In the US, seatbelts have been required in passenger cars for decades and the CDC has reported that they have saved roughly a quarter-million lives since 1977[1]. However, there are mass-occupancy vehicles that use our roadways daily that do not require seatbelts for all passengers.

The primary example of this is the school bus. While required by regulation in some states and jurisdictions, there is no Federal mandate for seatbelts on school buses. While legislation has been proposed[2], there is no school bus seatbelt requirement in Washington State.

A poll conducted by the National Education Association’s NEA Today magazine reported that 53% of respondents favored seat belts compared to 47% who were opposed[3]. However, the NEA outlines the main concerns, often expressed by bus drivers themselves, as follows:

  • Student use of belt buckles as weapons, causing injury to themselves and/or others.
  • Inability to enforce proper usage of seatbelts.
  • Difficulty evacuating panicked students in case of an emergency.

Since it is not uncommon for a bus driver to be solely responsible for large groups of students, these factors have carried a lot of weight in the ongoing discussion about the role of seatbelts on our nation’s school buses.

Most municipal city buses also do not require their passengers to wear seatbelts, nor require them as an option, and there have been studies of rail transportation that may support the aforementioned bullet-point about compromised ability to evacuate during an emergency[4].

On May 23, 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board announced a recommendation to implement seatbelts on all new school buses[5]. As more and more states enact or consider seatbelt requirements for large buses, we can expect more data points and studies to ensure we as a society are making the safest choices possible.







According to Washington’s Preliminary 2013 Annual Collision Summary, 1,700 Washington pedestrians were involved in a fatal/injury related collision with an automobile in 2013.  In fact, a pedestrian (or bicyclist) was involved in a crash almost every three hours.  Further, a pedestrian (or bicyclist) was killed in a crash with a vehicle every six days.

Pedestrian accidents are very real in Seattle, as well as, in all of Washington for that matter.  Pedestrians that are struck by automobiles can suffer serious and devastating injuries.  They can also incur substantial medical expenses and time away from work.  The following provides a further insight into pedestrian accidents in Washington.  In particular, it examines issues that may affect filing a personal injury claim after these accidents occur.

Proving Negligence

As stated above, pedestrians can suffer a vast array of serious and devastating injuries following a collision with an automobile.  These injuries can lead to exorbitant medical expenses, time away from work, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.  In some cases, injured pedestrians can seek to recover these damages by means of filing a civil lawsuit.

However, please keep in mind that if a lawsuit is filed, an injured pedestrian must prove that an automobile driver was negligent before the pedestrian can successfully recover any losses sustained.  This basically means that the pedestrian must show that the driver was at-fault for the collision.  Some examples of a driver’s negligence may include that a driver:

  • Disregarded a crosswalk;
  • Ignored a traffic signal;
  • Violated a traffic ordinance (e.g., unlawfully passed a school bus); or,
  • Was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Pedestrian Not Violating the Law

In addition to proving that a driver was negligent, a pedestrian (filing a civil lawsuit) must also show that he was not violating the law at the time of the collision.  A few Washington laws are important to consider when determining if a pedestrian was in violation of the law at the time of an accident.  Some of these laws involve:

  • Following traffic signals at intersections: Pedestrians don’t automatically have the right-of-way at intersections.  Pedestrians must follow any displayed traffic signal devices and walk only when it’s safe to do so.
  • Walking on roadways: Pedestrians must use sidewalks when one is available.  If there’s no sidewalk, pedestrians must walk facing traffic on the far left side of the shoulder.
  • Running into traffic: Drivers will not be found negligent for accidents where a pedestrian ran into traffic and failed to give a driver a reasonable amount of time to avoid an accident.
  • Crossing the street when there is no crosswalk: If no crosswalk is present to assist pedestrians in crossing the street, pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to all oncoming vehicles.

We’re here to Help

The experienced attorneys at Phillips Law Firm understand that pedestrian accidents are never easy.  The law may be difficult to understand.  Injuries translate into escalated emotions that need a friendly ear.  Questions require answers delivered with passion and dedication.

Our firm has represented numerous pedestrians that have been injured by means of negligent and careless drivers.  Our team of attorneys stands ready to answer your questions and assist in your case.  Contact us now!


Many residents of the greater Seattle community may believe that speeding is just an ordinary course of business when driving upon a Washington roadway.  But, please think again.  While although many may equate speeding as a run of the mill traffic violation, it can easily kill.  A recent death in Renton unfortunately reinforces this…all too well.

