Personal Injury Updates

Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Winter Weather and Common Questions

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Now that wintery, snowy weather is clearly upon us, this blog will address some of the common questions that may arise due to the weather.

My neighbor’s tree fell on my house – who is responsible for the damage?

This seems to be an all too common problem recently.  If your neighbor has a large tree (or any size tree) that falls on your property, your insurance policy will cover the damage.  Your homeowner’s policy will cover damage to your property, regardless if it was caused by your neighbor’s tree.  The exception is damage caused by melting snow.  Typically, your homeowner’s policy will only cover damage caused by melting snow if you have flood insurance.  It is important to check your policy and update it as necessary.

I have a sidewalk on my property: do I have to clear it?

Well, the answer is “it depends.”  If you are a business owner then yes, you do.  Washington state does not follow the “natural accumulation rule,” so if your property has a  parking lot or sidewalk on it, it is your responsibility to clear it.  The law does not distinguish between natural and artificial conditions, so if you have snow, remove it. The duty to protect people from harm is the same in both situations.  If you are a private homeowner, then the answer, surprisingly, is no.  Absent any local ordinance, there is no duty to clear the sidewalk in front of your house.  However, just about every city, town and county in Washington has an ordinance requiring homeowners to clear their sidewalks in snowy weather.  In addition, you can be fined if you fail to keep your sidewalk cleared as a homeowner. So, be safe and keep that sidewalk clear.

Car accidents:  is it my fault if I skidded on snow or ice?

If you are involved in a collision in snowy or icy conditions, first call 911.  If you are the unfortunate participant in a collision involving snow or ice, there is no “free pass” for snow and ice conditions.  If you crash into someone because of the weather, you are still liable.  In fact, the law imposes a heightened duty, not a lessened duty of ordinary care  in adverse weather.  So, if you know there are snow and ice conditions, slow down, increase your following distance and drive with your lights on.

If you have any questions concerning adverse weather conditions and potential liability arising from those conditions, the attorneys at Adler Giersch, PS are ready and willing to assist.  So, stay warm, keep dry and be safe out there.

Washington Attempts to Battle Prescription Drug Abuse: New Rules May Have Unintended Effects

Categories: Other Physical Injuries

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

On January 2, 2012, doctors in Washington became subject to new rules regarding prescription of widely-used pain medication. These rules affect treatment of patients with chronic pain not associated with cancer or end-of-life pain control.

Citing a 395% increase in unintentional poisoning from prescription pain medication between 1995 and 2009, the Washington state legislature passed a law in 2010 (ESHB 2876) requiring five different medical boards to create new rules for prescription of opioid medication. The rules are intended to improve patient safety and provide doctors with guidelines for prescription of these powerful drugs.

The regulatory boards for seven types of practitioners developed rules for prescription of pain medication. The practitioners covered by the new rules include physicians and physician assistants, osteopaths and osteopathic physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners, dentists, and podiatrists.

The new rules apply to drugs known as opioid analgesics. Opioids are a class of drugs that affect specific pain receptors in the brain. Natural opioids are derived from a specific alkaloid in the opium poppy. There are now many synthetic opioids as well. Common drugs within this class, and covered by the new rules, include methadone, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), fentanyl and many others.

The new rules do not apply to prescriptions for acute pain, such as a new injury, or for post-surgical pain. They are intended to provide guidelines for treating patients who have chronic pain, defined as pain lasting over three months and not related to treatment for cancer or hospice care.

Physicians will be required to keep thorough records of a patient’s history, potential for drug abuse, and the need for opioid medication. In certain circumstances, such as dosage over a set limit, doctors are required to consult a pain management specialist in one of several ways. Criteria for exemption from the consultation rule and for qualification as a pain management specialist are also set out.

While the new rules are intended to reduce the incidence of prescription drug abuse and death associated with these drugs, the real effects of the regulations will only be known with time. Treatment of pain is an important part of the practice of medicine. However, the potential for abuse of prescription medication makes some doctors are wary of prescribing these drugs. Some doctors are relieved to have guidelines to follow. Some doctors find the requirements daunting and intend to simply refuse to treat chronic pain patients and require them to obtain prescriptions from a pain management specialist. There is concern that this will result in some patients being unable to obtain necessary prescriptions either as a result of the availability of specialists in their area or lack of insurance coverage for such specialists.

For some, the inability to access necessary medication may result in reduced functionality, poor quality of life and unnecessary suffering. For others, the new rules may provide enough of a barrier to avoid dependence and addiction. As with any new law, time will tell.

Recommended Documentary – "A Not So Still Life"

Categories: Brain Injury

By Richard H. Adler. Posted on .

As the Chairman of the Brain Injury Association of Washington, I was invited to participate in a movie trailer for “A Not So Still Life,” an inspirational documentary of hope and triumph of local artist and traumatic brain injury survivor, Ginny Ruffner. This is an amazing story with a heartwarming message of never giving up and following your passion in life. It’s a 2-thumbs up documentary.

We were very fortunate to have Ginny Ruffner as our keynote speaker at the Brain Injury Association of Washington’s 5th annual Gala, Dinner, and Auction last October at the Grand Hyatt Seattle.

If you are interesting in obtaining a copy of the movie, simply contact my office at 206.682.0300 or email my assistant,

A Not So Still Life TBI Testimonial