Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

I am here to help you.

Call for a free consultation (206) 340-2008

The Seattle Personal Injury Blog

Federal Safety Rules for Interstate Bus and Truck Drivers

Posted Friday, December 8, 2017 by Chris Thayer

In June 2017, a 25-year-old man left Seattle on an overnight Greyhound bus bound for California. The bus made a brief stop in Central Point, Oregon, and began to depart before one passenger made it back onboard. Hunter Brown ran alongside the bus and pounded its side, but then he tripped right in the bus’s path. The bus struck him, and he died.

Now Brown’s family is suing Greyhound Lines, claiming that the bus company violated federal safety rules and accusing it of gross negligence. They filed the lawsuit in Texas, where Greyhound hoses its principal place of business. Specifically, Brown’s parents claim that the bus driver had been driving longer than allowed under federal law. They have not yet asked for specific monetary damages but seek “accountability of this corporation and a change in how it does business to protect our communities and so that other passengers do not have to endure what Hunter suffered.”

The lawsuit alleges that the Greyhound driver was “late, fatigued and hostile to the passengers he was supposed to keep safe.” The bus was an hour late leaving Seattle and, allegedly, the driver had already been driving for nine and a half hours.

What is Gross Negligence?

According to the Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions, gross negligence “is substantially greater than ordinary negligence.” It means “failure to exercise slight care.” The term has never been explicitly defined by state statute.

However, the Washington standard will not apply in the Brown family’s case since the lawsuit was filed in Texas.

Federal Safety Rules for Interstate Bus and Truck Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established specific regulations regarding how many hours interstate bus and truck drivers carrying passengers can serve. The goal is to help drivers stay alert and awake and to keep fatigued drivers off the roads. A driver who does not follow these rules may be found negligent or grossly negligent.

Interstate bus and truck operators may only drive shifts up to 10 hours, but only if they rest at least eight hours between shifts. They are also not allowed to drive after they have been on duty for 60 hours in any consecutive seven-day period. The Brown family’s complaint only alleges that the Greyhound operator violated the 10-hour limit, not that he violated the rest period rules.

Companies that operate vehicles every day of the week may follow the 70-hour/eight-day schedule. Drivers are only permitted to operate their vehicles up to 70 hours in any consecutive eight-day period. After that they must rest from driving; they, like those following the 60-hour/seven-day schedule, are permitted to perform other work.

There are other rules that interstate bus and truck operators must follow. Any violations of federal (or state) safety rules may lead to injury and leave the operator and employer liable for personal injury damages.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a bus or trucking accident. Our experienced attorneys will help recover the compensation that you deserve.

Recent Salmonella Outbreak Caused by Pre-Cut Fruit

Posted Friday, December 1, 2017 by Chris Thayer

The Washington State Department of Health has linked pre-cut fruit like watermelon and cantaloupe to a recent salmonella outbreak, which has sickened at least 16 people in Washington and Oregon. (Five of the cases were in King County.) The affected fruit was sold at several grocery chains in both states, including Fred Meyer and Central Market, between October 25 and December 1.

The Department of Health is working with other government officials to determine where the fruit originated and where it was cut and packaged. This information is important for anyone interested in filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Foodborne illnesses like salmonella affect one in six Americans every year, according to the Department of Health. Symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and fever and usually appear within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated food. While most people recover without medical treatment, babies, the elderly, pregnant women, and people who suffer from chronic illness can become seriously ill.

Other common causes of food poisoning include:

  • Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes inflammation of the stomach, intestines or both, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common symptoms are vomiting, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Any symptoms usually appear 12 to 48 hours after exposure to norovirus. It often spreads quickly in places like schools and nursing homes.
  • E. coli is a bacteria that lives in the intestines of humans and animals. This bacteria is normally an important part of a healthy intestinal tract, but some can cause illness, according to the CDC. Symptoms vary based on the person but may include bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting. You could develop symptoms anywhere from one to 10 days after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria.
  • Vibriosis, which is caused by the vibrio bacteria and can be found in raw or undercooked shellfish like oysters, according to the CDC. While most people sickened by vibriosis recover after a few days and suffer no lasting effects, more serious infections may require intensive care. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, fever, and chills.

