ambulance chasersThe legal system and the practice of law is chop full of unique terms and labels.  Many of these are used to describe persons, events, or procedures.  Case law, discovery, house arrest, pleadings, pro se, service of process…all of these represent just a quick sampling of terms embed within the law.  Some terms are helpful.  Some represent procedural necessities.  Some are rooted in Latin while others have developed over time.

Personal injury law shares in this general use of terms and labels.  There’s one term, however, that often gathers more attention and intrigue in the personal injury context.  The term is “ambulance chaser;” and, it describes a nasty and ugly component to the personal injury profession.

Ambulance Chaser

Many of us are already familiar with this term.  We’ve heard it in movies.  We’ve read it in newspapers or magazines.  Some may even have heard it used as the punch line in a joke.

The dictionary tells us that an ambulance chaser is a personal injury lawyer who seeks out accident victims and persuades them to sue for damages.  True, an ambulance chaser may help describe a certain personal injury attorney.  However, it’s highly offensive for people to assume that all personal injury attorneys fall under the umbrella of this label.

Any profession in our society is comprised of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  There are great mechanics and then there are the liars and thieves.  There are great athletes and then there are the cheaters.  There are noble politicians and then there are the corrupt.

These same concepts apply to personal injury attorneys.  There are just and ethical personal injury attorneys; and then, there are the unjust ones.  Ambulance chaser is a derogatory term that helps describe the unjust.  It’s used to describe unethical personal injury attorneys that may solicit business at the scene of an accident or disaster.  It’s a term best reserved for the sharks swimming in muddy water that seek to personally gain from a person’s misfortune or devastation.  Ambulance chaser should be considered an ugly term best left for the personal injury attorney found at the bottom of the barrel.

Our Difference

As a firm specializing in the practice of personal injury law, we believe that it’s invaluable to focus some attention on the term in question for it’s a term we successfully avoid.  Our firm is comprised of a highly talented team of professionals.  Our attorneys are ethically intact.  They are dedicated.  They are trustworthy.  They may be aggressive and passionate in their representation of a client, but they are far from using unsound practices or tactics.

We understand that the term ambulance chaser comes with the practice of personal injury law.  At times, the term may be useful.  It may assist in identifying the unjust members of our profession.  Nevertheless, we believe the term is a nasty term.  It’s an ugly term.  It’s a term we work tirelessly to avoid.  As stated above, a personal injury attorney may aptly deserve the ambulance chaser label.  However, it’s a label that does not apply equally to all members of our profession and it definitely does not apply to our firm.

Our clients include people who have been seriously injured.  Our clients include people who have been impaired in their ability to work due to injuries.  Our clients include people who have lost family members due to other people’s carelessness.  In short, we understand that the lives of our clients have been disrupted, if not torn apart.  We value and care for our clients and our attorneys would never begin to take advantage of their situations.

Ambulance chaser may be a term used in our profession, but just keep it away from our firm.  One of our main goals is to resolve problems.  The resolutions we seek are honorable and they are packaged in the principles of justice and righteousness.  This is our difference.  This is our commitment to our clients.  This is the way we practice law.

Image Credit: Jason Kuffer via Flickr


Glenn Desk-scaled“Counselor” is a title often given to lawyers.  The title is given because lawyers should do more than provide legal advice and guidance.  All good lawyers should provide sound counseling to clients.  This counseling should inform, educate and clearly convey legal judgments.  But perhaps more importantly, it should answer questions, soothe nerves and assist with the emotional thunderstorm our system of justice can, at times, create.

The Phillips Law Firm is more than a group of attorneys that render legal advice.  We’re counselors; and, we understand that legal terms and concepts may confuse and even intimidate at times.  As counselors, one of our goals is to generate sincere clarity so as to avoid this confusion and intimidation.  One of the reasons we incorporate this blog into our website is to help achieve this goal by explaining complex legal concepts.

Negligence is a legal term that typically saturates a personal injury case.  The term, however, is not an easy one to grasp.  We’ll go even farther here.  If you were Jason searching for a Golden Fleece, negligence would be your Hydra.  Not to worry though.  As counselors, we’re here to help.

What Exactly is Negligence?

