Auto Injuries & Accidents
On September 24, 2015, 18-year-old Phuong Dinh snapped photographs from her window seat in a charter bus filled with other North Seattle College students as it motored across the Aurora Bridge.
“And then, ‘Bam,’ ” she recalls. “Nothing else. Just flashes after that. I would faint. Then I would be awake and very bad pain all over. Then I would faint.”
Later in a hospital bed, memories from a deadly crash flooded back: She remembered blood covering her face and dripping down. She saw a bone piercing through the skin of her left leg.
The left side of Phuong’s body was crushed. She suffered a broken wrist, arm, hip, knee, and extensive facial lacerations. Now, four surgeries later and almost three months after the crash, Phuong spends her days in a Central District nursing facility in Seattle, slogging toward recovery and worrying about her future.
Phuong cried often during her initial weeks in the rehab facility. Now she says she doesn’t cry as much because she is getting used to the pain. Phuong’s main concern now is learning to walk again. Still unable to bear weight on her left leg, the bones of which are now reinforced with metal rods and screws, she mostly needs to use a wheelchair.
Aside from the continuing health-care costs which will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Phuong’s parents have paid their own travel from Vietnam to Seattle, and while they’ve had their lodging covered by the Salvation Army, they worry about the future.
Phuongs’s father, Hiep, who runs a family construction business, remains in Seattle. Her mother, Thao, has had to fly back and forth to Vietnam to also care for Phuong’s 3 year old sister and 6 year old brother. The little kids are staying with their grandparents and a nanny.
Once Phuong gets out of the nursing home the family will have to figure out how to care for her so that she can attend school. A host family is probably no longer possible due to Phuong’s physical disabilities and need for accommodation.
A message from Phuong: “Thank you for caring for me and my family. Knowing I have your support means the world to me.” Visit her fundraising site here. Thank you for considering giving, during this difficult time for Phuong.
A few days ago, news reported the plight of SKW client, Phuong Dinh, 18 year old international student, who was seriously injured in the Oct. 2015 Ride the Ducks crash. With a long way to go in her recovery, she also had to worry about losing her health coverage. Please read about the wonderful turn of events in today’s Seattle Times article,”Ride the Ducks crush victim to get help from state, college.
I just read an article in today’s Seattle Times that I had to share here as it’s a stark reminder that distracted driving can kill.
Washington was one of the first states to enact a ban on texting or talking on a handheld cellphone while operating a moving vehicle. Under WA State law, drivers can be charged under one of three prongs: 1) Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; 2) in a reckless manner; or 3) with disregard for the safety of others. The Seattle Times article is about a WA resident charged under the third prong.
A Seattle resident allegedly tampered with her cell phone records, to hide her pattern of distracted driving. The woman was charged with vehicular homicide just last week. A King County prosecutor accused the woman of talking on her cellphone when she struck and killed an elderly pedestrian in February 2014. The police indicated that she altered phone records in an attempt to cover up her distracted-driving behavior.
Last year, on a clear and dry February afternoon, 78 year old Tze Kiu Ng stepped off a Metro bus at a bus stop in South Seattle. Mr. Ng was walking eastward at a marked crosswalk. A woman driving a minivan was stopped at a stop sign behind the bus. Ng had almost crossed the street when the woman accelerated across the intersection and rammed the van into him. The woman stayed in her vehicle for about five minutes, talking on her phone, the bus driver later told police.
The police easily ruled out speed and impairment. But the driver charged with vehicular homicide told officers she “never saw the pedestrian until the impact occurred.”
The day was cold, clear and sunny and there was nothing to obstruct her view of Ng, the charges say.
Although the defendant turned over some phone records, the formatting raised suspicions because of lack of information regarding the cellphone carrier.
I just hope plenty of people read this and share it with others. Too often I see drivers texting or yakking on their phones while driving. This type of distracted driving is just as lethal as drunk driving.
Decide for yourself who has the more cogent arguments, when watching the Washington State Supreme Court oral arguments for Wuthrich v. King County. We’re proud of Ray Kahler, Seattle/Hoquiam trial lawyer for demonstrating his mastery of the relevant case law in arguing for Wuthrich.
