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October 2018

Seattle Hit and Run Accident Attorney

By | Car Accidents | No Comments

Traffic accidents are bad enough, but when someone leaves the scene of a traffic accident intentionally so that they don’t have to face the consequences, it can be downright maddening. Please know that if you have been in a hit and run accident, all is not lost. You might not have to absorb all the costs related to both your property damage and your physical injuries. The attorneys at the Khan Law Firm, PLLC can help you recover damages.

Criminal Penalties for Hit and Run Accidents in the State of Washington

The State of Washington divides penalties for hit-and-run accidents into three levels: misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony.

Hit-and-run accidents in which the car was parked or otherwise unattended are considered simple misdemeanors under Washington law. They are punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and up to 90 days in jail.

Hit-and-run accidents which involve one car hitting another driver are considered gross misdemeanors and are punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. If someone is injured, however, in the accident, the penalty escalates to a Class C felony. If someone is killed in the accident, it escalates to a Class B felony. Class C felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Class B felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Civil Penalties for a Hit and Run Accident in the State of Washington

Generally speaking, when a driver flees the scene of an accident, they are 100% at-fault for the accident. That means that, if they are caught, you and your attorney can seek compensatory injury damages. Plaintiffs in hit-and-run accidents can be compensated for any of the following from the at-fault driver directly or their insurance company:

  • Medical expenses,
  • Other expenses related to the accident,
  • Lost wages,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Loss of enjoyment,
  • Property damage and more.

In cases where there is permanent physical impairment or disfigurement, settlements can reach into the millions of dollars. In addition, punitive damages can be awarded in hit-and-run cases. But this depends on actually finding the at-fault driver.

Impediments to Collecting Damages in Hit-and-Run Accidents

There are some barriers to collecting damages in hit-and-run accidents. Most obvious is the fact that the driver needs to be caught (more on that later). Secondly, if the driver is caught, what happens if they don’t have auto insurance?

It’s true that many drivers do leave the scene of an accident specifically because they do not carry auto insurance. Other times they may be drunk and he does not want the police to know about it. The two major stumbling blocks to collecting damages are finding the driver and hoping they have an insurance policy or—failing that—enough assets to compensate you for your property damage and injuries.

Finding the Driver

While police will be looking for the driver themselves, you also might consider hiring a personal injury attorney to launch an investigation of your own. The police will talk to any witnesses they can find at the scene, and may put information up on social media in case there is anyone out there who witnessed the accident. In addition, they will access any surveillance footage they can find.

By hiring an attorney, you don’t necessarily guarantee that the driver will be found. However, you do get a guarantee that they will prioritize the investigation higher than the police might. Police are busy people and a hit-and-run accident may or may not top their list of investigations that day.

How Can I Help After a Hit-and-Run Accident?

The first thing you need to worry about is being seen to by a medical doctor. If you are able, photograph the scene of the accident as much as you can and call police. Debris left behind at the scene may provide evidence to find the driver.

What Happens if the Police Don’t Find the Driver?

The State of Washington requires all auto insurance companies doing business in the state to offer every driver uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). In the case of a hit-and-run accident where the driver could not be found, an injured motorist’s uninsured motorist coverage would be activated to cover the damages. If you were among those who elected not to pay for UM/UIM motorist coverage and the at-fault driver cannot be found, you have exhausted your options. You will foot the bill and take the economic hit on injuries, property damage, and lost wages. There is nothing left that you can do.

Making a Claim on a UM/UIM Policy

Despite what you may have been led to believe, you are not “in good hands” and your insurance company is not like “a good neighbor”. Neither of these accurately describe the relationship between you and the insurance company. The insurance company investigates every claim to the full extent that it can and while they cannot deny a claim in bad faith, they won’t offer you full compensation for your damages either.

When it comes to UM/UIM policies, you and the insurance company are adversaries, even though you pay them to protect you in certain situations, they have a vested financial interest in denying or reducing the value of your claim. This means that they will launch an investigation of their own to determine the extent of your injuries, the nature of the accident, and they will generally offer you a lowball figure for compensation that represents only a fraction of the value of your claim.

A Hit and Run Accident Attorney in Seattle Can Help

Whether it’s negotiating with the insurance company to honor the full value of your claim, launching a priority investigation to determine who the at-fault driver is, or suing that driver for their criminal negligence, the Seattle attorneys at the Khan Law Firm, PLLC have successfully recovered millions of dollars in damages for our clients. If you’ve been in a hit-and-run accident, give us a call to set up a no-obligation consultation.

