NEWSROOM

Merry Heart Children’s Camp is a Resounding Success!!!

Merry Heart Children's Camp-StorytellingFor the past two and a half years, attorney Colin Scott has served as secretary on the board of Oregon’s first-ever summer camp for children suffering from congenital heart disorders. The inaugural camp was held this summer on August 21st through 27th and was a resounding success.Children and their families are now lining up to participate in next year’s camp, which is expected to host between 30 and 60 children.

Please join our firm in supporting Merry Heart Children’s Camp and help make a difference in a child’s life today! Donations can be made online by visiting the camp’s website at: www.merryheartchildrenscamp.org/donate

Oregon’s One & Only Heart Camp for Kids!!!

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From left to right: Attorney Colin Scott, Diane Thompson, Mary Rice, and Jeff Edelson.

Board members Mary-Jo Rice and Colin Scott present “heartfelt” awards to Jeff Edelson and Diane Thompson (of Markowitz, Herbold, Glade & Mehalf, PC) in recognition for their pro bono legal services.

There are many summer camps in Oregon and Southwest Washington serving children with special needs. However, until now there has not been a single camp designated for children suffering from congenital heart conditions–the nation’s leading birth defect.

In 2013, Dr. Mary-Jo Rice, a retired cardiologist from OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, set out to change this and with help from her husband began assembling a board of medical professionals, former colleagues, and members from the community to create Oregon’s first summer heart camp for kids.

The result of these charitable efforts is Merry Heart Children’s Camp, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a safe and nurturing environment in the form of a week-long summer camp attended by children living with congenital heart conditions. To learn more about Merry Heart Children’s Camp, please visit the camp’s website and join our firm in supporting this worthy cause!

 

What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP)?

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Below, are answers to frequently asked questions regarding Personal Injury Protection (or “PIP”) in the State of Washington.

What is PIP?

PIP stands for “Personal Injury Protection” and is a type of insurance you can add to your auto insurance policy.

Who is eligible to receive PIP?

If you drive a car, your insurance company must offer you PIP coverage. If you ride a motorcycle, your insurance company may offer you PIP Coverage, but these policies tend to be very expensive.

Is PIP mandatory?

No, PIP coverage is optional in Washington. If you don’t want PIP coverage, you must provide written notice to your insurance company. Otherwise, PIP will be automatically added to your insurance policy.

Who is covered by PIP?

PIP covers: (1) everyone named on the policy; (2) household residents related by blood, marriage, or adoption; (3) step or foster children; (4) non-family passengers; (5) bicyclists; and (6) pedestrians who are injured in the accident.

What can PIP coverage be used for?

PIP coverage can be used to help pay for things like medical bills, lost wages, loss of essential services, and funeral expenses regardless of fault (i.e. whether you caused the accident).

How much does PIP cover?

PIP coverage varies depending on how much coverage you elect to purchase. At a minimum, PIP covers the following:

  • Up to $10,000 for medical bills (for every person involved in the accident);
  • Up to $200 per week for wage loss (with some limitations);
  • Up to $2,000 for funeral expenses; and
  • Up to $5,000 for loss of services (to non-family members).

What can’t PIP coverage be used for?

PIP coverage does not apply to injuries caused by farm equipment, recreational vehicles, off-road vehicles, or mopeds. Additionally, PIP coverage cannot be used if the injury occurred during racing activities, or if the injury occurred during the commission of a felony. Finally, PIP coverage does not apply if the accident was intentionally caused by the insured.

Is there a deductible or co-pay with PIP coverage?

No.

Will using PIP affect my insurance rates?

No, by law your insurance company cannot raise your monthly premiums or cancel your insurance policy for using PIP coverage if you are not at fault for causing the accident. See RCW 46.52.130.

Are there any limitations to using PIP coverage?

PIP coverage is limited to services rendered within three years after the accident occurred. Additionally, all services must be related to the accident. Finally, all services must be deemed “reasonable and necessary” by your insurance company.

How can an attorney help me with PIP coverage?

In a typical personal injury case, there may be several types of insurance coverage available to you. PIP coverage is just one of them, and it is not uncommon for there to be several PIP policies available in a single case. There may be other types of insurance coverage available to you as well. Understanding which insurance coverages are available to you and how they relate is essential to maximizing your recovery in a personal injury case. Hiring an attorney can be helpful for this reason alone. Your attorney can also help make sure your PIP claims are properly submitted to the insurance companies and paid for in a timely fashion. If your PIP benefits are unreasonably denied, your attorney can also assist you with filing a claim under what is known as the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (“IFCA”). If your IFCA claim is successful, the insurance company must pay for your attorney’s fees. Additionally, you will be eligible to recover three times the amount of PIP benefits to which you were originally entitled (referred to as “treble damages”). For additional questions regarding PIP coverage in your personal injury case, contact us today for a free consultation!