Tragic Renton Crash

Police authorities and firefighters responded to an accident scene in Renton at approximately 5:40 a.m. on the morning of December 3rd.  The scene was located on Puget Drive South at Benson Road South.  Respondents raced to the scene after receiving a report of a serious accident.

Once upon the scene, respondents found a silver 2014 Lexus lying on the vehicle’s side.  The auto was discovered down a wooded embankment along a curve in the road.  The male driver of the vehicle was found dead inside the Lexus.

Thus far, preliminary investigations have found that the driver of the auto had been driving erratically just prior to the crash.  Reports indicate that he was weaving in and out of traffic at dangerously high speeds.  Once the driver reached the curve near the intersection of Benson Road and Puget Drive, he completely lost control of his vehicle.

As a result, the car ricocheted off a power pole.  It then hit the curb and eventually a nearby tree.  The vehicle then plunged thirty feet down an embankment.  It sheared off one tree before coming to its final rest.

The driver of the Lexus was the vehicle’s only occupant.  He has not yet been identified.  Reports indicate that no other cars were involved in the deadly accident.  It’s still unknown whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the collision.

Renton police are still currently seeking any witnesses who may have observed events leading up to the accident.  Witnesses are being asked to contact Officer Hyett at: 425-430-7500.  The Renton Police Case in question is 14-13621.

Speeding Kills

In 2013, Washington saw 440,773 speeding citations filed with Washington State Courts.  Further, the act of speeding accounted for the second most popular circumstance contributing to an automobile collision.  In total, 2013 witnessed 18,093 collisions due to excessive speeding.

There’s no denying it.  Almost all of us choose to drive our vehicles above the speed limit every single day.  But, the honest truth is that the simple act of speeding easily equates into increased risks of auto accidents, injuries and even deaths.

All of us need to become more responsible drivers.  Speeding is one act that is easy to cure.  No matter if you’re late for a meeting or an appointment; or, if you’re just reacting to a frustrating encounter on one of Washington’s roadways, slow down!  Your safety, and the safety of other motorists, will thank you enormously.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident due to a driver speeding excessively, please contact us.  Phillips Law Firm includes a premier team of attorneys that have represented countless victims of accidents caused by excessive speeding.  This team knows justice and they want to deliver it to you.  Contact them now for assistance!


Government property generally includes public parks, government buildings, public museums, public sidewalks, roadways, and all other locations that are owned or controlled by a government agency.  What happens if you suffer an injury on this property?  Can you sue the government to recover any losses that you may have sustained?


Years ago, the answer would have been a vociferous “no.”  In 1948, however, Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act.  Soon thereafter, individual states began to enact their own forms of tort claims legislation.  The results?  People injured on federal and state government property can now file personal injury lawsuits against the government…both the federal government and state governments.  Let’s take a further look.


Duty to Keep Government Property Safe

Federal, state and local governments have a legal duty to keep government property safe for visitors.  “Visitors” include both private persons, as well as, contractors invited onto government property to make repairs or improvements.  When a government entity fails to uphold this duty, it’s considered negligent.  If this negligence results in injuries, then the government may have to pay for damages suffered by the injured party.


To help understand the nature and breadth of this duty, let’s consider some common injuries a person may experience on government property.  A few examples include:

  • Slip and falls in government buildings and on government property
  • Public school assaults
  • Accidents upon mass transit systems
  • Drowning in public pools
  • Auto accidents resulting from poorly maintained roads or defective traffic signals

Please keep in mind that if a person is injured due to the government’s negligence, that person may be entitled to recover such damages as: medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.  But, how does a person actually recover these damages?

Personal Injury Claims Against Government Entities

Filing a personal injury claim against a government entity initially begins with filing a notice of claim.  The notice is filed with the government entity responsible for maintaining the specific property on which an injury was suffered.  The notice of claim serves two important purposes: (1) it makes the government aware that a person intends to seek compensation for injuries; and, (2) it gives the government time to investigate and respond to the claim.

Upon investigating a claim, a government entity can either deny it or admit it.  If the entity admits a claim, then it will compensate an injured party for specific damages.  If a claim is denied, an injured person has the right to then file a lawsuit against the entity involved.

