What You Can Do to Prepare for Trial

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

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prepare for trialRegardless of whether you are facing a criminal case or a personal injury case, there are certain things you can do to prepare for trial.  Trials can be intimidating to someone who is not accustomed to going to court on a daily basis.

While nothing can ease your anxiety entirely, here are some tools that you can utilize to make things a bit easier.

Review Your Case

When you prepare for trial, it’s important that you take a few minutes in the weeks before court to review your case.  If you are involved in a personal injury case, this means reviewing your deposition, your original accident report, any written statements or submitted documents, answers to your Interrogatories, and other discovery responses to which you certified were correct answers.  If you are facing criminal charges, this may include reviewing a statement you gave to the police, as well as police reports and the criminal complaint.

If you notice an error or misstatement, be sure to inform your attorney of this error. If your attorney knows of the error or misstatement, they can fix it.  If they unaware and unprepared for it, and the other side discovers the error, the results can be significantly less favorable to you.

Meet With Your Lawyer

It is essential that you meet with your lawyer to discuss the case when you prepare for trial.  Your lawyer has extensive experience in litigation.  You should understand that the form of the questions that will be presented to you will vary based on who is asking the question.  On direct examination, the rules of evidence require the questions be open-ended, as in the following:

  • Tell us what you did on the morning of October 8, 2015.
  • Who was with you?
  • How did you feel?
  • Where did you go next?
  • Why did you choose that route?

Cross-examination questions, on the other hand, are typically closed-ended.  They tend to sound like this:

  • Did you go to the corner of 4th and Main Street?
  • Was that on October 8, 2015?
  • Were you with Bill Anderson?
  • Afterwards, did you go to the Safeway on the corner of 4th and G Street?
  • And you did that by going north on 4th Street?

You may note that cross-examination questions typically call for just a yes or a no answer.   The form of the question is based on the rules of evidence.  You may be tempted to respond with “Yes, but. . .” or “No, and. . .”  Please refrain from doing so.  It makes you look argumentative.  Understand that once you have given your direct and cross exam, your lawyer will have another chance to ask you questions.  This is your opportunity (and your lawyer’s opportunity) to go back and supplement the record, correct the record, or make the record more complete.  If your lawyer doesn’t go back to a certain topic, that’s okay, too.  Remember that your lawyer knows what is important in your case and will do their best to highlight those facts.

Consider What to Wear

Fair or not, people will judge you on your appearance.  The morning of your trial is not the time to discover that the suit you were planning to wear doesn’t fit, has a tear in it, or needs dry cleaning.  One of the things to consider when you prepare for trial is what you will wear.  Try your outfit on.  Make sure it is clean and well fitted.  Some guidelines that may help when making your decision include the following:

  • When it comes to your skin, less is more. Skirts should be at least knee length.  Sleeves should be long, not short or sleeveless.
  • Consider a blazer or jacket.
  • Stay away from loud colors and big patterns.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum.

Consider how you would dress for a professional job interview.

Mind Your Words

When you testify in court, a court reporter will be writing down everything you say.  However, there are certain words that are considered nearly impossible to record correctly.  In the weeks before the trial date while you are taking the time to prepare for trial, pay attention to the words you use.  If you use words like “uh-huh” and “uh-uh,” the court reporter will likely interrupt you to ask if you meant “no” or “yes.”  If you nod or shake your head, your attorney will ask you to answer out loud.  Make it easier on yourself (and the trier of fact, either judge or jury), by being mindful of your words.

Also, take some time to consider your speaking patterns.  If you are frequently told that you talk too fast to be understood, practice speaking more slowly.  If you know that you talk with your hands, practice speaking with your hands clasped in your lap.  You want to be yourself when you testify, but if you keep getting interrupted by the court reporter, you will likely get frustrated.  Frequent hand movements could also be very distracting to the jurors, preventing them from focusing on the information you are testifying to.  This is why preparation is essential.

Plan Your Trip to the Courthouse

Take some time to locate the courthouse.  Determine what route you will take to get there.  Determine how long it will take to get there.  Finally, determine where you might park your car.  Consider the fact that your first choice may be unavailable.  Parking lots – even at courthouses – can fill up.  Locate a second alternative.  All of this should be built in to the time it will take you to get from your home to your courtroom.

More and more courthouses across the country are installing one or more security measures.  You should keep in mind that it is not uncommon for many cases to be scheduled on a single calendar.  You will not be the only person headed to the courthouse.  Build in an extra 15 to 20 minutes to account for the time it will take you to go to the courthouse and locate the courtroom where your trial will be held.

Be Prepared to Wait

When you get to the courtroom, your case may be the only one on the calendar, or it may be one of many.  It is not uncommon for it to take hours for your trial to begin — even if yours is the only case on the calendar.   Be prepared to wait.  Think about how you might occupy yourself while you are waiting for your case to be called.

Learn More About How to Prepare for Trial

Whether you are dealing with a criminal case or personal injury case, facing the possibility of trial can be daunting. To learn more about how to prepare for trial, contact the Law Offices of Greene & Lloyd, PLLC today.