Can I Bring a Food Poisoning Personal Injury Lawsuit?

If you become sick from eating contaminated food, you might have a cause of action against the restaurant, food preparer, and other potentially responsible parties.

A food or beverage contamination case is essentially a products liability claim. Washington food manufacturers are held to a standard of strict liability, which means that proof of negligence is not required for an injured party to recover damages. If the food or beverage product is unsafe and makes the consumer sick, then the manufacturer will be held strictly liable. Note that restaurants may be considered “manufacturers” under the state’s products liability law.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have become sick from eating contaminated food prepared by a restaurant, caterer, or other professional. Our experienced attorneys can help you receive the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses.

Liability for Skiing Injuries in Washington

Posted Friday, November 24, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Winter is right around the corner, which means it is winter sports season here in the Pacific Northwest. Skiing is a popular winter activity, but it can also be dangerous. Every time you strap on a pair of skis, you risk getting into an accident. According to the National Ski Areas Association, skiers and snowboarders suffer an average of 49 catastrophic injuries per year. Injuries considered catastrophic include paralysis, broken neck and back, and severe head injuries. That number does not include the tens of thousands of less severe skiing injuries that occur every year, including:

  • Broken bones,
  • Knee injuries (like tearing your ACL muscle), and
  • Other torn, pulled or strained muscles.

Injury is not the only danger you face on the slopes.

If you have ever been skiing in Washington, then you know that you have to sign a waiver acknowledging both the risks involved and the inability to sue the resort or ski personnel for damages. That could make it difficult for you to receive compensation for your injuries and could also make you liable for someone else’s.

However, there are some exceptions where you can sue.

Skiers Generally Responsible for Their Own Safety

Washington law makes skiers responsible for their own safety and for the safety of others. This means that skiers should understand the inherent risks involved and exercise reasonable care. Keep a safe distance from other skiers; do not go too fast; get out of the way and do not linger once you get off the chairlift. There are common sense steps like these that skiers can take to prevent accidents. If they do not, then they can be held liable for causing accidents.

If another skier crashes into and injures you, and you can prove that he or she was skiing recklessly, then you have a viable negligence claim and can file a personal injury lawsuit.

Skier recklessness is not the only cause of skiing accidents. Sometimes ski equipment malfunctions or ski personnel acts negligently. In those instances you could potentially sue the resort or personnel for damages. (Note that chairlifts are generally a safe mode of transportation and there has not been a fatality caused by a malfunctioning chairlift in 25 years.)

Ski Area Requirements

Washington law lists several requirements that ski resorts must meet. Failure to comply could result in accidents and liability for any resulting damages. These requirements include:

  • Maintaining adequate signs indicating skier instructions, resort operations, potential hazards and anything else the public should be aware of.
  • Clearly marking snow-making machines or other such equipment.
  • Identifying vehicles that are driving near a ski run with either a flashing yellow light or a red flag, depending on the type of vehicle.
  • Clearly classifying ski level ability for lift and trail users.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured in a skiing accident. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help you determine whether you have a viable negligence claim. We will help you recover the compensation that you deserve.

Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim

Posted Friday, November 17, 2017 by Chris Thayer

While there have been a lot of high-profile stories about sexual harassment in the workplace, the unfortunate truth is that workplace harassment can happen to anyone. It is important for everyone to be aware of the threat and the legal options available to harassment victims.

Depending on the facts of the case, perpetrators may be criminally prosecuted. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that violates both federal and state civil laws, and victims may recover monetary damages. Here are the steps you should take if you are sexually harassed in your place of work:

  • Review your workplace policies and procedures and report the incident to the appropriate personnel. The appropriate person might be your supervisor or someone in human resources.
  • Consult an experienced attorney, who can walk you through your legal options.
  • File a formal complaint with either the Washington State Human Rights Commission or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You do not need to file a report with both agencies (but note that state law covers some employees not covered by federal law).
  • If the agencies do not resolve your claim you may file a civil lawsuit. But you may also go directly to court rather than pursuing administrative remedies.

