Washington State Pedestrian Deaths Increase by 28%

 

Pedestrians are more likely to get killed  when not at an intersection.

Pedestrians are more likely to get killed when not at an intersection. They are also far more likely to get killed when walking during the dark hours of the night/early morning.

Pedestrian Deaths Light Levels

Over the past year, our firm has experienced a surge in calls from pedestrian-related accidents. So when I read read the most recent annual GHSA Spotlight on Highway Safety Report (released Mar. 8, 2016), I wasn’t surprised to see that pedestrian fatalities were up by 28% in Washington State. A recent Seattle Times article also cited the GHSA report, which pointed out that pedestrian deaths increased from 32 in the first six months of 2014 to 41 during the same period last year, a 28-percent increase.

A couple takeaways that I find especially valuable: 1) pedestrian deaths are much higher at non-intersection related accidents (e.g., not waiting to cross at an intersection) and 2) walking at night is far more likely to lead to a fatality than walking at dawn or dusk.

What’s in a name–Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Koehler Moore Kahler*?

This past Friday, rapellers prepare to hang our new sign.

This past Friday, rapellers prepare to hang our new sign.

Since our move to our new building, our firm continues to scale to new heights. Figuratively, we helped shape and advance law to make the roads safer in our state: The Washington Supreme Court‘s unanimous decision of Wuthrich v. King County  was one of our more recent victories, which tossed out old law and clearly stated that governmental entities have the same duty as private landowners in maintaining their land so that people can travel safely on adjacent roads.

Literally, we have people scaling our building at our new location to hang exterior signage.

But, we are focused on our work…

Karen barely notices the men rapelling off our buildling, as she focuses on the work at hand. (Her doggie, Nala, is perhaps a little more aware of the men.)

Karen barely notices the men rapelling off our buildling, as she focuses on the work at hand. (Her doggie, Nala, is perhaps a little more aware of the men.)

But, we can still enjoy the fact that we are loving our new building, inside and out. Pictured below is our new reception signage.

Thelma shows off our new interior signage

Thelma shows off our new interior signage

*NOTE: Stritmatter Kessler Whelan is now officially Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Koehler Moore Kahler

Consumer protection class action certified against iIllegal debt collection

CACH LLC

CACH LLC, along with SquareTwo Financial, and Suttell & Hammer are defendants in a class action that was just certified today, The consumer protection lawsuit attempts to recover on behalf of victims of Defendants’ unfair debt collection practices.

Today, King County Superior Court Judge Samuel Chung granted Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification against Defendants Cach, LLC, SquareTwo Financial Corp., and Suttell & Hammer, P.S. The case pursues recovery for Washington state consumers who were the victims of illegal debt collection. Defendants admit that they did not ever have a debt collector’s license, yet they solicited claims for collection and attempted to collect claims owed to another party. This was in violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (RCW 19.86.010 – .920), RCW 19.16.120, RCW 19.16.250, RCW 19.16.260.

Why all parents should care about Data Privacy for their families. #PrivacyAware

Jan. 28, 2016 is Data Privacy Day. Let's do what we can to defend our children's privacy.

Jan. 28, 2016 is Data Privacy Day. Let’s do what we can to defend our children’s privacy. #PrivacyAware

Today, January 28, 2016, is Data Privacy Day.  Big deal? It actually is: The first Data Privacy Day that occurred in the United States and Canada was in 2008, which was observed as an extension of the Data Protection Day celebration in Europe. Data Protection Day commemorates the Jan. 28, 1981 signing of Convention 108, which was the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection.

Now led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), Data Privacy Day has become the signature event promoting privacy awareness. Without committed defenders of privacy, like the Electronics Frontier Foundation, we would not have seen a complaint filed with the FTC against Google for unauthorized collection of school aged children’s information, when they are using Google Apps and Chromebooks in their schools. Google’s unauthorized collection of personal information from school children via Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education (GAFE)—caught the attention of Senator Al Franken, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Franken responded by writing a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking for information about GAFE’s privacy practices.

The first step to ensure that our student privacy campaign succeeds, is to educate ourselves as parents. This way, we can direct our energy and knowledge effectively. On this Data Privacy Day, take the time to check out the resources that the Electronic Frontier Foundation compiled to regain control of your children’s privacy. Please spread the word about student privacy by sharing these and similar resources with other parents!

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that parents understand their and their children’s rights. We live in a world where parents may be asked by schools to waive those rights before their youngsters are permitted to use technology in the classroom. Third parties will too often encourage parents to give schools consent to release their children’s information to those very third parties.

Interested in becoming part of the “privacy defender team?” There are many ways in which you can get involved.

NOTE: This blog post is republished from my PrivacyLawDiva blog post.

 

WA Supreme Court decision is unanimous: Government has a duty to provide safe roads

Overgrown blackberry bushes (see left side of photo) obstructed drivers' view of oncoming traffic.

Overgrown blackberry bushes (see left side of photo) obstructed drivers’ view of oncoming traffic.

Often my heart swells with pride for the work that my firm does because the results from our cases truly make our state safer for everyone. Today is one of those days: In a unanimous decision in Wuthrich v. King County, the Washington State Supreme Court held that a municipality has a duty to take reasonable steps to address overgrown roadside vegetation that makes the roadway unsafe for drivers approaching an intersection.

Today’s decision advances roadway safety for anyone who travels the roads in Washington State. As our state’s highest court maintains: A municipality has the overarching duty to provide reasonably safe roads and must be held to the same standards as that applied to private parties.

