Attorney & Paralegal Profiles

Sam Elder

After working at a traditional law firm for 16 years, and after the birth of his daughter Lauren, Sam decided to transform his practice. He is committed to providing the best possible legal representation without all of the trapping of a traditional law firm. Sam and his paralegal Alisha work primarily out of their homes. He always made a lot of house calls for client meetings anyway. Working from home simply provided additional opportunities to take care of his family as well as his clients.

Sam’s practice used to consist of business litigation, tax advisory, and corporate formation practice. He found that work unrewarding, whereas representing injured persons felt right. Each case is an opportunity to help someone who is hurting, provide information and clarity, take stress out of people’s lives, and allow the healing process to be the primary focus. Insurance companies are trying to take advantage of people every day – Sam is the pushback within the system.

Sam attended Federal Way High School, Linfield college where he has bachelors of arts degrees in mathematics and philosophy, and University of Washington School of Law.

Sam’s practice currently includes personal injury claim (including car accidents, premises liability cases, medical malpractice, and chemical exposure cases), representing health care providers against insurance companies (reimbursement issues, Regence and Premera audits) or related Department of Health complaints, and some general civil litigation and advisory work (landlord-tenant disputes, contract disputes).

Sam regularly teaches his continuing legal education classes to other lawyers – both instructing on personal injury law and strategies and procedures related to personal injury litigation. His courses include: How to Litigate Your First Jury Trial, Subrogation, and Mandatory Arbitration Strategies. He brings special expertise in the application of courtroom technology to advocacy, developing innovative approaches to the cost-effective representation of his clients.

Sam works on small cases and large cases. Sam completed a ten-week jury trial in the case Bradford, et al., v. McDonnell Douglas Corporation, AlliedSignal, Inc. in King County Superior Court in which he represented twenty-six flight attendants for claims of toxic chemical exposures aircraft. He routinely tries jury cases and presents dozens of case in mandatory arbitration.

Kody

Kody is a Washington native, and was raised on a family farm in Snohomish. She graduated from the University of Washington in 1999 with a Bachelor's Degree in History with a minor in Music. After over 10 years in the garment industry and 6 years as a stay-home mom, Kody decided it was time for a career change. She graduated from Edmonds Community College in 2013 with an Advanced Paralegal Certificate and completed internships in two Personal Injury firms. She joined our firm in summer of 2014 after previously supporting two Personal Injury attorneys as their paralegal and office manager. Kody met her husband, Jeremy, in 2003 and they married in 2004; their daughter Emma was born in 2006 and Isobel joined the family in 2007.

Keri

Keri Guthridge is a Washington native, and was raised in Yakima, Washington. She attended Yakima Valley Community College and Stayer University. In 2012, she received her Paralegal Certificate from Edmonds Community College and completed an internship at a personal injury law firm. She joined our firm in May 2014 after previously working for a transactional law firm. She is a member of Washington State Association for Justice.

Alisha

Alisha was born and raised in Colorado. She graduated from Mesa State College in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Alisha and James were married in 2001 and moved to Vancouver, Washington in 2002. Alisha returned to school in 2003 and obtained a Certificate in Paralegal Studies from Clark College in 2004. While attending paralegal school, Alisha worked for a civil litigation firm in Portland.

In 2004, Alisha and James moved to Seattle. Their son, Kayden was born in 2005, and their daughter, Bella was born in 2008. Alisha first starting working with Sam at Gordon Edmunds Elder in Bellevue. Prior to working for Sam, Alisha operated her own paralegal services business from home for 4 years.

Why hire Sam?

Hiring a lawyer after a motor vehicle collision can be beneficial in several ways:

  1. Experience: I have worked on hundreds of motor vehicle collisions, whereas you will hopefully have one in your lifetime. I understand the ins and outs of a motor vehicle collision, insurance, health care providers, and the legal system.
  2. Communications: Hiring a lawyer means that all of the communications with your own insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company takes place through my office or with my supervision. I can help control the communications so your words are not twisted against you, so you do not sign off on paperwork that will be used against your interest, and so you do not have to worry about unfamiliar procedures.
  3. Convenience: My office will coordinate much of the work associated with your claim so you can concentrate on more important things -- obtaining medical care for the best possible recovery and getting your life back to normal.
  4. Value: Insurance companies are driven by profit motive and improving their bottom line. They will take advantage of any opportunity to save money by not compensating you fairly. I will try to obtain the best deal for you that is possible and practical.

How can Sam help?

