ENHANCED PENALTIES WHEN DRIVERS HIT “VULNERABLE” USERS OF PUBLIC WAY

by Mike Myers on May 21, 2015

The Washington legislature passed a law that helps align the penalty for negligent driving with its consequences.  RCW 46.61.526 defines a motorcyclist a vulnerable user of the road. When a driver hits a vulnerable user penalties are enhanced.

That makes sense.  A motorcyclist isn’t surrounded by a cage.  A motorcyclist doesn’t have a seatbelt.  A motorcyclist doesn’t have front and side airbags.  When a motorcyclist gets hit there are consequences.

The kind of driver inattention that leads to those serious consequences was highlighted by a recent and totally preventable accident:

A Bothell man injured in a car-motorcycle accident Friday has died….  Jeffrey D. Messing, 50, was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after the Friday afternoon accident.  He was slowing down his motorcycle on the I-405 exit ramp to Highway 527 when he was struck from behind by a car driven by a Bothell woman, 34, the State Patrol said. She was not injured.

Should the 34 year old woman be charged with negligent driving or something more serious?

From the victim’s perspective (or in this case, the victim’s family’s perspective) even better than a negligent driving charge is a felony charge.  And here’s why: a felony charge means that Crime Victims Compensation (a program administered by the Department of Labor and Industries) will pay treatment expenses.  While there’s a cap on how much it will pay, once a provider accepts money from Crime Victims Compensation it can’t seek any more money from the victim.  In a recent case we had a client who received Crime Victims Compensation and its payments wiped out a $1,000,000 medical bill.

If drivers can’t police themselves there need to be stricter penalties for distracted and inattentive driving.

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