 


What You Should Do if Stopped for Driving Under the Influence

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

If you are stopped for driving under the influence (DUI), or any traffic violation for that matter, knowing your rights and exercising courtesy and good judgment will make a difficult situation less stressful.  Being aware of what to do when you are stopped for a DUI can lessen the chance of a conviction.

Initial Reaction if Stopped for Driving Under the Influence

If a police officer stops you, sit in your car with your hands visible to the officer.  Do not talk when the officer approaches; roll down your window and listen. Do not assume the officer knew you were drinking, speeding, and smoking marijuana or any other illegal activity. Many people put the thought in the mind of the office by saying such things as “I only had two or three beers” when the officer approaches the car. The police officer could have stopped you for a burned out taillight.

Be Respectful But Assert Your Rights

If you are pulled over by a police officer and stopped for driving under the influence, the stop is only the first step of the process.  Do not argue with the police officer, complain the stop was improper or he is just picking on you. This will get you nowhere. However, there is a difference between arguing with an officer and respectfully asserting your rights. If an officer asks you if you have been drinking, smoking marijuana or have illegal drugs in the car, you do not have to answer, but do not lie. Tell the officer that you want to speak with your attorney before answering any questions. Depending on the officer, you may get a professional response that recognizes your rights or you may not. Control what you can control, in this instance that is your reaction to the officer. You have nothing to gain by reacting out of anger, arguing or venting. Assert and maintain your right against self-incrimination pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  However, the police can require a person to identify him or herself.

Implied Consent

Assuming you were stopped for driving under the influence, the police officer will ask you to perform a series of roadside sobriety tests. The State of Washington is an implied consent state. Implied consent means that by driving within the state, you permit a chemical analysis of your breath, blood or urine.  Prior to administration of the tests, the law requires the police to inform you that your driver’s license will be suspended for at least a year if you do not submit to the tests.

Tests can be administered for the presence of drugs as well as alcohol. If you are confident you will pass the test, the best move is to consent to the test. The blood-alcohol limit for drivers twenty-one years of age in a non-commercial vehicle is .08, for commercial drivers the limit is .04. For drivers under the age of 21, the blood-alcohol limit is .02. A word of caution, a person can be convicted of a DUI even if the blood-alcohol level is below the legal limit.

Roadside Physical Dexterity Tests

Roadside physical dexterity tests are not the implied consent test. The immediate sobriety tests are used to determine if probable cause exists for an arrest. The tests include walking in a straight line, following a pen light with your eyes, standing on one leg, etc.  The results can be used against you in court. However, no direct legal penalty is applied for not taking the test.  That being said, the officer will be unhappy if you refuse the tests and may still arrest you for a DUI if the officer saw that your eyes were bloodshot or smelled alcohol or other substance either in the car or on your breathe or body.

Search of a Motor Vehicle

Another issue that often arises during if you were stopped for driving under the influence is the search of the automobile. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches. However, the police have broad authority to search a motor vehicle. Listen carefully, if the police officer asks if he can search the car, you can refuse the request. Do not be intimidated or think that if you are cooperative the police will overlook anything they find because you were a nice guy.

The police have a right to make a search of an automobile if they have a reasonable suspicion that a weapon is present which represents a danger to the officer.   This is called a Terry search, after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). The Terry rules give police officers broad powers to search for weapons in motor vehicles. Before a search, the police must have an articulable suspicion that their safety is in jeopardy due to the presence of a weapon.  The court defined “articulable suspicion” in an unreported decision as the police needing to provide an objective reason for the search.  State of Washington v. Volden, No. 37081-6-II (Wash. App. 2/18/2009) (Wash. App., 2009). In addition, the Terry search for weapons must be confined to areas where the passengers have immediate access to a weapon.

If a weapon is in your access, tell the police officer. For example, if you have a gun stored in your glove compartment and the officer tells you to get the registration, which many people store in the glove compartment, tell the officer about the gun. If a weapon is by your side, keep your hands high on the steering wheel. Do not make any quick or furtive moves.  Furtive is a word the police use to justify a search. In this context, furtive means an act that is done in a sneaky manner with an attempt to hide an object.  Do all you can to reassure the officer you are not a threat.

If You Are Stopped for Driving Under the Influence

If you are stopped for driving under the influence, be respectful, but assert your legal rights. Do not argue with the police officer, you will lose. The time to present your case is in court. Do not volunteer information to the police officer, other than the immediate presence of a weapon. Contact a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.


Driving Under the Influence Affects Your Commercial License

Friday, October 14th, 2016

In the State of Washington, commercial drivers face high standards and harsh civil and criminal penalties for driving under the influence (DUI).  Not only will you lose your driver’s license, pay a fine, and be imprisoned, but you may also be required to take prevention classes or alcohol abuse classes.  You may also be required to install an ignition interlock device attached to all of your personal vehicles, which prevents you from driving unless you blow into the car breathalyzer and show that your blood-alcohol content (BAC) level is below 0.025.

