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

Potential Defenses that Might be Used Against You in a Personal Injury Case

Posted Saturday, July 1, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Before filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to be aware of the defenses that could be used against you. Here are several examples, which might or might not apply to your particular case. Always consult with an experienced personal injury attorney, who will help you build an effective case.

Defense 1: The Plaintiff was Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol.

If an injured plaintiff was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the accident occurred, and that intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury, and a jury finds that the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault, then the fact of intoxication is a complete defense to an action for damages. The same is true in a wrongful death lawsuit, if the person killed was under the influence at the time.

That does not mean that injured plaintiffs can never recover damages if they were under the influence. Whether this defense applies depends on their level of fault.

Defense 2: The Plaintiff was Partly to Blame for his or her Own Injury.

Washington is a comparative fault state. If you are partially at fault for your injuries then any damages awarded to you will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if the jury determines that you are 20% at fault, then you can only recover 80% of the damages.

Defense 3: The Plaintiff Assumed the Risk.

“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.

So, what is assumption of risk? Generally, it 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 can not 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.

Defense 4: The Plaintiff did Not File the Lawsuit Within the Statutory Time Limit.

This defense is difficult to get around. Generally, there is a three-year statute of limitations in which to file a personal injury lawsuit. Adults have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim. But Washington law delays the limitations period for children. The clock does not start running until the child’s 18th birthday, which means the child has until his or her 21st birthday to file a claim.

There is an exception for medical malpractice cases where your injuries are not readily apparent. In that case, you have one year from the date the injury is discovered to file a lawsuit.

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Contact one of our personal injury attorneyspersonal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit. We will help you build an effective case and receive the compensation that you deserve.

Amusement Park Injuries

Posted Sunday, June 25, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Thrill-seekers love visiting amusement parks. While the amusement park industry tries to ensure the safety of park-goers, sometimes the rides malfunction and riders are injured or killed as a result.

Several people were injured at a Port Townsend festival in May when a ferris wheel cart flipped over. The accident happened during the annual Rhody Festival, when three people riding the Ferris Wheel fell 15 to 18 feet to the ground. Two women and a boy were taken to local hospitals with injuries.

Government Oversight of Amusement Parks

The federal government stopped regulating amusement parks decades ago, leaving it to the states to establish their own oversight systems. Most states, including Washington, have a dedicated agency responsible for inspecting amusement park rides, but there are states that lack this oversight authority. In Washington state, the Department of Labor & Industries is responsible for inspecting amusement park rides to ensure that they have been set up properly.

The Department of Labor & Industries revoked the permit for the ferris wheel after the accident in Port Townsend. Unfortunately, this was not the first time that one of Funtastic Travelling Shows’ rides malfunctioned and caused injuries. In this case, the amusement company has taken proactive steps to make sure that the injured parties have access to the facts in case they decide to sue the company for damages. The company asked that a court force the deposition of its employees.

Other Examples of Amusement Park Accidents

In August of 2016, a man died at Wild Waves Theme Park in Federal Way. Authorities at the time called it an “apparent drowning” because his body was discovered at the bottom of one of the activity pools. Investigators later determined that the man did, in fact, drown, but the cause was unclear.

In 2013, a 52-year-old woman visiting a Six Flags in Texas fell off of a roller coaster that stands 14 stories high. She fell 75 feet and hit her head on a support beam, which was determined to be the cause of her death.

In 2011, an Iraq War veteran who had lost both of his legs in a roadside bombing visited an amusement park in New York with his nephew. A park employee told the man that he would be able to ride all of the rides despite his disability. But the veteran fell out of a roller coaster and died when the lap bar was unable to hold him.

**If You or a Loved One is Injured at an Amusement Park

** After receiving medical attention, the first thing that you should do is contact an experienced personal injury attorney, who can help you determine your next steps. One important thing to remember in filing a personal injury lawsuit is that you only have three years from the date of the injury to file your claim for damages.

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Contact one of our personal injury attorneyspersonal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured at a festival or other amusement park. We will help you receive the compensation that you deserve.

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Affects Where You Can File Lawsuits

Posted Saturday, June 17, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Sometimes the procedure matters more than the substance. For example, a lawsuit can be dismissed if the plaintiff doesn’t file it in the proper court. While that same lawsuit could be refiled in a different court, it is less costly and more efficient to get it right the first time around. Plus, there might be statute of limitations issues (the statutory time limit for bringing certain claims) if the plaintiff has to refile his or her claims elsewhere.

But a recent U.S. Supreme Court case made it a little more challenging for plaintiffs filing personal injury lawsuits. The court ruled that a railroad company could not be sued in Montana for business-related injuries that occurred outside of Montana.

The Facts of the Case

The Supreme Court case actually involved two lawsuits. One was filed by a North Dakota resident named Robert Nelson, who claimed that he injured his knee while working for BNSF Railway Company in Washington state. The second was filed by the wife of a former BNSF employee, Kelli Tyrrell, who claimed that her husband died from cancer after being exposed to chemicals during the course of his employment for the railroad. She was appointed the administrator of her husband’s estate in South Dakota.