In short, negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.  According to Black’s Law Dictionary, negligence is “the omission to do something which a reasonable man…would do.”  It’s also the act of “doing something which a reasonable man would not do.”  In personal injury lawsuits, negligence is often determined by reference to the situation, the knowledge of the parties, and all attendant circumstances.

Let’s consider a few examples to help clarify.  The following is a brief list of acts or situations in which negligence could be found.

  • A store owner could be negligent in maintaining a safe establishment if, in mopping the floor, he creates a slippery surface and fails to post a “Wet Floor” sign.
  • A doctor could be negligent in his care if, while operating on a patient, he misreads the medical chart and operates on a wrong body part.
  • A driver could be negligent in his operation of a motor vehicle if he fails to stop at a stop sign or drives at an excessive speed.
  • A property owner could be negligent in the maintenance of his home if he leaves a step railing unrepaired and the disrepair causes a friend to trip and fall.

In each of these situations, a party failed to act as an otherwise reasonable person would.  This failure could lead to the party’s negligence.

Why is Negligence Important?

Negligence is a critical component to personal injury suits because if an injured party proves that another person acted negligently, the party can try to recover damages for any injury sustained.  Negligence is basically the key that unlocks the right to compensation when an act, or a failure to act, causes harm and injury.  If negligence is proven, this compensation can be for harm to a person’s: body, property, financial status, ability to work, and mental well-being.

Is Negligence Difficult to Prove?

The quick answer is that it all depends on the circumstances and facts involved in a particular case.  Please note that in proving negligence, a plaintiff (or injured party) must prove four distinct elements.  The first is that a person owed an injured party a certain duty of care.  The second is that this person failed to adhere to, or breached, this duty.  The third is that this breach caused a harm or injury.  The fourth is that a plaintiff actually suffered damages from the harm or injury incurred.

Let’s return to the driving example mentioned above.  As drivers, we have a duty to exercise sound judgment and abide by traffic laws when operating a motor vehicle.  If we operate a vehicle and fail to stop at a stop sign, then we have breached this duty.  If, in failing to stop, we collided with another vehicle or pedestrian, then our breach may have caused a harm or injury.  If the driver of the other vehicle, or the pedestrian, suffered damages from the creation of our harm, then we could very well be negligent in our operation of the vehicle and could be legally responsible to compensate the injured party for any losses or injuries sustained.

A difficulty in proving negligence is that every element of a negligence claim has to be proven on its own.  If one element cannot be proven, then an entire negligence claim fails.  Our initial question was whether negligence is difficult to prove.  Our same answer is that it might or might not be.  It all depends on the particular facts of a case and whether the facts can support all of the elements of a negligence case.

Please consider the above a basic workshop into the concept of negligence.  We know that in attempting to clarify complex and confusing legal terms that questions may arise.  Please never hesitate to contact us if your questions have not been answered.  We are here to provide legal guidance.  But, we are also here to serve as counselors.


Your shiny new automobile may include a feature you didn’t request, and probably don’t even know about. Most- almost 96 percent- of the mass-produced vehicles in 2013, contain an event data recorder, or EDR. These EDRs, akin to “black box” surveillance devices, record your every maneuver while you’re behind the wheel.

Most people don’t know about the EDRs, even though they soon could become a mandatory automotive feature. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is requesting that, starting in September 2014, the installation of EDRs in all light passenger vehicles be required. However, opponents of the idea have begun raising awareness in an attempt to enlighten drivers to the fact that data concerning their every move behind the wheel is being collected, and could easily be shared, and used against them.

Few safeguards are in place and the still-emerging technology raises many questions about what types of information can legally be collected and who should be allowed to access it. Opponents of the NHTSA’s proposal argue that the EDRs are capable of collecting huge amounts of data, and that without proper protections, use of that information could be abused.

So far, only thirteen states have implemented restrictions safeguarding the data from being used without consent, by making it the property of the driver.

What Data Does an EDR Collect?

Law enforcement officials in Washington State told National Public Radio that the devices were never intended for investigative purposes, but rather designed to improve motor vehicle safety and help minimize passenger injuries.

Standard EDRs do not differentiate between specific drivers of the same vehicle, but rather, they provide a “snap shot” of what happens in a vehicle in those crucial moments just prior to a crash. According to the type of EDR, the device can record vehicle speed, crash force at the moment of impact, whether the brake was engaged before impact, if the seat belt was buckled, and other information about the state of the engine right before the crash.