Moreover, commercial drivers in Washington must be concerned with two statutes that define driving under the influence (DUI):

  • A person is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year if they received a DUI while driving a commercial vehicle.
  • A person is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year if they are convicted of a DUI while driving a private vehicle.

See RCW 46.25.090(1).

Driving Under the Influence in Your Private Vehicle Affects Your Commercial License

What constitutes a DUI differs depending on your age and whether you were driving a commercial vehicle or a private vehicle:

  • If you are driving a private vehicle and are 21 years of age or older, then you could be charged with DUI if your BAC level is 0.08 or higher.
  • If you are driving a private vehicle and are under 21 years of age, then you could be charged with DUI if your BAC level is 0.02 or higher.
  • If you have a commercial license and are under the age of 21, you could face the same penalties as any other driver under the age of 21 and lose your commercial license for at least a year.
  • If you are a commercial driver over the age of 21, you could be charged with DUI if your BAC level is 0.04 or higher.

See RCW 46.25.090 (b).  Therefore, the consequences for a young driver drinking one beer can be devastating. If you are under the age of 21, then one beer can cost you your commercial license for a year. For example, according to a blood-alcohol calculator prepared by the Cleveland Clinic, a person who weighs 155 pounds and drinks one beer with an alcohol content of 5% over a thirty-minute time frame will have a BAC in excess of 0.02.

Other Intoxicants Leading to a Driving Under the Influence

Intoxicants other than alcohol can lead to a DUI.  The statute specifically cites marijuana as an intoxicant. Again, a distinction is made between commercial drivers who are 21 years old and those under 21.

  • If you are over 21 years of age, a THC concentration of 5.00 nanograms per milliliter of whole blood constitutes a per se offense of a DUI.
  • If you are under the age of 21, any measurable amount of THC is an offense and will lead to disqualification of driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year.
  • If you are driving a commercial vehicle, any measurable amount of THC will also lead to the loss of commercial license for one year.

Legal drugs, such as over-the-counter or prescription medications, even if taken in accord with the instructions, can also result in a DUI.  Pursuant to RCW 46.61.502(2), it is not a defense if a person is impaired due to a drug that he or she is legally entitled to have and use.   There are numerous legal drugs that have side effects, such as drowsiness, that could impair your ability to drive. The National Safety Commission has created a partial list of prescription and over-the-counter medications that impair driving.

Indirect Consequences of Driving Under the Influence

A DUI charge can have lasting and far reaching consequences.  Not only will you lose your commercial license, but you may also lose your job and employment prospects.  Diligent employers usually perform background check on their potential employees.  This includes a driving history if the duties of the employment position include operating a vehicle.  This is necessary to minimize the employer’s exposure to liability should that potential employee be involved in an accident and was found to have consumed any intoxicants or alcohol.  Exposure to liability is greater if the employer knew or should have known of the employee’s history of DUI.

If you are charged with DUI, contact a driving under the influence defense attorney with The Law Office of Greene & Lloyd, PLLC at (253) 770-0808.


Why Medical Evidence is Important in a Personal Injury Claim

Friday, September 16th, 2016

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that more than 31 million people are injured in the United States each year. Those injuries are often caused by someone else. When you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, it can seem unfair that you must expend the time and effort to recover compensation for losses that the responsible person caused. However, the burden of proof is initially on the injured party. In fact, the injured party must prove a whole host of things in order to recover from someone who caused them harm. As unfair as this may seem, it is how our court system operates.

Proving You Were Harmed with Medical Evidence

If you were harmed by someone else, you must prove that they are responsible by showing the following:

  • The defendant owed you some kind of duty
  • That duty was breached
  • That breach led to harm
  • The harm resulted in actual injuries for which damages can be paid

The law provides for the first element of duty. For example, laws provide that all drivers must obey traffic laws, which include a duty to other drivers to drive carefully. If someone negligently drives across the center line and causes you to have an accident, that person has breached a legal duty dictated by law. You can easily show that the injuries you received were a result of that breach of duty. However, it can be more difficult to show that you had actual damages and losses.

In order to show that you were injured, you must provide medical evidence that you required treatment. Medical documentation from a reliable source removes questions about your own subjective opinions. A medical doctor will provide verifiable tests and objective proof that you were injured as a result of the incident.

The following types of medical evidence may show that you were injured as a result of a breach of duty:

  • Emergency room records
  • Treating physician notes and/or narrative reports
  • X-rays, CAT scans, and other images
  • Physical therapy notes
  • Chiropractic records
  • Surgical notes

Proving Damages with Medical Evidence

There are two types of damages that you can receive in a personal injury claim – economic and noneconomic. Both of those types are greatly affected by medical evidence.

Economic damages are precise monetary losses, such as medical bills due to your injuries. They can easily be proven with documents. When requesting compensation for economic damages, you can specify an exact monetary amount that is backed up by medical evidence in the form of medical bills.

Noneconomic damages are less exact. They include losses such as pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Although these can result in economic damages, such as the inability to work or need for mental health treatment, noneconomic damages are more difficult to prove. Medical evidence is vital in proving that you have noneconomic damages. Doctor’s notes documenting your pain on a scale over time can show that you have suffered greatly and deserve compensation.

