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Lime, Bird, Uber, Spin, Lyft, Jump and other electric scooters may be coming to Seattle soon – what happens if you are injured?

Posted Wednesday, June 5, 2019 by Christopher L. Thayer

Residents of Seattle have become accustomed to the presence of Lime Bikes, the colorful green and yellow bicycles for rent via an app on your smart phone. An increasing number of these bikes are electric, and soon Lime (and perhaps others) will be adding to their fleet of electric vehicles for pedestrians: electric scooters. Electric scooters are small 2-wheeled scooters with a rechargeable battery and an electric motor.

Common in other parts of the country, including Santa Monica, California, the small 2-wheel electric scooters are intended to help commuters with an alternate “clean” means of transport – plus they can be loads of fun. But, they are also potentially dangerous and can cause serious injury.

Seattle streets and sidewalks may soon be overrun with Bird, Lime, Jump, and Spin electric scooters. Having seen them in California, I can say that one of my first thoughts was, “wow, that looks like fun,” and my immediate second thought was “jeez you would really get hurt on one of those.” While on a recent vacation in Santa Monica, I was nearly run over by someone riding an electric scooter on the sidewalk.
The benefits, like ease of use and access, are key to the popularity of electric scooters. They are not without risk, however. Some factors to consider:

Speed: The electric motors are powerful and can propel riders up to 15 miles per hour. Although that may not seem all that fast – you may have a different conclusion if you hit a telephone pole at that speed. Keep in mind the average walking speed of a pedestrian is approximately 3 miles per hour.

Riding on sidewalks: Whether electric scooters will be allowed on sidewalks (vs roadway or bike paths) remains to be seen. Electric scooters and pedestrians on a busy sidewalk is a dangerous combination – something I can attest to personally having nearly been knocked off my feet by a person zipping by on a scooter.

Trip hazards: once people are done riding a scooter they can just leave it in the middle of the sidewalk, posing a potential trip/fall hazard.

Potholes and sidewalk cracks: anyone who lives in Seattle can tell you about the cracks and potholes in the paved roads as well as the cracked and uneven sidewalks. With their small diameter wheels, electric scooters are not well suited to deal with these hazards.

Some of the risks for electric scooter riders include:

Scooter Riders are hard to see: Scooters are small and have a low profile; therefore, motorists are less likely to see them.

No barrier between scooter rider and road: Scooters do not have roll bars or any other safety protection. Moreover, most scooter riders do not wear helmets.

Less stability: With only two small wheels, the scooter can be difficult to maneuver, particularly during emergency braking.

Inexperienced riders: A high percentage of electric scooter riders have never ridden one before. There is no special licensing, training or qualifications required. If you can download the app and enter your credit card information, you are good to go.

Emergency stop: Under hard sudden braking conditions, the rider can be thrown off the scooter – potentially into traffic.

Intoxication or impairment: A person who knows well enough not to drink and drive might well be tempted to hop on a scooter as an alternate means to get home after an evening at a bar, but operating a scooter on the roadway or even the sidewalk when impaired could prove disastrous.

How do I obtain fair compensation in the event of an electric Scooter Accident?

This can be a challenge, and is an area of evolving law, which may well prompt legislative changes with ripples to the insurance industry. Finding a source of compensation for injuries caused by Bird, Lime, Jump, and Spin electric scooter accidents can present serious challenges. Though Washington law requires motor vehicle drivers to have liability insurance, there is no such requirement for electric scooter riders.

Who is at fault for the accident involving an electric scooter (Bird, Lime, Jump, or Spin, etc.) will determine whether there are resources to compensate you for your injuries:

Rider at fault for someone else’s injuries: If the scooter rider was at fault for an accident then the rider is liable for your injuries. If the scooter rider had homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, their insurance company may cover your claim.

Scooter company at fault: If the scooter malfunctions resulting in injury, the manufacturer may be liable for your injuries, if it can be proven the electric scooter was unsafe.

Car vs. scooter: If you are riding an electric scooter and are struck by a vehicle, the driver’s auto insurance carrier will be liable for your injury claim, and there may be insurance coverage for your medical expenses – regardless of fault.

Scooter v. Pedestrian: If a pedestrian causes a scooter rider injuries, by stepping out suddenly in front of a scooter, then the pedestrian’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may pay.

Hazard created by private property owner or business: If a scooter rider is injured due to an unsafe condition (hazard) created by a property owner or business, that person or entity may be at fault and the scooter rider may be able to make a claim against the homeowner or business owner’s insurance.

Government liability: In Washington, municipalities are required to keep the roads and sidewalks “reasonable safe for normal travel”. If the municipality fails to satisfy this obligation, there may be a claim against the government entity.

Dog owner at fault: If a dog chases an electric scooter rider, and bites or attacks the rider, the dog owner is liable and their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy may apply.

Because electric scooters are a new form of transportation and there are few laws in place to deal with their use (and potential abuse), electric scooter accidents can involve complicated and novel legal issues. If you are involved in an accident with a scooter, feel free to call managing member Chris Thayer at (206) 805-1494 or email at CThayer@PivotalLawGroup.com.

