Notice to Clients: COVID – 19


Today we find ourselves in unsettling and unprecedented times around the globe. As always, the well-being of our clients, employees, partners, and community is our priority. We are reaching out to let you know what we are doing at Phillips Law Firm both from a health and safety standpoint as well as client service.

On March 16th, Phillips Law Firm announced it will be moving all staff to remote work locations where they can essentially operate just like in office. Key individuals will be rotating through the offices so to maintain certain critical functions of the business, such as mail pickup/delivery and disbursement of client funds. At this time, we will continue to process all claims to the extent possible. The court systems have made and will likely continue to make adjustments in their schedules, prioritizing certain cases over others. Any cases currently filed in court may see delays, but we are taking proactive steps to arrange for video conferencing when at all possible for such functions as depositions. Claims being processed for pre-litigation settlement (the majority of our clients) will, for the time being, remain on a closer to normal timeline. This is all subject to change if additional government mandates are implemented, amongst other unforeseen variables.

We are asking our clients to be patient with us as we make this transition to a remote and digitized operation. Our response times may be slightly delayed, but with time our new setup will improve and become more efficient. Benefiting both you, the client, as well as our staff. We expect to be operating remotely at 90% by March 18th.

Some of the equipment needed to facilitate remote workstations are in short supply. Resulting in some staff having to use their personal cell phones to patch into our phone system. So, if you see inbound phone calls from a number you may not recognize, that could very well be us. You will still be able to use our normal phone numbers and email addresses to reach your legal team. Our reception team will field and route calls as they normally do.

We encourage all to remain vigilant and adhere to the recommendations being issued by health care professions, local and federal governments. At this time, it is unknown how long we will be impacted in this way. As a business, more so as a part of this community, we will maintain our services and safety of our staff to the highest degree possible. We will keep you posted as things develop. Thank you again for your patience and understanding.


Glenn Phillips


Paid Time Off For Family Leave


Washington will be one of only eight states with paid leave in full effect. This is a big benefit to workers whether it’s a serious health conditions or caring for a family member in need.

Starting in January of 2020, a new insurance program called Paid Family Medical Leave is going into effect, and any person who worked at least 820 hours in the last 12 months and had a qualifying life event can take advantage of the policy. This equals to about 20.5 weeks at 40 hours a week.

Qualifying life events:

  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Serious illness or health condition, including mental health or addiction illnesses
  • Serious illness or health condition of a qualifying family member
  • Certain military events involving family, including the return of a deployed family member

Here are the key details of Bill 1399:

  • To qualify you need to have worked 820 hours in 2019
  • Application acceptance started in January 2020
  • You can take 12 weeks of paid leave a year – to care for yourself or life event
    • You can take up to 18 weeks if one or more significant events happen in the same year
  • You don’t have to take your leave all at once
  • Program is funded by workers
  • If you earn $50,000 or less, less than $2.50 will be taken out of your paycheck each week.

You might be wondering how this compares to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The federal program makes employers give time off up to 12 weeks, but it doesn’t have to be paid.

Insurance premiums that cover family leave are split between the employer(one-third) and the employees (two-thirds) for most employers. However, federal employers and employees, federally recognized tribes and the self-employed are exempt from the new family leave rules. The latter two can decided to opt-in if they want.


Overtime Reform After 44 Years


For the first time since 1976 there are major changes being made to Washington’s overtime rules.

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) announced the rule change on Dec. 11, which will go in effect on July 1, 2020.

The Department of Labor and Industries has updated the rules that determine which workers in Washington State are required by law to be paid at least minimum wage, earn overtime pay, and receive sick leave among other protections under the state Minimum Wage Act. The changes will affect executive, administrative, and professional (EAP) workers as well as outside salespeople and computer professionals across all industries in Washington.

The new rules will make an estimated 259,000 additional workers eligible for overtime pay by the time the rules are fully implemented in 2028, with another 235,000 workers having protection strengthened.

Changes to these rules will mean that some employers will have to provide overtime, minimum wage, and paid sick leave to some employees who were previously treated as exempt. In other cases, employers may need to increase salaries for exempt employees.

These workers will be identified by a combination of a predetermined fixed salary, the salary meeting a minimum threshold and specific job duties determines whether a worker meets the definition of an executive, administrative, or professional worker, outside salesperson or computer professional contained in state rules. Typically, “white collar” workers who often have more economic security and relative bargaining power than lower-wage workers.

As a general rule, these workers must be salaried and paid a minimum specified salary level, and must primarily perform executive, administrative, professional, outside sales or computer professional duties as defined by Washington State regulations.

