The Harper Law Blog

The Harper Law Blog offers news, announcements, thoughts and articles on life, law and our practice areas of emphasis.

Horrific Injuries can Lead to Bankruptcy

Posted Monday, April 02, 2018 by Ed Harper

Recent studies have shown that the need for one to have health and auto insurance is a vital 1st step in the preparation one must take to be prepared for misfortune. When a long-term chronic medical condition arises, it poses a significant financial burden on injured persons. Personal injuries to an uninsured person or family member can lead to catastrophic results following an accident.

Medical bills and an interruption in one’s ability to work have dire financial consequences as many people live paycheck to paycheck.

“Families bankrupted by medical problems include things such as trauma/orthopedic/back problems for nearly 1/3 of all those who file bankruptcy after an accident.… And 51% of the medical problems involved ongoing chronic illnesses.” (Illness and Injury Contributors to Bankruptcy, December 3, 2004). As a result of financial decisions made during tough economic times, people have been forced to reduce or even eliminate health and auto insurance.

Further, of those who have filed bankruptcy after an injury, many initially had health insurance. This study showed that 20% of those injured that filed bankruptcy had insurance but lost the insurance coverage because of their inability to work.

I’ve represented many personal injury clients with uninsured or underinsured motorist claims when an individual has been injured. Unfortunately, the other driver – the at fault party – failed to have adequate coverage, yet one still recouped for some, if not all, of the effect from the detrimental injuries and damages. To avoid this problem, the UM portion of your policy is vitally important to review and consider adding.

Just as the Boy Scout motto states, “Be prepared.” Have good health insurance and also have good automobile insurance with special attention paid to uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage applies if you are struck by an uninsured motorist, who is at fault, so that you can still be protected from their negligence.

Call Harper Law if you have any questions regarding your insurance benefits.

Permalink to this entry

The Purpose of Mediation

Posted Monday, March 26, 2018 by Ed Harper

Mediation is, “The act or process of mediating; especially intervention between conflicting parties to promote reconciliation, settlement, or compromise.” (

Conflict resolution is a skill everyone should have, or at least seek to have. Seeing the view of the other side, and seeing their perspective is an integral part of resolving one’s disputes. As the Bible says, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18).

As a personal injury lawyer I have often been a participant in mediation. Typically, a person will have an injury claim, and an insurance company will attempt to place a value on that claim. The injured person is offered and then ultimately provided compensation in exchange for a release of all claims. Often during the mediation for a personal injury claim, the mediator will explain the risks compared with the benefits of going forward to trial. The risks may include the possibility that a jury will not have the same value of the injury and thus provide a lower amount of compensation due to facts the injured person did not consider. This effort by the mediator is to have the injured person see the perspective of jury and/or the insurance adjuster on the other side.

Today, in our modern society, obtaining justice, and establishing “my rights” is the ultimate ideal. Justice is vastly important, and I think when there has been injustice, wrongs should be addressed. However, true resolution can only be reached when both sides are not only worried about their own well-being, but also attempt to see how the other side may benefit.

Healing, both emotionally and physically, from an injustice can only begin after one sees the perspective of the other side. In essence, there is not always a right or wrong opinion, so one must not become myopic and self-absorbed. They cannot see the whole picture when they cannot see both sides of the coin. I am a proponent of mediation as it always sparks the beginning of the healing process. Seek peace and resolve your disputes. Be a catalyst for reconciliation.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. “As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man or woman. There will still be business enough.” - Abraham Lincoln.

Permalink to this entry

Immediately Following an Accident/Motor Vehicle Collision

Posted Monday, March 05, 2018 by Ed Harper

Here is our attorney-approved, easy-to-remember list for what to do immediately following an accident:

  1. Protect: Keep yourself safe. Then, if able, determine if anyone else is injured or needing medical attention.

  2. Call 911 to report the collision and obtain the assistance of first responders.

  3. Document: Obtain all necessary information: Take property damage pictures of all vehicles involved, all insurance information, witness names, vehicle and driver’s licenses and registration.

  4. Move: When there is no further danger, get the permission of policemen or first responders at the scene, and move your vehicle.

  5. Get Checked: Schedule an appointment to have all your injuries examined by a professional. Even minor injuries must be treated after an accident.

  6. Contact: Seek legal counsel regarding your accident, preferably by contacting Harper Law. Legal counsel is imperative to successfully bringing a personal injury or property damage claim. Finally, contact your insurance provider for further assistance.

