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School Bus Accidents—Demanding Responsibility

by Michael Myers on March 24, 2017

When I went to school the buses were run by the school itself. There wasn’t very much traffic in Bellingham. I don’t remember any accidents or even close calls. But our world has gotten so much more frenetic.

Recently a school district reached a $10 million settlement with the families of five children injured in a 2014 school bus accident. Several children were seriously injured when the driver crashed into a tree.

Pursuing these cases sends a strong message to school districts that they need to take care of students. Parents put their trust in school districts. School districts have to live up to their end of the bargain.

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We live in a high-stress society. People feel like they have a license to act like idiots when they’re on the road. Old women feel no compunction about giving other drivers the finger Johnny Cash style.

So it’s not surprising that there are a lot of road-rage collisions. There’s a general rule that insurance doesn’t cover intentional conduct. That was confirmed by the Washington Court of Appeals in a 2014 decision where it ruled that that an insurance company didn’t have to cover a man under either his homeowners or auto insurance policies for claims arising out of an assault at a traffic light.

Enter UIM (uninsured or under insured motorist) coverage. Several years ago the Washington legislature passed the Ethel Adams UIM law. It says that a UIM policy covers road rage collisions (even though there’s intentional conduct).

A lot of motorcyclists explain to me that Washington law doesn’t require insurance to ride a motorcycle. That’s right. You’re not legally required to carry liability insurance. But without liability insurance you can’t purchase UIM coverage. And then what happens if you’re hit by guy who just got fired from his job or found out his wife was stepping out on him? Better safe than sorry.

If you have motorcycle insurance do you have UIM coverage? If you’re not sure, we’re happy to take a look at your policy.

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Some slip and fall accidents can’t be prevented.  But most can.

A lot of people think about slip and fall accidents in terms of snow and ice on the ground.  Snow and ice are slippery.  But in most cases pedestrians are “on guard” and can see the hazard.

I think that wet concrete (particularly wet concrete with exposed aggregate) is more dangerous than snow and ice when it comes to outdoor slip and fall accidents.

Cement mixed with just sand has a high coefficient of friction.  When it’s mixed with aggregate—and the hosed off to expose the aggregate—it starts to get slippery when it’s wet.

But the real problem comes when moss and algae are allowed to grow on it.  I was at our girls’ school yesterday.  There were clogged gutters and moss two inches high on the edges of the sidewalks.  The grounds were a mess.  But the real hazard wasn’t the moss that was two inches high at the edge of the sidewalk.  The real hazard was the microlayer of moss and algae in the middle of the sidewalks and on the stairs.  It was the most serious hazard because it was hard to see and couldn’t be avoided.

I was clued-in and careful walking them to their classrooms.  We just finished a case involving the same kinds of hazards:

We represented a client who fell outside a condominium complex in Bellevue.  She had on sensible boots with lugged traction soles.  But as she walked down the exterior stairs she slipped and fell.  At first the insurance company for the complex pushed back.  But when we showed a close-up of the moss and algae on the nose of the stair where she fell it paid a settlement just south of $100,000.

Every big box hardware store sells moss and algae killer.  It’s easy to apply.

If you don’t have any, diluted bleach kills moss and algae too.

Under Washington law property owners are responsible for maintaining reasonably safe walking surfaces.  Outdoor stairs and walkways need to be slip resistant.  If you have a slip and fall outside—even if it’s not snowy or icy—consider having an attorney look into it and determining whether someone else might be responsible for your damages.

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How Much is Peace of Mind Worth? More than $1M?

by Michael Myers on March 3, 2017

Pregnant women get in car accidents.  After a car accident everyone worries about the baby.  Pregnancy is stressful.  A potential injury adds a whole new layer or worry.

So what happens when the baby is born and turns out to be healthy—can the mother (and father) still recover damages?  Definitely.  Washington law has recognized the right to recover for this kind of stress for almost 90 years.  Elliott v. Arrowsmith (149 Wash. 631, 272 P. 32 (1928).

The opinion in Elliott does more than just state a rule of law.  The facts of Elliott are illuminating and provide a reference point for calculating what claims for anxiety and stress are worth.

Ms. Elliott was involved in a motor vehicle accident.  She was pregnant at the time of the accident

Before the trial, Ms. Elliott safely delivered a normal, healthy child.  No attempt was made to prove any injury to the unborn child.  At trial, counsel asked Ms. Elliott if she  suffered because of fear about a miscarriage.  She responded that she worried “an awful lot”.  That was the extent of her testimony.  Based on this testimony, the jury returned a verdict of $5,000.  The Supreme Court upheld the verdict.

Total inflation between 1928 and 2016 was 1,403 percent.  Something that cost $5,000 in 1928 would cost $70,177 today.  (To provide additional perspective, a Ford Model A Roadster cost $435 in 1928.)  The verdict in Elliott was about 11.5 times the cost of a new car.

How much does  a Tesla cost today?  About $100,000?  Using the proportions in Elliott, a claim for stress or anxiety over a potential injury to an unborn child would top $1,000,000.  That may seem like lot of money.  But many expecting parents would pledge that amount to know that their child was going to be healthy.

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The Cost of Failing to Yield

by Michael Myers February 23, 2017

Accidents caused by a driver failing to yield happen a lot. Oftentimes, these drivers are entering the highway from a private road or driveway. The law states: The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a highway from a private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles lawfully approaching on […]

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Motorcyclists Don’t Have to Carry Liability Insurance in Washington… But They Should

by Michael Myers February 16, 2017

Motorcyclists don’t have to carry liability insurance in Washington.  So many riders don’t.  But that leaves their passengers exposed. On Sunday, a Renton man was riding his motorcycle in Bellevue.  He crashed into a tree.  His passenger was injured.  Motorcycle accidents with passenger injuries highlight the importance of carrying liability insurance. So why do you want […]

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