On Monday, May 6, at about 9:33 p.m., a Sound Transit bus ran a red light while exiting Interstate 405 near the Totem Lake Transit Center in Kirkland, Washington and crashed into an SUV traveling on eastbound on Northwest 128th Street. The impact killed passengers Robert H. Rotta, 76, and his wife, Elizabeth E. Rotta, 75. The SUV driver, Kendall L. Rotta, was taken to Harborview Medical Center for evaluation and emergency treatment.
At the time of the incident, there were approximately 35 passengers on board the bus. A Sound Transit spokesperson indicated that he could not confirm or deny whether the brakes had failed on the bus, but that possibility was under investigation. The bus was operated by Community Transit, which contracts with First Transit for maintenance of its buses.
In Washington, the owner and operator of a bus has a duty to exercise reasonable care to properly maintain its buses. If the brakes on the bus failed, it is important to establish why the brakes failed and whether the company had notice of the problem before the failure or whether lax maintenance led to the failure. The Washington State Patrol will conduct an investigation into the incident and issue findings concerning the cause of the crash. The estate of a person killed in this type of incident could assert a wrongful death claim. In a wrongful death claim, the estate could assert damages for financial losses, medical expenses, pre-death pain and suffering, and the loss of the parent-child relationship caused by the death. The bus company will usually assign an adjuster and possibility an attorney to begin working on its behalf early in the investigation. It is important that the family and any injured persons have legal representation to gather important information early in the investigation. Critical evidence collected early in the investigation can make the difference in the outcome of a case.