Personal Injury Updates

Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Yearly Archives: 2011

Winter Driving Safety Tips

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Winter weather is upon us, whether we like it or not.  While the Northwest often fares better than many parts of the country when it comes to harsh winter weather, there is no denying that winter driving can be both challenging and dangerous for automobile travel.  Drivers should be cautious when driving in adverse weather conditions and be familiar with the rules for safely dealing with winter road emergencies.

Here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe during the winter driving season:

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued.
  • Be sure your tires are properly inflated, and never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up or running out of gas if     inclement weather causes severe traffic snarls.
  • Avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Always look and steer where you want to go.
  • Wear your seat belt EVERY time you get into your vehicle.
  • Check local weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips if bad weather is expected. If you must travel, inform others of your travel route, destination, and estimated time of arrival.
  • Pack a basic emergency kit in your vehicle which should include: flashlight and batteries, blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • Stay with your vehicle if you become snow-bound. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.  Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.
  • Keep the dome light on at night, if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to fill the passenger compartment of your car if the engine is running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • DRIVE SLOWLY. Everything takes longer on snow and ice-covered roads; accelerating, stopping, turning, nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement.   Slowly applying the gas is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Allow extra time and distance to slow down for a stop sign or traffic light. Remember: It takes longer to slow     down on snowy or icy roads.  Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • Allow greater following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you.  The normal dry pavement following distance of 3-4 seconds.  This should be increased to 8-10 seconds to provide an increased margin of safety for emergency stops.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. It is harder to start moving from a full stop on snow or ice that it is if your vehicle is still rolling.
  • Don’t power up hills. Accelerating on snow-covered roads often causes your wheels to spin and lose traction.  Try to get some inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. When crest a hill, reduce your speed and proceed down the hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an     icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

Source: www.aaaexchange.com

Traffic Fatalities Down Nationally but Distracted Driving An Increasing Problem

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced recently that the updated traffic fatality data for 2010 indicated that highway deaths are at the lowest levels they have been in six decades.[1]  This is apparently due in part to safer roadways and the vast improvements in vehicle safety that have occurred since 1949 – the last time we recorded a similar number of highway deaths.

This is indeed good news, but while vehicle technology and corresponding vehicle safety has changed for the better, distracted driving injuries and fatalities are becoming an increasing problem.  Because of this problem, NHTSA recently unveiled a new measure of fatalities related to distracted driving, called “distraction-affected crashes.”  This new measure is designed to more closely track those fatalities in which a driver was distracted by dialing a cellphone, texting, or was distracted by an outside person or event.  Under the new refined system, the new data released by NHTSA using its refined methodology showed an estimated 3,092 fatalities in distraction-affected crashes in 2010.[2]

NHTSA also recently completed a national survey that highlights the problem:

  • Three fourths of survey respondents indicated they answer cellphone calls on most trips.
  • Survey respondents acknowledged few situations when they would not use their phone or text – but over one third felt unsafe when riding in vehicles in which the driver is texting and support bans on texting and cellphone use.[3]

So what does all of this mean?  Obviously it is a complicated and complex problem that is not fully understood.  I think part of the problem is that most drivers assume that they can handle all distracted driving situations, even when the data is clear that is not true.  So, be safe and don’t use your cellphone while driving for anything except emergencies.  I am reminded of a sign that I saw at a local headstone company – “Put the cellphone down and stop texting – we can wait.”  Truer words were never written.

 



[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

“Outrageous” conduct and the law

Categories: Personal Injury Resources, WA State Insurance Law

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Many of us see things that are outrageous every day – whether it’s on tv, in our community or on our daily commute to work.   Did you know that under Washington law there is an actual claim for outrage caused by a third party?  A claim for outrage is also known as the intentional infliction of emotional distress.  To recover for outrage, you must prove the following elements:

  • Extreme and outrageous conduct;
  • Intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress; and
  • Actual result to you of severe emotional distress.[1]

To prove extreme and outrageous conduct, it is not enough to show that the defendant acted intentionally or even criminally, or that he or she intended to inflict emotional distress, or even that his or her conduct can be characterized by malice.  Liability for outrage exists only where the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.

For example, a claim for outrage has been found to exist in the stalking of a former girlfriend[2] and an employer’s intentional exposure of employees to toxic chemicals[3].  The conduct must result in severe emotional distress to the plaintiff.  While bodily harm would be an indication of severe emotional distress, severe emotional distress short of bodily harm is sufficient.



[1] Corey v. Pierce County, 154 Wn.App. 752, 225 P.3d 367 (2010).

[2] Kloepfel v. Bokor, 149 Wash.2d 192, 66 P.3d 630 (2003).

