Jennifer Cannon-Unione Comments on Zimmerman Verdict

July 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Criminal Law, Legal News 

Recently, Jennifer Cannon-Unione at Dixon & Cannon, Ltd. was invited to comment on the Zimmerman verdict on NW Cable News.

Buyer Beware: The Hidden Cost of “Free” Rideshares

Entrepreneurs in the transportation business have come up with rideshare models that aim to skirt government licensing and regulation.  Companies such as Lyft, Sidecar and Uberx call themselves rideshares (think carpooling), but in reality vary little from taxi services and cars-for-hire, which are regulated by local governments.  Think twice before you get into a “Rideshare” vehicle.  Even if the cost for such transportation is typically less than a car-for-hire or taxicab, you may be risking something far more valuable than a few dollars:  your physical safety.

Seattle City Council Turns a Blind Eye Toward Rideshare Businesses, for Now

A recent Seattle Times article revealed how City Council members are well aware of the unlicensed for-profit Rideshare businesses operating on our city streets, but purposely are delaying regulation until further research is completed.  This means that the businesses pay none of the regular licensing fees and taxes that taxis and cars-for-hire must pay, and that these businesses are not subject to the same safety and insurance requirements as licensed businesses.  If you are injured by the negligence of a rideshare driver, the driver’s personal insurance policy may not cover you if the insurance company believes the vehicle was being used for business purposes.  It’s a strong argument for the insurance company and makes the City Council’s delay in regulating these businesses all the more puzzling.

See: Seattle Times Local News

Two of the new unlicensed businesses on Seattle City streets, Lyft and Sidecar, suggest they differ from cars for hire because payment is not required for the service.  Instead, donations are highly encouraged, by means of a bankcard.  Sidecar provides the following service tips:

  • Be generous but fair with your donations.
  • Donate as soon as you can after – or during – your ride. Every driver appreciates that. (And never offer cash. Sidecar is cashless for safety reasons.)

See: Sidecar Rules of the Road

That payment is expected is made clear on Sidecar’s website where new drivers are solicited.  The bold motto can’t be missed:  “You drive everyday.  Why not get paid for it?”

See: Sidecar

The businesses are evidently profitable enough to keep expanding despite legal disputes with cities across the nation.

Sidecar has been locked in a lawsuit against the city of Austin, Texas, where it has continued to operate after the city council passed a law earlier this year banning the service. The company has also defied the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which has tried unsuccessfully to shut it down.

See: Huffington Post

Is the City of Seattle Opening Itself to Liability for Failing to Regulate Lyft, Sidecar and Uberx?

If our government fails to act, Seattle may eventually face liability for knowingly allowing these potentially unsafe, unregulated transportation services to continue.  Taxicab companies are subject to stringent rules and regulations regarding safety of its drivers and fleet of cars, as well as requirements for commercial insurance policies.   The rideshare companies are subject to no such regulation, save the rules they devise themselves.  While these companies encourage their drivers to obtain commercial insurance policies, it is not a requirement.

Both Sidecar and Lyft tout their one-million dollar excess liability insurance policies as assurance of safety and coverage.  While appealing on the surface, there are many limitations on the application of this coverage.   For example, liability insurance doesn’t cover injuries caused by the negligence of the rideshare driver – i.e. a passenger would not be covered if the driver causes a collision.  Also, this is not uninsured motorist coverage or personal injury protection coverage.   These and other limitations are detailed in the fine print of the companies’ terms of use.  Once again, buyer beware.

Our City may not just be liable for injury claims by failing to take action against illegal businesses.  Local taxicab and legitimate hired-car businesses may have claims for discrimination against the City for failing to enforce business regulatory rules against these ridesharing businesses.  Taxi companies pay fees and taxes for the privilege of operating their businesses on our city streets.  As with all business license fees and taxes, these funds are crucial in maintaining our City’s infrastructure, including safe streets.  The rideshare businesses are unjustly boosting their profit margins by escaping these taxes and fees.

You Get What You Pay For

The best advice:  Don’t gamble with your safety.  Use caution when traveling the city streets.  If you have any questions about driver, business or government liability, or have sustained injuries due to the negligence of others, please do not hesitate to contact Dixon & Cannon, Ltd at (206) 957-2247.

The Complex Problem of Substance Abuse Fueled Auto Collisions

In addition to dangers posed by distracted drivers, pedestrians and drivers must contend with drivers impaired by substance abuse.  In a tragic incident on Monday, March 25, while crossing the street in front of Eckstein Middle School in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood, a family was struck down by drunk driver Mark Mullan. Killed were new grandparents Dennis and Judy Schulte.  The Schulte’s daughter-in-law and newborn grandchild remain hospitalized in critical condition.  As reported by the Seattle Times, Mullan has a history of dui arrests, speeding, hit and run, inattentive driving, and did not have a valid license when he crashed his pickup into the Schulte family.  Mullan was unharmed in the collision and remains in custody.

