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Automobile Accidents

SKW’s lawyers have successfully represented thousands of clients who were injured in car accidents. Throughout the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett, Central Washington, and Eastern Washington regions, our clients have been awarded significant verdicts/settlements.*

America’s love of the automobile comes with a human price tag. Those in WA State are no different.

Our award winning attorneys have represented thousands of people seriously injured or killed in car crashes.

The tragedy of dealing with the aftermath of a crash does not end with the physical and emotional harm suffered.  The red tape of dealing with insurance companies and the person who caused the wreck, can be overwhelming.  One story we hear all the time is that the other person “admits fault.”  But once their insurance company gets involved, they change their story.

Experienced car accident lawyers know how to watch for hidden traps that can jeopardize the case.  An example arises when there are more than two people who cause a crash.  One might admit fault and try to settle the claim.  But if settlement is accepted, then that destroys “joint and several liability”.  This can have huge financial consequences.

Another trap involves figuring out which insurance policies apply and what limits are related.  In the Ethel Adams case, Farmers Insurance Company initially refused to pay benefits when Ms. Adams was almost killed in a road rage accident.  They said it wasn’t an “accident.”  We filed suit and the public outrage was so great that the insurance company changed its mind.  Our firm lobbied for a new law dubbed “The Ethel Adams law” that now prevents insurance companies from denying innocent victims uninsured motorist benefits.

Police departments may have major automobile incident teams (MAIT). These investigations occur at all fatality and most catastrophic injury scenes.  Interpreting this data, or determining whether it is accurate requires sophisticated and expert analysis.  We have substantial resources that help us determine exactly what happened to cause a crash and why.  The causes can range from driver negligence, to driving under the influence or while impaired, to automobile defect or highway defect.  We consult with accident reconstructionists and safety engineers to make sure all the causes are properly identified.

At the same time, we assist our clients with navigating the healthcare system.  Our law firm is at the forefront of the legal community in understanding and dealing with complex medical subrogation (repayment) issues.  Car accident injury victims are often shocked to learn that the government and health insurers will make a claim on any financial recovery.  We pay close attention to this issue to protect our clients.  We have even sued the government to prevent it from taking too much of our client’s recovery.

*Each case is different. Past results do not guarantee future outcomes.

Representative Cases

Moothart v. State of Washington
Todd Moothart, a 50 yo software engineer, sustained serious injuries that put him in the hospital and then nursing home for several months. He will live for the rest of his life with ongoing pain and disabilities.

Todd Moothart, a 50 yo software engineer, sustained serious injuries that put him in the hospital and then nursing home for several months. He will live for the rest of his life with ongoing pain and disabilities.

A Thurston County jury awarded a Vancouver man almost $3 million for multiple injuries caused by a pavement edge drop-off on a highway on-ramp.

Todd Moothart, a 50-year-old software development engineer, was on a motorcycle ride with two friends on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in September 2013. Their plan was to head east on State Route 14 to a viewpoint overlooking the Klickitat River. When Moothart and another rider got separated from the third motorcyclist by a traffic light, Moothart decided to pull off onto the shoulder of an on-ramp for SR 14 to stop and wait for the third motorcyclist to catch up. It is safer for motorcyclists to ride together as a group because they have a more visible  presence on the road.

A 7 " deep piece of pavement jutted out from the main road just beyond the drop-off.

When Moothart pulled off onto the shoulder, he encountered a seven inch deep pavement edge drop-off at the fog line. A seven inch deep piece of pavement jutted out from the edge of the pavement just beyond the drop-off. When Moothart’s Harley Davidson motorcycle hit the face of the broken pavement, his front and rear wheels were severely dented, and he was launched into the air like he was on a trampoline.

Safety standards in the transportation engineering field recommend that pavement edge drop-offs be kept to a depth of no greater than two inches. The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) striping truck had came upon the pavement edge pothole and had painted the white fog stripe around it. In other words, WSDOT clearly acknowledging the hazard but did not report or repair it.

Moothart and his passenger were both ejected from the motorcycle. Moothart suffered multiple injuries, including a kidney laceration, numerous broken ribs, collapsed lungs, pulmonary contusions, a concussion, broken bones in both forearms, amputation of the top joint of his right index finger, and fractures to bones in his right pelvic ring. He was placed on a mechanical ventilator for eight days and required several surgeries.

Moothart spent 21 days in the hospital, followed by 55 days in a nursing home. He was then cared for by his mother and sister in Iowa for two months before he returned to Vancouver and resumed working part time.

The design plans for the on-ramp called for an eight foot paved shoulder on the right hand side. At the location where Moothart pulled off, there was no paved shoulder at all beyond the fog line. For unknown reasons, the State’s as-built plans for the on-ramp showed an eight foot paved shoulder, but the evidence indicated that the on-ramp never had an eight-foot paved shoulder in the area where Moothart pulled off. The on-ramp was built in the mid 90’s.