Today, our own Ray Kahler* argued in front of the Washington State Supreme Court on behalf of plaintiff Wuthrich against King County. To boil the issue down to the most basic form: Does the County have a duty to maintain property where overgrown vegetation may obstruct sight lines and result in a car accident?
The Supreme Court has not decided this issue, and it has been over 50 years since the Supreme Court has addressed the question of whether a governmental entity can be liable for failure to maintain vegetation that presents a sight obstruction. This case gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to decide these questions.
Our SKW legal team* argued that, in light of the waiver of sovereign immunity, a governmental entity should be held to the same standard as a private landowner with regard to the duty to maintain vegetation: It should not create a hazard for motorists on the adjacent roadways.
Check back for a link to today’s oral arguments!
*Ray Kahler, Keith Kessler along with Garth Jones and Brad J. Moore make up the SKW team for plaintiff Guy Wuthrich.
This past Thursday’s deadly Aurora Bridge crash is a wake up call. Some reporters are sounding the alarm. Thanks to these reporters and responsive lawmakers, I have hope that we will see big changes on the Aurora Bridge. My reason for this hope is in large part thanks to Glenn Farley’s investigative piece on KING5 and the article by Seattle Times reporters Mike Lindblom and Joseph O’Sullivan*. These reporters are pressing the important issue, rather than focusing entirely on the clumsy Ducks.
As I previously blogged, the City and the State have known for years that there are fixes to avoid more tragic accidents on the Aurora Bridge. Our firm learned this via depositions when representing victims from the 1998 incident on the bridge (that claimed six lives). Now, we are getting calls from victims and families from this past Thursday’s deadly crash, given our record settlements/verdicts with wrongful death/catastrophic injuries cases in Seattle against the government.
Skeptics claim that a jersey barrier wouldn’t have done anything to prevent this fatal crash between an amphibious Duck and a charter bus. I respectfully disagree, given experts’ reports (from the earlier Aurora Bridge case). These experts explain how certain jersey barriers would deflect and minimize the impact of oncoming traffic.
Times like this, in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy, help to provide us with important insights on how we may prevent more needless loss of lives.
NOTE: Nathan Wilson, KOMO TV, executive producer/director at KOMO News also did a story, interviewing our own Keith Kessler, who represented several victims from the previous, high profile Aurora Bridge crash. Check back soon to see a link to that story.
SDOT had plans to install median barrier years ago. That likely would have saved lives and reduced the impact of today’s incident.
A horrific collision involving a Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle ground traffic to a halt on the Aurora Bridge earlier today. From reports and eyewitness accounts, apparently the Duck crossed into oncoming traffic.
In a similar case that our firm handled, we deposed SDOT employees. From those depositions, we learned that the State and City has talked about installing a barrier for many years. Stritmatter Kessler Whelan deposed WSDOT and SDOT employees several years ago for a case where a Metro bus driver was shot, and the bus traveled across oncoming lanes on the Aurora Bridge, crashed through the railing and plunged to the ground. At that time, we reviewed plans for adding a pedestrian walkway at a level just below the bridge, enabling the City to remove the sidewalk, and move the lanes over to accommodate the median barrier. Obviously, that was never done. If a barrier had been in place, it would have deflected the impact of the Duck and the deadly crash with the oncoming bus would have never happened.
In 1993, 1994 and again in 1997, in preparation of a resurfacing project, WSDOT considered a median barrier for the bridge. The issue fell through the cracks. The pressing issue at that time was that the structural steel of the bridge was beginning to show signs of deterioration. Thus, repairs needed to be made w/in a 2 year period. Limited funding for anything beyond the basic repairs was a problem for WSDOT. As a result, although everyone recognized the need for a barrier, the project was put off for another day. In fact, it would have cost only an additional $800K – $1.2 M to provide the additional structural support needed for the median barrier. Additionally, the annual economic cost in terms of societal losses exceeds $2 M on that bridge. Given that WSDOT & SDOT have to operate with limited funds, a cost-benefit analysis was warranted for this type of scenario. I certainly don’t mean to second-guess transportation/traffic engineers. However, our firm’s experience with roadway design cases (and in particular w/our case involving the Aurora Bridge) tells us that a barrier would have deflected the Duck vehicle and prevented the most recent tragedy.