[3] Birklid v. Boeing Co., 127 Wash. 2d 853, 904 P.2d 278 (1995).

Fuel Economy No Longer Means Safety Compromise

Categories: Uncategorized

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

For decades, automakers improved vehicle fuel economy by reducing vehicle weight.   Since smaller generally meant reduced crash worthiness, one of the drawbacks of choosing fuel economy was increased risk of injury in a crash.  With the recent rise of hybrids, however, this is no longer an automatic tradeoff.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, has found that passengers in hybrids actually fare better than passengers in the same gas-only models.[1]  In fact, 27 percent fewer injuries were reported in hybrids than the same nonhybrid vehicle.  This held true for fatalities as well, with 25 percent fewer fatalities in hybrids.

The difference in injury odds is attributed in large part to the greater weight of hybrid models.  Hybrids are, on average, 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts due to the weight of battery and other equipment required in the hybrid.  Weight and mass have long been known to be major factors in injury risk and this seems to hold true where all other factors are the same.

The HLDI compared the number of medical claims filed in collisions in 25 different cars where both standard and hybrid models were available.  For example, injury claim statistics for the Honda Civic standard were compared to injury claims filed for occupants of Honda Civic Hybrids.  (Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were not tested since neither has a conventional counterpart.)  All hybrids performed better than their standard counterparts regardless of model.

“Going green” on the road may no longer mean trading economy for safety.  While smaller cars, even hybrids, will never survive crashes as well as large cars, hybrid consumers can consider safety issues with new positive data.



[1]Status Report, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Vol. 46., No. 10, Nov. 17, 2011

Omega-3s: Potential Benefits for Treatment of Pain

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

The benefits of omega-3s seem to be in the news everyday.  This fatty acid, often referred to as fish oil, has been widely studied in recent years and results suggest that it effective for the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of health conditions, including:

•    Better brain function
•    Reduced depression
•    Improvement of ADD/ADHD symptoms in children
•    Improved cardiovascular health and protection from heart disease

Many of these benefits have been widely publicized.  But there are also numerous studies which suggest omega-3s are effective for the treatment of pain.

Patients with chronic pain that is not resolved by treatment of the underlying cause are often faced with the prospect of long-term use of prescription medication as the only option for reducing pain and increasing daily function.  Prescription medication, such as narcotic pain killers, often have unpleasant side effects and are potentially addictive.  The choice to live with pain or bear the risks associated with the use of prescription pain killers often feels like a no-win situation for people with chronic pain.

Omega-3s have been shown to be a potentially effective third option.  Several studies have found patients reporting reduced pain after taking omega-3 supplements for several weeks.  These studies have focused on several different types of pain. One study, for example, found that patients with “neuropathic” pain, responded well.  Neuropathic pain is pain that is caused by damage to the nervous system, including nerve endings.  It is commonly experienced as electrical sensation, burning or “pins and needles” sensation.

Though there were only five patients studied, all had long-term neuropathic pain which interfered with each patient’s ability to perform activities.  After several months of taking 2400 to 7200 mg of omega-3, all 5 patients reported a significant decrease in pain and improved ability to function on a daily basis.  These result show promise for chronic pain patients faced with the unenviable choice between living with pain or relying on prescription medication.

No adverse effects were noted by any of the patients studied.  However, before taking high doses of any supplement, patients should consult their medical providers. Some supplements may interact negatively with other medications or supplements.  Omega-3s, for example, tend to thin the blood and can affect blood coagulation and may increase caloric intake, important for patients with conditions such as diabetes.

Viscosupplementation and Post-traumatic Osteoarthritis

Categories: Other Physical Injuries

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

One of the first steps in the treatment of any traumatic injury is pain management.  A relatively effective approach to the treatment osteoarthritis following joint injuries, especially knee joints, is viscosupplementation.  Pain relievers, like ibuprofen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are normally used along with physical therapy, topical analgesics, or even corticosteroid injections in such cases. Unfortunately, some patients react adversely to NSAIDs and these agents typically provide only temporary relief.

The procedure involves injecting a solution of hyaluronic acid into the joint where it acts as a lubricant to allow bones to move smoothly over each other and as a shock absorber for joint loads.

Immediate Effects:

Hyaluronic acid does not have an immediate pain-relieving effect.  Patients may notice a local reaction, such as pain, warmth, or mild swelling immediately following the injection. These symptoms generally do not last long and icing usually reduces them.  Patients should avoid
jogging, heavy lifting, excessive weightbearing or standing for long periods for the first 48 hours following the injection.

Longer Term Effects:

Over the course of the injections, patients notice decreased pain as hyaluronic acid seems to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. The injections may also stimulate the body to produce more of its own hyaluronic acid.  These effects may last several months.

