Car accidents are one of the most common hazards we all face in daily life. From minor fender-benders to catastrophic, multi-car pileups, getting into an accident in a motor vehicle can end a life or change it forever. At Boohoff Law, one of our principal areas of focus is the representation of Seattle residents and visitors who have suffered injuries in car accidents.
The Seattle Department of Transportation’s annual traffic report illustrates the constant challenge to our city posed by car accidents. In 2017, Seattle police reported 10,959 motor vehicle collisions on city streets. According to the report, in 2017 there were a total of 187 fatal and serious injury collisions on Seattle streets. Data available from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reflect an even worse tally in 2018, with 212 crashes that resulted in serious injury or wrongful death.
If you suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one in a Seattle-area car accident, you may have the right to recover compensation from those whose actions caused your loss. Contact the experienced, skilled Seattle car accident attorneys at Boohoff Law today to learn more.
Contact us today – call (877) 999-9999 or email us. We’re available 24/7!
What Sets Boohoff Law Car Accident Attorneys Apart
Attorney Tatiana Boohoff and the team of legal professionals at Boohoff Law bring years of combined experience to the task of representing victims of car accidents. Founded more than a decade ago, Boohoff Law’s mission is to serve Seattle residents and visitors victimized by personal injury with skill, determination, and a commitment to personalized client service.
A graduate of top-ranked Boston University School of Law, Tatiana Boohoff leads a team that focuses its efforts exclusively on advocating on behalf of personal injury victims who need help recovering compensation from those whose actions did them harm.
You don’t need us to tell you that car accidents can cause serious harm. Because cars are the number one form of transportation in the U.S., every one of us has pretty good odds of getting into a car accident at some point in our lives. For most of us, it’s a scary but survivable experience. Some of us, however, are less lucky. People die in car accidents every day in our country, and many of those who survive face lives completely altered by the injuries they suffered.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Car accidents happen for a host of reasons, including behavioral, environmental, and situational. A small number of car accidents are inevitable and can’t be prevented. Most of them, however, could at least be prevented, and many result from poor decisions by someone who should have done better. Among the most common human-related causes of car accidents are:
Alcohol and drug impairment. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), “[d]river impairment due to alcohol and/or drugs is the number one contributing factor in Washington fatal crashes and is involved in nearly half of all traffic fatalities.” Increasingly, drivers involved in fatal crashes have been found to have both drugs (typically marijuana) and alcohol in their systems.
Driver distraction. The WTSC recently made this sobering statement about distracted driving that sums up its risks: “In Washington State, distracted driving is a factor in nearly one of every three traffic fatalities and more than one of every four serious injuries. From 2015-2017, distraction-involved fatalities increased 27.1 percent and serious injuries 33.8 percent compared to the previous three years. Distraction ranks only behind impairment as a prevalent risky behavior in traffic fatalities and serious injuries.”
Speeding. Although driver distraction overtook speeding in 2015 as the second-most common factor in fatal car accidents in Washington, speeding remains a significant cause of car accidents in the state, playing a role in more than 1 in 5 accidents resulting in a fatality or serious injury in 2018, according to WTSC crash data.
Speeding Car Accident Statistics in King County
Driver fatigue. Fatigue can have the same effects on driver performance as drug or alcohol impairment, as this tragic story from WSDOT’s blog reflects.
Drowsy Driver-Involved Injury Crashes Statistics in King County
Vehicle malfunctions. Sometimes, a crash happens because something went wrong with a vehicle. Some of these are typical, such as a blown tire or broken tail lights that fail to warn of a slowdown. Others are more unusual, and may signal that some part of the vehicle had a dangerous defect.
Road conditions. Drivers have an obligation to operate their vehicles in a manner appropriate for road conditions. That is not always an easy task. Wet roads, in particular, contribute to a significant number of Seattle car accidents.
