Who Has the Right-of-Way? A Few Common Scenarios for Drivers

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Who Has the Right-of-Way? A Few Common Scenarios for Drivers
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 4/21/2019

WhoHasTheRightAwayBlogPost04222019.JPGWe’ve all been in an awkward standoff while driving. Maybe you’re sitting at a four-way stop with stop signs. Perhaps you’re driving through an area without any traffic signals whatsoever. Regardless of the situation, the right-of-way is an issue for all drivers and can complicate your personal injury claim if you were involved in a car accident.

Right-of-way issues are prevalent in many personal injury car accident claims. Liability – or the determination of who is at fault in an auto collision – requires an analysis of Washington law. In a rear-end accident, this determination might be simple. However, with the (for lack of a better word) strange layouts of Seattle-area roadways – including one-way streets, back alleys, and unprotected intersections – knowing who has the right-of-way is half the battle.

Fortunately, Washington has written laws to account for many right-of-way issues. Here are a few scenarios drivers in Washington see themselves in all too often.

Vehicle Entering Stop or Yield Intersection (RCW 46.61.190) – The first section of this statute is obvious. The right-of-way may be indicated by stop or yield signs. In other words, if you approach an intersection where you have a stop sign and opposing drivers do not, you lack the right-of-way and must yield to other drivers. If there is no stop sign, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians or vehicles in the intersection or close enough to constitute an immediate hazard. Of note, if you cause a car accident after ignoring a yield sign, that is prima facie evidence of your liability.

Vehicle Turning Left (RCW 4.61.185) – Another typical situation occurs when you enter an intersection to turn left into an alley, private road, or driveway. You must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.

Vehicle Approaching Intersection (RCW 46.61.180) – If two vehicles approach an intersection at approximately the same time, the vehicle on the left must yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right. Most people know this as common sense. However, it is actually written into Washington law!

Nonfunctioning Signal Lights (RCW 46.61.183) – If a traffic light is malfunctioning or without power, the intersection should be considered an all-way stop. In other words, whether it’s a three-way, four-way, or even seven-way stop, all drivers must stop at the intersection before proceeding cautiously. And, of course, after stopping, all drivers must abide by the other rules of the road regarding right-of-way.

Bicycle, Moped, or Motorcycle at an Intersection with Inoperative Vehicle Detection (RCW 46.61.184) – Many intersections are controlled on vehicle detection devices instead of timers. If you’re riding a bike, moped, or motorcycle and your presence is not detected by the intersection sensors, you must first come to a full stop. If a full rotation of lights fails to provide you a left turn signal, the rider can proceed carefully through the intersection. Of course, the rider must yield to drivers who have the green light.

Operation of Vehicles on Approach of Emergency Vehicles (RCW 46.61.210) – As soon as you notice an emergency vehicle, including police, fire, and ambulance, making use of its audible and visual signals, you must yield the right-of-way. More specifically, you must immediately drive your car to the right in a position parallel to the right edge or curb.

Crosswalks (RCW. 46.61.235) – Washington requires an approaching vehicle to yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian or bicyclist within a marked or unmarked crosswalk if the pedestrian or bicyclist is within one lane of the half of the roadway of the approaching vehicle. Here’s a scenario. If a pedestrian walks from left-to-right across a four-lane roadway, a driver in the right two lanes must yield if the pedestrian is within the inside lane of oncoming traffic. However, a pedestrian cannot suddenly leave the curb to enter the crosswalk without providing an approaching vehicle the opportunity to stop. In Washington, this is referred to as the Last Clear Chance doctrine. If the driver had the last clear chance to avoid the impact, he or she may be liable. If the driver did not have a clear opportunity, the pedestrian may be at-fault for causing the collision.

“U” Turns (RCW 46.61.295) – A driver cannot proceed with a “U” Turn unless the movement can be made safely without interfering with other traffic. Moreover, you cannot perform a “U” Turn within 500 feet of a curve or hill where it would be difficult for oncoming vehicles to see.

At the law office of Magnuson Lowell P.S., we understand that every situation is unique, and more importantly, our experienced attorneys have dealt with Washington’s right-of-way laws throughout their practice. Call today for a free consultation (425)885-7500.

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Everyone is an Eggshell: The Legal Fiction of Preexisting Medical Conditions
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 4/15/2019

If you’ve ever been involved in a car accident, you know just how finicky insurance companies can be. Between the tedious forms, the rude adjusters, and the lowball negotiations, insurance companies use every trick and their disposal in order to pinch a few pennies. During our time as attorneys for national insurance companies, the Law Office of Magnuson Lowell PS has had the opportunity to scout out the insurance playbook and have detailed conversations with adjusters. While insurance companies are always on the lookout for hidden skeletons in your closet, their number one tactic is to uncover so-called preexisting medical conditions.

What is a preexisting medical condition regarding a motor vehicle accident? As with everything in the law, it depends on who you ask. If you ask an insurance adjuster, any minor ache or pain in the years (or even decade) before a motor vehicle collision constitutes grounds to limit settlement evaluations due to the existence of a preexisting medical condition. On the contrary, most personal injury attorneys, doctors, and even Washington courts agree that a preexisting condition only has limited relevancy after a car accident.