The Honorable Mary Sue Wilson granted judgment as a matter of law on the State’s negligence based on the State’s failure to provide an eight foot paved shoulder as required by the design plans. The jury also found that the State failed to maintain the on-ramp in a reasonably safe condition for ordinary travel.

Moothart has chronic pain due to myofascial injuries and nerve damage but is able to work full time. He has ongoing disabilities related to the loss of the top joint of his right index finger, myofascial damage in his forearms, and chronic pain. He no longer rides motorcycles because the crash took the enjoyment out of riding for him. He had been a motorcycle enthusiast for over 30 years.

The jury awarded $2,993,000, which included approximately $500,000 in undisputed past medical bills and wage loss. While the jury found negligence on the part of Moothart, it did not find proximate cause with regard to Moothart’s negligence.

The jurors’ post-trial message to WSDOT was that it needed to develop a clear policy for identifying, reporting and promptly repairing pavement edge drop-offs so that others will not have to suffer serious injuries the way Mr. Moothart did.

Ride the Ducks Cases
The firm of Stritmatter Kessler represents the largest number of victims from the September 2015 Ride the Ducks crash on Aurora Bridge in Seattle. At last count*, our attorneys represent 20 Ride the Ducks victims. The cases involve claims of driver negligence, corporate negligence, product liability, vehicle crashworthiness, negligent highway design, and insurance coverage. It is complicated and will take years to litigate. The defendants include Ride the Ducks (RTD) Seattle, Ride the Ducks International, and T.H.E., their insurance company. The City of Seattle and the State of Washington are also defendants. These entities were legally responsible to maintain the Aurora Bridge in a reasonably safe condition. But they failed to adopt their own safety recommendations. *Last updated June 15, 2016.
Ride the Ducks victim seeks justice
Ride the Ducks victim seeks justice. (Ellen M. Bonner/Seattle Times)

Ride the Ducks victim fights to get justice. (Ellen M. Bonner/Seattle Times)

On September 24, 2015, a Ride the Duck modified amphibious military vehicle crossed the centerline of the SR 99 Aurora Bridge and into a tour bus. The passenger compartment of the bus was penetrated.  5 people in the bus died and approximately 64 people were injured. Phuong Dihn, an 18 year old international student from Vietnam, was seriously injured.

The Duck was re-manufactured by Ride the Ducks International, who sold the vehicle to Ride the Ducks Seattle in 2005.  In 2013, RTD International realized the axel housing was dangerously defective. It issued a service bulletin to it purchasers, warning of the defect and advising of the need for repair. RTD Seattle did not perform the repair. The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board is that the left axle of the Duck failed.

NTSB graphic of Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle.

NTSB graphic of Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle.

Phuong is one of the four of the injured students who remain in a nursing home. Her parents came to care for her but had to leave their other young children behind. She is unable to attend school. When she is discharged, she will need to find a new host parent who will be able to provide accessible housing due to her injuries.

Please help Phuong, as she struggles to recover at this secure site. Donations may also be made by mailing checks to our firm (please include “C/O: Dinh, P: Seattle Aurora Bus Crash 10.2015”)

You may also help Phuong and the other students injured in the crash by donating to the special fund set up by the Salvation Army. 

Tour bus that Ride the Ducks crashed into. Image Credit: NTSB. Tour bus that Ride the Ducks crashed into. Image Credit: NTSB.

Read:

 

$210,000 low speed accident settlement
Semi vs. Prius Car Crash

$357,000 pretrial settlement.

Anderson v. Arnot

A widely adored retired Montessori teacher was involved in what seemed like a “minor” fender bender. After over 24 months of intermittent treatment, MRIs revealed why her pain and disability was worsening. Needing payment for ongoing medical care, she finally opted to pursue the defendant driver, who had crashed into her car. In the end, SKW attorneys obtained a  six-figure settlement for the injured client.

Maislen v. Associated Materials

(April 2010) $2.5 million jury verdict for 58-year-old man injured in a truck versus car crash.

Gamper v. State of Washington

(December 2013) $1.1 million settlement.  Long, deep and wide rut in road on SR 12 caused Plaintiff’s motorcycle to crash resulting in multiple internal injuries and fractures.

Ip v. State of Washington and City of Renton

(July 2008) $1,000,000 settlement for the wrongful death of a 67 year old leaving a wife and two adult sons when he was hit in a dangerous pedestrian crossing.

Huang v. Lustyk

(December 2007) $2,900,000 settlement for injuries suffered when a vehicle ran into a motorcycle.

