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.

Please help Ride the Ducks Victim for living & recovery expenses

Ride the Ducks victim needs help for basic living expenses as she recovers.

Ride the Ducks victim needs help for basic living expenses as she recovers.

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.

Funds raised will go towards basic living and recovery expenses for Phuong and her family. 

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.

Ride the Ducks victim hopes to get needed health care

 

SKW client, Phuong Dinh, continues to recover from the Ride the Ducks crash. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

SKW client, Phuong Dinh, continues to recover from the Ride the Ducks crash. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

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.

Woman accused of tampering cell phone records in fatal pedestrian-car accident

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.

Watch the WA Supreme Court oral arguments for Wuthrich v. King County


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.

Ray Kahler argues in front of the Washington State Supreme Court

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.

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