Please note that proving negligence is the underlying requirement for a person to be successful in filing a claim for damages.  In general, proving government negligence requires an injured party to show:

  1. A government entity owned or controlled the specific property on which the injury took place.
  2. A dangerous condition existed on the property.
  3. The government entity knew, or should have known, that the dangerous condition existed.
  4. The entity had a reasonable amount of time to repair the dangerous condition and didn’t.
  5. The injury did not result from the injured party’s own recklessness or hazardous conduct.

Contact Phillips Law Firm for Help

Filing personal injury claims against the government is never easy.  The filing process involves important documents and filing deadlines do exist.  Further, the simple act of proving government negligence is never…well simple.  Negligence is a confusing topic and its proof requires several difficult legal elements to be met.

But, please don’t worry.  Phillips Law Firm is an experienced personal injury firm well versed in filing personal injury claims against the government.  Our exceptional team of trustworthy attorneys stands ready to assist you with your specific case.  Please contact them today and let them help!


Let’s administer a quick quiz.  What do reckless driving and driving under the influence have in common?  Yes, they’re both acts that involve driving; but, think a little harder.

As you continue thinking, note that both reckless drivers and drivers that operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated can cause very serious automobile collisions.  These collisions can injure innocent victims.  To make matters worse, some reckless and impaired drivers may fail to have automobile insurance.  Injury is now combined with victims having no recourse to compensation for their damages.

But, let’s return to our initial question.  Both reckless driving and driving under the influence can lead to severe criminal charges.  How does this involve automobile collisions and uninsured drivers?  Well, let’s introduce you to Washington’s Crime Victim Compensation Program (“The Program”).

What Exactly is “The Program?”

The Program essentially helps victims with the costs associated with violent crimes (this includes many criminal acts that take place on our roadways).  The Program is administered by the State of Washington and provides financial support to crime victims for certain expenses, such as: medical bills, lost wages and loss of financial support.  The Program was born in 1973 with the Crime Victims Compensation Act.

In returning to reckless and impaired drivers for a moment, assume one of these drivers collided with a motor vehicle.  The driver of this motor vehicle suffered significant injuries that required extensive medical costs and time off of work.  Further assume that the reckless/impaired driver had no automobile insurance (and the injured driver had no uninsured or underinsured policy).  With no insurance in place to help compensate the injured driver for his losses, it would seem that he would suffer not only physical injury, but financial injury as well.

This is where The Program comes into play.   If a person is eligible for its benefits, the results could help reduce anxiety, protect financial savings and even preserve families.  So, how is one eligible for The Program?

Eligibility Requirements

There are seven requirements for a person to be eligible for The Program’s benefits.  These include:


  1. The injured party must have suffered bodily injury or severe emotional stress resulting from a crime.
  2. The crime in question must be classified as a gross misdemeanor or felony.
  3. The injured party must have filed a report with law enforcement within one year of the date from which the crime occurred.
  4. The injured party must have been cooperative with law enforcement following the crime.
  5. The injured party must have filed a timely application for The Program’s benefits (i.e., within two years of the crime or, for good cause, within five years).
  6. The injured party must have not participated or provoked the criminal act that caused injury.
  7. The injured party must not have been convicted of a felony within five years preceding the criminal act that caused injury.


What Expenses Does The Program Cover?

If an injured party is eligible for The Program, and if his claim is allowed, then the benefits may prove to be literally life saving.  Some of the expenses The Program covers include:


  • Medical/dental benefits
  • Wage replacement
  • Prescription coverage
  • Mental health treatment
  • Death benefits (e.g., grief counseling and funeral expenses).


We must note that The Program is deemed the “payer of last resort.”  The State of Washington uses a set fee schedule to determine any potential medical reimbursement amount.  This amount is reduced by any public or private insurance payments.  Further, if an injured party receives money from an insurance settlement or from a lawsuit, he must reimburse The Program for any expenses it paid.


Receiving Help Often Means Finding Help

The Program’s benefits can undoubtedly mean a universe of help for an injured party of a violent criminal act.  This is especially true if the act involved an automobile collision and the at-fault party failed to have automobile insurance.  While The Program can definitely help preserve the financial well-being of a victim, that help often requires the victim to find help himself.


Phillips Law Firm is full of attorneys that have the knowledge and dedication to help a victim receive The Program’s full range of benefits.  All a victim has to do is contact us for the help he needs.  Our firm is ready to assist today!