These are just a few of the more common ways car accidents occur on Seattle-area roadways. There are lots more. Every car accident has its own unique facts and circumstances, which is why it is critical for accident victims to retain the services of an experienced car accident lawyer with the know how to investigate and litigate a car accident injury.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents
After a car accident, you may find yourself with a wide range of questions. What happens next? What should you expect from the legal process? Most people suffer through the aftermath of a car accident at some point in their lives, but not everyone knows what they should do about it. If you have questions about your car accident, these answers can help you moving forward.
As soon as you have a car accident, you need to start working to protect yourself. If you need medical attention, seek it first. If you can move safely around the scene of the accident or if another person can help you, however, you should collect several pieces of vital information from the scene of your accident, such as:
A copy of the police report.
Contact information for the other driver, including the driver’s name, their insurance information, and their license plate number. You may also copy down their driver’s license number.
Contact information for any witnesses at the scene of the accident.
Photos of the accident scene.
Snapping a photo on your phone of relevant information, including the other party’s driver’s license, can help ensure that you have a record of relevant information in a place you can easily access it later.
After a car accident, many people decide to try to handle their insurance claims on their own. If you suffered severe injuries or significant property damage in your accident, however, having a lawyer can help prevent you from missing out on the funds you need after your accident. A lawyer can help you in several different ways:
Providing a better understanding of exactly what funds you deserve for your car accident, based on your injuries, your pain and suffering, and your losses due to the accident.
Helping to prove that you did not cause or help cause the car accident. The insurance company’s lawyer may attempt to prove that you contributed to the car accident, which will reduce the funds the company owes you for your injuries.
Offering valuable legal advice throughout the process, from what you can post on your social media accounts about the accident and your injuries to when you should accept the settlement offered by the insurance company.
After a car accident, many people wonder how much compensation they should expect. Should you expect the maximum payout allowed by the other driver’s insurance policy? Will the insurance company pay for all of your medical bills? Your claim has a number of unique elements. Several factors can influence the compensation you receive.
The limits of the insurance policy. Some drivers carry much higher-value insurance policies than others. If your injuries and financial damages exceed the amount of the other driver’s policy, you may need to turn to your underinsured motorist policy to help get the funds you need.
The severity of your injuries. Some injuries carry much more significant costs than others.
How much your injuries limit you. Often, insurance companies calculate pain and suffering based on the limitations caused by your injuries. If you return to work soon after your accident, for example, you may receive less compensation for pain and suffering than if your injuries prevent you from going back to your everyday activities.
The financial damages you suffered as a result of the accident. Financial damages can include property damage, lost time at work, and lost earning potential due to an inability to return to your previous job.
Whether or not you contributed to the accident. If you contributed to the accident, it may reduce the compensation you receive by a corresponding percentage. For example, if you contributed 10 percent to the accident, your compensation may drop by 10 percent.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Many people worry that hiring a lawyer will leave them struggling even more financially than they were before the accident. At Boohoff Law, we start with a free consultation to discuss the terms of your accident, better understand your injury, and provide valuable legal advice. Often, working with a lawyer actually increases the funds you receive as part of your settlement. Instead of asking whether you can afford to hire a lawyer, carefully consider whether you can afford not to hire a lawyer to help with your claim.
If the Insurance Company Offers Me a Check Shortly After the Accident, Should I Take It?
In many cases, the other driver’s insurance company will offer to send you a settlement check soon after the accident. Often, however, this check reflects only a percentage of the funds you deserve for your injuries. Insurance companies often hurry to issue a settlement offer after an accident with significant injuries. Before accepting the check, especially if that acceptance includes signing paperwork relieving the insurance company of future responsibility, consult with a lawyer. A lawyer can help evaluate your injuries and the financial damages associated with your accident to determine whether the check offered by the insurance company will adequately cover your financial needs after the accident.
What Happens If I Have Negative Equity in My Car?
You owe more on your car than its current value. If the insurance company totals your car after the accident, will the insurance company pay the negative equity in your vehicle?
Often, it depends. A lawyer can help you file a claim that includes the negative equity in your car; however, you do not have any guarantee that the insurance company will pay for those damages. Depending on the severity of the accident and your injuries, you may still owe the additional equity on your vehicle. In some cases, you can roll this negative equity into your new car loan.