It is generally undisputed that seat belts prevent injuries and save lives. In fact, mountains of crash test results and real-world accident statistics demonstrate that a properly worn seat belt restraint system is the single most effective source of safety for automobile occupants. Automobile manufacturers are required by federal law to install seat belts in passenger cars, and forty-nine states have enacted mandatory seat belt use laws. Despite all this focus on the importance of seat belt use, many states still have various forms of evidentiary rules that prohibit defendants from telling a jury that a plaintiff disregarded available safety features and violated mandatory seat belt laws by not wearing a seat belt.

However, the legislatures and courts in an increasing number of states have begun to apply the so-called “seat belt defense” in view of the acknowledged effectiveness of seat belts. Under the seat belt defense, a plaintiff’s recovery for personal injury could be reduced completely, or in part by his/her failure to use a seat belt.

Seat Belt Laws in Washington State

Washington State has primary enforcement laws regarding seat belt use. This means motorists can be stopped and ticketed exclusively because they were not using their seat belt. Studies have shown that states with primary enforcement laws generally have seat belt usage rates 10 to 15 percent higher than secondary laws, and subsequently have lower injury and death rates.

However, currently, Washington State has no seat belt defense in place. In regards to mandatory seat belt use, the Revised Code of Washington 46.61.688(6) states that “failure to comply with the requirements of this section does not constitute negligence, nor may failure to wear a safety belt assembly be admissible as evidence of negligence in any civil action.”

Yet that won’t prevent an insurance adjuster from trying to use this tactic to reduce your settlement or deny your claim. Insurance companies will use any tactic they can to avoid paying top dollar in an injury lawsuit. As such, you need an experienced car accident attorney on your side from the moment you are injured. Your attorney will be able to fight for your rights to compensation and prevent insurance companies from using devious or deceptive tactics to reduce your claim.

If you have been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to call an attorney, such as those Phillips Law Firm, to ensure that you get the justice and compensation that you deserve.


It seems drivers are constantly bombarded with reminders not to use their cellphones when behind the wheel, but current statistics show that some are still not listening. The 2014 edition of “Injury Facts,” an annual report assembled by the National Safety Council (NSC), shows that cellphone use by motorists was a factor in 26 percent of the nation’s car accidents in 2013, a slight increase from the previous year.

The greatest number of accidents was attributed to distracted driving due to talking on both hand-held and hands-free cellphones, while only 5 percent of crashes were blamed on texting.

Together with Texas A&M research institute’s “Voice-to-Text Driver Distraction Study,” the NSC report cautions drivers that talking can actually be more dangerous than texting while driving, and that using a talk-to-text feature is not an acceptable solution. Interestingly, the Texas A&M survey discovered that for most phone-related tasks, manual texting took slightly less time than did the talk-to-text method. However, both tasks affected driver performance nearly the same.

In the NSC report, tasks were rated on a cognitive distraction scale in relation to the effect they have on a driver’s mental workload. Talking on a hand-held phone while driving has a 2.45 workload, using a hands-free device while driving has a 2.27 workload rating, and using the talk-to-text application while driving carried a 3.06 workload rating.

As early as 2009, studies have been published, such as one in the Journal of Safety Research, that suggest hands-free cellphone use has become a driving force in cellphone related driving distractions, and that they serve as no less a distraction than hand-held phones.

Car Accident Statistics

Data collected on car accidents and fatalities caused by cellphone use is said to be under-reported because of drivers’ lack of willingness to confess to cellphone use, but according to NSC’s website, there were 245,358 car accidents involving cellphones in the first three months of this year.

Using data from 2011, NSC and Nationwide Insurance collaborated to report the most accurate number of cellphone-related car accident fatalities- 350 fatal crashes in 2011. The NSC goes on to report that the number of drivers observed manipulating hand-held devices increased from 2010 to 2011.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, twelve states, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have made it illegal to use hand-held devices while driving, and forty-three states have banned texting and driving.


Although the relationship is not completely understood, traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been determined as a risk factor for epilepsy. A new study involving mice, published in Cerebral Cortex, identified increased levels of a specific neurotransmitter as a contributing factor linking TBI with post-traumatic epilepsy.

