Randolph Schepper, a 70-year-old Bellingham resident, has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide. According to King County prosecutors, Schepper was speeding when he blew through a stop sign and slammed into another vehicle, killing his wife and fatally injuring a woman who was a passenger in the other vehicle. The driver of the second vehicle also suffered a severe head injury in the crash.
Schepper claims to have suffered a cervical fracture in the wreck; charging papers say he is almost completely paralyzed, with the exception of some mobility in one arm. He has denied speeding and told police that he could not see the stop sign because it was obscured by weeds.
Police believe he was driving at over 50 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone before the wreck, and that the stop sign should have been clearly visible to a responsible driver. The intersection is also equipped with a sign warning drivers of the upcoming stop 500 feet ahead of the stop sign, and there are also white rumble strips as drivers approach the intersection. Witnesses who saw the Schepper vehicle speeding just before the crash commented to each other that “it wasn’t going to stop for the stop sign.” While the charging papers say that the setting sun could potentially have contributed to Schepper’s difficulty seeing the vehicle, this “does not explain how he could have missed not only the stop sign, but the stop sign ahead (sign) and the white ‘rumble strips’ as he approached the intersection, or why he was exceeding the posted speed limit if he was having difficulty seeing where he was going.”
You can be injured and at fault
Just because someone was severely injured in an accident doesn’t mean that they can’t be held liable for hurting someone else. Criminal cases for vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, driving under the influence, felony hit-and-run, and other crimes can still proceed even if the perpetrator of those crimes was also injured in the wreck.
In civil cases, if you are at fault for the accident, you will not be able to recover damages from the other driver’s liability insurance. You can, however, pay some of your expenses with Personal Injury Protection coverage, often referred to PIP. PIP is a limited pool of money set aside by your own insurance company to pay for injuries, lost wages, and loss of essential services after a wreck; in Washington state, PIP is considered “no fault” coverage, which means that it applies even if the crash was the fault of the driver who bought the PIP insurance.
If you were at fault for an accident, a personal injury attorney is unlikely to take your case. PIP is usually capped at $10,000, unless you pay more for a more generous plan; because personal injury attorneys usually work on a contingency fee basis, their payment would be taken out of that very limited pool of money that you need to pay for your treatment. Personal injury attorneys usually represent people who are not found to be at fault for accidents; injured victims who are not at fault can file claims for liability coverage, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and in some cases be compensated out of the at-fault person’s personal assets.