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

Washington’s Sovereign Immunity Waiver

Posted Saturday, September 2, 2017 by Chris Thayer

If you are injured in an accident, then state law allows you to sue the responsible individual or entity for damages. But what if responsibility lies with a government actor? In most states, the government is immune from liability except under limited circumstances. This often leaves injured parties without any type of recourse.

Washington abolished the sovereign immunity doctrine in 1961, leaving the state government open to tort liability.

Washington’s Government Liability Law

Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that protects the government from being sued without its consent. This protection generally extends to government agencies, government-created entities, and other government actors. Some argue that this protection allows the government to fulfill its duties without being exposed to frivolous lawsuits and faced with great financial burdens.

It also prevents people injured by government actors unable to recover damages for their injuries, which was the impetus for this state’s change. For example, before Washington eliminated sovereign immunity, a government employee who caused a car accident while performing a governmental function could escape tort liability.

Washington’s immunity waiver is not without its limits. Claims against the state must arise out of the government’s “tortious conduct to the same extent as if it were a private person or corporation.” This means that any tort limits that apply to private citizens and businesses also apply to the state. There are also certain procedural requirements that claimants must follow. An experienced attorney can help you determine if you have a viable personal injury claim against the government and ensure that you comply with the procedural requirements.

Filing an Injury Claim Against the Government

All claims arising against the state must be presented to the Office of Risk Management in the Department of Enterprise Services using the official claim form. Here are a few other things you should know about filing a personal injury claim against the government:

The official claim form is available on the Department of Enterprise Services’ website.The form is deemed presented when the form is delivered in person or by regular mail, registered mail or certified mail (with return receipt requested), or as an email or fax attachment, to the Office of Risk Management.

The form requires certain information, including the claimant’s contact information, a description of the conduct that resulted in the claimant’s injuries, a description of the injuries and whatever information is known about the people involved in the incident.Claimants must wait 60 calendar days between presenting the form and filing a personal injury lawsuit.

One interesting aspect of Washington’s liability waiver is that it applies not only to state officials and government employees, but it also extends to government volunteers. If a government volunteer acts negligently in the course of his volunteer work and causes an injury, the government can be held liable.

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Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured because of a government actor’s negligence. Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the litigation process and help recover compensation for your injuries.

Navigating the Litigation Process

Posted Friday, August 25, 2017 by Chris Thayer

You have been injured in a car accident or by a defective product. Now what happens?

The first thing you should do is seek medical attention. The next thing you should do is contact an experienced attorney, who might advise you to file a personal injury lawsuit. If that is the case, it is important to understand your legal options and the litigation process before diving in. It will ease your mind and make you feel more comfortable if you are well-versed in your legal rights and responsibilities.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington

Here are several things you should know about the litigation process:

  • The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Washington is three years. That means you have three years from the date of the accident or the date you sustained the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. But the sooner you file your complaint, the better.
  • Once you have determined when to file your lawsuit, you need to decide where to file it. Typically, you will file your lawsuit in the district court in the county where the defendant lives or where the injury occurred.
  • Your complaint and a corresponding summons will be served on the defendant, who will then file an answer and possibly a counterclaim. A counterclaim might arise if the defendant alleges contributory negligence. For example, if you were injured in a car accident the defendant might argue that you were partly at fault and therefore partially responsible for your own damages. The plaintiff may also file a reply to the defendant’s answer.
  • At this point the judge will deal with any pretrial issues (e.g., if there are any procedural problems with the complaint or the defendant’s answer).
  • Now the discovery process begins. The length and scope of this process depends on the complexities of your case, but basically discovery is how each side determines the facts. The judge will also deal with any issues that arise during discovery, like if a witness refuses to respond to a subpoena for a deposition (a series of questions about the case that must be answered under oath).
  • Sometimes the parties will seek an alternative dispute resolution method, like mediation. If these efforts fail the case may proceed to trial.
  • The attorneys will make opening statements and present the facts using evidence, witness statements and expert testimony. At the end of the trial they will present closing statements, and the judge or jury will begin its deliberations.
  • The decision-maker will reach a verdict and damages will be awarded. However, the losing party may file an appeal.

