Auto Accidents

Ducking Responsibility

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Saturday was the one year anniversary of Ride the Ducks Crash on the Aurora Bridge.  As you may know our firm represents 20 of the victims.

Last Friday, the owner of Ride the Ducks Seattle (RTDS) went on a media campaign proclaiming at every opportunity that he wants a “global mediation” where everyone can be treated fairly and the cases can be resolved.  This is an effective way for RTDS to convey in a single message to the media and the public that it cares about the victims and is taking responsibility.

But how genuine is it?

Ride the Ducks did propose global mediation involving five defendants and 60 or more plaintiffs, plus dozens more attorneys.  They did so by group email.  Not a proposed stipulation, not with prior agreement by other defendants, not an actual plan, just a group email.  Like how you might throw out an idea for a theme party.

For point of reference, things Ride the Ducks felt warranted actual letterhead or pleading paper have included (1) leveling personal attacks at/scolding Karen for posting a picture of the “Duck Nest” on social media, which RTDS has now broadcast on local news networks, (2) demanding everything we have compiled during our investigation in preparation for the litigation, and (3) scheduling meetings about the case schedule.

For further point of reference, the parties spent hours filing cross motions about when the trial date should be, with the defendants wanting to push it out to June 2019.  But this proposed early global mediation, where everyone will be treated so fairly, warrants a group email.

How else is Ride the Ducks taking responsibility and furthering its desire to globally mediate?  The company:

  1. Spent the week of the anniversary hounding us over our objection to producing the fruits of our investigation, and then, ignoring that we twice asked why the issue needed to be debated that week, unilaterally scheduled a discovery conference on Friday right before the memorial service for the Ride the Ducks victims at North Seattle College.  We were scheduled to attend to be supportive of our clients, because that’s what we do.  Context reminder: trial is two years from now.
  2. Hasn’t bothered to collect medical records to see all of the harm the crash caused (an obvious prerequisite for mediation), and yet…
  3. Thought it was important to demand the STD history of the victims in discovery.

 

What else is Ride the Ducks doing to take responsibility?  Blaming lawyers, naturally.

Brian Tracey (owner) stated to Q13: “Most aggressive attorneys will get to trial first and get the lion’s share of the money. I don’t want it to happen, I want everybody to be treated fairly.”

Here’s what is actually going on.  Many of the cases filed early after the crash had trial dates as early as November 2016 (two months from now).  All of the cases have since been set on the same modified case schedule with a trial date in September 2018.  Judges handling the cases have requested that all parties file lawsuits in time for their cases to be tried beginning September 2018.  You can decide for yourself if Mr. Tracey’s statement is (a) accurate or (b) a clever way to abscond with the moral high ground and blame lawyers for the lack of a resolution.

This is not the first time Mr. Tracey has gone out of his way to blame lawyers for his company’s bad PR.  He  blamed Karen and other plaintiffs’ lawyers for a “campaign to discredit RTDS’ safety worthiness.”  This is a company which, in addition to the horrific crash that killed five people, admitted to 463 safety violations.  A company with only half of its fleet allowed to conduct tours.  A company which, the lawsuits allege, declined to implement critical, manufacturer-recommended safety fixes “to avoid axle fractures” (what the preliminary NTSB report concluded had happened) that were supposed to be completed “prior to operating 2014.”  Somehow trial lawyers and their photographs of Duck vehicles are to blame for bad PR.

You can always keep blaming us lawyers if you want to duck responsibility.  We can take it. But don’t try to fix your PR problem by giving victims an illusory hope of closure for an extremely traumatic and life-changing event.  On the anniversary no less.  They’re suffering enough.

Here’s an article about the victims, which is what the anniversary should be about.

 

 

Alphabet Soup: A Primer on Auto Insurance Acronyms and Terms

If you are confused about what auto insurance benefits are and what you might need, you are not alone.  Many law students and lawyers do not understand the types of insurance available.  Here are the basics on the types of insurance, how they apply, and why you should consider buying the coverage.

PIP Coverage:

What:  PIP stands for Personal Injury Protection.  It covers medical expenses and a small amount of lost wages if you are out of work for more than two weeks.  Benefit limits range from $10,000 to $35,000.

How: PIP is also called “no fault” coverage because it applies regardless of whether or not you were at fault.  For example, it does not matter if you were rear-ended or run yourself into a tree–PIP applies.  If you are struck by a vehicle while walking or riding your bike, the other driver’s PIP, as well as yours, will apply in most instances.  If you are a passenger in a vehicle involved in an accident, the driver’s PIP should apply to you.

Why: Even if you have good health insurance, PIP offers additional benefits.  First, there is no coinsurance or copay for treatment.  Second, there is no annual insurance deductible, so for example, you do not need to incur $2,500 in covered medical charges for benefits to kick in.  Third, PIP covers treatment many health plans exclude or limit, such as chiropractic care and massage therapy.

Liability:

What:  Liability insurance is mandated by Washington law.  The minimum requirement is $25,000.

How:  Liability insurance pays when a driver’s negligence injures another person.

Why:  Because it’s the law.

UIM Coverage:

What:  UIM stands for Underinsured Motorist.  Benefit limits typically range from $100,000 to $500,000, though some policies exceed $1,000,000.

How:  UIM coverage applies if the at-fault driver has no insurance, which is unlawful in Washington, flees the scene (also unlawful), or lacks sufficient insurance to pay the full value of the claim.  There are several major distinctions between UIM and PIP.  First, UIM is not “no fault” coverage.  Your UIM insurer “stands in the shoes” of the at-fault driver, and you are only entitled to recover damages under a UIM policy that you would have been entitled to receive from the at-fault driver if he had sufficient liability insurance.  Second, UIM does not just cover medical bills and wage loss (what we call economic damages), but also pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life (what we call noneconomic damages).  Third, a UIM insurer is entitled to defend the merits of the claim.  For example, if liability is disputed, or if the insurer disagrees about the value of general damages, they can force you to sue or arbitrate to determine the amount of damages.

Why:  Remember that not all drivers have or can afford more than the $25,000 minimum liability insurance, which barely covers the average whiplash injury claim.  If you are seriously injured by such a driver and have no UIM coverage, not only will you not recover the general damages you are entitled to, you may not recuperate the cost of coinsurance and copays.

Other Types of Insurance:

Comprehensive:  This typically refers to coverage for property damage to your vehicle or another vehicle involved in an accident.

GAP Insurance:  Cars depreciate in value rapidly in the first few years.  If you purchase a car new and do not put much money down, and the car is subsequently totaled early in its car-life, you may owe the lender more than the “actual cash value” or “replacement cost” payable under your auto insurance policy.  GAP insurance covers that remainder.



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