Washington State Bicycle Laws

By | Bike Laws | No Comments

Not every accident that happens between a car and a bicycle is the fault of the individual who is driving the car. Bicyclists must obey the laws of traffic too. In fact, it very often comes down to who—the cyclist or the driver—was in violation of the law when the accident occurred that determines fault or liability in a civil lawsuit or insurance claim.

In this article, we will discuss how Washington State bicycle laws work and what you should do if you are in an accident with a motorist.

Understanding Comparative Negligence Laws in Washington

Comparative negligence laws work to assign a portion of the blame to each participant in a motor vehicle and cyclist accident. In some cases, the motorist may be 100% to blame. In other cases, it may be entirely the cyclist’s fault. Other times, both the cyclist and the motorist acted negligently and that caused the accident.

Typically, when a motorist hits a cyclist, the motorist has minor property damage if not less. The cyclist, on the other hand, may have extensive injuries. It’s important to understand that under a pure comparative negligence rule, like Washington’s, a cyclist may recover damages even when they were mostly at fault for the accident. This is in contrast to other states that bar plaintiff recovery in cases where they are mostly at fault for the accident. Some states may bar recovery even when the plaintiff is only somewhat at fault.

However, your damages are reduced in proportion to the other driver’s liability. For instance, let’s say that the other driver is 75% responsible for the accident and your damages are $10,000. You would only be entitled to collect $7,500 of the $10,000 you are owed.

Pertinent Washington State Bicycle Laws

Major cities like Seattle are hotbeds of auto accidents. In addition, there are more cyclists on the road than ever before. According to a recent piece run by the Seattle Times, bike and pedestrian accidents have very nearly doubled over the past four years. While no one is quite sure why this is the case, auto accident attorneys have an honest answer that might startle many: There are more cases of distracted driving now than there were in the past. Cell phones, infotainment systems, texting, and other distractions have resulted in more distracted driving incidents—not just in Seattle or the state of Washington—but all across the U.S. For a number of reasons, Florida and California lead the nation in bicycle-related injuries and deaths. Nonetheless, there is not one state in the U.S. that hasn’t seen the number of bike and pedestrian accidents rise.

Last year, 122 people struck by cars either walking or on bikes were killed in the State of Washington. In 2013, there was only 60.

While sometimes, the accidents are the fault of the bicyclist, more often than not, distracted driving, including drunk driving, play some role in the accident and the results are often catastrophic. Cyclists are even more at risk for serious injury than pedestrians since they are higher off the ground and have less control over how they fall. For that reason, even though there is no statewide statute, many cities do require cyclists to wear helmets.

Why You Should Wear a Bicycle Helmet

If you are injured by a driver and you are not wearing a bicycle helmet, the insurance company that insures that driver will claim that your lack of a helmet was a contributing factor in your injuries. It could reduce your ability to collect damages if you are injured.

In addition, head injuries are very common in bicycle accidents. These can result in serious permanent damage to cyclists. Bike helmets can reduce the risk and impact of these injuries.

Rights and Responsibilities of a Motorist

In the State of Washington, an individual riding a bike has the same rights and responsibilities of any motorist on the road. That means that bicyclist can be ticketed for violating traffic laws the same way any motorist can.

That means the bicyclists riding at night are expected to have a light on their bike that is visible up to 500 feet. In addition, there may be some roads that are off-limits to cyclists. This includes some business or commercial districts depending on city ordinance.

A violation of any of these laws, including individual city ordinances, may result in the cyclist getting a ticket and may further reduce another driver’s liability preventing them from recovering the full extent of their damages. In some cases, a driver may not be held liable at all. If they were not breaking the law or not driving negligently, then they are not responsible for the accident.

For more information on bicycle-related laws in the State of Washington, please visit this website.

Signaling While Turning

Obeying all the same laws of traffic as motorists means that bicyclists too must signal when turning. They can do this by putting up either their left or their right hand. Failure to do so can result in both a ticket to the cyclist and added liability in an insurance claim.

The Role of Insurance Companies

If you’re in a bicycle accident with a motor vehicle, you will make a claim against the driver’s insurance policy. The insurance company has a fiduciary duty to protect the best interests of the policyholder. If they don’t, they can be sued by the policyholder and may become liable for any money owed to an injured party.

In other words, the insurance company is not in your corner. That’s why it’s important to have a skilled Seattle personal injury attorney litigate your claim. By so doing, we can maximize any settlement you receiver and ensure that you are compensated for all your damages.

Talk to a Bicycle Accident Attorney in Seattle Today

The attorneys at the Khan Law Firm, PLLC have recovered serious damages for those injured by negligent drivers in bicycle accidents. If the driver was even a small part at-fault, you can recover some money for your injuries. Please give us a call or contact us online for a no-obligation consultation.