Navigating the legal system can feel overwhelming on your own. An experienced attorney can help you understand the litigation process and help recover the damages that you deserve.*Contact Us Today*

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured in an accident or otherwise sustained a personal injury because of someone else’s negligence. Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the litigation process and help recover compensation for your injuries.

Drivers Who Fall Asleep Behind the Wheel

Posted Sunday, August 20, 2017 by Chris Thayer

A nurse who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, told National Public Radio about the time she fell asleep behind the wheel. She had just gotten off her overtime shift and remembers feeling tired, but it was only a few miles home so she decided to push through. The next thing she knew, she had drifted across the double line and struck another vehicle head-on. Luckily both drivers only sustained minor injuries.

About one in five fatal car accidents in the United States involve drowsy drivers. The less sleep a person gets in a 24-hour period, the higher the accident risk. According to an American Automobile Association (AAA) study, people who only get five or six hours of sleep are twice as likely to crash as people who get seven or more hours of sleep.

Here are more drowsy driving facts from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Up to 6,000 fatal car accidents every year are caused by drowsy drivers.
  • One study found that one in 25 adult drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel within the previous 30 days.
  • There is a high likelihood that commercial truck drivers and people who work the night shift will drive drowsy.
  • Drowsy driving warning signs include drifting out of your lane, not remembering the last few miles that you drove, missing your exit, hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road and yawning.
  • Drowsy driving is dangerous because, like impaired driving, it slows reaction times and affects decision making.

The CDC recommends that drivers get at least seven hours of sleep and avoid taking medications or drinking alcohol that makes them sleepy. Additionally, people who suffer from sleep disorders that might make them fall asleep behind the wheel should talk to their doctors about treatment options.

*Drowsy Driving Incidents*In July 2017, a semi-truck driver crashed on Interstate-5 in Tacoma, blocking all lanes of northbound traffic for several hours. He admitted to feeling drowsy when he swerved to avoid another vehicle, hitting the Jersey barriers and overturning. The driver sustained bumps and bruises, but fortunately no one else was hurt.

In May 2017, a 23-year-old semi-truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel near the Interstate 82-U.S. Highway 12 interchange in Yakima. His vehicle went off the road, and the driver overcorrected, striking a pickup truck. They both crashed into the guardrail. Luckily, neither driver was injured in the accident.

In November 2016, eight people were injured when a driver fell asleep just south of Montesano and crashed into a tree. There were two adults and six children (ranging in age from 11 months to 12 years old) in the vehicle, and they all had to be taken to the hospital. The 28-year-old driver was charged with negligent driving in the second degree.

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Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in an accident involving a drowsy driver. We will help you recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Understanding Class Action Lawsuits

Posted Saturday, August 12, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Sometimes numerous people are injured in the same accident or in similar incidents. In this case, they might want to file a class action lawsuit. A class action is a type of lawsuit in which a group of people collectively files a claim. One example is when a company has manufactured a defective product and numerous people have been injured by that product. These people could join together and file one lawsuit against the company.

Advantages of Filing a Class Action Lawsuit

There are several advantages of filing a class action lawsuit, including:

  • Cost efficiency: Because litigation costs will be divided among a larger group of people, each individual’s expenses will likely be less than if they had all filed separate lawsuits.
  • Judicial efficiency: Similarly, because this is one lawsuit instead of dozens, fewer judges will be involved and there will be less cumulative court time.
  • Greater certainty for both plaintiffs and defendants: One lawsuit means similar plaintiffs will recover similar amounts in damages. One lawsuit will also create more certainty for defendants who will not have to worry about inconsistent legal decisions.