In 2004, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in the case Harris v Drake. This landmark personal injury litigation held that “When an accident lights up and makes active a preexisting condition that was dormant and asymptomatic immediately prior to the accident, the preexisting condition is not a proximate cause of the resulting damages.” In other words, unless there is evidence that your pre-accident medical condition was causing you problems in the weeks or months before an auto accident, the insurance company should be barred from arguing about the preexisting medical issue.

This ruling reflects the idea of the eggshell plaintiff. Every person on the face of the planet has some amount of degeneration in their body. Certainly, those of us who have gracefully aged over the years have more degeneration than our younger counterparts, but it still exists in every spine to some degree.

For example, we had a 45-year old client walk in the door after a mild car accident. Medical records and testimony from family clearly established the client had no symptoms of neck pain before the collision. However, imaging afterwards reflected a severely degenerated spine. Her medical provider testified that had it not been for her preexisting, dormant, and asymptomatic neck degeneration, she likely wouldn’t have needed surgery. However, an insurance company does not get to choose who their insured collided with, and adjuster doesn’t have the right to minimize post-accident injuries because the plaintiff was an eggshell more prone to cracking.

The insurance companies know these rules and laws. They just choose to ignore them while negotiating with injured parties. They figure that most injured drivers won’t know and won’t understand the law. Therefore, the insurance adjuster believes they can deny coverage or limit the settlement evaluation due to a regularly inadmissible medical issue.

Knowing your rights during a personal injury claim after a car accident is half the battle. Understanding that an insurance company is not allowed to take advantage of your preexisting condition will help bolster your leverage during negotiations. Moreover, having an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side will help push settlement talks in your favor. The Law Offices of Magnuson Lowell PS are experienced in dealing with issues of preexisting condition and will fight for the justice you deserve.

Call today for a free consultation (425)885-7500.

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Alcohol and Driving Don`t Mix - Terrible Statistics About DUIs
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 4/8/2019

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 37,133 people were killed in car accidents in 2017. Of those deaths, an estimate 10,874 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving drunk drivers (in Washington, that includes drivers with a BAC over .08). And, of those deaths, approximately 7,052 people were killed as a result of a driver having a BAC over .15. From a macro perspective, this is a remarkable decrease. In 1982, there were more than 21,000 drunk driving related fatalities in the United States. In other words, in four decades, we have seen a dramatic decrease with approximately 3x fewer DUI deaths than in 1982, the year the NHTSA started collecting data.

In Washington specifically, law enforcement has pulled out all the stops to halt this epidemic. Time-tested slogans like “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed,” and with the legalization of marijuana, “Drive High, Get a DUI,” are plastered across billboards and shouted in all forms of media. In addition, Washington prosecutors – armed with mandatory minimum sentences for DUIs – have cracked down on these offenses. And, finally, the surge of for-hire transportation companies like Uber and Lyft has surely aided in the improvement of DUI statistics in Washington.

And, generally, Washington has seen some positive results. For example, according to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in 2016 it was estimated that there were approximately 161 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities – 25% fewer then Virginia and more than 30% fewer than Arizona – the two states with the next closest size of population. Regardless, this is 161 more alcohol related fatalities than we should accept.
Everyone needs to do their part to help reduce drinking and driving. While it’s perfectly acceptable to go out with friends and have a great evening, recognizing the effects of alcohol on driving will go a long way to eliminated DUI deaths here in Washington. Here are a few things you should know about alcohol’s effect on the human body.

First – alcohol can reduce your ability to concentrate. While driving, you need undivided attention to manage your speed, stay in your lane, and to brake appropriately. Even a small amount of alcohol can inhibit your ability to process the necessary information to operate a vehicle.
Second – your reaction time plummets. The average adult has a reaction time of approximately .25 seconds. After just a drink or two, your reaction time can be 25% higher at a minimum making it difficult if not impossible to avoid hazards while driving.

Third – decision making worsens. While certainly – with proper protections in place – the inhibition of judgment alcohol provides can be a primary benefit. When driving, however, your brain’s ability to make snap judgments and be aware of your surrounding is crucial. Alcohol may prevent you from processing and make the snap judgments necessary while driving.

Fourth – your vision is negatively impacted. They’re called beer goggles for a reason. After drinking alcohol, you may notice that your vision is blurry, and you are unable to control your eye movement. For obvious reasons, good vision is a necessity while driving. An inability to see signs, other vehicles, or even children crossing the road is a side effect of impaired driving.

As a dedicated personal injury attorney, the Law Offices of Magnuson Lowell PS have seen their fair share of DUI related car accidents, injuries, and fatalities. If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle collision resulting from the negligent driving of an impaired driver, your rights need to be protected. Our confident and aggressive attorneys will fight for you and get the justice you deserve.

Call today for a free consultation (425)885-7500.


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