See the Seattle Time article

Substance Abuse Threatens Everyone

A single person’s substance abuse has wide ranging effects on the community.  Despite a caring family, numerous arrests and court interventions, Mullan’s destructive addiction continued until the worst thing imaginable happened.  Mullan’s sister-in-law, Megan Mullan, is quoted in the Seattle Times:

“He had struggled and struggled with the bottle,” she said. “He’s a terrific guy, but he couldn’t stop drinking.”

“We were all afraid he was going to kill himself, but never imagined this. We are all just sick, sick, sick over this,” she said.

See Seattle Times article

Tragedy Highlights Flaws in Prevention Measures

Prior to the collision, Mullan had been ordered by the courts to install an ignition interlock device on his vehicle.  He failed to do so.  The device, which detects whether the driver has any alcohol on his breath, would have prevented Mullan from starting his vehicle on the day of the crash.  In hindsight, it was a mistake to trust Mullan to follow through with getting an interlock device installed.   The tragedy has spurred lawmakers to consider better ways to enforce device installation.

See Seattle times Article

The Value of Legal Help Amidst Crisis

For the Schulte family, lawsuits and monetary recovery are not likely in their minds as they pray for the recovery of their loved ones.  But an experienced attorney may still play an important role on the recovery team.   A personal injury attorney can relieve some of the extraordinary stress on the family by coordinating resources to help cover immediate medical bills and other needs.  Such resources may include accessing the state’s Victim’s Compensation Assistance fund, applying for public or private disability funds, and working with a defendant’s attorney to start receiving payments on a future judgment.  Additionally, an attorney can immediately begin documenting the nature and extent of catastrophic injuries and future needs, crucial information when the time does come to bring claims against the party or parties responsible for the tragedy.

James Dixon and Jennifer Cannon-Unione are experienced wrongful death and catastrophic injury attorneys.  They’ve worked closely with clients whose lives were instantly and dramatically changed as the result of auto collisions caused by substance abuse.  If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a chemically impaired driver, please do not hesitate to contact Jim and Jennifer at (206) 957-2247.

Unlicensed Nurse Administered Fatal Dose of Morphine

Many of us know that someday we may live in a nursing home. If we do happen live out our remaining golden years in a nursing home, then we hope, yes pray, that it will be a pleasant and reputable place that will take good care of us. For those of us with loved ones in nursing homes, we also want assurance that our beloveds are receiving the best care available. It is hard to understand why a nursing home would allow an unlicensed and unregistered nurse to administer medical care to its patients. That is just what happened at Madison House in Kirkland. Phyllis Conant died after receiving a morphine dose 10 times greater than the doctor’s prescription. Sure mistakes do happen. But when a facility fails to implement proper precautions, then it needlessly endangers its patients. Allowing an unregistered nurse to administer medical care and medications falls far below a reasonable standard of care.

Kiro TV News Source

Number of Civil Cases Going to Trial Declining

Surprising new study reveals that the number of civil cases actually going to trial has declined significantly. In the 1930s, 20% of civil cases went to trial. Today this percentage is as low as 2% in federal courts and below 1% in state courts.

See Yale Law Review article:

Rapid Processing of Whistleblower Complaints

October 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Legal News 

Justice for the whistle blower. Recently the Department of Justice has appointed a federal prosecutor to facilitate the rapid processing of whistleblower complaints. This prosecutor will also closely monitor retaliation claims.

See the full article at The Seattle Times

Transgender-Inmate Ruling

September 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Legal News 

Controversial decision made by Massachusetts judge in a transgender inmate case. The judge ordered prison officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery to a convicted murderer. Advocates maintain this is necessary treatment for a person with gender identity disorder. In fact, because of Michelle Kosilek’s disorder, she tried to castrate herself and made two attempts to commit suicide. Even though the American Medical Association and other medical experts recommend coverage of medical services for transgender patients, most carriers deny coverage. Dissenters argue against using taxpayer money for this kind of surgery for a prison inmate.

Complete article can be found at Seattle Times.

Welcome to Our Blog

We are pleased to announce the launching of Dixon & Cannon’s new blog. Our firm handles personal injury and criminal defense cases. Therefore, our goal in creating this blog is to provide our readers with important information and news related to these practice areas.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at: 206-957-2247.