Disadvantages of Filing a Class Action Lawsuit

There are also several disadvantages of filing a class action lawsuit, including:

  • You might not like the settlement agreement. Sometimes class action lawsuits settle for financial compensation, but other times the settlement is for coupons or rebates.
  • Lack of control. The way a class action lawsuit works is that there is one representative or a small group of representatives making decisions on behalf of the class. You might not have a say in important litigation decisions, including whether or not to settle.
  • If the class action claim is unsuccessful, you might not be able to bring an individual lawsuit.

Prerequisites for Filing a Class Action

One or more people may file a class action lawsuit in Washington on behalf of a whole class if:

  • The class is so numerous that joining all members is impracticable,
  • There are questions of law or fact that are common to the class,
  • The class representatives’ claims are typical of the claims of the entire class, and
  • The representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

There are other requirements that must be met in order to maintain a class action lawsuit. These requirements include:

  • Courts permit class actions to proceed when they determine that individual lawsuits would result in inconsistent judgments and establish inconsistent standards of conduct; and
  • If the questions of law and fact common to the class predominate over any questions of law and fact pertaining to individual class members then the court will likely permit the class action proceed.

Courts sometimes divide class actions into subclasses. In that case each subclass will be treated as if it is its own class.

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Class action lawsuits are typically complex, which is why you should always consult with an experienced attorney before joining or filing a class action. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are interested in pursuing a class action claim. Our experienced attorneys can help you determine your best course of legal action.

New Distracted Driving Law Takes Effect

Posted Sunday, August 6, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Thousands of Washington residents have signed a petition asking lawmakers to rewrite part of the new distracted driving law that recently went into effect. These individuals have taken issue with the part that makes eating or drinking and applying makeup secondary offenses (or other types of grooming, like brushing hair). Police officers can now issue $99 tickets if they determine that eating, drinking, or grooming contributed to distracted or bad driving. While police cannot pull drivers over based on a secondary offense, officers may issue tickets for such offenses if the driver is pulled over for a primary offense like speeding or texting.

*Driving While Under the Influence of Electronics*According to the National Highway Traffic Association, distracted driving contributed to more than 3,000 deaths nationwide in 2014. In fact, a study by the state Traffic Safety Commission found that almost one in 10 drivers are distracted while driving in Washington, and distracted driving fatalities increased 32% between 2014 and 2015. That is why Washington has been so aggressive in combating this problem.

Washington had already banned drivers from texting and talking on their cell phones (if using handheld devices), but the state’s new distracted driving law imposes an even broader ban. Drivers are not allowed to hold their phones at all, even if they are waiting at a traffic light or otherwise stuck in traffic. However, it is still legal to hold your phone to call 911 or other emergency services.

The ban applies to all personal electronic devices, including:

  • Cell phones,
  • Tablets,
  • Laptops,
  • Two-way messaging devices, and
  • Electronic games.

The goal is to eliminate the growing list of phone distractions that cause accidents. For example, last year two women died when their car was struck by a distracted driver. The negligent driver and her passenger were taking pictures of themselves when she crashed into the other car on Interstate 5. Police officers also noted issues with the Pokemon Go phenomenon, which has since died down, which had drivers checking the app while behind the wheel.

Police will not issue any distracted driving tickets until after the law has been in effect for six months. This delay should give drivers time to adjust to the new legal requirements.

*Examples of Distracted Driving Accidents*In 2016, a Tri-Cities woman lost her 19-year-old daughter to distracted driving. The teen was texting and posting to Facebook when she lost control of her car and crashed into an oncoming vehicle. Two others were seriously injured in the accident. The teen’s mother has spoken out about the importance of the new distracted driving law.

In 2014, a 20-year-old young man was driving to his school in Colfax when he looked down at this cell phone to write a text. In that moment he drifted across the centerline and collided head-on with a semi-truck coming around a curve. The young man, who was just a few days shy of his 21st birthday, died instantly. His grandmother is one of the people who lobbied for the new distracted driving law.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured in a car accident caused by distracted driving. Our experienced attorneys can help you recover compensation for your injuries.