King County Examiner reports on 2008 non-traffic accidental deaths

The King County Medical Examiner (ME) released its annual report on deaths in the county in 2008. The leading cause of non-traffic accidental deaths were falls, primarily in the elderly. The second largest cause of accidental deaths in this category was accidental overdoses of drugs and/or poisons. Highlights of the report are below, or click here to read the full report.

Of the 739 non-traffic accidental deaths, 18% of the accidents occurred outside of King County but the injured person was taken to medical facilities, usually Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, for treatment.


The ME reported that there were 739 non-traffic accidental deaths in 2008 and that 44% of these deaths were attributed to falls. Approximately 81% of people whose deaths were attributed to falls were 70 years old or over and many of these falls were ground-level falls which resulted in fractures and complications including pneumonia.


In 2008, 232 of the 739 — or 31% — of non-traffic accidental deaths were caused by overdoses of drugs and/or poisons. In this category, 32% of the deaths occurred in people between the ages of 40-49, 31% occurred in adults between the ages of 5-50. It is interesting to note that there were no accidental drug deaths of children or infants under the age of 15.


There were 13 fire-related deaths in King County in 2008. Many of these deaths (9 of the 13) were from people who were injured outside of King County but were brought to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment at the Burn Intensive Care Unit.


There were 23 drowning deaths in King County in 2008. 18 of the 23 drowning victims were male.


Ten people died from choking in 2008. All of these deaths occurred in adults over the age of 50 and 40% were in the 50-59 age group.

Complication of Therapy

In 2008, there were 81 “complication of therapy” deaths. These are deaths of people who die while being treated using a medical therapy and a complication arises which kills the patient. Complications of therapy sometimes involves medical malpractice and it includes hospital falls or injuries in hospitals, wrong-site surgeries, and prescription errors such as overdose or allergic reaction to a medication.

Of complication of therapy deaths, 37% were related to a medical procedure, 25% were drug related and 38% were surgery related.

Other accidental deaths

Other accidental deaths include:

  • 14 people who died of asphyxia
  • 2 people who died after being hit by an object
  • 3 people who were struck by trains
  • 4 people who succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning
  • 4 people who died of of hypothermia
  • 1 person who died after being electrocuted

This information is provided by Washington Injury Attorney blog, a service of The Farber Law Group. We represent people who have been seriously injured in accidents due to the negligence of another. We also represent families who have wrongful death claims when they have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another.

Contact The Farber Law Group at 1-800-244-9087 or to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue to assist you.

Information for this posting is from:
King County Medical Examiner’s Office – 2008 Annual Report prepared by David Fleming, MD and Richard Harruff, MD, PHD.

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