Treatment:

Any swelling due to excess fluid (effusion) in the knee will be removed (aspirated) prior to injection of the hyaluronic acid. This is usually done at the same time, with only one needle injected into the joint, although some doctors may prefer to use two separate syringes. Depending on the product used, 3 to 5 injections will be administered over several weeks.

Viscosupplementation may be helpful for people who do not respond to basic treatments. It is most effective if the arthritis is in its early stages (mild to moderate). Some patients may feel pain at the injection site, and occasionally the injections result in increased swelling. The long term effects of viscosupplementation is not yet known, and research is in this area is ongoing.

Source: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

The Recreational Use Statute: It’s Not Always Fun and Games

Categories: Premise/Slip and Fall

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Probably the last thing on your mind when launching your boat, going camping  or digging for clams on a beach is “What happens if I get hurt?  What if my injury is due to a dangerous condition?”  If you have had to think about these unfortunate “what ifs” for you or someone in your family, the following is a summary on the law in Washington State when it comes to private or public land being used for recreational purposes.

What the Statute Does:

The Recreational Use Statute, RCW 4.24.210, provides immunity for “unintentional injuries” when the land is open to the public for recreational use free of charge.  The statute encompasses all recreational activities that are commonly conducted outdoors.[1]

What the Statute Does Not Do:

The Statute does not necessarily immunize landowners from intentional injuries, even if they are committed by third parties.  A landowner can be held liable for intentional injuries caused by third parties if: (a) a special relation exists between the actor and the third person which imposes a duty upon the actor to control the third person’s conduct, or (b) a special relation exists between the actor and the other which gives to the other a right to protection.

The Recreational Use Statute also does not limit a landowner’s liability when injuries are sustained by reason of a “known dangerous artificial latent condition for which warnings have not been conspicuously posted.”  A dangerous condition is defined as one that poses an unreasonable risk of harm.  A “latent” condition is one which is not readily apparent to the recreational user.  A condition is not “latent” within the meaning of the statute if the object itself is readily apparent to the user, even if the harm that it presents is not.

As always, when engaging in any recreational activity on land open to the public, check for warning signs, dangerous conditions and be observant.  If you notice something that is a potential danger, notify the landowner.



[1] the cutting, gathering, and removing of firewood by private persons for their personal use without purchasing the firewood from the landowner, hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, bicycling, the riding of horses or other animals, clam digging, pleasure driving of off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, and other vehicles, boating, nature study, winter or water sports, viewing or enjoying historical, archaeological, scenic, or scientific sites.

Dog Ownership and Strict Liability: What You Should Know

Categories: Personal Injury Resources

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

At some point in your life, you’ve probably either owned a dog or had a dog in your family.   You love them, feed them, pamper them, and buy them whatever they need, but you probably have not thought about what could be the most important aspects of owning a dog – the potential liability a dog bite could bring and the injuries it can cause.

In the State of Washington, if you own a dog and it bites someone, you are strictly liable.  That means that the injured party does not need to establish any negligence on your part – simple ownership is enough.  In Washington State, an injured party needs to establish the following elements to make a claim against the dog owner under the strict liability rule:

  1. That the defendant is the owner of the dog;
  2. That the dog bit you; and
  3. That you were in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of the dog when bitten.[1]

This strict liability applies regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.[2]  In other words, there is no “first bite free” under the law.  This strict liability does not apply in all dog bite situations.  For example, proof of provocation of the attack by the injured person is a complete defense to an action for damages.[3]  Also, strict liability does not extend to the landlord of the dog owner while the dog is on a rented or leased property.[4]

Dog bites and kids:

Especially alarming are the statistics for dog bites to young children.  According to the CDC:

  •  50% of dog attacks involved children under 12 years old.
  • 82% of dog bites treated in the emergency room involved children under 15 years old.
  • 70% of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children under 10 years old.
  • Bite rates are dramatically higher among children who are 5 to 9 years old.
  • Unsupervised newborns were 370 times more likely than an adult to be killed by a dog.
  • 65% of bites among children occur to the head and neck.
  • Boys under the age of 15 years old are bitten more often than girls of the same age.[5]

What you can do:

There is no way to guarantee your dog will never bite someone, but there are things you can and should do to decrease the risk.  For example:

  • Spay or neuter your dog to reduce aggressive tendencies.
  • Properly train and socialize your dog, including teaching the dog submissive behaviors.
  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog –even one they know, as children who are not properly educated can put themselves in danger unknowingly.
  • Don’t chain up your dog.  Dogs who are chained up are 2.8 times more likely to bite due to increased agitation, stress and a perceived vulnerability.[6]  Have a secure fence with a lockable gate installed instead.

