused a serious injury, it may be smart to consult an attorney especially if you receive a traffic citation. The results of traffic court can have a bearing on a later civil action. If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who caused it, you have the right to seek treatment from any provider you like under you insurer's no- fault PIP coverage. You also have no-fault wage loss coverage if you miss more than a couple weeks of work. If you have a serious injury, you would do well to seek the advice of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. This will ensure that crucial evidence is preserved and all important leads and witnesses nailed down. In the event of what appears to be a minor or temporary injury, most people are capable of dealing with the insurer to resolve it. Insurers require a release of medical records prior to paying any injury claim—this is standard However, you are not required to release medical records unrelated to accident injury treatment. If it is a straight forward accident with a minor injury, don't be afraid to give the insurance company a statement about the accident and your injuries. If you have a serious injury, again I recommend consulting an attorney right away.
Q.) Can you benefit from legal protection even if the accident is your fault?
A.) Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In some accidents, fault is pretty straight forward—like rear-end accidents with no mitigating factors. Others are not so clear. Fault is often a matter of details and there is often plenty to go around among drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. In Oregon, if a driver, pedestrian, or cyclist is more than 50% at fault in causing an accident, that person cannot recover for injuries from the other accident participant(s). In Washington, a person can recover from the other participant so long as he/she is less than 100% at fault. An attorney will help minimize your fault by maximizing helpful evidence and advocating with insurers. Also remember, almost all auto insurance policies have no-fault medical coverage. This is also true for most business and homeowner insurance policies which cover premises injuries. So even if you are at fault in causing your own injury, you should be able to get medical treatment without any co-pay, deductible or other obstacle. Some auto insurers try to limit the amount of no-fault medical payments by contending that injured persons do not need medical treatment. Anyone in this situation should consult a personal injury attorney to review their rights.