A recent article from seattletimes.nwsource.com discusses the recent conclusion that a Seattle ordinance created in 2005 that criminalizes certain traffic violations resulting in injury or death of an individual is in fact invalid due to its conflict with state law. Specifically in question is whether or not failing to yield the right-of-way is a violation in which a person could be held criminally responsible for. That is, the article mentions a man that failed to yield the right of way to a bicyclist. The bicyclist was consequently struck by the man’s vehicle, and died from brain injury sustained during the crash. The driver of the vehicle, having a previously unblemished driving record, was at first not prosecuted, then was charged with misdemeanor assault based on local city ordinance, and then eventually had the charges dropped once the ordinance’s inconsistency with state law was realized, ultimately deeming the man’s charges as being unenforceable and, therefore, reversed.
There are 60 traffic-related crimes in Washington in which vehicular homicide and assault, racing, reckless endangerment of roadway workers, and driving while intoxicated are included. Failing to yield the right-of-way is not a criminal traffic offense. It goes without saying that this realization represents both relief and anger to citizens. On the one hand, some believe that negligent drivers that cause imposing catastrophic injuries, especially those that take another person’s life, should not only be held civilly responsible for their actions, but criminally responsible as well, even if their actions result from failing to yield the right-of-way. On the other hand, criminal charges are extremely serious, and some feel that the harsh consequences are too intense for a person, one that has already made a mistake and is now forced to have to live with the results of reckless, negligent driving, to have to endure.
It was reported that the Appeals Court judges decided that “any act” classified as a traffic violation may not be considered a crime exclusively founded by the result of catastrophic injury or wrongful death. According to the article, the judges wrote: “Seattle cannot classify failure to yield the right-of-way as a criminal offense merely by defining the ‘act’ in a way that encompasses a particular result of the act.”
The area in question relating to the Seattle ordinance has to do with the Revised Code of Washington’s Title 46, which relates to laws governing motor vehicles. Whether Seattle will appeal to the state Supreme Court or revoke the ordinance is not clear at this time. Perhaps the real issue at hand has to do with how the ordinance is worded.
At the Bernard Law Group, our skilled Seattle wrongful death attorneys help dependent family members of the decedent receive compensation for a variety of financial strains brought on by the loss of a loved one, as well as the pain and suffering that the loss of companionship unfortunately creates. Whether your loved one was lost in a bicycle accident, a truck accident, or an auto accident, our attorneys can help. Call the Bernard Law Group today at 1-800-418-8282 for a free consultation.