After a car accident, you may need to take a number of important steps to protect your rights. Some of these steps begin at the scene of the accident.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible after your accident. Many victims suffer serious injuries that do not show symptoms immediately. Even if you believe yourself uninjured, visit a doctor for evaluation as soon as possible.
If you can, gather evidence at the scene of the accident. Photograph the vehicles, especially any damage to them, and the accident scene. Collect contact information for witnesses. All of this information can help prove who caused the accident and get you the compensation you deserve.
Report the accident to the police and receive a police report. If you do not need to leave the scene of the accident to seek medical attention, wait for the police to arrive and issue a statement about the accident.
Do everything your doctor requires throughout your recovery process. If you ignore doctors’ orders and make your injuries worse, it can decrease the compensation you can receive.
Consult a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Working with a lawyer can more effectively protect your rights throughout the legal process after your accident.
Keep track of all of your records. Start a file immediately after the accident. Put all of your medical information, photos from the accident scene, and witness statements in that file. The more information you have, the better you can protect your rights after an accident.
Avoid discussing the accident unnecessarily. Do not allow other people’s versions of events to color your perceptions or make accusations against anyone involved in the accident. Issue a statement to the police at the accident scene if requested, then wait to discuss the accident until you can talk to your lawyer.
Do I Have to Give the Insurance Company a Statement About the Accident?
Legally, you may need to issue a statement to the other party’s insurance company about the accident. That does not, however, mean that you have to issue a statement immediately. To protect yourself, contact a lawyer before you issue your statement about the accident. A lawyer can help you more carefully word your statement, avoid admissions of fault, and provide all relevant information about the accident to the insurance company.
If possible, you should write down your own statement of events as soon as possible after the accident. The longer you wait, the more events will fade in your mind. You may find your version of events influenced by other witnesses, statements made by your doctor, and even the questions asked by the insurance company. Write down your statement as soon as possible, then go over it with your lawyer to ensure that you have an accurate version of what occurred during the accident.
If you aren’t sure if you contributed to the accident, or believe that you may have contributed to the accident, you should still avoid immediately admitting fault if at all possible. In the wake of an accident, it is often unclear exactly who or what caused or contributed to the accident. An admission of fault can work against you as you attempt to claim compensation for your injuries and property damage. You should also avoid any statements about your injuries or your physical status after the accident. If you believe that you contributed to the accident, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you decide how to phrase any statements you make about the accident as well as helping you determine what you should and shouldn’t say.
In Washington, you have three years after your accident to file a claim. Ideally, however, you want to file your accident claim as soon as possible. The longer you wait to file an accident claim, the harder you will find it to locate evidence. Not only that, events may fade in your mind and the minds of your witnesses.
If you discovered injuries well after an accident, including traumatic brain injury or another injury that took weeks or months to show up after the accident, you may have three years after identifying that injury to file your claim.
In no-fault states, like Florida, each party carries a personal injury protection policy that covers the first $10,000 of injuries and lost time at work after a car accident. Washington, however, does not have a no-fault law. Instead, Washington uses comparative fault law: the fault of each party involved in the accident factors into who pays for the accident and who bears financial liability for the other party’s injuries and lost time at work after the accident.
After a car accident, many insurance companies will carefully examine the accident to determine fault, including assigning financial liability. The insurance company will likely evaluate a number of factors, including:
- The police report from the accident. The police report may identify fault; however, if you disagree with the police report, a lawyer can help you contest it.
- Witness statements from the accident. Witness statements increase in importance if either party wishes to dispute the police report or if the police report remains unclear about the cause of the accident.
- Any video evidence from the accident scene. Video evidence may include traffic camera evidence or videos from security cameras near the scene of the accident.
- Statements from all drivers involved in the accident, including your statement about the accident.