Permalink to this entry

Negligent Entrustment – Every Vehicle Owner’s Fear

Posted Monday, February 12, 2018 by Ed Harper

For one to be found responsible for the actions of another, negligently entrusting the vehicle for example requires a certain amount of knowledge leading to negligent conduct being determined. The court with Mejia v. Irwin, 45 Wn.App. 700 (1986) determined that a parent who merely rented a car for their son, would not be found responsible under the theory of negligent entrustment. The rule is quote a person entrusting a vehicle to another may be liable under a theory of negligent entrustment only if that person knew, or should have known in the exercise of ordinary care, that the person to whom the vehicle was entrusted is reckless, heedless, or incompetent. Cameron v. Downs, 32 Wn.App.875, 877 (1982).

In Mejia, a 29-year-old young man, Phillip Irwin, asked his father Felix if he could borrow Felix’s credit card to rent a vehicle. Felix agreed and rented the vehicle. The rental car company’s agent knew that Philip was to be the only user of the automobile. The plaintiffs attorney was creative and attempted to show that a poor driving history, some 11 years earlier put the father, Felix, on notice that his son was an irresponsible driver.

The young man, Philip, sadly died in this collision. Stella Mejia, as a passenger was injured and brought this claim. When Philip was a teenager he had some moving violations, and a car accident. But meanwhile his son had no tickets, and was not a bad driver, at least according to what his father knew.

The court continued that, “After some period of time, knowledge of the trustee’s previous reckless acts should have little bearing on the trustee’s present perception of the in trusted’s competence to drive at the time of the entrustment.… We recognize that the entrusted is only responsible for the subsequent negligent acts if the trustee as a reasonable man could have foreseen the negligent acts; and that when the for symptoms foreseeability of harm stems from past conduct, it must be conduct so repetitive as to make its reoccurrence foreseeable.” The court determined, “As a matter of law, Phillip’s citations and accident 11 years before the date of the alleged entrustment were too remote in time to permit the question of Felix’s alleged negligence to go to the jury.” Mejia at 705 – 706

Permalink to this entry

Insurance Policies and Anti-Stacking Clauses

Posted Saturday, February 03, 2018 by Ed Harper

Under RCW 48.22.030(6) anti-stacking exclusions are allowed. Insurance polices often include statements limiting the highest possible amount of coverage of liability that applies. In the case of Greengo v. Pemco, 135 Wn. 2d 790 (1998) Justice Sanders stated (1) – the anti-stacking provision in the passengers policy did not violate the UIM statute or public policy; (2) the provision would not bar coverage if the facts showed that more than one “accident” had occurred.

In Greengo, because there were two collisions, and Ms. Greengo was rendered a permanent quadriplegic, she could recoup two UIM claims which she made against Pemco. Factually, in Greengo, 27-year-old Lori Greengo was severely injured when the car in which she was riding as a passenger driven by David Frawley and owned by Kerry Carefree, rear-ended another car on Interstate 5 as the Frawley vehicle was itself rear-ended by a third car driven by Michael Hampshire. While the precise sequence of events is disputed, all agree there were two collisions and Ms. Greengo was rendered permanently quadripelic. Greengo at 658.

The issue is as follows if there were two accidents, then Ms. Greengo is entitled to UIM recovery from Pemco for the second accident.

In retrospect, Pemco had an exclusion which was authorized by RCW 48.22.030(6) the statute mentioned above. “To the extent it limits the total UIM liability per accident to the single highest UIM liability limit when an insured is covered under more than one UIM policy.”

The statute authorizes insurers to set liability limits on a per accident basis regardless of the number of vehicles involved in the accident. The court determined this exclusion did not violate the public policy underlying the UIM statute. The court articulated the public policy underlying UIM is to create a second layer of floating protection, not full compensation. (See Elovich case mentioned in a previous blog post.) Additionally, the court supported that this position in this anti-stacking clause applies only after the insured has received a full UIM recovery, thus satisfying the requirement that the insured receive a second layer of protection.

In Greengo the question was in a chain reaction type collision – how many accidents were there? Ms. Greengo asserted that she was “was involved in two accidents for purposes of her Pemco policy because two drivers proximately caused her injuries in two collisions.”

The court determined when there are two collisions it should be determined if each accident has its own proximate cause. If so then there are two accidents. Greengo, at 663 – 64.

“Under our approach if each accident, collision, or injury has its own proximate cause, then each will be deemed a separate accident for insurance policy purposes even if the two accidents occurred coincident, or nearly coincident in time.” The court in Greengo relied on Transcontinental Insurance Company v. Public Utility District, 111 Wn. 2d 452 (1988), “(t)he number of triggering events for insurance policy purposes depends on the number of causes underlying the alleged damage and resulting liability.” Transcontinental, at 467.

The Washington Supreme Court submitted this case Greengo v. Pemco back to the trial court to determine if there were two separate collisions each with their own inherent proximate cause.

Permalink to this entry

WSAJ Eagle 2020
Harper Law PLLC
826 6th Street South, Suite 101, Kirkland, WA 98033-6740 US
Phone: 425.284.3333
Fax: 425.284.4286