Last Friday, the Drehers filed a wrongful death/premises liability lawsuit against Redmond Town Center among other defendants. Young Susie Dreher was playing at the unguarded RTC Sensory Garden, which is located next to a busy street.
A press conference was held at the Dreher house to share a little of what the Drehers have gone through and what they hope to achieve with legal action. KIRO, Q13, and the Seattle Times have covered the story.
Maybe owners of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram are just too busy or don’t care if they might lose control over their steering or have a defective rear axle. But their problem is exponentially greater because tens of thousands of owners have not responded to recall notices to fix their vehicles for faulty steering and/or suspension parts. It hasn’t helped that Fiat Chrysler dragged their feet in issuing recalls of over 11 million cars and trucks. Thus, this past July, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay a record $105 million penalty and to take steps following a government investigation of the company’s handling of 23 recalls involving the >11 million vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demanded that consumers be able to sell their vehicles back to the company if repairs haven’t been completed. Fiat Chrysler has estimated that more than 60 percent of the estimated 500,000 vehicles have already been repaired, leaving them ineligible for a buy back.
Owners of the 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty who hadn’t taken their SUVs in for recall repairs for a faulty gas tank by July 24 are eligible for a $1,000 credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a new Fiat Chrysler car or truck at a dealership. Owners who want to keep their vehicles get a $100 prepaid credit card after their repairs are complete.
Some of the $105 million penalty levied against Fiat Chrysler will go to offering buybacks, trade-in incentives or even cash to some drivers affected by the recalls. The company agreed to make all of these deals available in the next few weeks.
If you drive one of several Ram pickup models, or a 2009 Dodge Durango, a 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota or a 2009 Chrysler Aspen, your car qualifies for a buyback if it hasn’t been fixed yet. Eligible Ram pickups include the 1500 from model years 2008-2009 and the 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500 from model years 2008-2012. Chrysler said that there are less than 200,000 of these vehicles on the roads.
Why Fiat Chrysler got in trouble: Those models were recalled two years ago for steering issues or loose rear axles. Either problem could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. To make matters worse, Chrysler didn’t make enough replacement parts or failed to provide “effective” parts after the initial recall, said Gordon Trowbridge, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Other Ram pickups have also been recalled for steering issues, but Trowbridge said that many more of those vehicles were fixed, so they’re not included in this program.
Solution: Whether you bought your vehicle new or used, bring it into a dealer. They’re required to buy the car back from you at “fair market value,” and to throw in a 10% premium. You can walk away with the all that money in cash, or use the money toward purchasing a new vehicle.
“Fair market value” is the original sticker price of the vehicle minus depreciation. The dealer will negotiate that value with you when you take it in. Check Kelly Blue Book or another used-car value benchmark to see what yours is potentially worth.
Who is eligible for a trade-in bonus
Older Jeep Grand Cherokee models are eligible for a trade in at above-market value. If you have a 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and you haven’t fixed the fuel tank problem it was recalled for, Fiat Chrysler is required to let you trade in your vehicle and give you a $1,000 credit. These Jeeps were recalled back in 2013 for fuel tanks that can leak after a rear-end collision. That issue has been linked to more than 75 deaths.
The fix: Take your SUV to a dealer and trade your Grand Cherokee in for a new car. The trade-in price will again be for “fair market value,” and the $1,000 can only be used toward purchasing another Fiat Chrysler vehicle or dealer parts and services. If you’d rather keep your Grand Cherokee, Fiat Chrysler must give you a $100 gift card (that you can use anywhere) when you take your SUV in to be fixed.
Who is eligible for a $100 gift card: Some Jeep owners can take their car in for a fix and get a $100 gift card. You can also get a $100 gift card for bringing in a 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee or a 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty for a fix. Those vehicles also had concerns about faulty fuel tanks and were involved in recalls or “safety campaigns” by Fiat Chrysler. Solution: Take your SUV to a dealer, have your vehicle fixed or inspected, and get a $100 gift card that you can spend anywhere.