In addition, starting on July 1 the minimum salary threshold needed for a company to not pay a worker overtime rates increases from $250 a week to $675 a week, which places a the new threshold to 1.5 times the states minimum wage. Small employers (with 1-50 employees) will have a more gradual schedule to phase-in these changes to give them more time to comply with the new rules compared to larger companies (51+ employees). The first threshold increase is set to start on July 1, 2020.

This minimum salary threshold will continue to increase every year until 2028, when it will reach 2.5 the states minimum wage or a rate of $1,603 a week, or $83,356 a year. In the years after 2028, the threshold will only increase to match minimum wage increases caused by inflation.

The new rules also make updates to the job duties tests. The state currently uses two job duties tests that have been reduced to one test with language that now more closely aligns with the federal job duties test.


New Bill Proposes “Holistic” Change


One might expect a transportation bill to propose new roads or enlargement of already existing roads, in an effort to help decrease the ever-increasing roadway traffic in Washington State. According to this new bill, Washington state can no longer build itself out of congestion and expanding roadways is not the right path to clearing up traffic.

Sponsor Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) explains that expanding roadways is not a solid, long-term approach to solving congestion.

“There’s some research that came out in 2011 that basically says, ‘if you build it, they will come,” Shewmake said. “For every 1 percent increase we get in road capacity, we see a 1 percent increase in traffic. So, we keep building more and more lanes to combat congestion and, especially if we do it in a haphazard manner, we’re gonna keep on having more and more congestion.”

This is a concept known as induced demand, meaning that whenever we build out, roads quickly clog up because it’s nature of expansion as buildings and communities grow around them.

Rep. Shewmake hopes to take a new “holistic” approach with House Bill 2688, which would remove “congestion relief” and “improved freight mobility” as a transportation goal. It would instead focus on accessibility, safety, environment and climate, healthy and resilience, equity and environmental justice, preservation, and functionality.

There are those that support this bill and those that are against this bill. Since this bill is currently only in the second stage in the process of a bill becoming law, it still remains to be seen whether this bill will pass the house and move on to the Senate.


799 Students Kept Out of School


As many as 799 students have been kept out of school on Wednesday, Jan 8, 2020 because they don’t have the proper vaccination paperwork.

Students were kept home as a result of a law change enacted by Washington State Legislators in May of 2019.  The new law, which applies to both public and private schools, eliminates the personal and philosophical exemption for children regarding the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine required for school. Essentially, students who do not have a religious or medical exemption to the MMR vaccination will no longer be allowed to attend class without proof of vaccination. According to Seattle Public Schools officials, more than 2,200 warning letters were sent to students alerting them they would be kept out of school if they did not comply with the new regulations. In an effort to help compliance, the district has hosted a series of free vaccination clinics.

This law was introduced as a response to two measles outbreaks in 2019, which yielded in more people being sick in Washington in a single year since 1990, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

Samara Hoag, health service manager at Seattle Public Schools, said “It’s very important for a safe, healthy learning environment for our students, some of whom have compromised immune systems, or they are very delicate in their health… It’s also important for our staff, and of course, it’s also part of the law.”

Students who went to school on the 8th and who will continue to try to attend school without the proof of being properly vaccinated will not be allowed to attend class and will be subsequently directed to a waiting area until a parent or guardian can pick them up. For students that have yet to be vaccinated, they will still be allowed into the school if they can provide proof of an upcoming vaccination appointment.

As a note, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 1,282 cases of measles in the United States in 2019, the worst year for this infectious disease since 1992. The global statistics were no better in 2019, with large outbreaks in various regions around the globe, and more than 400,000 measles cases being reported to the World Health Organizations as of November.


Smoking age now 21


The smoking and vaping age was set to rise from 18 to 21 in Washington State on Jan 1, 2020, but due to a new federal law implemented, this change applies for all U.S. States.

Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee signed this legislation in April, before it was signed as a federal law by the President on December 20, 2019. Washington was the 9th such state to raise the smoking age to 21 before it became a federal law.

It is important to note that this law only raises the age for tobacco and vaping sales, not possession.

According to the Washington Attorney General’s office, those who are between the ages of 18-20 will not be grandfathered in when the laws go into effect, meaning that it will be illegal for those under 21 to purchase tobacco or vaping products of any kind. Those who are caught selling such products to those under the age of 21 will be faced with severe consequences.

Many believe that this change will save thousands of young adult lives. “By passing this bill, the Legislature is saving thousands… from a lifetime of addiction and smoking-relating illnesses,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.


Cyclist and Automobiles – 3 Feet of Space

Bicyclists and drivers share the road on a common basis. However, as of Jan. 1, 2020 Washington Drivers must give cyclists and pedestrians three feet of space, or more, if passing them on the road. Lawmakers of Washington approved the new addition to the law in May (RCW 46.61.110).

