Risk Management Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: If I feel Thurston County is responsible for my loss, injury or damages, how do I make a claim?
A: Start the process by filling out a claim for damages form.
 
Q: How do I get a form?
A: The Claim for Damages Form is available on our internet site or you may request one by mail or by contacting us by phone.
 
Q: When will a Claims Investigator contact me?
A: A claims investigator will generally contact you in writing within three business days after the assignment of your claim. Claim assignment typically occurs within two weeks after the claim has been received.
 
Q: What do I do if I have not been contacted by an investigator?
A: If you have not heard from a claims investigator after three weeks time, you should contact our office.
 
Q: How long will the investigation take?
A: The length of the investigation will depend upon the type of claim filed. Some claims are fully resolved in several weeks, while others may take several months. All claims are investigated through a process which includes contact with the applicable Thurston County Office involved, witnesses, scene investigations, witness statements and the review of pertinent documents and records.
 
Q: What determines whether a claim is accepted or denied?
A: The facts regarding the cause of the alleged loss are evaluated in relation to the applicable statutes, regulations and case law. A determination of whether Thurston County had legal responsibility is then made. Even if we accept responsibility for the claim, the amount we are willing to pay can be affected by the valuation of the loss and the claimant’s role in the incident.
 
Q: Can I arrange to meet with the investigator?
A: Many claims are resolved without the necessity of an in person meeting. However, if you want to meet with your assigned claims investigator, please call first and schedule an appointment. The claims investigators are not available for drop-in visits as they are frequently out in the field.
 
Q: Should I contact my own insurance company regarding this claim?
A: At your discretion, you may want to inquire about insurance coverage provided by your own insurance company. They will often handle the claim for you, including filing with the county.
 
Q: Should I obtain estimates to repair property damage?
A: Yes, estimates or copies of receipts to support your claim will be necessary to establish the value of your loss or damage.
 
Q: What options do I have if my claim is denied and I disagree with the decision?
A: You can appeal the decision to the Risk Manager, if the Risk Manager didn’t make the decision. Consideration will be given if new or additional information is submitted that supports your appeal. You may file in the appropriate court of law after fulfilling the claim filing requirements with us if you feel we are in error.
 
Q: Do I need an attorney?
A: Seeking legal advice or representation is completely at your discretion and at your expense. However, we often settle claims without the necessity of attorneys.
 
Q: Am I required to submit more than one repair estimate?
A: No, Washington State law does not require a second estimate. However, the county must remain fiscally responsible with tax dollars that are collected and used to pay for these tort claims. Therefore, the county will ensure that claimants are “made whole” by paying for only the amount necessary to restore you to the same condition as you were prior to the incident. We will not pay for improvements, enhancements, or additional damage incurred prior to the incident.
 
Q: I was injured, who is going to pay my medical bills?
A: You are responsible for paying for all medical care and expenses you incur. If you believe Thurston County is responsible for your injury, you must file a claim and the circumstances surrounding your injury will be investigated. If we determine we are responsible for your injury, we will reimburse the expenses you incur, as long as they are legitimately related to the incident in question. Settlement is usually not reached until treatment has been completed.
 
Q: How long does it take before I receive a settlement check if my claim is approved?
A: After a claim settlement has been approved and we are in receipt of the original, properly executed release and all tax and accounting forms, it may take up to two weeks for the check request to be processed and issued.
 
Q: How do you make a liability decision with a car crash?
A: We use the Washington State Rules of the Road and case law. This falls under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), RCW 46.61. Washington is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that each party may be attributed from 0-100% responsible for the collision and the amount of loss paid is adjusted accordingly.
 
Q: What if I, the claimant, disagree with the County’s liability decision?
A: There are several venues. You can use your own insurer and after taking care of your claim, they will coordinate with the responsible parties on your behalf. You can go to small claims court subject to its rules and maximums. You can hire an attorney to represent you. Regardless, it is important for you to mitigate your losses. If you are accruing storage charges or, damage on your property increases while a dispute lingers, you may be held accountable for part or all of the additional damages or charges.
 
Q: Does the County owe me full coverage insurance on a rental vehicle while my car is being repaired?
A: No, if you did not have full coverage before an accident, the County will not improve your position by paying for coverage you do not normally have. Of course, you can purchase the damage waiver from the rental company.
 
Q: If my car is totaled due to the county’s fault, do I get a new car or does the county buy one for me?
A: Settlement of your automobile is on an Actual Cash Value (ACV) basis. This means a like vehicle approximately the same mileage, condition, and options selling in the local market. We settle (to the lien or title holder) based on the ACV, by check and we do not buy cars for claimants.
 
Q: Can I keep my salvage?
A: Yes, however the payment amount will be reduced accordingly.
 
Q: Why would an adjuster take off some value for new paint or tires on my damaged vehicle?
A: This is called betterment or depreciation. By installing new tires on a car that had bald tires pre-incident puts the car owner in a better position than before the loss.
 
Q: I may need a rental vehicle because my vehicle is badly damaged, or unsafe to drive. How can I get a rental vehicle?
A: Prior to a claim being filed and investigated, Thurston County cannot authorize reimbursement for a rental vehicle. If you need to rent a vehicle, it is your own decision. The claims investigator must complete an investigation to determine responsibility prior to any authorization of a rental vehicle. You may want to contact your own insurance company for assistance. If you choose to rent a vehicle prior to County authorization, you may be responsible for all or part of that expense. Filing your claim quickly and talking to your adjuster as soon as possible is the best way to minimize any hardship this could create.