I represent your interests. You get to make the ultimate decisions on whether or not to settle your case and whether or not to pursue your case in court. You get to make all of the key decisions on how to lead your life -- which health care providers will treat you, and which claims and damages to pursue. I will provide you with advice, options, and recommendations. I will make the strategic and tactical decisions of how to best accomplish your goals.

One of my overriding principles is that I have no interest in leaving my clients in a worse place than I found them. Thus, if at any point during the representation, I determine that the risks and costs associated with pursing a claim outweigh the benefits, then I will let you know. This having been said, there are no guarantees in pursuing legal claims. No matter how strong your claims may seem to be, a jury could still decide that they do not like you and award you little or nothing.

Typically, cases are handled in this order:

  1. We have an initial meeting where we discuss the collision, exchange information, and exchange documentation related to your claim such as correspondence from insurance companies, etc. At the initial meeting we discuss the fee agreement, obtain a medical release, and make initial decisions regarding whether it makes sense to pursue a claim and how. We will talk about the two main ways of resolving your claim -- settlement or litigation.
  2. I correspond with all insurance companies to let them know that I represent you. Communications are channeled through my office.
  3. During the time when you are treating and recovering from your injuries, your primary responsibility is to get better. It is also important that you inform us of what health care providers are treating you (this way we know from whom to obtain records and bills). My primary responsibility is to coordinate communications with the insurance companies and deal with independent medical examinations and issues with PIP not paying benefits.
  4. Typically, I will not try to settle your claims with the other driver’s insurance company until you have finished treatment. There are several reasons for this. First, I would not want to settle your claims tomorrow, only to find that you are hurt much worse than we believed. Second, it is impossible to fairly value a claim unless we know exactly how badly you were hurt, how long and how expensive your treatment ended up being, and whether your recovery is partial or complete. Third, insurance companies will never pay full value for future losses such as future medical care. They make the assumption that you will pocket the money and not obtain future care. Thus, you are usually more fully compensated for your losses when your health care treatment is completed. I work for you, and you get to make the ultimate decisions, so if you instruct me to settle your case before you have completed treatment for whatever reason (you need the money now, the idea of having an open claim stresses you out, you have lost interest in pursuing a claim), I will follow your instructions.
  5. Some cases need to be filed in court. There are several reasons why we make the decision to file: (1) we tried to negotiate first but were unsuccessful, (2) the insurance company involved is so unfair that negotiations are futile, (3) the statute of limitations requires timely filing, (4) we need to know what the liability limits are and the insurance company refuses to voluntarily provide that information, (5) there are disputed facts that make negotiations difficult or impossible, (6) the case involves catastrophic injuries, or (7) we decide based on all the facts and circumstances that a lawsuit should be filed.
  6. We will need to gather documentation to support your claim. This includes obtaining copies of health care records, bills for health care services, wage loss documentation, receipts or lists or out of pocket expenses, photographs or videos documenting liability, injuries, or damages. I typically do not gather health care records from a particular provider until your treatment with that provider has concluded. This eliminates the expense of obtaining records multiple times as your treatment progresses.
  7. After your treatment has concluded and documentation for your claim has been assembled, we sometimes explore the possibility of settlement. My goal in settlement negotiations is to get the insurance company to compensate you fairly. The offers that we made are designed to elicit fair offers from the insurance company. I will recommend specific dollar amounts for offers and counter-offers. Ultimately, you get to make the decision. I will recommend to you whether I think that you should accept or reject offers made by the insurer. I recognize that you consider many factors that are not part of my calculation, such as the stress associated with not settling, financial pressures to settle, effects of proceeding with a lawsuit on your time and family, political views on filing lawsuits, risk aversion, etc. Thus, you get to make the ultimate decision.
  8. After a case is settled or a judgment is paid, then my firm will assist in disbursement of funds. The settlement funds will be deposited into my firm’s trust account. Typically, disbursement to reimburse insurance companies, pay health care liens for unpaid bills, and pay costs associated with the case are paid directly out of the trust account. You will be provided with a disbursement letter that details the disbursements, and you will approve the final disbursement plan.
  9. Tax laws are constantly changing, so you should consult with an accountant or tax adviser if you have any questions about the taxability of a settlement or judgment. As of January, 2011, compensation for injuries to your person from the person causing injury is generally not taxable. Compensation for lost wages, if specifically broken out and identifiable, may be taxable since the wages would have been taxed.
  10. You are welcome to call with any questions that you have regarding the status of your case or the process of working on your case. I try to be as responsive as possible to my clients and keep them informed. However, ultimately, I rely on you to ask questions when you need guidance or assistance.

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12716 NE 106th Lane, Kirkland, WA 98033-4652
Phone (425) 999-8170   Fax (425) 999-8172   sam@samelderlaw.com
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