According to the Washington State Patrol, at approximately 5:14 am, a 52-year-old Seattle woman attempted an improper U-turn maneuver while driving westbound on SR-900. Her vehicle was struck by an oncoming westbound vehicle, throwing her car across the centerlines into eastbound traffic. Her vehicle was then hit again by an eastbound car before a fourth vehicle lost control while trying to avoid the collision, eventually striking another car and a guardrail.
The 52-year-old woman died at the scene. The drivers of the second vehicle, a 78-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman, were transported to Harborview Medical Center and Valley Medical Center with serious injuries. The drivers of the third and fourth vehicles sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
The fatal collision closed both directions of SR-900 near South 129th Street for over 4 hours, reopening around 9:30 am. The crash remains under investigation, with drugs and alcohol not yet ruled out as contributing factors, according to officials.
This deadly incident highlights safety issues on the busy 4-mile SR-900 corridor, which has seen nearly 1,000 crashes over the past decade – half of them occurring near this intersection. Community leaders have been calling for infrastructure improvements and more diligent driving practices to prevent future loss of life.
At-Fault Driver’s Liability Insurance Coverage
The 52-year-old woman who attempted the improper U-turn and died at the scene appears to be primarily responsible for the deadly crash, according to officials. Therefore, her auto insurance policy will be primary in helping compensate the victims.
Washington is a fault-based state, meaning the vehicle owner and the at-fault driver are responsible for damages. We do not know the extent of bodily injuries or vehicle/property damages from this collision. However, major multi-car accidents often lead to extensive repairs, loss of income, and substantial medical bills – easily surpassing six figures.
Suppose the deceased woman carried state minimum 25/50/10 liability coverage, which translates to $25,000 per injured person, $50,000 per accident, and $10,000 for property damage. With one confirmed death and at least two serious injuries, the $50,000 per accident will likely get consumed quickly. Hopefully, the at-fault driver had higher 100/300/100 or better liability limits. Even then, damages could still exceed her coverage, meaning injured parties may need to utilize their car insurance policies, including uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, to help fill gaps. Lawsuits may also follow to recover additional compensation.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
When the at-fault driver does not have enough coverage to pay for all the damages, uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage becomes extremely important. Costs pile up fast with ambulance transport, ER visits, surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, and other medical treatments required after a traffic collision. That’s not even accounting for lost wages and pain and suffering.
Let’s hope the 78-year-old man and 26-year-old woman seriously injured carried decent UM protection on their auto policies, or else they could be facing massive out-of-pocket expenses. 100/300 UIM is a good starting point, but 250/500 or higher limits are ideal. UM also covers hit-and-run accidents where the at-fault driver flees the scene. Every driver in Washington should evaluate their UM limits to protect themselves and their passengers, especially since UM rates are very reasonable.
Collision insurance covers damage to your car from an accident, regardless of fault. That means all four vehicles damaged can file claims to get repairs or total losses paid for minus deductibles.
Given the violent impacts and vehicles crossing travel lanes, we can assume the cars likely sustained significant damage, some with airbag deployment, mechanical damage, bent frames, and wheel damage. Total losses are possible when the insurer declares vehicles “too far gone” and pays to replace rather than repair the vehicles.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Personal injury protection, commonly called PIP, provides vital first-party medical coverage following a major accident like this. PIP helps pay initial medical bills and even lost wages during recovery – long before the completion of the claims investigation.
Washington does not require PIP, but carriers offer it as an add-on coverage. Those injured in the accident would benefit immensely if their policies included PIP. Even just $10,000 limits would get the ball rolling for treatment. PIP pays your medical expenses without assigning fault or demanding reimbursement from the at-fault party immediately, providing peace of mind and financial assistance as accident victims begin treatment.
Seeing how SR 900 has been the site of almost 1,000 crashes causing injury over the past decade, Seattle metro drivers should consider purchasing PIP to protect themselves. $10,000 is better than nothing. Up to $35,000 in PIP coverage is available in WA for higher premiums, which collision victims will appreciate. PIP won’t eliminate medical bills or lost income but takes an edge off the immediate financial stress often magnified after sustaining injuries in a severe accident.
This tragic incident involving multiple injured parties and a confirmed fatality demonstrates why drivers must educate themselves and seriously consider higher liability limits as well as added protections like UM/UIM and PIP. Even defensive and attentive drivers can become wrapped up in accidents caused by others.
While the at-fault driver who attempted the dangerous U-turn ultimately paid with their life, additional victims now face physical recovery and financial uncertainty for medical expenses that may eclipse insurance coverage. We hope an adequate liability policy was in place, but we may never know. Wise drivers proactively prepare for the worst-case scenario through proper coverage.
Without UM and PIP, the elderly gentleman and younger woman could experience even more hardship in the aftermath. Ongoing disability, lost wages, and uninsured medical bills can spiral. This heartbreaking loss of life and grave injuries offer a reminder to discuss insurance regularly with your agent and review coverages that offset the risks we face every day we get into a car. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure when it comes to auto insurance preparation.
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