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A man driving a Subaru Impreza attempted to pass a truck on a two-lane highway in a no passing zone and was unable to get back in time and collided with an oncoming vehicle. The Impreza was then pushed into the truck that was being passed.

According to the Washington State Police, the accident happened on U.S. Highway 2, five miles south of Newport in the evening, Friday February 1. The driver of the Impreza was killed and the driver of the Saturn was injured and taken to the hospital. The accident is still under investigation, and at the time of the incident, neither drugs nor alcohol were suspected to be factors.

Passing Illegally and Liability

Under Washington Sate law, it is illegal to pass on a non-divided, two-lane highway if you have to cross a double yellow centerline. The reason for this is the safety of those in the passing car, the passed car and the oncoming car. The state department of transportation guidelines indicate where and when there should be a double yellow and where it’s OK to pass, and the roads are marked accordingly.

When someone does pass and is in a collision with an oncoming car, the issue of liability arises. First, it’s important to know, that just because someone violates a traffic law, doesn’t mean that they are automatically the at-fault driver in an accident that occurred because of their breaking the code.

Why? Because traffic violations are enforced in criminal court, and the issue of liability in a personal injury case in for a civil trial. The standards are different for one, and Washington—like most states—has a law that states that breaking the law does not establish being found negligent in a civil trial.

Who is Going to Pay?

The law does say that the person who is negligent in an accident is at fault and thus liable for the damages the other person has sustained. So when it comes to passing on two-lane highway, if a person crosses the centerline and hits an oncoming car, then the driver who was in the wrong lane is at fault because he or she was not operating their car with due care and not because he or she crossed a double yellow line. For almost all drivers, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay for the damages under the terms of the policy.

One question comes up is whether the insurance company still has to pay if the at-fault driver dies. The uncertainty would come in because technically, the insurance company is no longer insuring that driver because he passed away, and an argument could be made that there is no longer an agreement for the insurance company to pay out for damages when the insured is dead.

Insurance Policy and Coverage

However, just about every auto insurance policy is considered an incident-based policy. This means that the coverage for an incident is determined if there is coverage on the day of the accident, and if there was, then that insurance company has to pay even if the driver later dies or drops the insurance company.

This comes up in cases where the insured has died or got a new insurance company shortly after the accident. So it may end up that a driver gets a new insurance company, but their old one will have to pay for their accident because their policy was in operation at the time of the incident. This also applies if the insured has died subsequent to the incident.

Talk to an Attorney Today

If you are involved in an auto accident due to someone else’s negligence, talk to an attorney to find out your rights under the law. When questions come about insurance coverage, you can’t just take the word of the insurance adjuster. You need someone on your side.

The attorneys at Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S., serve clients in Spokane, Washington, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and surrounding communities. They can go toe-to-toe with the insurance companies and their lawyers to get you fair compensation for your injuries. Call them at (509) 926-4900, or send them a message by clicking here.

CCD Law