Most of us recall the collision that occurred on September 24, 2015. Five international students were killed and dozens more people were injured after a Ride the Duck vehicle lost control and crashed into an oncoming bus chartered by North Seattle College on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, Washington.
Three days later, it was determined that a defective axle on the Duck vehicle was the likely cause. The Duck vehicle involved had not received the safety fix recommended by the company that refurbishes the amphibious tour vehicles. Ride the Ducks International had found a potentially dangerous failure point in the amphibious World War II-era vehicles’ axle housing in 2013 and recommended a fix in a notice to companies that use them. The Duck involved in the collision though, never got that fix.
In a report released in December of 2015, Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) found 442 violations of motor-carrier safety rules or laws identified by investigators.
Those damning findings meant that deceased and injured victims from this collision had strong personal injury cases to bring against Ride the Ducks Seattle, and also its licensee, Ride the Ducks International. The lawsuits also named the driver of the Ride the Duck Vehicle, as well as the City of Seattle and State of Washington for failing to address the known unsafe driving conditions in the area where the collision took place.
In a personal injury case in Washington State, the goal is to return the injured party to as close as possible to where they were before the injury. In order to achieve that, an injured party can recover two types of damages: special and general. Special damages include the amount of medical bills related to the injuries, property damage (including your vehicle and any damaged personal property within the vehicle), and loss of earnings (for the value of the amount of time you were unable to work at your job in the past and possibly also in the future). An injured party may also recover general damages for their “pain and suffering.” This type of the damages is more difficult to quantify, but can be worth a substantial amount for a serious injury.
Undoubtedly, the lawyers who are representing the deceased and injured parties against Ride the Ducks will pursue all of these types of damages. However, there was an interesting issue that was just decided by a Seattle judge on October 6, 2017 over whether a different type of damages could be recovered.
In Washington State, there is a general rule that a Court will not allow “punitive” damages in a lawsuit. Punitive damages are allowed in some other states, and are designed to punish corporate wrongdoers.
The attorney for the injured parties argued that the judge should use Missouri law, which allows for punitive damages. The main reasoning was that much of the rebuild on the Ride the Duck vehicle in the collision was completed in Missouri, and that is the state where Ride the Ducks International is based.
Ride the Ducks International attorney Scott Wakefield countered that for more than ten years, maintenance for the vehicle occurred in Washington, and that Ride the Ducks Seattle was another co-defendant in these cases. He also argued that the collision and the injuries all happened in Washington State.
While the judge still believes these cases have “extraordinarily significant” value, she found that Washington law applies, meaning that punitive damages will not be allowed. This was an important ruling for this case and also for the other cases arising from the same incident.
At Benjamin Law Group, personal injury auto cases make up a major portion of the cases that we handle. We would be happy to help you or anyone you know who gets injured in a car collision. Insurance companies can be extremely difficult to deal with on your own, and almost all of the time an injured party will end up receiving more money with a lawyer on their side than without one.