Let’s assume you were injured in an automobile accident.  Your vehicle was struck by a motorist that failed to stop at a stop sign.  That motorist is clearly at fault for the accident, right?

Well, maybe not entirely.  Were your injured because you were not wearing your prescription eyeglasses?  Were you speeding at the time?  Perhaps it was dark out and you forgot to turn your headlights on.  All of these conditions could mean that you were partially at fault for the accident, and your injuries.  Welcome to the world of comparative negligence.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Personal injury cases do not all involve a primary at-fault party.  There are cases where a victim’s own negligence contributed to an accident or injury.  The concept of comparative negligence exists to account for these cases.

Comparative negligence is technically a partial legal defense that a defendant can assert in a personal injury matter.  If asserted, the defense basically states that a plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to an accident or helped cause an injury.  So, what happens if a defendant is successful in raising a comparative negligence defense?

It may seem odd, but the answer ultimately depends on what state you live in.  There are four different sets of comparative negligence rules that exist in the United States.  These include:

  • Pure Comparative Negligence, where a judge or jury will determine a plaintiff’s percentage of responsibility in an accident and will then reduce any final damage award based on that percentage.
  • Pure Contributory Negligence, where a plaintiff will receive no damages if he contributed in any way to the accident or injury.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence-50% Bar Rule, where a plaintiff can only receive a damage award if he was less than 50% responsible for the accident or injury.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence-51% Bar Rule, where a plaintiff can only receive a damage award if he was less than 51% responsible for the accident or injury.

Individual states differ in terms of which set of comparative negligence rules they follow.  Washington is considered a pure comparative negligence state.  Thus, we follow the first set of rules outlined above.

Let’s Clarify Here

Comparative negligence can definitely be confusing so let’s use an example to help clarify matters.  Using our original hypothetical, let’s assume Shirley was driving and failed to stop at a stop sign.  As a result, she collided with Joe’s truck.  Joe suffered damages from the accident.  The total damages amounted to $10,000.   Joe, however, was not wearing his prescription eyeglasses at the time of the accident.

Joe later files a personal injury lawsuit against Shirley.  The case goes to a jury trial.  At trial, Shirley admits that she did not stop at the stop sign.  Nonetheless, Shirley raises a comparative negligence defense and asserts that Joe was negligent as well in the accident since he was not wearing his eyeglasses.

Both Joe and Shirley live in Washington.  This means the concept of pure comparative negligence applies.  Using this set of rules, it’s up to the jury to decide if: (1) Joe was actually negligent in the car accident; and, (2) if he was, the degree to which he was responsible for his injuries (expressed as a percentage).

During deliberations, the jury finds that both Shirley and Joe were negligent in the accident.  Shirley negligently failed to stop and Joe was negligent since he was not wearing his prescription eyeglasses.  In other words, both parties are to blame.  The jury also finds that, given his own negligence, Joe was 50% responsible for the injuries he sustained.

Given these findings, the judge in the matter would enter a damage award in Joe’s favor.  However, he would not receive the full amount of $10,000 in damages.  Since he was 50% responsible in the accident, the judge would reduce Joe’s damage award by 50%.  This means Joe would receive $5,000 in damages.

Crystal Clear, Right?

This may be true for some, but quite unlikely for others.  Further, please note that the above example is a simple one.  There are many personal injury cases that involve multiple parties and they could all bear some percentage of fault for any injuries caused.  This adds confusion and complexity.  Please also note that comparative negligence can be involved in any type of personal injury lawsuit (e.g., auto collisions, product liability cases, medical malpractice cases, etc.).  Again, confusion and complexity are added for those unfamiliar with the law.

Luckily for you, the experienced attorneys at Phillips Law Firm are well versed and knowledgeable in the concept of comparative negligence.  These attorneys can answer your questions and work towards getting you the compensation that you deserve.  Please contact them today and let their help begin!


Have you ever wondered how insurance adjusters determine what a personal injury case is worth?  The answer involves the use of a damage formula.  Adjusters use the formula to help determine a compensation amount at the outset of negotiating a personal injury settlement.  Let’s all put our math helmets on for a moment and take a further look at the use of damage formulas.

What’s the Reason for a Formula?

Before we dive right into equations and formulas, let’s consider why damage formulas are even used in the first place.  Consider a quick hypothetical where Sally and John are involved in an automobile accident.  John was clearly at fault in the accident and admits liability.  As a result of the accident, Sally incurred the following damages:  medical expenses, property loss, pain and suffering, and loss of family opportunities.