Previously, drivers were instructed to pass bicyclists at a “safe distance.” The new rules clarify what that is for drivers.

The main points of the new law are:

  • If there are two or more lanes, drivers must move out of the right lane to pass a cyclist.
  • If there is only one lane in each direction, drivers must slow down and give the cyclist at least three feet of space.
  • If there is one lane in each direction, but not enough room to pass, the driver must move into oncoming traffic when safe to do so.

Many bicyclists believe that this is a positive change in the law. There are many reported cases of bicyclists being hit by cars that drove to close to the bicyclists on the road causing accidents and undue traffic.

This new law aims to reduce the amount of vehicular accidents involving bicycle riders in Washington State. Whether or not drivers will fully comply with this law remains to be seen.


The NDAA or the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 has passed through the Senate and the House as of 12/17/19 and has been signed into a law by President Trump on 12/20/19. This bill will allow military personnel who were victims of medical malpractice to sue the government for financial compensation. Previously, due to the Feres Doctrine, military personnel were not able to sue the government for any war-related injuries or on-duty accidents (including medical malpractice).

The Feres Doctrine is a 1950s Supreme Court decision which is commonly cited by lower courts to block troops from seeking damages for war-related injuries or on-duty accidents. The changes made to the NDAA effective 2020 “does not change or repeal the Feres doctrine, it authorizes the Secretary of Defense to allow, settle, and pay an administrative claim against the United States for personal injury or death … that was the result of medical malpractice caused by a Department of Defense health care provider.” Says a lawmaker that worked on the new changes of the NDAA.

Most of the claims will be limited to under $100,000 but there are exceptions that the Secretary of Defense could authorize in some circumstances. All claims would have to be filed within 2 years from the time of the incident, and payout would not cover the cost of attorney’s fees. In addition, the claims would be addressed through an existing Defense Department adjudication agency that handles Military Claims Act lawsuits and not in the regular federal courts.

As an example, the supreme court ruled against a service member when a civilian surgeon conducted a follow up surgery and found a 30-inch-by-18-inch towel inside the man labeled “Medical Department U.S. Army” that was left from the previous operation conducted at an Army hospital. The changes to the 2020 NDAA will allow military personnel who have been harmed by the negligent act of physicians, to bring a claim against the government for compensation.


What counts as “pain and suffering” in Washington State?

In the realm of the law, damages can be categorized into “economic damages” and “noneconomic damages”. Understandably, Washington State law classifies pain and suffering under the category of noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages are subjective and can include things such as:

  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Disability/Disfigurement

What role does fault play?

In Washington State, courts can divide fault amongst various parties involved[1]. To illustrate this, a case between two parties could see fault be divided 100%-0%, 60%-40%, 50%-50%, etc. This is just an example and fault of a real-life case would be dependent on the nature and specifics of the case.

How is pain and suffering calculated?

There is no formula that can be applied to every pain and suffering case in the same way. While it is true that the above noneconomic damages can be considered in a pain and suffering award, those damages are subjective and vary on a case-by-case basis.

Individuals seeking a pain and suffering award in Washington State are best served discussing the specifics of their case with a reputable attorney or law firm to ensure every aspect of their unique situation is considered in full.

Is there a statute of limitations for pain and suffering in Washington State?

As we’ve discussed before, Washington State has various limitations on past injuries. Please see our previous article on Washington State statutes of limitations or contact our team at 1-888-692-8854.



Those who have been involved in an automobile accident in Washington State may rightly be curious as to what the average car accident settlement amounts to. Unfortunately, this question does not have a straightforward answer.

There are so many factors involved in vehicle accident settlements that the amount awarded, if awarded at all, can vary drastically. Variables commonly entail type of vehicle, any economic or noneconomic damages suffered, and injuries sustained.

For example, one person may have only minor damage to their vehicle while another may have severe bodily injuries resulting in missed wages. The difference in these two cases would be so drastic the “average” number would be meaningless.

The other important variable when considering a car accident settlement is the role of the insurance company. As we’ve discussed before, the initial settlement offer presented by an insurance company is often not in the victim’s best interest. Rather, this offer is often a relatively inexpensive way to “make the problem go away” by contractually ending your right to pursue further compensation.

While the answer for the average car accident settlement amount is mired in complexity, all of the above reasons paint a clear picture of the value of working with a skilled legal team. Having knowledgeable and experienced experts reviewing the full details of your case and holding insurance companies responsible is a valuable asset in any individual’s pursuit of justice.