Continuous Medical Treatment is Important

Medical evidence from immediately after an incident that causes you harm is important to show that the harm resulted in compensable injuries; however, records from before and after the incident are also important. During an investigation, an insurance company or other responsible party will request medical records from your past, present, and future. They want to review any prior injuries, current harm, and see the progress of your treatment.

Medical notes from a treating physician from prior to the incident are important to show that you did not have any preexisting conditions that may be causing your current injuries. However, even if you had a back condition that was further injured by the negligence or recklessness of someone else, the additional harm done may be compensable. It is important to provide documentation of your condition prior to the injuries incurred most recently.

Medical treatment received as a result of the harmful incident offer objective medical documentation that you were injured and to what extent you were harmed. Insurance companies and other responsible parties will not simply take your word for the harm you’ve incurred. They will want medical documentation that you were injured and that the harm you received was caused by the incident in question.

You should also continue to seek medical treatment after your initial evaluation post-incident. You must show the progress or lack thereof in order to prove damages. You may need to try many different kinds of treatment, and the success or failure of those treatment methods should also be documented. It is important to keep going to the doctor and fully participate in any recommended treatment to show that you are trying to repair the harm that was caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness.

Medical evidence is important in a personal injury claim because it proves that you were harmed, the extent of your injuries, how your injuries affect your daily life, and your prognosis. Our seasoned personal injury attorney with Greene & Lloyd, PLLC is available to discuss in further details what medical evidence you need to prove your claim.


Preparing For A Deposition In Washington

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Depositions are investigative tools utilized to gather evidence. They are part of the discovery processes and an important aspect of any litigated case. Each party to a case, witnesses and experts may be requested or ordered via notice or subpoena to be deposed by another party to the case. A good deposition can help prove the facts of a case, a theory of the case, and put a party in a better position to litigate or settle a case. For many people, a deposition can be daunting and even intimidating. A deponent may not know what to expect or how to conduct him or herself during a deposition.

What Is A Deposition in Washington?

A deposition is when a lawyer for one of the parties asks questions of one of the parties to an action or a third party witness. Depositions usually take place in settings such as lawyers’ offices and conference rooms. As the deponent, your testimony is recorded under oath by a court reporter and can be used as evidence in any proceeding. A deposition either can be recorded stenographically or videotaped.

Preparing For A Deposition

Before the opposing party deposes you, you should prepare for your deposition in Washington.

  • Review the facts of your case and any important documents thoroughly before your deposition. If you have questions or concerns about facts or perceived weaknesses in your case, discuss with your attorney about how to handle those questions.
  • Review any documents that the deposition notice or subpoena requested you to bring to the deposition.
  • Conduct a dry run deposition before your deposition. Have your attorney ask you the hardball questions beforehand.
  • Practice and try not to exhibit any facial or physical gestures at a deposition. Opposing counsel may try to use that against you.
  • When you prepare for your deposition, have your attorney ask a few inappropriate questions that opposing counsel might ask so that you are prepared.
  • When you are asked a question at a deposition, count to three or ten before answering the question. That is, one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, and so forth. This will help you control the tone and pace of the deposition. Practice during your deposition preparation.
  • Speak with your attorney about what is appropriate to wear at your deposition so that you present your best self and feel comfortable and confident.

Deposition Guidelines

This is an overview of how to conduct yourself and some guidelines to adhere to when being deposed.

  • You have the right to have your attorney present during the deposition and for your attorney to assert proper objections to questions. If your attorney objects to a question, wait until your attorney instructs you to proceed to answer the pending question.
  • Tell the truth during a deposition.
  • If you are culpable in any way, you do have the right not to answer a question or to assert the Fifth Amendment. Do speak with your attorney about how these questions should be handled ahead of time so that you are prepared.
  • Being nervous is natural. If you answer a question incorrectly, just state that you were nervous and correct your testimony (acting under the advice of counsel).
  • Answer only the question being asked. Do not volunteer information or explain yourself unless your attorney instructs you to do so.
  • Depositions may give the appearance of being informal but they are part of the formal court process. Your testimony at a deposition carries as much weight as if it were before a judge or a jury.
  • You are not required to guess at an answer. If you do not know the answer to a question, you do have the right to say that you do not know the answer. However, you do have to give your best estimate if you can. For example, if opposing counsel asks you to estimate the size of the table in the conference room where you are being deposed, you can probably give an estimate. Conversely, if opposing counsel asks you to estimate the size of the table in the judge’s chambers and you have never seen the table in judge’s chambers, you are not required to provide an answer and should not offer a guess.
  • Listen carefully to opposing counsel’s question and make sure that you think about it and understand the question before you answer. If you do not understand opposing counsel’s question, you do have the right to say, “I do not understand your question.” The same is true if you want a question clarified.
  • You do have the right to take breaks during a deposition provided that it is not in the middle of a question. If you want a break, ask for it.
  • You can only answer one question at a time. If opposing counsel asks three or four questions at a time, you do have the right to ask which question opposing counsel wants you to answer or ask opposing counsel to specify or rephrase the question.
  • You only have to answer a question to the best of your recollection. If you do not remember an answer but think that you may remember later, you can say something to the effect of, “As I sit here today, I do not remember.”
  • Many attorneys will try to throw you off your game or shake your testimony by making faces or otherwise behaving inappropriately during a deposition. If opposing counsel makes an inappropriate comment or makes other statements, it is appropriate for you to say, “Is that a question?” You have the right to be treated with respect and it is your attorney’s job to defend you in these situations.
  • If you give one answer at a deposition and an inconsistent answer at a court proceeding or at a later date, opposing counsel does have the right to point out that inconsistency.
  • After your deposition, the court reporter prepares a transcript of your deposition testimony and you have the right to review your testimony before it is in final form. This does not mean that you can change your answer. Rather, it gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes in your testimony by the court reporter.