The research team, piloted by David Cantu and Chris Dulla, examined the effect of TBI on levels of the neurotransmitter, gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), in the cerebral cortex, that portion of the brain associated with higher level functions including information processing.

Under normal functions, GABA inhibits neurotransmission in the brain, while glutamate stimulates neurotransmission. After a brain injury damages the cortex, the cells that create GABA, called interneurons, die. This causes a toxic buildup of glutamate, which over stimulates brain activity. This disrupted balance of GABA and glutamate has been identified as a factor in increased epileptic brain activity.

Interneurons play an integral role in preventing the onset of epileptic seizures, and researchers believe if these cells could be preserved, the negative consequences of TBIs could be decreased. This research provides great insight to the effects of severe single head injuries that often occur in contact sports and military service.

Effects of Epilepsy

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.3 million Americans are affected by epilepsy. As estimated by the Epilepsy Foundation, 15 to 34 percent of TBI patients suffer from post-traumatic epilepsy, and that rate rises to as much as 52 percent amongst TBI patients with active duty military roles.

Millions of Americans suffer TBIs every year, all too often, with dire consequences. Issues with basic skills such as talking, walking, and independent daily living are all possible results of TBIs. In addition to being linked with military service and contact sports, TBIs can be caused by falls that interfere with the brain development of children, and disrupt the delicate brain systems of the elderly.

This study is a significant step toward identifying the relationship between TBI and post-traumatic epilepsy, and although the specific neurological causes of how TBI kills interneurons are yet unknown, the study potentially outlines what happens after brain injury to trigger epilepsy. Comprehending how TBI disturbs normal brain function will allow researchers to develop new therapies to help post-traumatic epilepsy victims recover.


When a case involves significant injury, and neither party admits to any wrongdoing, the best means of proof is through the use of an expert witness. An expert witness is one who has “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge” who can assist a jury in understanding the evidence in a personal injury lawsuit. These experts are qualified by the court system through their academic training, board certification, or work experience, among other forms of credentials.

It is common, in the personal injury context, that the services of expert witnesses will be required by both parties to prove an element of their case. In order to be deemed an expert witness in any given field, the expert witness candidate must be qualified to render an opinion in the given field, and possess an opinion that is considered reliable in the particular field.

During the discovery and pre-trial preparation process, both parties must disclose the testimony of their respective expert witnesses before the expert is called to the stand during trial. This gives the other litigants the opportunity to depose the expert and to secure any rebuttal expert witness testimony if need be. Failure to disclose expert witness testimony in a timely and proper manner can lead to exclusion of the expert, or even more seriously, the dismissal or early disposition of the case, as a punitive measure.

Examples of Personal Injury Expert Witnesses

Due to the physical injuries at the core of a personal injury lawsuit, medical expert witnesses are nearly always an important part of the case for either party. In fact, the retention of a medical expert witness prior to a plaintiff even starting a suit is mandatory in some states. Examples of other commonly used expert witnesses include:

  • Automotive, mechanical, or equipment engineers
  • Accident reconstruction experts
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Forensic specialists
  • Mental health experts and psychologists
  • Product developers
  • Psychiatrists or other medical professionals

An expert witness commonly used in serious injury cases on topics unrelated to how the accident happened is a life-care planning expert. This witness will assist the jury in understanding the future medical care the plaintiff will require and the subsequent costs. An economic loss expert can calculate a real dollar loss for a seriously injured person’s inability to return to work.


Buses are a fairly safe mode of transportation in Seattle, and chartering a bus is certainly an efficient way to ferry groups of tourists from one location to another. As statistically safe as they are, however, accidents can still happen, and sometimes lead to insurance claims and lawsuits.

In the eyes of federal and most state laws, a bus is considered a “common carrier,” an entity whose business it is to move people or goods from one place to another for a fee. In addition to tour buses, school buses, commercial buses, taxicabs, commercial airplanes, cruise ships, and some trucks are included in this designation. Because they are responsible for the safety of passengers, common carriers must be conscientious and exercise the utmost diligence in regards to this obligation. Examples of negligence that often result in successful lawsuits against common carriers include:

  • Poorly or inadequately maintained buses and equipment
  • Overloaded or improperly loaded buses
  • Bus operators who are overtired, under the influence of intoxicants, or inadequately trained

When negligence results in injuries, victims may sue for damages. However, if the bus driver was exercising a reasonable degree of care and the bus accident happened as the result of some other vehicle being driven recklessly, a court would most likely not find the bus driver negligent.

