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Recent Injury Law Blog Posts

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Posted on 3 February 2016

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Highway Safety Attorneys

Highway Safety

A cable median barrier on a 60 or 70mph highway that is wholly inadequate to redirect or even restrain errant cars to prevent innocent people from being being hit head-on.

Accidents are not only caused by driver negligence.  Sometimes the roadways are unsafe. Governmental entities collect billions of dollars in taxes that are used to create and maintain of our nation’s roadways.   Highway safety and design standards vary from state to state. However, the basic duty to provide drivers with access to reasonably safe roads applies throughout the country. To fulfill this duty, states must eliminate hazards and other dangerous conditions that pose a threat to the lives of drivers.    For example, constructing sufficient guardrails and median barriers, maintaining clear zones on the shoulders of highways, warning of hazardous conditions by placing warning signs in the appropriate locations, and clearly defining crosswalks for pedestrians.

Highway Safety cases fall into three overarching categories. First, the road may simply be inadequate upon its construction. An example would be a road immediately bordered with trees or utility poles. Second, due to changes in design standards, a road may fall drastically below the current requirements for roadway safety. Third, the state has a duty to monitor and respond to conditions that did not exist at the time of the road’s construction. Examples may include significantly increased traffic volume, a new school requiring kids to cross a busy intersection, or a steady pattern of accidents in a particular location.

Highway Safety

Government entities retain the duty to provide motorists with access to, and maintenance of, reasonably safe roads.

In order to fulfill its duty to provide reasonably safe roads, both in design and in operation, government entities must adhere to the appropriate standard of care.

The attorneys at SKW employ top engineering, safety and human factor’s experts in the field when handling these types of cases.  We are committed to bringing justice to victims injured in preventable accidents caused by the state’s substandard level of care in maintaining and constructing its roads. We are invested in holding governmental agencies accountable for their negligence and reducing the number of victims seriously injured on the roads.  As the result of our work, not only have victims received justice, but governmental entities have made roadways safer for the general public.

Representative cases

Greene v. Pierce County
$5.47 million verdict

Green involved Pierce County’s failure to place a stop sign at a railroad crossing where the approaching road was at an elevation lower than the train tracks. Not only was the crossing unlit, but the view of the tracks was obstructed by houses, barns, and trees. Expert testimony calculated the driver’s view of an approaching train to be blocked for the overwhelming majority of time during which a driver had to be able to see a train coming in time to stop without being hit.

A horrific accident occurred when the vehicle our clients were driving crossed the tracks and was struck by the 2,000 ton train. The driver was killed, and the 22 year-old passenger of the vehicle was found unconscious, having sustained massive head injuries. When it was tried in 1994, the Greene case resulted in the largest verdict for a personal injury case in Pierce County history.

Owen v. Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Co.

Owen involved an intersection serving high volumes of both vehicle and train traffic. Not only was the crossing where the accident took place exceptionally busy, but nearby traffic signals often forced vehicles to stop quickly, at times causing a backup over the tracks. In addition, the road approaching the crossing was below the elevation of the tracks, preventing drivers from being able to see the traffic signals and trains. On the day of the accident, our elderly clients’ vehicle was trapped on the tracks due to the sudden backup of traffic at a signal ahead. They were unable to move from the tracks when the signal gates dropped. A fast-approaching train was incapable of stopping in time, and struck their vehicle, killing the elderly couple before they could exit the car.

The jury determined that, due to the inherently dangerous condition of the crossing, the corrective actions taken by the state were inadequate. A number of remedial measures existed, including installing a stop sign, posting additional signage, upgrading existing traffic signals, etc. Because the state failed to implement any of the existing curative measures, the jury held that the state breached its duty to maintain reasonably safe roads for ordinary travel and warn against inherently dangerous or misleading conditions.

The decision in Owen prompted the municipality to construct a four lane road running underneath the track, removing any potential for further accidents between trains and vehicles.

Thompson v. State of Washington, et al
$2.75 million settlement

Traffic conditions at a busy intersection where Highway 18 meets Interstate 90 had become treacherous for motorists, necessitating prompt action to create safer traffic flows. Unfortunately, the State of Washington was slow to act. Meanwhile, Velma Jean Thompson was involved in a collision that rendered her an incomplete quadriplegic. Our legal team brought Velma Jean a settlement that will cover the lifelong care she requires as a result of her serious injuries.

Brenner v. Bestway Excavating & State of Washington
Binding arbitration decision

A truck driver for a construction company turned left at a dangerous intersection. He crashed head-on into a small car driven by a 17-year-old high school junior headed to her last day of school for the year. Her mother arrived at the scene in time to see her dying daughter being airlifted to Harborview. As a result, the mother suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder. The state settled for a very large sum, which was combined with the construction company insurance monies.

Legier v. Mason County
$1.75 million settlement

Suzanne Legier was driving with her two sons when her Jeep Cherokee hit water near recently plowed snow and began to skid. The Jeep hit an oncoming truck, and Suzanne's 5- and 12-year-old sons died of multiple, severe head injuries. The settlement with Mason County required changes in the county's snow and ice removal policy.