Educate your kids:

Since kids tend to be the biggest risk group and since their immune systems are not as fully developed as an adult’s immune system, proper education is vital to reduce the risk of a child getting bitten.  If you have small children, the following tips may help to reduce the risk of a dog bite:

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog or scream.  If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult regardless of the circumstances leading up to the bite.

If you have been injured by a dog or have any questions concerning the law or your rights and duties under the law, the attorneys at Adler Giersch, PS are ready and willing to assist you.

 

 



[1] RCW 16.08.040.

[2] RCW 16.08.040.

[3] RCW 16.08.060.

[4] Frobig v. Gordon, 124 Wn.2d 732, 881 P.2d 226 (1994).

[5] Centers for Disease Control (2003).  Nonfatal dog bite-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments – US 2001.  MMWR, 52(26), 605-610.

[6] Centers for Disease Control (2003).  Nonfatal dog bite-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments – US 2001.  MMWR, 52(26), 605-610.

Child Pedestrians and School Zone Safety

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Labor Day is upon us and school will soon be back in session, which means increased child pedestrian and bicycle activity and traffic congestion in school zones.  With more than half of those pedestrians and bicyclist under the age of 14, it is essential for drivers to be cautions and alert, especially during the morning and afternoon “commute” hours, when school zone congestion and activity involving school aged children is at its highest.  Child pedestrians and bicyclists are at higher risk for injuries than adults for several reasons:

Size:
Children’s smaller size makes them difficult for drivers to see.  Watch for children  standing between parked cars on the side of the road, or darting into the road from playgrounds, alleys and side streets.

Lack of Judgment:
Children have a harder time judging distances and vehicle speeds because of their age and development.  This can result in misjudging whether it’s safe to cross the street.  Slow down whenever children are present.

Lack of Experience:
Children too young for driver’s education have little to no knowledge of traffic rules.  It is critical that drivers keep this in mind whenever children are present, and not assume they will obey the “rules of the road.”  Drivers should always yield the right–of-way to pedestrians, especially children.

Some other tips to keep children and school zones safe:

  • Obey the Speed Limit.  The speed limit in a school zone in Washington is 20 miles per hour when school is in session.  Speed violations in school zones are double the normal fine.¹
  • Come to a complete stop at all intersections with stop signs.
  • Always stop for school buses when loading or unloading passengers.  It’s the law.²
  • Eliminate driver distractions.  Don’t text or talk on your cell phone, especially when driving in school zones.  Studies show that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
  • Anticipate delays.  Plan ahead and leave early for your destination.  Change your travel route to avoid school zones if possible.

Please do your part in ensuring the safety of school age children returning to classes this Fall!

 

1. Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.61.440(1) and (2).

2. Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.61.370 (1).

 

Change of Job, Change of Coverage: What About Pre-existing Conditions?

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

When it comes to health insurance, pre-existing conditions are a big issue for people facing loss or change of coverage.  Federal and state laws make the issue murky since different rules apply to different types of group plans.

First, what is a pre-existing condition?  Basically, it is any physical condition that existed prior to a certain point in time.  For our purposes, that point in time is the start date of a new health insurance policy or the start date of your waiting period.  For insurance purposes in Washington, a pre-existing condition is a physical condition for which a person received medical care or was advised to receive care within 6 months of the coverage start date.

Second, different plans are dictated by different rules.  Some plans are created and regulated under a federal law known as the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  Other health plans are governed by state law.  You may need to ask your employer to find out which kind of plan you are on.

Here are the basic pre-existing condition exclusion rules for group coverage in Washington currently:

  1. Self-funded employers (ERISA) can exclude pre-existing conditions for 12 months.
  2. State regulated plans with 50 or more eligible employees can exclude pre-existing conditions for 3 months.
  3. State regulated plans for small groups (2 to 50 employees) may require a 9-month exclusion period.

If you have coverage at one job then change to the new insurer at a new job, the new insurance company must give you credit for the coverage you had with Employer 1 as long as you have not had a significant lapse in coverage (defined as 63 or 90 days, depending on the plan).  If, for example, you had continuous coverage for 2 years and the new carrier would impose a 9-month pre-existing exclusion, the new carrier has to give you credit for the prior 2 years of coverage.  In effect, they will not exclude pre-existing conditions as long as you have not had a break in coverage between the policy periods.  If you had coverage for 2 years on one plan then had 4 months with no coverage (lapse in coverage), the new carrier would not have to give you any credit for your prior coverage and could impose the maximum exclusion period.

Talk to your employer or insurer about what type on plan you have and what you can expect regarding pre-existing conditions if you are faced with a change of coverage.