If you have been ordered to appear for a deposition in Washington, The Law Offices of Greene & Lloyd, PLLC are available to assist you in your deposition preparation and represent you during your deposition. Contact us at (253) 770-0808.


How Your Comparative Negligence Affects Your Washington Personal Injury Case

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

People who have suffered a personal injury due to the fault of others may have the basis for a lawsuit against the person or company that harmed them. In Washington, opposing parties may both seek compensation from one another even if they are both at fault for the accident that caused their injuries.

Comparative Negligence

With an exception for a few special types of cases, Washington is a comparative negligence state pursuant to RWC §4.22.005. In comparative negligence, a percentage of fault can be assigned to the person who is harmed and his award is reduced by the same percentage. For example, if the plaintiff had damages of $100,000, but the jury or judge found that the plaintiff was 25% responsible for the accident, the award is reduced by twenty-five percent. Consequently, plaintiff’s award is $75,000 instead of $100,000.

Person With A Greater Degree Of Fault May Still Recover Damages

Moreover, a person who may have a greater degree of fault can still receive an award under the pure comparative negligence rules. Suppose Joe crosses the centerline of the road when he is driving and collides with a car driven by Beth. Beth is on her side of the road, but she is texting. Beth does not see Joe cross the centerline and fails to take action to avoid hitting Joe, so Beth has some degree of fault.   Fortunately, Beth suffered relatively minor injuries incurring medical bills that totaled $10,000. Joe, however, suffered serious injuries and was in the hospital for a week. His medical bills totaled $150,000.

The case goes to trial and the jury finds that both Beth and Joe were at fault in the accident. Joe is found to be 75% at fault. The jury further determines Beth was texting and not paying proper attention when she was driving. The jury finds that if Beth had paid proper attention, she could have avoided the accident completely.   The jury assigns 25% of the fault to Beth. Both Beth and Joe may seek to recover their losses from each other, although their take home award is reduced by their degree of fault.

Your Fault Reduces Your Award

Although Joe was judged 75% at fault, he can still collect for his injuries. However, his award is reduced by the degree of fault that is assigned to him. In this instance, Joe’s damages were $150,000. Since Joe was found to be 75% at fault for the accident due to his negligence, he can only collect 25% of his total damages. The arithmetic for Joe’s damages is as follows: $150,000 x .25 (25%) = $37,500. Beth, who was found to be 25% at fault for the accident, is entitled to 75% of her total damages of $10,000. However, since Beth’s damages are so much less than Joe’s, she will receive less than Joe in this case. To calculate the amount Beth will receive, multiply her damages of $10,000 x .75 (75%) =$7,500.

The arithmetic example provided above is simple.  A jury has a more complex decision making process, as can be seen in the jury verdict form.

Joe and Beth’s scenario is unusual, but it can happen. The important lesson is that a person with a high degree of fault can successfully bring an action and recover damages. An experienced personal injury attorney can guide you through the complexities of a comparative negligence case.

Moreover, the scenario with Joe and Beth was based on a lawsuit being filed and then a counterclaim being filed. Frequently, only one party has damages. Suppose, a person enters a grocery store, trips and falls because some produce has fallen on the floor. In this case, the store would be liable if the store personnel were negligent when they failed to keep the floor clean. Similarly, the person’s conduct that fell would be examined to see if she was negligent. In awarding damages, the court would reduce the award given to the customer by any percentage of fault she had in causing the accident.

When Comparative Negligence Does Not Apply In Washington Personal Injury Cases

Not all personal injury cases are subjected to the comparative negligence rule. Washington’s legislature has deemed specific cases to fall under strict liability irrespective of the other party’s fault. One example is if you were injured when a dog bites you (as opposed to scratching you). The traditional rule in dog bite cases is the dog gets one free bite. That means the dog owner must have had knowledge his dog was vicious before the owner can be held liable for his dog attacking someone. The logic is an owner is not on notice that his dog is vicious until his dog bites someone. Consequently, the dog gets one free bite. Pursuant to RCW 16.08.040, dog owners are strictly liable for dog bites. Strict liability means a person is held accountable, no excuses allowed. Thus, it would not matter that you had accidentally stepped on the dog’s tail, which caused the dog to bite you. The owner will still be held 100% liable for your injuries and your award would not be decreased by your percentage of negligence. That being said, the statute specifies a dog owner is strictly liable if the dog bites someone who is in a public place or bites a person who is legally at a private residence.  However, if you intentionally provoke the dog to bite you, then the dog owner is not liable to you for any damages.