Our state’s supreme court now explicitly rejects old law that held that a municipality’s duty is limited to mere compliance with applicable law. Moreover, an “inherently dangerous condition” does not exclusively depend on a condition that “exists in the roadway itself.” A hazard may exist as a situation along a highway, such as overgrown bushes that obstruct drivers’ view of oncoming traffic.

The decision today stems from a June 2011 lawsuit that Guy Wuthrich filed against Christa Gilland and King County. Guy was riding a motorcycle on Avondale Road NE in King County, approaching an intersection with NE 159th Street on June 20, 2008 at about 5:15 PM. Drivers on 159th St. have a stop sign at the intersection, but drivers on Avondale Road do not. Christa Gilland was driver a car on 159th Street. When she reached the intersection with Avondale Rd., she stopped to wait for passing traffic. She did not see Guy approaching from her left. She turned left onto Avondale Road and collided into Guy’s motorcycle, resulting in serious injuries to Guy. The lawsuit alleged that the County was liable for Guy’s injuries because the wall of overgrown blackberry bushes on County property obstructed Ms. Gilland’s view of traffic at the intersection. The trial court dismissed the action against the County on summary judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a split decision.

Some of you may have already seen our Ray Kahler argue before the Supreme Court. But, in case you missed it and want to hear some stellar arguments, click here.  Kudos to the entire team, including Ray, Keith Kessler, Garth Jones and Brad J. Moore.

Cyclists: Watch out for the First Hill Streetcar tracks

With the quiet launch of the First Hill Streetcar this weekend, I am reminded of client Daniel Ahrendt‘s amazing recovery from his bicycle crash at an intersection, where the streetcar runs.  A seasoned commuter cyclist, Daniel was riding his bicycle on the clear and dry morning of May 4, 2015. However, the streetcar tracks posed the same hazard as they always did for cyclists who wanted to ride on that commuter facility at the intersection of Rainier Avenue South, Boren Avenue South, Jackson and 14th Avenue South.

This past Christmas, KOMO TV aired a  “Special Report” on Daniel’s road to recovery, after a horrific incident, where he fell, after his tire was caught in the streetcar tracks and a Metro bus ran over him. The story reveals the strength of Daniel’s character and the amazing family that he had that supported him throughout the most challenging year of his life.

Worth noting is that there are international best practices that could have prevented this catastrophic incident. More to come in future blog posts.

Ride the Ducks returns to the streets

While some, like Ride the Ducks of Seattle’s CEO Brian Tracey, are thrilled to see the Ducks back on the roads, others aren’t. The Stritmatter Kessler firm is representing several of the catastrophically injured from last year’s tragic crash on Aurora Bridge.

(NOTE: On a recent Q13 Fox story about the RTD’s return to the roads, one of our attorney’s is quoted, but her name is incorrectly spelled. It is Karen Koehler.)

Garmin’s Varia may convince me to ride my bike more

Better than Google Glass? Garmin Varia Vision works with the Varia Bike Radar.I’m often an early adopter of high tech gadgets, when it’s a no brainer. This one will help me stay alive longer and help me ride more safely on my hybrid bike beyond the bounds of my immediate neighborhood. Now, with Garmin’s Varia Bike Radar and Varia Vision, I may just try cycling to work.

Garmin recently bought Varia, a company whose technology focuses on radar designed to improve cyclist safety. Several months ago, Garmin rolled out Varia Rearview Bike Radar. which has a light that attaches to the rear of a bike and scans as far as about 450 feet. It works with a compatible unit that attaches to the bicycle handlebars, to warn the cyclist about what’s behind them and the rate that the object is approaching. (Yes, iKubu introduced a similar, less user friendly product with Backtracker.)

There are also Varia smart lights that adapt to a cyclist’s speed and weather conditions. When a cyclist uses the Varia with a compatible GPS, the Varia headlight will project its beam further ahead and adjust based on the speed of the bike. The tail light will use the same data to increase its intensity as a cyclist decelerates, thus warning traffic behind the Varia-enabled cyclist. What’s also cool is that the beams can automatically adjust in brightness via the GPS unit’s ambient light sensor.

Varia Vision, which also pairs well with the Varia Bike Radar, does almost everything Google Glass did, complete with a touch-sensitive strip on the side, for navigating the device’s UI, that works with wet fingers or while wearing gloves. And because it’s part of the company’s Varia line of cycling devices that was introduced in July of last year, the Vision can also connect to the Garmin Rearview Bike Radar and notify the wearer of a car coming up behind them so they can ensure they’re not riding in its path.

Yes, this technology is more appealing than Google Glass from my perspective. This is especially because sharing the road with increasingly crowded roads with aggressive drivers seems to result in more and more bicycle accidents in Seattle. These Garmin products help reduce cyclist accidents as cyclists can focus their eyes on the road ahead of them.

I wish I had learned about this before Christmas. But perhaps this would make a good Valentine’s Day gift (yes, I’ll make sure that my husband reads this blog post).

Two new Ducks victims file lawsuits today


The deadly Ride The Ducks crash that claimed six lives on Sept. 24th on the Aurora Bridge. Today the Ducks attempts to turn the corner. It is is the first day since that crash that some of the Ducks amphibious vehicles will be out back on the roads in limited numbers in Seattle.

Frustration and surprise were among some of the reactions from SKW clients Yuta Masumoto and Mazda Hutapea, international students at North Seattle Community College, who were on the bus and who sustained serious injuries as a result of the crash. These two young students, excited to study abroad, are now faced with long recovery times to deal with broken bones, torn ligaments, and bodies that resemble those who have lived four times longer than each of them.

Their lawsuits were filed today and to hold the Ducks company accountable for vehicles that were apparently fraught with mechanical issues.

*Doug Phillips is co-counsel.

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