James Evans v. State of Washington, et al.

(April 2003) $1,000,000 settlement for a moderate brain injury caused in a collision resulting from a lack of a highway median barrier.

Keebler v. Asmus

(October 2012) $1.235 million settlement. Bicyclist hit by a motor vehicle. Fractured leg, several vertebral fractures (no paralysis) and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Fogle v. Clark County

(March 2012) $2 million settlement with one defendant. Defective road design and signing. Traumatic brain injury to 19 year old girl. Case proceeds to trial against adverse driver and Clark County Public Utility.  Trial verdict of $4,352,350.

Girod v. Cedell

(December 2010) $1 million policy limits settlement for motor vehicle bicycle crash on SR 105 resulting in death of 31-year-old woman.

Confidential v. Confidential

(April 2010) $2.85 million CDN settlement for injuries to a 49 year old woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury and facial fractures in a Canadian motor vehicle crash when the passenger air bag did not deploy.

Barnum v. Brundage-Bone Concrete Pumping, Inc., et al.

(December 2009) $1,300,000 settlement against a cement contractor for improperly backing a cement truck onto a highway causing a crash that resulted in numerous internal injuries and broken bones.

Caffery v. Brunner, et al.

(July 2009) $1,025,000 policy limits settlement with a trucking company and others for the wrongful death of a 47 year old husband and father who was killed when a semi-truck and trailer driver disregarded the dangers of a “brown-out” dust storm and ran into the deceased on I-90 while he was helping others in a disabled vehicle.

Samples v. Rockeries, Inc.

(January 2009) $2,940,000 judgment and settlement for wrongful death case by husband of 46 year old woman hit by runaway dump truck trailer.  Case included recovery of interest, attorney fees, and bad faith damages.

Stanton v. LeMay

(April 2008) $2,700,000 settlement for the deaths of two minor children who were passengers in a vehicle that rear-ended a recycling truck without proper under-ride protection guard that had stopped in the roadway.

Jane Doe v. XYZ Corporation

(March 2008) $2,650,000 confidential settlement for a traumatic brain injury due to a motor vehicle collision for the defective design and manufacture of a vehicle.

Sholtz v. Kuhn

(June 2007) $1,150,000 settlement for 61-year-old woman who suffered a comminuted and compound fracture of her leg when hit by a vehicle while traveling on a motorcycle.  Infections of the leg required extensive medical treatment.

Plaintiff v. Defendant

(April 2007) $3,700,000 settlement for death of a 46-year-old airline pilot husband father of two. Truck turned in front of his motorcycle.  Substantial comparative negligence issues.

Wade v. Pierce County

(December 2006) $1,250,000 settlement for death of a 12-year-old on a bicycle struck by a police vehicle.

Watson v. XYZ Corp.

(December 2006) $4,900,000 settlement for woman struck in face with a leaf spring that fell off a truck suspension system.  Closed head injury and facial disfigurement.

Forestier v. City of Vancouver

(November 2006) $6,050,000 settlement for a French foreign exchange student who was a pedestrian hit by a vehicle while crossing Fort Vancouver Way on her way to school.  The City failed to provide proper lighting for the crossing.

Meza v. United Tempering Systems/Meza

(November 2006) $1,525,000 settlement for a child injured in a motor vehicle crash when a truck barreled into another motor vehicle, resulting in a closed head injury.

Qamar v. Leonard Trucking, Inc.

(May 2006) $1,850,000 settlement for death of a 62-year-old UW professor when struck by a load of logs that fell off logging truck.

Wright v. Harris Trucking

(May 2006) $3,150,000 settlement for four members of the Wright family injured when a gasoline truck and double trailer crossed the center line and hit them head-on.

Messenger v. Electric Company

(May 2006) $2,100,000 policy limits partial settlement for a 12-year-old brain damaged boy who was a pedestrian hit by a van while crossing the street in an unmarked crosswalk.

Adams v. Testa

(November 2005) $2,000,000 settlement for UIM policy limits on behalf of a woman who suffered significant orthopedic injuries in an automobile crash. Additional sums were recovered for Farmers’ bad faith claims handling.

Stromberg v. Wiles

(August 2005)  $1,000,000 policy limits settlement for the death of a 57-year-old woman pedestrian hit by a pickup exiting a Bellevue garage.  She is survived by her spouse and three adult children.

Wilbur/Johnson v. Lutton Trucking, Inc.

(April 2005) $1,700,000 settlement for badly fractured hip that required a hip replacement for a 23-year-old young man who also suffered from PTSD and depression as a result of the crash.

Virnig v. a Safeco insured

(August 2003) $1,500,000 policy limits settlement for a college student who suffered a closed head injury in an auto crash.