Keyword: Washington personal injury case

Title: How Your Comparative Negligence Affects Your Washington Personal Injury Case

Description: Grasp an understanding of comparative negligence in personal injury cases and how your shared fault can affect your potential compensation.


Explanation of Washington’s Roadside Sobriety Tests If You Are Stopped for DUI

Monday, June 27th, 2016

When the police make a stop for a suspected DUI, they begin gathering evidence at the roadside. The police officer will likely conduct a series of test to determine if the driver is driving under the influence (DUI).   Three tests are commonly conducted: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN); the walk and turn test; and, the one leg stand test. Washington State Patrols Forensics Lab provides instructions and scoring guide for the tests. Understand these Washington’s Roadside Sobriety Tests if you are stopped on suspicion of a DUI.

Follow The Pen Light

The scoring guide indicates how easy it is to fail the test. In the HGN test, the driver will be instructed to follow the movements of a penlight, or other object, without moving his head. The police officer is looking to see if the pupils move in a jerky motion. However, eye fatigue, along with other factors, can cause a jerky reaction in the absence of alcohol. Also, we need to get real. The HGN results cannot be verified other than by the police officer’s observations. The movements of the pupils are so small that a body camera is not likely to record the pupil’s reactions.

Walk, Turn and Do What?

The walk and turn test is equally easy to fail. According to the manual, the person suspected of a DUI is instructed to take nine steps heel to toe, turn and continue making nine more heel-to-toe steps. If you miss a heel-to-toe, that is considered evidence of impairment. If you make an improper turn, that too is considered evidence of impairment. The requirements for a proper turn can be confusing. The manual states the following: “When you turn, keep your front foot on the line, and turn by taking a series of small steps with the other foot.” If the turn is not executed correctly, that is evidence of impairment according to the manual. Also, if the person taking the test extends his or her arms for balance, that is considered to be a sign of impairment.

Stand On One Leg

The third test is the one leg stand test. This test requires the suspect to stand on one leg and raise the other foot approximately six inches while keeping the raised foot parallel to the ground. At the same time, the suspect is to count out loud. The test lasts thirty seconds. Swaying, putting your foot down, or using your arms for balance are all considered evidence of impairment. The flaws in this test are readily apparent. Obviously, some people are not going to have the stamina to stand on one leg for thirty seconds. Also, the test is conducted by the roadside; any slope on the shoulder of the road can cause a person to lose balance or sway. Moreover, an inner ear infection or other health related issues can affect the test.

Preliminary Breath Test

Another test that may be used is a preliminary breath test. You do have the right to refuse the preliminary breath test without a penalty being imposed. The results of the preliminary breath test cannot be used against you in court. However, the results of the preliminary test can be used to establish probable cause for an arrest.

Evidence In Court

The Washington’s roadside sobriety tests are important for two reasons. First, they can be used to establish probable cause for an arrest. All of the tests, except the preliminary breath test, can be introduced as evidence against you in court. Also, the police officer’s observations can be admitted as evidence in court. For example, police reports typically state that the driver had bloodshot eyes, a strong odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and stumbled. Experienced attorneys can tell you how often they have seen police reports that cited a strong odor of alcohol and slurred speech, but when the test results came back, no alcohol was detected.

Lab Test

Once an arrest is made, the person arrested can be transported to a station or clinic where additional tests can be performed. The State of Washington is an implied consent state. Implied consent means by driving on the roads and streets of Washington, you give consent to a breath test or a sample of your blood being drawn. That being said, you can refuse to take the tests, but your driver’s license can be suspended. Moreover, the Washington statutes give police the authority to seek a warrant to allow a blood sample to be drawn. If arrested for a DUI, you can have additional tests performed by a person of your choice who is certified to conduct the test.

The breathalyzer and blood analysis are the typical tests used in the State of Washington to measure blood alcohol level and the presence of other intoxicating substances. A blood alcohol level of .08 and higher is defined as legally impaired for people over the age of 21 operating a private vehicle. For those under the age of 21, a reading of .02 and higher is defined as driving under the influence. A THC level of .05 and higher is the legal limit for people over the age of 21. For those under the age of 21, there is a zero tolerance level for the presence of THC.


What Compensation Can I Expect For My Personal Injury Case?

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

If you were injured in an accident then you are entitled to compensation, or damages, from the at-fault party(s). “Damages” is monetary compensation you may recover through someone else’s negligence or unlawful act or omission. Knowledgeable Tacoma personal injury attorneys detail several types of damages. Know your rights and understand what compensation you can expect for your personal injury case.

Economic Damages

Economic damages, also called compensatory or special damages, attempt to compensate the injured accident victim for your monetary losses. This type of damages is easily or readily calculable and objectively verifiable by looking at your bills or speaking to your treating physicians. It encompasses both past and future expenses.

