Personal Injury

WSDOT & SDOT form Aurora Bridge “safety team”


A couple weeks have passed since the last significant crash Aurora Bridge that claimed six lives. Based on a KING5 news story tonight, a safety team of sorts is assembling. Team members are comprised of six individuals from SDOT and two from WSDOT.

The SDOT members include the city’s traffic engineer, two collision analysts, a corridor safety expert and the division manager for transportation. A project manager along with a state traffic engineer and regional administrator will head the team. Additionally, police and other city and state agencies are expected to participate.

Some of the members wear different hats within their agencies and others will focus entirely on their role on this team per KING5 investigative reporter, Glenn Farley.

This time, let’s shine a light on this entire process and ensure that the City and State follow through in making the bridge safer. Rather than focusing on misleading statistics (e.g., the relatively “low” number of crashes), let’s open our eyes to widespread and well-founded concerns of those who must drive on this bridge regularly with the fear of another fatal collision.

Head injury results in young football player’s death

18 yr old Kenney Bui died after an injury last week at a football game. He played for Highline School District.   Photo Credit: Highline Public School

17 year old Kenney Bui died after an injury last week at a football game. He played for Highline School District. Photo Credit: Highline Public School

I’ve written about the dangers of brain injury for football players before, and knew that it was a matter of time when another tragedy on the football field would claim the life of another player. This time, it was young Kenney Bui of Highline School District.

Seventeen year old Kenney was a student at the Technology, Engineering, and Communications High School on the Evergreen campus. Last week, he went down for an injury in the fourth quarter of a game. After hospitalization, doctors learned that he had a previous concussion weeks before the football game that claimed his life. Not much to say about this, given that the details are scant regarding Kenney’s fatal injuries. Nevertheless, our heart goes out to the family, friends, and teammates of Kenney. We hope that somehow more people grow aware of the risks around football, as much as it’s a beloved sport in our country. There has to be a way to make it safer and less of a risk for brain injuries.

 

Deadly Aurora Bridge accident is a wake up call.

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.

Median Barriers & Today’s Deadly Aurora Bridge Crash

SDOT had plans to install median barrier. That likely would have saved lives and reduced the impact of today's incident.

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.

Family of young girl hit at Redmond Town Center files wrongful death lawsuit


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.

Calling all Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep & Ram owners: Do you choose $100 or risking your life?

Fiat Chryslers recall includes over 11 million vehicles, including the Chrysler Dodge Dakota 2011 with defective steering and rear axles.

Fiat Chryslers recall includes over 11 million vehicles, including the Chrysler Dodge Dakota 2011 with defective steering and rear axles.

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.

Weighing the Pros/Cons of Uber and Lyft

UBER PDX

On January 13, 2015, around 70 of Portland’s 460 Taxi cabs protested fair taxi laws by parking in Pioneer square. Organizers want city leaders to make ride-sharing companies play by the same rules as cabs and Town cars.(Photo: Aaron Parecki)

It’s summer, which means many of us are opting to find creative, less expensive ways to get to the airport. Personally, I’m in the minority among my friends when it comes to ride-hailing services like Uber. Why? I know too much about the insurance pitfalls, and can’t help but think about what might happen in the off chance that me or my family member might get injured as an Uber passenger.

Several days ago at a friend’s BBQ, I ran into one of my favorite neighbors who told me not to hug her too hard because she was involved in a horrible car accident with an Uber driver. When I asked her who was going to help her pay her medical bills, her response: “Good question. We’re still trying to figure that one out.”

This is one of the many problems that I have with ride-hailing services: They’re trying to have their cake and eat it too. Why is it that they have escaped regulations and yet can exploit loopholes by calling themselves an “app” provider? They are quasi-taxi services, that have somehow figured out how to avoid the massive fees like medallions that hard-working taxi-drivers must deal with.  Despite the many headlines that keep popping up about Uber tragedies, where lack of insurance persists as a critical issue, people are willing to turn a blind eye because they think they’re saving money.

True: In California, Washington and other states, we are seeing more laws pass to address the insurance coverage gap. Thank goodness. But this still doesn’t make things as straightforward as if you were injured in a taxi or your friend’s car. Many Uber drivers have still not disclosed to their insurance companies that they derive some of their income as ride-hailing drivers. Ooops. What do you think their insurers will say, when they find out after their insured gets into an accident with some injured passengers?

Is it worth it, if you find yourself in an accident as an Uber passenger or in a car that an Uber driver hits while it’s carrying Uber passengers? Think long and hard the next time you want to use that clever app. Please.

 

 

Wrongful Death Lawsuit against Boeing Over Faulty Airbags

KING5 News reported on SKW’s lawsuit just filed against Boeing for the wrongful death of Ken Otto and for a flawed airbag system. The story provided high level details about how father, wife, and brother, Ken Otto, was robbed of his life when he chose to work on the seat belt airbag systems on a set of Boeing plans.

Ken Otto

While working with an assistant in tight quarters on a plane, the airbag deployed without warning and tore off half of Ken Otto’s face. Within several weeks, he died, leaving behind a tortured and grief stricken family.

The family will have to deal with this enormous void in their lives as well as the knowledge that Ken suffered excruciating pain and suffering after a preventable incident inside a Boeing 777.

Judge’s Latest Ruling Will Improve Yakima Residents’ Water Quality

If you have followed the work of Public Justice and its team of attorneys (including SKW attorney Brad Moore), you likely saw the news story this weekend about an important ruling that will improve the lives and public safety of the residents in the Yakima Valley.

Cow Palace, among a handful of other industrial dairy farms, have produced tons and tons of manure, calling it “nutrients” and selling it as fertilizer or letting it sit in miles of unlined lagoons. The massive amounts of manure inevitably leeched into the earth, causing an array of serious health problems for residents within miles of any of these farms.

But finally, the work of attorneys Charlie Tebbutt, Brad Moore, and Jessica Culpepper (among a larger legal team) has convinced U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice to call a spade a spade, redefining “nutrients” as “solid waste.”

“The cow waste is leeching nitrates into groundwater, posing “an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health,” according to the ruling. Bravo to Charlie Tebbutt, Brad Moore and the entire Public Justice team that has worked tirelessly on fighting for the rights of Yakima Valley residents.

 

 

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