As a quick side note, it will help understand matters if we classify Sally’s damages.  The first two she incurred are known as “special damages,” or ones which are based on measurable dollar amounts.  The last two types are known as “general damages,” or ones based on intangible losses.

Returning to our hypothetical, John’s insurance company must reimburse Sally for her losses since John admitted liability.  The company can easily calculate compensation for Sally’s special damages.  Here, Sally will likely have bills and receipts that clearly show how much money was spent on medical treatment and property repair.  However, how does a company even begin to put a price tag on such damages as pain and suffering and lost opportunities?  This is where the damage formula comes into play.  The formula is basically used so that insurance adjusters can put a dollar amount on general damages.

How the Formula Works

Tighten that math helmet because here we go.  In mathematical terms, the damage formula is essentially:

Settlement Amount = Special Damages + x(Special Damages)

Don’t worry.  It seems complicated but it really isn’t.

Insurance adjusters typically follow a specific process when valuing a personal injury claim.  They first begin by adding together any special damages.  Again, these can easily be measured based on bills and receipts.

After special damages are valued, adjusters then try to place a value on general damages.  They do this by multiplying the amount of special damages by a figure of 1.5 to 5.  The specific figure used (between 1.5 and 5) depends on the severity of the case and the damages involved.  In cases involving minor injuries, a figure close to 1.5 will be used.  In cases involving more severe injuries, a figure closer to 5 will be used.  In our equation above, “x” represents the figure that’s used in multiplying special damages.

Once an adjuster determines an amount for general damages, he then adds this value to the total amount of special damages.  The total figure then becomes the number from which settlement negotiations begin.  All of this is expressed in our handy dandy equation, where settlement amount equals the amount of special damages plus the amount of general damages (which is determined by multiplying “x” by the amount of special damages).  See, math is fun!

Let the Negotiations Begin

We should reiterate that the final amount generated by the damage formula is just the number from which settlement negotiations begin.  A final settlement amount, that is higher than the amount calculated by the damage formula, can definitely be reached through careful and clever negotiations.  That is where we come in.

The attorneys at the Phillips Law Firm have years of experience in negotiating with insurance companies and claims adjusters.  If you have suffered damages in a personal injury case, please contact our firm for any assistance you need in negotiating a final settlement amount.  Our team of successful attorneys are quite familiar with the damage formula and they are well versed in its operation.  Contact them today for help.


law-booksPlease, let’s try to keep the following a secret from Russell Wilson.  We have no desire or intent to upset him.  However, if the embodiment of a personal injury claim ran onto CenturyLink on game day, Russell might have to find another number to wear.  Once again, we really don’t want to upset.  But, the number three is so critical to personal injury claims that…well, you know.

So, why is three so important?  Let’s talk about Statutes of Limitations for a little bit.

Statutes of Limitations are more Important than the Seahawks?

If you’ve suffered personal injuries in an accident and are contemplating a lawsuit, just maybe.  A statue of limitations is basically a law that places a specific deadline as to when a lawsuit can be filed.  For example, for personal injury claims involving the proof of negligence, the statute of limitations is three years.  This means that if a person wishes to file a personal injury lawsuit, he must do so within three years.  If he waits until the day after the three year period expires, the lawsuit will almost certainly be dismissed.

Granted, there are a few exceptions that may extend this three year period.  However, they should not be relied upon if you wish to file a personal injury claim.  Please note that the statute of limitations, for personal injury suits, usually begins to run on the date a person was injured.  But, Washington State law does recognize

The “Discovery Rule” Exception

Washington law recognizes that there are times when it’s not reasonably possible for a person to know that a specific injury has occurred.  For example, consider the medical malpractice realm.  In the past, doctors have performed medical procedures in which they have left an object (e.g., a surgical sponge) in a patient’s abdomen.  This act may go unnoticed for four years until the same patient undergoes a related procedure and the object is only then discovered.  Perhaps the original object caused abdominal injury to the patient that the patient had no idea of.  The statute of limitations obviously expired, but can the patient still file a lawsuit?