Past Expenses:

Past expenses are the expenses associated with your injuries and losses you incurred since the date of the accident up to and until trial or case resolution.

  • Medical care and treatment – you can be compensated for treatment for your injuries, including ambulance, emergency hospital care, hospital in-patient or out-patient care, doctor visits, x-rays, CT and/or MRI scans, other radiological testing, blood work, EKG, psychological or psychiatric treatment, chiropractor, physical therapy, surgeries, and pain management. Cost of treatment for your injuries is evidence by your medical bills.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses – you can be compensated for any medications needed to treat your injuries. Retain receipts for your prescription and non-prescription drugs along with any payments for medical equipment.
  • Lost income – If your injuries prevents you from working or limits your ability to work, you can be reimbursed for any lost income associated with your injuries. This includes any paid sick or vacation time used for doctor appointments or if you were simply unable to work. Your employment records, doctor notes, tax returns, pay stubs, and applications for short-term disability will evidence any lost income.
  • Property damages – This include any property that is destroyed or could be repaired. For property that has been destroyed and devalues with age, the fair market value will be used to assess the value of the property. The cost of repair is based upon receipts or estimates of repair.
  • Childcare or home maintenance – if your injury prevents you from caring for your child or maintaining your home, then you may need to hire a nanny, lawn services, cleaning service, or even send your children to child care. You may be compensated for these expenses if you did not incur these expenses prior to the accident. Additionally, you must show that you provided these services prior to the accident. Thus, if you never mowed the lawn or took care of your yard, then most likely you will not be compensated for any services associated with your lawn or yard.

Future Expenses:

Future expenses are expenses associated with your injuries and losses you expect or anticipate incurring post-trial or case resolution.

  • Medical care and treatment – Future medical expenses include continued treatment with your current medical providers, recommended surgery and rehabilitation, and recommended therapy (chiropractor or physical therapy, etc.). For future surgery, your surgeon can provide an estimate of the cost for the surgery.
  • Medications – Your treating physicians can provide estimates of how long you will be on your current medications and costs associated with them.
  • Long-term care – if your injury is so severe that you are disabled, you may require an at-home nurse or special equipment.
  • Additional childcare or home maintenance
  • Loss of future earning capacity – if you are permanently or temporarily disabled, then you will have a limited capability to earn income, affecting your ability to work and earn raises or promotions. Thus, you can be compensated for your loss of future earning capacity. Generally, an economic expert is needed to provide reasonable estimates of your future earning capacity based upon your education, skill and experience.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are non-pecuniary or intangible harms that cannot be readily calculable. Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering – refers to your physical pain and discomforts, along with your emotional stress from your injury. This includes your aches, potential shortening of life, fears, and depression associated with the accident and injury.
  • Mental anguish – refers to fears, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, grief, and trauma associated with the accident, your injury and treatment.
  • Disability or disfigurement – you may also be compensated for your limitations on your daily activity, focusing on what you were able to do with ease prior to the accident and what you can no longer do or find it difficult to do.   You may also be compensated for any scarring, lost limbs, or other disfigurement.
  • Emotional distress – you may be compensated for the psychological impact your injury has on your daily life. This may include loss of sleep, anxiety, fear, and in some cases, depression, crying fits, humiliation and fright.
  • Loss of society and companionship – your parents, spouse and children may make a claim for the loss of your companionship, advice, or support.
  • Loss of consortium – Your spouse may make a claim for the loss or decrease of intimacy in your relationship, especially on a physical or sexual nature.

Since non-economic damages are subjective in nature, circumstantial evidence is needed to prove the extent of your intangible harms. This includes consistent statements you made to your treating physician regarding your pain level and other symptoms. Your employment records may also provide insight on your mental state, especially if you complain about pain and there is a significant drop in the quality of your work post-accident. Witness statements regarding your limitations and losses are also persuasive.

Punitive Damages

Uncommonly, courts may permit claims for punitive damages. Punitive damages, sometimes called exemplary damages, are not monetary compensation for your injuries or harm done to you; rather, it is a pecuniary penalty meant to punish the wrongdoer. The purpose is to deter others from engaging in the same wrongful conduct. Punitive damages may be awarded in special cases when the defendant commits an act that is particularly wanton, egregious, malicious, violent, fraudulent, or evil.

Federal courts and different states may limit or cap the award for punitive damages. The cap could be based upon the wrongdoer’s income or a multiple of your actual (economic and non-economic) damages. These limits exist because although punitive damages are a form of punishment, it must be used fairly.   In Washington, punitive damages are generally not allowed; however, there are statutory exceptions permitting punitive damages.

Tacoma Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help

If you were injured in an accident, consult our seasoned Tacoma personal injury attorneys with Greene & Lloyd, PLLC to evaluate your claim and discuss your potential damages. Call 253-770-0808 today.

 


Texting and Driving: The Law in Washington State

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Using a cellphone and text messaging while driving can and does cause both minor and major car accidents according to our Tacoma texting accident lawyer.  In response, the State of Washington has passed laws limiting how drivers can use cellphones or other wireless devices while in their cars.  These laws are intended to reduce the number of distracted drivers on the road.