Damages for Sexual Harassment Victims

The type and amount of damages that a victim receives depends on his or her situation. For example, the damages will be different for a victim whose supervisor seeks sexual favors in exchange for a job promotion or raise, and for a victim who is fired for denying unwanted sexual advances. Types of damages include:

  • Pain and suffering and other non-economic expenses,
  • Lost wages to compensate the victim for time taken off of work after the harassment, and
  • Compensatory damages for counseling and other economic expenses.

Washington law does not award punitive damages in sexual harassment cases.

What Conduct Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that includes uninvited conduct or comments stemming from the victim’s sex, gender, or sexual orientation. One obvious example is when a coworker makes an unwanted sexual advance, like inappropriately touching another person. Sexual harassment can also be expressed verbally and in other ways that do not involve physical contact. Some examples are:

  • Emailing sexually inappropriate content (like pornographic images or videos) to coworkers;
  • Sending suggestive emails or other communications that hint or explicitly state something sexual;
  • Sharing sexual anecdotes with or telling lewd jokes to coworkers;
  • Making sexual gestures;
  • Whistling or staring at a coworker;
  • Making sexual comments about a coworker’s clothing, body parts or general appearance;
  • Making offensive comments about a coworker’s gender or sexual identity; and
  • Asking a coworker about his or her sexual history.

These are only some examples of sexual harassment. Contact a supervisor or human resources official if any workplace encounter or interaction makes you feel uncomfortable.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have sexually harassed in your workplace. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your injuries, whether those injuries are physical, psychological or emotional.

Did an Injured Photographer Assume Risk of Hammer Throw Injury?

Posted Friday, November 10, 2017 by Chris Thayer

The law holds people civilly accountable if their negligent actions cause or contribute to another person’s injuries. However, the law also provides certain defenses that might prevent injured persons from recovering the compensation to which they would otherwise be entitled.

Photographer Injured During Hammer Throw Competition

There is an event during a track and field competition called the hammer throw. It involves throwing a “hammer,” which is nothing like the tool also called by that name. The throw hammer consists of a metal ball attached to a grip by a steel wire. It is dangerous to stand in the hammer’s path when the athletes throw it.

A photographer learned that lesson the hard way in 2015. Ronald Swords suffered a serious injury when the metal ball and chain struck his leg during a collegiate competition at Eastern Washington University. The hammer event was lined with flags, and Swords was standing just outside these boundaries photographing an athlete from Montana when the accident happened. He did not see the hammer’s path and therefore was not able to get out of the way.

Swords recently filed a lawsuit against Eastern Washington University, seeking compensation for his medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of earning capacity. Because the hammer throw is an inherently dangerous activity, can the school successfully argue that Swords assumed the risk of injury by photographing the event?

What is Assumption of Risk?

Generally, “assumption of risk” means that when someone voluntarily participates in an activity with known, inherent risks, that person cannot sue for injuries sustained by participating in that activity unless the injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence and not the activity itself. For example, if you break a leg while playing college football, you probably cannot sue the school for damages because you knew the risks involved. However, if you can prove that your injury was actually caused by the school’s negligence (like improper field maintenance), you might have a case.

“Assumption of risk” is a controversial defense and is not always applicable. In fact, Washington law’s definition of “fault” includes “unreasonable assumption of risk,” which means that certain parties cannot escape legal liability by claiming that a particular injury was not their fault because the injured person knew about the risk involved.

Eastern Washington University could argue that Swords cannot sue for damages because he knew that the hammer throw is dangerous and that the hammer’s path is often unpredictable, and that he voluntarily impeded his vision by photographing the competition. But an experienced attorney could argue that “assumption of risk” is not applicable to the photographer’s situation.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured in any kind of accident. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and noneconomic damages for pain and suffering. We know how to combat an assumption of risk defense and any other tactics that the negligent party may employ to avoid paying damages.