Opportunities in the Shades of Gray

We live in a world built on certainty. Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade. There are 180 degrees in a triangle.

While the law is written in black and white, liability is rarely clear cut. This lack of certainty often frustrates clients, especially when they believe it’s obvious the other driver is at fault for their injuries. Along with these frustrations, however, opportunities can arise.

This idea that uncertainty creates opportunity is validated in a recent case we handled. Three Mexican nationals were on their way to pick up pigs for barbecuing asada-style. It was early morning and the sun hadn’t risen. Fog blanketed the ground.

Our clients approached an intersection. There was no traffic control device and they entered the intersection without slowing.

They were hit broadside by another vehicle. An investigation revealed that the stop sign controlling traffic in our clients’ direction of travel had been knocked down before they reached the intersection. In black and white terms the case looked dead in the water. Cars traveling on arterial highways have the most powerful right of way granted under Washington law.

However, no right of way is absolute. Even though our clients were proceeding from a residential road across the highway, we were able to convince the other driver’s insurance company to pay its policy limits to our clients. We argued that even though the driver on the arterial highway had the right of way, they failed to keep a proper lookout for our clients and exceeded the speed limit.

In the case with the three Mexican nationals, the law clearly favored the other driver. Our persistent lawyering yielded policy limit settlements for our non-English speaking clients who desperately needed the money.

While the lack of certainty associated with our legal system can be the source of some frustration it also provides significant opportunity for injured persons with proper representation.