If fault in your accident remains unclear, working with a lawyer can help ensure that you do not end up taking the fall for an accident you did not cause. By working with an attorney, you can protect your rights throughout the process.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents result in fatalities far too often, as the statistics cited above bear out. But, even survivors of car accidents can face severe injuries and health complications, and a lifetime of medical and financial needs. Some of the more common severe injuries car accident victims sustain include:
- Traumatic brain injuries that leave victims with cognitive impairments or minimally conscious;
- Spinal cord injuries resulting in partial or total paralysis;
- Crushed or traumatically-amputated limbs, particularly the legs of drivers and passengers in a front-end collision;
- Burns from explosions and disfiguring scarring from lacerations caused by sharp metal and glass;
- Broken bones and orthopedic injuries; and
Severe internal and soft tissue damage, which can include chronic neck pain from severe whiplash.
Severe injuries from car accidents can heal, but unfortunately full recovery from some injuries leaves accident victims badly impaired or disabled, and in need of a lifetime of care and medical support. An experienced Seattle car accident attorney takes the time to understand the severity of a car accident victim client’s injuries, and to make sure she seeks an appropriate amount of damages to cover the client’s long-term medical needs.
Seattle Car Accident Statistics
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) maintain detailed records of motor vehicle accidents in and around the Seattle metro area. In this blog post, we summarize some of the most important data for Seattle drivers to know about accidents, in the hope it will help them avoid crashes and become safer, more responsible users of Seattle roads.
If a Seattle-area car accident has injured you or tragically taken the life of your loved one, then contact the experienced car accident attorneys at Boohoff Law today to learn about your rights to compensation.
Traffic Volumes and Speeds
The first category of information SDOT’s annual report evaluates is the volume and speed of traffic in Seattle. Here are some of the principal findings.
- The volume of traffic in Seattle has stayed relatively steady over the past twelve years at roughly 1,000,000 trips per day. This is notable insofar as the population of the city has grown by nearly 25 percent during that same period, and its population of workers has also seen a steady increase. Possibly counteracting the growth in population, mass transit ridership has also increased.
- More than half (51 percent) of Seattle’s commuting population, however, travels alone in a vehicle to work every day. A quarter of all commuters ride mass transportation. As of 2017, just 9 percent of commuters carpooled.
- The eastbound and westbound lanes of the West Seattle Bridge, west of the Alaska Way Viaduct, experienced far-and-away the heaviest daily volumes of traffic in the city, with approximately 100,000 trips per day. The next-most-trafficked corridor was East Marginal Way South, south of South Alaska Street, which saw roughly 70,000 trips per day, followed by the Montlake and Aurora Bridges, with 66,000 and 61,000 trips respectively.
- Aurora Avenue N and Rainier Avenue S, in both directions, saw the highest volume of vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed relative to the posted speed limit. Both avenues saw statistically significant numbers of drivers exceeding the speed limit by at least 10 MPH.
Traffic Collisions (Excluding I-5, I-90, and SR-540)
SDOT also tracks the number of motor vehicle-involved collisions in Seattle, excluding collisions on the I-5, I-90, and SR-540 arteries (which are tracked instead by the WSDOT statistics, below). The data show:
- Collisions in Seattle (excluding the arteries) declined steadily from 2006 to 2013, only to rebound slightly in the four subsequent years. As of 2017, the city saw roughly 11,000 motor vehicle-involved collisions per year.
- For the past eight years, the rate of collisions per million daily trips has held relatively steady between 50 – 60 collisions per million.
Fatal, Serious, and Non-Serious Injuries
In keeping with the relatively steady rate of collisions per million, the number of accidents resulting in serious injuries has held more-or-less steady at between 150 and 200 accidents per year. Similarly, the number of fatalities has hovered between 10 and 20 per year over that time period. The areas with the highest concentrations of those accidents (again, excluding the major arterials) were downtown and along the length of Rainier Avenue S.
Although the numbers of serious and fatal injury-involved collisions represent just a tiny fraction of the total number of annual collisions in Seattle, they don’t quite capture the scale of the toll of Seattle car accidents. According to SDOT, 28 percent of collisions result in some kind of injury, even if not severe or fatal. That’s over 3,000 motor vehicle injuries per year, on average.
