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Pedestrian Injuries

Sometimes people refer to pedestrian injuries as “trip and falls” or “slip and falls.”

The truth is that sometimes these events can have devastating consequences. Sometimes they are minor.


ACTUAL CASE 1

Richard T was a tourist in the City of Seattle. Originally from Wisconsin, Richard was enjoying a day at the Seattle Center with his wife and family. He parked a few blocks away and as he was walking toward his car, the toe of his shoe was caught on a raised portion of a crack in a city sidewalk. He thrust out his right arm to break his fall. The fall shattered his arm from his elbow to his shoulder. The reconstructive surgery left him with a metal and plastic arm from elbow to shoulder. He is unable to lift his arm and has little use of his shoulder.

Mike Maxwell brought a claim against the City of Seattle and the adjacent landowner for the dangerous crack in the sidewalk. First, Mike photographed and measured the crack. Then, Mike retained the services of a human factors expert who testified that the crack was unreasonably dangerous for a walkway. He then deposed a witness from a nearby business who testified that the crack had been in place for many years.

The adjacent landowner was dismissed on summary judgment. The City of Seattle tried to have the case dismissed on the ground that the crack at issue was in the planting strip rather than the sidewalk itself. Mike took the position that the planting strip was a “walkway” and that the crack was in a dangerous location. The parties were able to settle Richard’s case at mediation.

ACTUAL CASE 2

Kay B was a model who lives near Swedish hospital in Seattle. She tripped on a crack on a sidewalk and fell so hard that she shattered her arm and wrist. Mike Maxwell made a claim against the City of Seattle on her behalf. Rather than fight the claim, the City of Seattle settled. Shortly after that, the City began to grind down the cracks on the sidewalks around Swedish Hospital.

ACTUAL CASE 3

Craig C is a firefighter, paramedic, and Captain at a local fire department in Centralia, Washington. One day, in the middle of the day, he received a 911 call from a local rock quarry that was owned by the County. The rock quarry has walls that are nearly 100 feet high and are steep. A dog had approached the top of the quarry walls and had fallen and landed on a ledge nearly 10 feet from the top. Craig responded to the scene and viewed the dog from the bottom of the quarry using binoculars. He and a young firefighter volunteer decided to go to the top of the quarry wall to investigate.

Craig drove to the top of the quarry and obtained permission from a private landowner to approach the top of the quarry wall. The landowner, volunteer firefighter and Craig beat their way through heavy brush and trees as they approached the top of the quarry wall. Suddenly, Craig disappeared into a hole that was completely covered with overgrown vegetation.

The private landowner called 911 and fetched a rope, but the hole was too deep and steep. Other rescue personnel arrived and pulled Craig out of the hole and rescued the dog as well. Craig was in a hole approximately 20 feet deep and three feet wide. He hit his head on the way down and suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, as well as orthopedic fractures.

The mild traumatic brain injury was a career ending event for Craig. He lost his sense of smell and part of his hearing. He also lost his ability to form words fluently. Mike Maxwell filed a lawsuit against the County claiming that he was doing the bidding of the County by responding to a 911 call, and that the County had a duty to warn Craig of the hole.

The County denied all liability. It claimed that it was unaware of the existence of the hole, and also claimed that Craig was on private property when injured. Mike requested all records of the land in question, including land purchases, deeds, surveys, and the like.

When he inspected those documents, Mike learned that the County had commissioned a geological survey several years earlier. That geological survey had warned the County of the hole and described the hole as a fissure in the earth that was 20 feet deep, 100 feet long, and 2-3 feet wide. The top was covered with vegetation and was not visible. The geological survey had recommended fencing off or filling in the fissure, but the County did nothing in response to the survey’s recommendation.

Mike brought a motion for summary judgment in court to dismiss all the County’s defenses. The County offered to mediate the claim after it was exposed that it knew all along about the existence of the fissure. At mediation, Craig’s claim was settled and Craig was able to retire with financial security. The County also followed up by filling in the fissure with dirt and rocks and then fenced it off so that nobody else will ever be hurt there again.

ACTUAL CASE 4

Not all pedestrian injuries are devastating, and Mike does not always demand a fee. Aidan B was a student at Eckstein Middle School in Seattle. He was playing football using a shoe with his friends during recess. There was a school policy against playing football, and Aidan and his schoolmates were playing in violation of the policy. The school did not adequately supervise the students and did not enforce its own rules.

Aidan was tackled by a larger boy. Aidan fell and fractured his wrist and arm. Aidan’s medical bills were expensive. Although his family had insurance, the copays and deductibles amounted to more than a thousand dollars. Aidan’s family contacted Mike Maxwell for help. The family did not want to sue the school district, but could not afford the thousand dollar copays. Mike wrote a letter to Seattle public schools threatening a lawsuit. He recognized that Aidan was playing in violation of the ban on football, but pointed out that the school had failed to enforce the ban.

The school offered to settle by paying Aidan’s copays and deductibles for the insurance. The family gladly accepted, and Mike took no fee.

If you or a loved one is injured as a pedestrian, please consider calling us. One of our lawyers may be able to help. (206) 527-2000.

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