Determining Liability in a Tour Bus Accident

Any one of several different entities could be found liable in a tour bus accident including, the tour company, the bus company, even one of the various locations at which the bus stops. Sometimes, multiple parties could be held liable for contributory negligence if they had any part in causing the accident.

Tour companies, which hire bus companies with a documented history of safety violations or negligent activity, could share liability with the bus company if an accident ensues and injuries result. Likewise, bus companies have a duty to maintain reasonably safe buses in their fleet, employ drivers and operators who meet basic requirements, and generally demonstrate its fitness as a common carrier. If a passenger trips or falls at a tour destination after leaving the bus, the venue operator may be liable for the passenger’s injuries.


Thanks to drunk driving awareness and activist groups, the number of people killed or injured as a result of drunk drivers has decreased in recent years. However, drugged driving, driving under the influence of illegal and prescription drugs, continues to be a problem. Taking drugs, even prescription medication, will impair your driving skills. Drugged drivers may suffer from slower reaction times, erratic and aggressive behavior, inability to concentrate, nausea, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, tremors, drowsiness, dizziness, and fatigue.

When an automobile accident occurs, and the responding officer suspects driver impairment, he can order the driver to be screened for the presence of drugs in the blood stream, either through blood or urine tests.

Every state has specific blood-alcohol level restrictions in order to regulate drunk driving, but it is much more difficult to regulate drugged driving for a variety of reasons:

• The vast number of illicit and prescription drugs that cause impairment • The varying degree of impairment to individuals by the same drug • Difficulty in testing every drug for possible impairments • Variation on amount of time drugs stay in the bloodstream

Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can have an effect on a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Drowsiness, impaired judgment, and lack of self-confidence are just some of these effects. These effects can be amplified if medication is not taken according to instructions. Altering dosages or frequencies is never a good idea. Often these effects are short-lived, so it is possible to refrain from driving until one can do so safely.

It is the responsibility of every driver to make sure they are safe to operate a vehicle before getting behind the wheel. All medications have warning labels that tell patients of the risks associated with taking them, and warnings against driving or operating heavy machinery. The best way to make sure a drug is safe is to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. They can advise you on how to safely take your medication without risking anyone’s safety by driving while impaired.


Everyone knows about the hazards of texting while driving, but now it seems that pedestrians who text may be just as dangerous.

According to results from a recent study, texting while walking causes a significant distraction, and could potentially put pedestrians in great jeopardy. Researchers at the University of Queensland evaluated twenty-six smartphone users who had owned their smartphones for at least three months and were regular users.

A three-dimensional movement system consisting of eight cameras set in specific locations monitored every motion from head angle to body position. Test subjects were then asked to perform a series of tasks which included, walking in a straight line, attempting to walk a straight line while reading a text, and attempting to walk a straight line while texting. After reviewing the footage on the cameras, researchers came to some interesting conclusions:

• Reading or sending a text message caused the participants to walk at a slower pace • Reading or sending a text message altered the participants’ balance due to reduced head movement and arm swing • Reading or sending a text message prohibited the participants from walking in a straight line

Even though it can sometimes be amusing to witness a walking texter stumble around, experts agree that it is a very dangerous endeavor. When a pedestrian is not focused on the task at hand, they could easily walk into objects or other people, fall down stairs, or wander into the path of oncoming traffic.

In the United State, the number of pedestrians injured while using their cell phones has steadily increased since 2006. As a matter of fact, one recent Ohio State University study found that 1,500 pedestrians were sent to emergency rooms across the United States to receive treatment for smartphone-related injuries in 2010, almost doubling since 2005. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that texting distractions were a possible contributing factor in the 4,280 pedestrian fatalities recorded for 2010, a four percent increase over the previous year.

The issue has become such a problem, that, according to, lawmakers in at least five states have attempted to pass laws that address distracted walking.