Crash Mechanics and Contributing Circumstances
SDOT also collects data on the “types” of collisions, their contributing circumstances (if reported), and their locations.
- The two most common collisions were vehicles traveling in the same direction (the vast majority of which were likely rear-end collisions), and vehicles entering the flow of traffic at an angle (typically at intersections). Perhaps surprisingly, the next-most-common type of accident after those two was collisions between a moving vehicle and a parked vehicle.
- For accidents in which contributing circumstances were reported, the most common contributing factors were driver inattention, driver distraction, and the failure to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle. Ignoring traffic signals and signs also contributed to a significant number of motor vehicle accidents, as did drivers following too closely, speeding drivers, and drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
WSDOT’s data for the Seattle area include motor vehicle accidents on city streets and the major arterials, and allow us to dig even deeper into factors contributing to accidents. Here’s is what they show for the year 2018.
Total Crashes by Type of Injury
WSDOT reported 12,338 vehicle collisions in Seattle in 2018. Of those, approximately two-thirds resulted in no apparent injury. Out of the remaining third, there were 3,032 crashes involving “possible” injuries, 993 involving “suspected minor” injuries, 196 involving “suspected serious” injuries, and 20 involving fatalities. These statistics are in-line with the SDOT data from the previous year, when accidents on major arterials are taken into account.
Serious Injury and Fatal Crashes
Taking a closer look at the crashes involving serious injuries and fatalities, we find the following:
- Of the crashes involving serious injuries and fatalities, WSDOT found roughly half of them (108) took place at intersections. (Note, this includes collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists, which were the types of crashes most likely to result in serious injury or fatality). The two other types of accidents that had a significant number of serious injuries or deaths associated with them were lane departure crashes and run-off-the-road crashes.
- There were slightly more single vehicle crashes than crashes involving multiple vehicles, but the difference was negligible.
- Risk factors that played a statistically significant role in many of the serious injury or fatal crashes in Seattle in 2018 included driver distraction and inattention, the driver being a teen or young adult, alcohol and drug use, and speeding.
- The highest concentration of serious injury or fatal crashes in 2018 were concentrated around downtown and along the I-5 corridor.
What the Data Tells Us
From our viewpoint, the SDOT and WSDOT data point to a serious and continuing risk for drivers and others on Seattle-area roads. Motor vehicle accidents are to be expected in any major metro area, and of course Seattle and the King County area are not immune to those problems. Still, as personal injury lawyers, we would vastly prefer our clients to avoid serious injuries and tragedies than to have to come to us seeking help in recovering compensation after a car accident disrupts their lives. Here are some of the conclusions the data tell us we can draw to keep everyone safer on Seattle-area roads.
Serious Injury Car Accident Statistics in King County
Common Parties With Legal Liability for Car Accidents
Determining the causes of a car accident and the severity of a client’s injuries are just two of the many tasks an experienced Seattle car accident attorney will typically perform on a client’s behalf. Another important step in most car accident cases is the process of identifying each and every party who may have legal liability to the lawyer’s client. In some cases, that is a simple inquiry. But it’s frequently less straightforward than you’d think. Here are some of the parties commonly held to account under the law for a car accident victim’s injuries:
Other drivers. Every driver has a duty to share the road responsibly. Unfortunately, many drivers do not. Distracted driving, impaired driving, aggressive driving, and just-plain careless driving can all cause an accident, and leave the driver with legal liability for the injuries those behaviors caused.
Commercial entities. Not all accidents involve personal vehicles. Many instead involve cars and trucks operated by a business or some other corporate entity. Businesses and other entities that own or operate vehicles that end up in a crash may face liability for the accident.
Government entities and contractors. Our taxes go, in part, toward paying for our state and local governments to design, build, and maintain safe and secure roadways. Sometimes, however, our governments fail to do an adequate job. A poorly-designed road with dangerous curves, a poorly-built road with inappropriate road material, or a poorly-maintained road with gaping potholes or visual obstructions, all can lead to a government entity having legal liability for injuries those conditions cause.