Thanks to the discovery rule, the answer is maybe.  The discovery rule essentially allows a lawsuit to be filed within a certain time period after an injury has been discovered (or, reasonably should have been discovered).  In the hypothetical above, the applicable statute of limitations expired prior to the actual discovery of the injury.  With the discovery rule, the patient may still be able to file a suit against the initial doctor.

What’s the Reasoning Behind a Statute of Limitations?

Many claimants may feel frustrated with the notion that their, otherwise valid legal claim, could get dismissed because it wasn’t filed within a specific time period.  However, we should note that there are sound reasons to support a statute of limitations.  These include:

  • A plaintiff should exercise reasonable diligence when filing a lawsuit
  • The passage of extended time could result in lost evidence for a defendant

In addition, statutes of limitations help prevent parties from filing lawsuits until the very last minute.  This is a good thing because:

  • Witnesses get lost:  The passage of time means that a crucial witness to an event may have forgotten the event or perhaps even died.
  • A Plaintiff’s memory fails:  Over time, all of our memories have difficulty recalling certain facts and details with exact clarity.  If a plaintiff stalls on filing a claim, he may simply lose solid recollection of events.
  • Documents disappear:  In certain cases, physical documents may be critical in proving, or disproving, a claim.  The passage of time may result in these documents getting lost, misplaced, or destroyed.

Don’t Let Time Expire

If you have suffered personal injuries as a result of an accident, event, procedure, prescription, etc., contact our office today.  Don’t wait to talk to an experienced attorney about a matter until it’s too late.  Statutes of limitations do not stop running for inconveniences, second-guesses or clouded judgment.  Protect yourself, and your legal claim, by contacting our firm now.

And oh, Mr. Wilson, if you’re reading this…the Phillips Law Firm proudly supports the Seahawk’s current #3.  Go Hawks!


train fireworksLet’s assume for a moment that a train commuter is racing towards a slowly moving train that is just starting to depart from a station.  As the commuter sprints across the platform, a conductor reaches out in an attempt to pull the commuter onto the train.  A second railroad employee tries to push the commuter onto the train.

Unbeknownst to the conductor and the employee, the commuter is carrying a package containing fireworks.  In their attempts at helping, the conductor and employee actually cause the commuter to drop her package.  The fireworks hit the ground, explode, and cause substantial damage to the train station.

A woman standing at the opposite end of the platform suffers substantial injury from the explosion.  She later sues the railroad company.  What’s the result?  Sure, it seems at first glance that the conductor and railroad employee were somehow responsible for the injuries.  But, did they actually cause them?

Introducing Legal Causation

Legal causation is an essential element in every personal injury claim.  What does this mean?  Well, in personal injury actions, it’s not enough for a plaintiff to simply assert that she suffered an injury for which a defendant must compensate her for.  Rather, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant caused the injury in question.

This concept is known as legal causation.  Further, the law carves out two specific types of legal “causes.”  The first is referred to as “cause in fact.”  The second is referred to as “proximate cause.”  Both must be proven by a plaintiff in a personal injury action in order to maintain a claim.

Cause in Fact

Cause in fact means that a defendant’s conduct actually caused injury to the plaintiff.  A plaintiff can prove this by highlighting facts or evidence that demonstrate a defendant’s act, or failure to act, was a necessary cause of any injury sustained.  Put another way, a plaintiff must show that his injury would not have resulted “but for” the defendant’s action or omission.  If an injury would have resulted regardless of a defendant’s actions, then “cause in fact” cannot be proven and a defendant cannot be held liable for damages.

Proximate Cause

This one can be a bit tricky.  In addition to cause in fact, a plaintiff must prove that an act was the proximate cause of an injury.  A proximate cause deals with the relation of an event to a specific injury.  The most common legal test for determining proximate cause is based upon foreseeability.  This means that an act is the proximate cause of an injury if the injury could have been reasonably predicted, or foreseen, from the alleged act.

An example here will help clarify.  Let’s assume boy #1 throws a rock at boy #2 and injures his nose.  Proximate cause here is met since a reasonable person could have predicted that throwing a rock at someone would cause bodily injury.

Now, let’s assume boy #2 is standing in front of a shelf that supports a few picture frames.  Boy #1 winds up and hurls the rock at boy #2.  Instead of the rock directly hitting boy #2, the rock hits a picture frame, knocks it off the shelf, and the frame strikes boy #2 in the nose.  Here, proximate cause it still met since a reasonable person could have predicted the specific accident and injury.

Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad

The factual scenario provided at the very outset of this post is not a fictitious one.  The facts are part of a very real legal case that took place in the 1920s.  The case in question is Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad.  The case is still debated in law schools and scholarly legal articles to this very day.

Using our newly found knowledge on legal causation, let’s return to the facts of this case.  The injured woman was one Mrs. Palsgraf and she sued Long Island Railroad after fireworks in a commuter’s bag caused an explosion.  Did the railroad company legally cause Mrs. Palsgraf’s injuries?  It’s okay to take some time.  You can even re-read the content provided above for assistance.

And, the answer is?  No.  The court denied Mrs. Palsgraf’s case on the basis of proximate cause.  It ruled that Mrs. Palsgraf’s injuries were not reasonably foreseeable to those employed by Long Island Railroad.  See, legal causation can actually be fun, right?

Well, maybe not for us all.  But, keep in mind that the Phillips Law Firm consists of some very bright and knowledgeable attorneys.  They enjoy these tests of legal insight.  They are also passionate about applying their legal acumen to your individual case.  Please, if you have been injured in an accident, contact our firm today.  Our dedicated team of attorneys will answer your questions and assist you in seeking the justice you deserve.


Residents of Seattle and the greater King County area are exposed, daily, to news about dangerous accidents that cause injury or even death.  Many of us instantly assume these accidents pertain to motor vehicles.  The truth of the matter, however, is that we live in the Pacific Northwest where lakes, rivers, and waterways abound.  For us, dangerous accidents are not limited to automobiles.  Accidents involving boats frequently occur and they can also prove fatal.

One Killed, Two Injured in Lake Washington Boat Crash

On July 16, at approximately 10:30pm, two boats collided on Lake Washington.  The collision occurred just off of Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood.  The boats involved included a 21-foot sailboat and a 25-foot power boat.

The sailboat carried seven total passengers.  After the collision took place, three of these passengers were thrown in the water.  They included 33-year-old Melissa Protz, a 6th and 7th grade biology teacher, who died from the accident.  They also included a man in his 40s and a woman in her 30s who were both injured and treated at Harborview Medical Center.

Four people were aboard the powerboat.  None were thrown from the boat as a result of the collision.  One woman, however, suffered minor injuries.  The driver of the powerboat was eventually arrested and placed in jail on suspicion of homicide by motorcraft.  Police say alcohol may have been a factor in the fatal accident.

The force of the collision was so powerful that it left a debris field about a half mile from shore.  One woman, onshore and near the accident, provided a first hand account of the collision’s initial moments.  According to Betsy Hale, “We were asleep on our roof and we heard a loud bang and we heard people crying for help, and then many, many sirens.”

Boating Accidents are not Uncommon

Unfortunately, accidents like the one described above are not uncommon.  The U.S. Coast Guard reported in 2013 that there were 4,062 total recreational boating accidents in the U.S.  This total involved 560 deaths, 2,600 injuries and approximately 39 million dollars of damage to property.

The statistics for Washington are just as grim.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2013 Recreational Boating Report, Washington saw 94 total recreational boating accidents for the same year.  This total involved 17 deaths, 51 injuries and over 980,000 dollars of damage to property.

Know the Law

Washington has established numerous laws to help ensure boater safety.  Captains of vessels and boater enthusiasts (both active and passive) should be familiar with these laws before untying from the dock.  Many of Washington’s laws place heightened responsibility upon owners of boats and seek to protect passenger safety.  For example, boat owner’s must: generally maintain the safety of their boat, provide the requisite number of personal flotation devices, and maintain caution while cruising around bridges, docks and other boats and vessels.

We all know drinking and driving can injure and kill.  This holds equally true for the drivers of cars and the drivers of boats.  Please note that it’s a criminal offense in Washington to operate a boat while intoxicated.  For boat operators, please note that if you operate your boat while intoxicated, and a passenger or someone else is injured, you can be liable for any damages incurred or sustained.

Know Your Rights

If you have been injured in a boating related accident, it’s essential that you know your rights.  This is where the Phillips Law Firm comes into play.  The attorneys at our firm have several years of collective experience in representing clients who have been injured as a result of a boating accident.  Our attorneys are also highly educated and skilled as to Washington’s boating laws.  These attorneys can help ensure you fully understand your rights and they can also assist in discussing your various options that may exist after an accident has occurred.  Contact us today and simply let us begin helping.