Doe v. Doe

(July 2003).  A $1,500,000 settlement for a woman who lost 75% of the function of one kidney and 25% of the other in an auto crash.

Morales v. “Yellow Cab”

(January 2002) $1,250,000 settlement for a woman pedestrian with a closed head injury from being hit by a cab.

Whitmer v. Yuk, Pierce County and City of Lakewood

(June 2001) $6,350,000 settlement for negligence and failure to provide traffic signals at a busy intersection.

Peck v. King County

(May 2001) $1,000,000 settlement for contracting CIDP from a tetanus shot given in the ordinary course of necessary medical treatment as a result of a motorcycle/deputy sheriff vehicle collision.

Molitor v. Heaverlo

(May 2001) $1,660,000 (policy limits) settlement plus additional contingent payments for a 23-year-old T-4 paraplegic injured in a vehicle rollover.

Lau v. Crew Shuttle, Inc.

(April 2001) $2,160,000 (policy limits) settlement for a closed-head and other injuries to a pedestrian hit by a van and then a car.

Reed v. City of Spokane

2000) $1,000,000 settlement for failure to properly maintain road.

Huntington v. Atkinson

(1999) $1,050,000 (policy limits) settlement for paraplegia from auto rollover.

Legier v. Mason County

(1999) $1,750,000 settlement for failure to properly maintain roads.  Resulted in deaths of two children.

Yielding v. Klingler

(1998) $1,150,000 (policy limits) settlement for significant lower leg circulation problem from auto collision.

Gould v. Westgate

(1998) $1,200,000 settlement for partial loss of colon and back fractures in auto collision.

Gray v. City of Shelton

(1998) $2,500,000 settlement for failure to properly design crosswalk at school crossing.  Resulted in traumatic brain injury.

Bartel v. Burlington Northern RR

(1997) $2,933,631.92 verdict for railroad crossing case for 47-year-old female cosmetologist who suffered multiple fractures and mild traumatic brain injury.

Jackson v. WSU

(1997) $2,525,000 settlement for loss of arm and temporary paralysis of legs in an auto rollover.

Wingo v. State of Washington

(1996) $1,450,000 settlement for failure to properly design and maintain roadway.

Homewood v. Aaby, et al.

(1995) $2,550,000 settlement for paralysis of a young woman from an auto collision plus an additional undisclosed amount from Toyota for a seat belt design failure.

Greene v. Pierce County

(1994) $5,466,878.23 verdict for highway design case for failure to have a stop sign at a railroad crossing.  Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury and was blinded in the crash. Second largest personal injury jury verdict in the history of the County at the time.

Dussault v. Midcentury Insurance Co.

(1992) $2,825,000 settlement for bad faith of an insurance company arising out of an auto collision resulting in a severe closed-head injury.

Denny v. Houghton Distributing

(1990) $1,250,000 settlement for paralysis from an auto collision after mini-mart sold beer to minors.

Fraser v. Beutel

(1987) $6,149,641.34 verdict for alcohol over-serving and negligent entrustment of a vehicle.  Young mother suffered a severe head injury.  The largest personal injury jury award in the history of Kittitas County. Also, $1,702,641 settlement from two of four defendants for a young woman hit by a drunk driver who had been over-served in a cocktail lounge and a liquor store.

Ethel Adams v. Farmers Insurance Co.
(2005) Ethel Adams was happily delivering dentures for her employer on March 23, 2005, when her life forever changed. A crazed man named Michael Testa was chasing his girlfriend Elizabeth Campo down Aurora Avenue. He bashed her with his truck until she lost control and flipped up and over the center line. Her truck crashed head-on into and on top of Ethel’s little Hyundai, smashing it backwards into oncoming following traffic. Ethel was almost crushed to death. What makes this case special is that a new law was enacted, called the Ethel's law. It was unanimously passed: SHB 2415.
Van Lear v. State of Washington, et al.
Keith and Lisa Van Lear suffered life threatening injuries, when a Jeep made a left turn into a dangerous intersection. After case moved to the State Supreme Court, the State of WA paid our clients a $3.75 million settlement.
Owen v. State of Washington
State settles with Owen family for Hwy 2 tree fall for $10 million.
Glantz v. City of Lynnwood
Ms. Glantz was seriously injured when attempting to cross a pedestrian walkway. With the help of SKW governmental liability attorneys, she sued the City of Lynnwood for neglecting to correct a defective warning lights that it had knowledge about, and settled for $2.25 million.
Schneider v. Major Car Manufacturer
(2007) A young woman suffered profound injuries as the result of a car crash. The other driver testified that Ms. Schneider did nothing wrong. SKW brought justice against the car manufacturer of Marissa's car, for faulty design. A confidential settlement was obtained for Marissa and her family.