May is Motorcycle Awareness Month

The Kittitas County board of commissioners recently proclaimed May to be “Motorcycle Awareness Month.”  The proclamation was issued in response to a number of concerns regarding the increasing number of motorcycle-related deaths that occur in Washington every year.  Motorcycle Awareness Month is a nationally recognized event and was officially adopted in Kittitas County to help increase awareness among motorists who share the road with Washington’s 230,000+ registered motorcyclists.

My grandfather, Bud Scott, riding a Triumph Grand Prix (circa 1951).

Attorney Colin Scott’s grandfather, Bud Scott, riding a Triumph Tiger (circa 1951).

As a population, motorcyclists represent just 3% of all motor vehicles driven on public roads in the United States, yet they account for 14% of all deaths.  According to NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), motorcyclists are five times more likely to be injured in a crash and thirty times more likely to die in a collision than occupants of vehicles.

Motorcycle riders in Washington are victims of similar statistics.  According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, during the three year period from 2009 to 2011, there were 6,640 crashes involving motorcycles.  Of these, 1,249 crashes resulted in serious injury and 206 resulted in death.  Studies conducted by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission indicate the majority of these crashes occurred during peak riding season (May through September) when traffic is heaviest (3 p.m. and 6 p.m.).

Despite various states’ efforts to enact mandatory helmet laws, head injuries are still the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents.  Helmets have helped to reduce the number of fatalities (according to some estimates by as much as 37%), but the use of helmets alone will never be able to prevent 100% of all motorcycle fatalities.

ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Towards Education) is one organization that is attempting to prevent the number of motorcycle fatalities in Washington, but not through the use of mandatory helmet laws.  Instead, members of ABATE are motivated to “foster and promote motorcycle safety” through “education and public awareness.”  Their recent efforts to declare May the official Motorcycle Awareness Month in Kittitas County are just one example.

Such efforts are critical to promoting motorcycle safety in the State of Washington.  U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, recently said that “[m]otorists and motorcylists have a common responsibility to safely share the road together,” and that “[i]ncreasing safe riding and cooperation among all road users is essential to reducing the number of deaths on our nation’s highways.”  Washington State Patrol Lieutenant, Kandi Patrick, echoed these sentiments, stating that “[d]rivers of all vehicles…need to be extra attentive and make sure they share the road.”

Below, are some helpful tips provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Washington State Patrol intended to promote motorcycle safety and awareness:

  • Never drive distracted.  Doing so can result in tragic consequences for motorcyclists.
  • Remember, a motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle.
  • Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane.
  • Perform a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting a lane of traffic, and at intersections.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Because of its smaller size, a motorcyclist can be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot.  Always check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
  • Turn signals on motorcycles are not the same as those on motor vehicles – motorcycle signals are usually not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off.  Allow enough time to determine the motorcyclist’s intention before you proceed.
  • Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
  • Allow more following distance – three or four seconds – when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emer­gency.
  • Never tailgate.  In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

Bipartisan Support Emerges for State Rights Re: Marijuana Laws

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHThe State of Washington made national headlines last year when voters approved Initiative 502, which legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and over.  Additional measures regarding the production and sale of marijuana are scheduled to go into effect beginning December 1, 2013.  Washington is now one of two states to have enacted such laws (the other state is Colorado).

What few people realize is that possessing even a small amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.  Because of this, individuals who are in compliance with state law may still be prosecuted by the federal government, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

The resulting paradox is resolved by a concept referred to as “federal preemption.”  Federal preemption has its roots in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and basically says that whenever state and federal laws conflict, federal law preempts state law.  As a result, state laws legalizing the possession of marijuana are trumped by federal laws that criminalize possession of marijuana.

An increasing number of state lawmakers are attempting to resolve this conflict by supporting individual state rights.  Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is one such politician, and is currently attempting to pass legislation that would prevent federal authorities from interfering with individuals who are using marijuana in compliance with state laws.  Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is one of several democrats co-sponsoring this bill.

Republicans and democrats continue to disagree about whether marijuana should be legalized.  However, based on a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, a majority of democrats and republicans agree that spending federal tax dollars to fund anti-marijuana laws is a waste of money.  Based on the bipartisan support Rep. Rohrabacher has received thus far, voters may eventually be granted the power to legalize marijuana in their individual states, but for now the federal government has the final say in this matter.

For information regarding Initiative 502 and the marijuana laws in the State of Washington, visit FAQs on I-502.