Car and car part manufacturers. Cars represent a significant purchase for most Washingtonians. If the manufacturer of a car or its component parts puts a defective product on the road, Washington law may hold that manufacturer legally liable an accident the defects cause.
Of course, we mentioned earlier, every car accident is unique. Who has legal liability to a car accident victim may differ substantially from case-to-case. That is why it is so important to have an experienced Seattle car accident attorney on your side to make sure you find every party with potential legal liability for your injuries.
Common Damages for Car Accident Injuries
As a general matter, Washington car accident victims and the representatives of those tragically killed in car accidents have legal rights to pursue damages as compensation for their injuries and losses. The law broadly categorizes these damages as economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages compensate a car accident victim for the fixed, out-of-pocket expenses directly connected to the accident and resulting injuries. Typically, they include:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills;
- Chronic or long-term care costs;
- Assistive medical devices and home modifications;
- Physical therapy;
- Property damage;
- Lost wages from time off from work while recovering; and
- Lost income or employment opportunity due to injuries.
In some Washington car accident cases, the party with legal liability to the car accident victim may have the right to make periodic payments of economic damages rather than paying those damages as a lump-sum.
Non-economic damages pay a car accident victim for subjective injuries that are more difficult to value, such as:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
In contrast to the laws in many states, in Washington, non-economic damages cannot exceed 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington multiplied by the victim’s life expectancy at the time of the accident (minimum 15 years). Washington law also does not usually permit a court to award punitive damages for a car accident.
Don’t Delay in Contacting Boohoff Law
At Boohoff Law, we understand how difficult life can feel after a car accident turns your world upside down. Contending with the pain of recovering from an injury or mourning a lost loved one is only the beginning. Financial strain can also set in, and you may find new demands on your time from insurance adjusters and police investigators, among others.
We get why hiring a lawyer during this difficult time might not seem like a top priority. But, it is. In fact, with every day that passes after you suffer an injury in a car accident, your chances of recovering maximum compensation from those whose actions harmed you will begin to decline. Here’s why.
The general statute of limitations on personal injury claims in Washington is three years. In some car accident cases, that window barely provides enough time for investigating and pursuing a claim. Even if the time is adequate, however, the passage of time can make evidence harder to find and analyze, and can dim the memories of critical witnesses. If possible, you should have an attorney on your side investigating your accident immediately.
You can also be sure of one thing: Insurance companies for the parties who have legal liability to you aren’t wasting any time. You may have already received a phone call from an insurance adjuster asking you to sit for an interview, or dangling what might seem like a tempting settlement offer. Before you act, speak with an experienced Seattle car accident attorney. Insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart. Their mission is to minimize their own financial exposure to you. A lawyer can help protect you against tactics insurers employ to try and reduce the value of your claim.
Call Boohoff Law’s Seattle Car Accident Lawyers Now
Tatiana Boohoff and the team at Boohoff Law represent car accident victims day-in, day-out throughout the Seattle area. Their mission, always, is to protect and advance their clients’ rights to seek accountability and compensation for injuries and tragic losses.
Don’t wait to connect with one of our skilled, compassionate personal injury lawyers. If you sustained a serious injury or lost a loved one in a Seattle-area car accident, we want to help in any way we can. Contact Tatiana Boohoff and her colleagues at Boohoff Law or dial (877) 999-9999 to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. We promise to treat you with dignity, respect, and compassion in this difficult time.
“From the moment I contacted Boohoff Law on the day of my accident, I felt as though I was being assisted by professionals who not only excelled in their field, but also, genuinely cared about the people they served. Staff appeared enthusiastic with every contact we had over the time it took to resolve my case. I also never felt manipulated nor condescended to when asking questions about my case. I felt supported in my goals to be forthright and honest about my condition. Simply, this law firm appears to be run by a kind, competent, and friendly staff. I am completely satisfied with the service I received. Although I hope to never need their help again due to being injured in an accident that was not my fault, I feel secure in the knowledge that I have them in my corner should I ever find myself in such unfortunate circumstances again.”
– David T.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★