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Significant Changes in Washington’s Landlord-Tenant Laws (2019)

Posted Friday, May 17, 2019 by Christopher L. Thayer

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has recently signed Senate Bill 5600, which makes significant changes to the existing Residential Landlord Tenant Act (“RLTA”) in Washington as codified in RCW 59.18. The changes will impact the rights for both landlords and tenants. Landlords will need to adopt new forms and adjust certain practices. This new act goes into effect July 27, 2019.

It is important to note this revised law only applies to residential tenancies, and not commercial tenancies. Commercial landlord tenant eviction proceedings are governed by RCW 59.12, which remains unchanged.

This article is intended to summarize the changes in the law only. The full text of the new law can be found here: http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2019-20/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Passed%20Legislature/5600-S.PL.pdf#page=1

14 Day Notice now required for failure to pay rent

Under the prior law, evictions based on tenant’s failure to pay rent were initiated by first providing a 3-day pay or vacate notice. This short timeframe was in place to expedite the landlord’s ability to regain possession of the premises where the tenant was not paying rent. Starting July 27, 2019, landlords will need to provide defaulting tenants with a 14-day pay or vacate notice. The language required for the new notice is spelled out in the statute and the Washington Attorney General will post sample forms on its website.

Application of payments

Landlords will now be required to apply payment by tenant to any rent owing, before applying it towards any fees (including attorney’s fees), damages, costs, or other charges. Previously, landlords were free to apply the payment however the landlord wanted to.

Stay of Writ of Restitution

Those who are familiar with landlord tenant law and evictions will know that a “writ of restitution” is the document authorized by the clerk of the court, which authorizes the eviction of the tenant. Under the new law, where a landlord obtains a judgment authorizing the eviction of a tenant for nonpayment of rent, the tenant may apply at any time prior to the actual eviction to stay the execution of the writ of restitution “upon good cause shown”. The burden of proof is on the tenant. Any stay of the writ of restitution shall not exceed 90 days. The statute requires the judge to consider the following factors in deciding whether to grant a stay of the writ:

• Tenant’s willful or intentional default or intentional failure to pay rent;

• Whether nonpayment of rent was caused by exigent circumstances that were beyond tenant’s control and are not likely to recur;

• The tenant’s ability to timely pay the judgment;

• Whether the tenant is otherwise in substantial compliance with the rental agreement;

• Hardship on the tenant if evicted;

• Conduct related to other notices served within the last six months.

Note also that a tenant who has received 3 or more notices to pay or vacate in the preceding 12 month period is not entitled to seek a stay of a writ of restitution which has been issued for failure to pay rent.

If a stay is granted, the court may impose a payment plan for the tenant, which must be paid in 90 days or less.

New Eviction Summons

The law completely revamps the form and language included in an eviction summons.

Award of Landlord’s attorney fees against tenants limited

If a landlord has received a judgment authorizing eviction of a tenant, the court may order the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees to the landlord; however no such award of attorneys’ fees is authorize where (a) the judgment is entered by default (i.e., tenant failed to appear); or (b) the total amount of rent awarded is equal to or less than 2 months of lease payments or $1,200, whichever is greater.

Mitigation funds

Under certain circumstances the landlord and/or tenant may apply to receive mitigation funds from the landlord mitigation program established under RCW 43.51.605(1)(c). Application for such funds is initiated by filling out a form provided by the Washington Attorney General’s office.

Conclusion

The revisions to the RLTA will significantly impact the landlord tenant relationship and the proceedings required to initiate an eviction. For questions about the revisions to the Act or how, as a landlord, to ensure compliance with the Act, please contact managing member, Chris Thayer at (206) 805-1494 or CThayer@PivotalLawGroup.com

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Estate Planning Legal Update: WA State Legislature Passes Bill Allowing Human Composting As Alternative to Traditional Burial

Posted Thursday, April 25, 2019 by Pivotal Law Group

Washington State’s legislature recently passed a bill (Senate Bill 5001) that would allow human composting as an alternative to burial or cremation.

The bill legalizes disposal of human remains via “natural organic reduction,” which is the accelerated decomposition of human remains into soil. The process transforms human remains into soil over only a few weeks. The bill also legalizes a similar process, “alkaline hydrolysis,” the reduction of human remains using heat, pressure, water, and base chemical agents. The bill allows persons to establish their desire to have their remains composted through a valid written document signed in the presence of witnesses. The new law also establishes regulation of human composting providers.

The new bill emphasizes: “A person has the right to control the disposition of his or her own remains without the pre-death or post-death consent of another person.”

The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor, and will take effect May 1, 2010.

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Supreme Court to Decide Whether Federal Civil Rights Laws Protect LGBT Employees

Posted Monday, April 22, 2019 by Pivotal Law Group

Federal law generally prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender. An open question has been whether discrimination “because of gender” includes discrimination against LGBT employees. Some courts have said yes, reasoning that at least some discrimination against gay or transgender employees boils down to discrimination on the basis of failing to conform to perceived traditional gender roles; other courts have gone the other way.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it is taking up a trio of cases that will decide the question. In two cases, employees sued their employers alleging they were let go because they were gay. In the third, a transgender woman sued her employer for terminating her for failing to conform to what the employer characterized as “God’s commands.”

These decisions will be significant for both workers and employers because they will clarify whether LGBT workers are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws.

Notably, there is no question that Washington State employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Washington State’s Law Against Discrimination explicitly protects employees and others from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Robert Mueller's Report

Posted Friday, April 19, 2019 by Christopher L. Thayer

Link Text

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