The University of Washington found that in a study of 7,800 drivers, 624 drivers (over 8 percent of participants) were observed using an electronic hand-held device while driving.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, using your cellphone to send a text takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds.

Can I Use My Cellphone While Driving?

Drivers in non-commercial motor vehicles are not allowed to put a cellphone (or other wireless communication device) up to their ear while driving.  You must use your cellphone in a hands-free setting using a speaker, headset, or earpiece.

Even if you are not putting the cellphone to your ear, you also are not allowed to send, read, or write a text message while driving a car.  Driving is defined to include the period of time you are waiting in your car for a traffic signal light to change.  If you violate the texting law you will be guilty of a traffic infraction.  The penalty amount of the infraction is currently $124.   However, the fact that you committed a traffic infraction cannot be given to your insurance company or your workplace.  As such, it will not have the potential to increase your insurance rate.

Both the hands-free cellphone law and the ban on texting law are primary laws in the State of Washington.  This means that a police officer can issue a ticket for a violation of either law without any other driving offense taking place.

Ways to Legally Use Your Cellphone While Driving

You are currently allowed to use your cellphone to perform the following activities while driving.  You may:

1.  Read, select, or enter a phone number or name in a cellphone if you are trying to make a phone call.

2.  Use a GPS navigation feature if it is voice-activated, fastened to the vehicle, and allows you to send or receive messages without taking your attention away from the road or using either hand.

3.  Put your cellphone to your ear or text if you are attempting to report illegal conduct, to ask for emergency or medical help (such as in a car accident), to prevent injury to people or property, or you are a bus or taxi driver and are using an electronic device mounted on a vehicle.  You may also put your cellphone to your ear if you are using a hearing aid.

Further, if you only have an intermediate license, then you are not permitted to use a wireless device or even a hands-free device unless you are reporting illegal conduct, asking for emergency help, or preventing injury to a person or property.

To avoid violating the law, you should get off the road if you need to use a handheld cellphone and want to read, write, or send a text message.

If You Get a Notice of Infraction for Cellphone Use While Driving

A police officer can write a notice of infraction if he or she personally observed you violating the law. This means the police officer must have seen you placing your cellphone to your ear or sending, reading, or writing a text message while driving.  If a police officer believed that you were sending or writing a text message while driving, then it may be possible to use your cell phone records as evidence to deny whether you were actually performing this activity.  The police officer would have cited you under RCW 46.61.667 (hands-free cellphone use) or RCW 46.61.668 (cellphone texting while driving).

You will have 15 days to respond to the notice of infraction if you are given the notice in person.  You can respond to the notice by paying the penalty amount, contesting that you violated the texting statute and requesting a hearing, or you can try to get a reduced penalty by explaining mitigating circumstances at a hearing (if you fall under an exception). At this hearing, you might need to subpoena the police officer so that you can be given an opportunity to cross-examine him and dispute his testimony.

If you are cited for a violation of the texting statute, you should call a traffic accident lawyer to discuss options and represent you at the infraction hearing.  Or, if you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, you should contact our Tacoma texting accident Tacoma Car Accident Lawyers at Greene & Lloyd, PLLC


Tacoma DUI Lawyers on the Rising Blood Alcohol Defense

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Pinterest

Tacoma DUI Lawyers police carContrary to common perception, an arrest for DUI need not automatically lead to a guilty plea or conviction. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, an experienced DUI attorney Tacoma can explore a number of possible defenses that may create doubt as to the viability of the prosecution’s case.

Blood Alcohol Level at Time of Driving vs. at the Time of Testing

The law proscribes operating a motor vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.08 percent. One problem in making that determination is that a chemical test to measure the BAC of a DUI suspect is taken some time after, often quite some time after, that individual was actually driving. The prosecution’s case largely depends on using the chemical test results to relate back to when the driver was behind the wheel.

Absorption and Elimination of Alcohol

Science has shown that once alcohol is ingested, the person’s alcohol level rises as alcohol passes through the digestive tract to the blood system. Subsequently, the alcohol level decreases as the alcohol is broken down by the liver. When alcohol levels are rising, an individual is in the absorption phase; when alcohol levels are falling, this is considered the elimination phase.

Crafting a DUI Defense

If a DUI test was administered during a suspect’s rising phase, it may be possible to make the argument that the driver’s alcohol level at the time of driving was actually lower than the BAC showed at the time of the chemical test.

Other Considerations

A rising blood alcohol defense depends on the proof of other facts as well. Typically, evidence that the driver had consumed alcohol shortly before driving and performed relatively well on any field sobriety tests that were administered reinforces this defense.

Contact Tacoma DUI Lawyers for Legal Advice

A rising blood alcohol defense is but one option an experienced DUI lawyer has at his or her disposal. For an evaluation of the particular circumstances in your DUI case and an examination of potential options, call Greene & Lloyd PLLC, Tacoma DUI lawyers, at (253) 770-0808.


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