The lawsuits were filed in Montana state courts. The Montana courts asserted personal jurisdiction over BNSF Railway under a state rule giving courts authority to decide cases involving “persons found” in Montana. (“Personal jurisdiction” refers to the authority that a court has over the particular parties in a lawsuit.) In other words, according to this rule, because BNSF Railway conducts business in Montana, the company can be sued there.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

Not so fast, said the Supreme Court. The court held that Montana’s rule permitting such overarching jurisdiction violates the U.S. Constitution. While BNSF operates railroad lines in 28 states, including Montana, the company is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Texas. Montana cannot subject BNSF to personal jurisdiction in the state solely because the company does some business there, especially since the injuries in these lawsuits were not caused in Montana.

The court’s decision applies to every state, not just Montana. A state cannot assert personal jurisdiction over a party solely because it does business in that state.

What Does This Decision Mean For My Personal Injury Lawsuit?

It is important to understand the concept of personal jurisdiction and the limits of a particular court’s authority over a particular type of lawsuit and particular parties. The concept of personal jurisdiction is that a party must have certain contacts with a particular state in order for its courts to have authority over that party. Plaintiffs can’t just pick random jurisdictions to file lawsuits, or jurisdictions that they think might be more favorable to them. That’s important to keep in mind because plaintiffs who sue in the wrong court can easily have their claims dismissed.

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Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured by someone else’s negligence. We can help you decide your best course of action, including finding the best jurisdiction for you to file your lawsuit.

Court Upholds $50 Million Wrongful Birth Verdict

Posted Saturday, June 10, 2017 by Chris Thayer

You’ve heard of a wrongful death lawsuit, but did you know that you can also sue for wrongful birth? It’s a delicate and personal issue, but unfortunately one that many families face. It involves a duty of care owed to parents and their children, who deserve to know the truth about the medical risks involved in new life.

What Is a “Wrongful Birth”?

The Washington Supreme Court first recognized that “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life” are legitimate causes of action in 1983.

Leonard Harbeson served in the air force, and during his tour of duty in 1970 his wife Jean (who was pregnant at the time) was diagnosed with epilepsy. She was prescribed an anticonvulsant drug from doctors at the air force base. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy in 1971.

Jean was eventually prescribed different drugs for her seizures. In 1972 she and Leonard talked about having another baby but were worried about the drug’s’ effect on an unborn child. Doctors told them about a few risks, and they decided to have more children. They had two daughters, born in 1974 and 1975. After their daughters were born Jean and Leonard learned of other possible side effects that their doctors didn’t warn them about – some of which afflicted their daughters. They ultimately sued, and the court held that the parents could sue for wrongful birth.

Moreover, the court found that the daughters could sue for wrongful life. According to the court, “wrongful life is the child’s equivalent of the parents’ wrongful birth action.” The doctor’s’ duty to warn of the side effects extended to the conceived children.

Recent Wrongful Birth Lawsuit

A Washington state appeals court recently upheld a jury verdict awarding $50 million to a King County couple whose son was born with severe birth defects.

Rhea and Brock Wuth were worried that their baby might be born with a rare genetic abnormality that Brock carried. He was told he had a 50 percent chance of passing the gene onto a child. So when Rhea was pregnant they asked that their doctors perform tests to determine whether their baby would be healthy. They did not want a severely disabled child and were planning to terminate the pregnancy if the baby would be born with this genetic problem. The tests came back negative, but when Oliver Wuth was born in 2008, it was clear that something was wrong.

Oliver was born with tiny hands and feet (but long fingers), legs that would not straighten, a head that was turned and bent, and an underdeveloped brain. He will require extensive medical care for the rest of his life. His parents sued for wrongful birth in 2010, claiming that the doctors failed to conduct proper genetic tests. The defendants argued that the $50 million verdict was excessive, but the appeals court upheld it.

Contact Us Today

If you find yourself in a similar situation as the Wuth family, contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation. We can help you decide your best course of action.

Pedestrian Safety in King County

Posted Saturday, June 3, 2017 by Chris Thayer

A recent study found that pedestrians who take leisurely strolls are more likely to choose safer walking routes than people who are running errands or commuting to work. The study compiled data from a 2008-2009 survey in King County to determine what routes pedestrians took for specific purposes. The data was then compared to maps that estimate the risk of pedestrian collisions.

While pedestrians who choose unsafe routes put themselves at risk of injury, drivers also owe pedestrians a certain duty of care. In fact, Washington has several laws designed to keep pedestrians safe, and if a motorist breaks one of these laws and injures a pedestrian, the pedestrian will likely have a viable personal injury claim.

Washington’s Crosswalk Law

Drivers must stop at intersections to allow pedestrians to cross the road within both marked and unmarked crosswalks (cars must also stop for cyclists crossing the road). It is also illegal to pass a vehicle that is stopped for crossing pedestrians. However, if a pedestrian suddenly steps off a curb and into a vehicle’s path when it is too late for the car to stop, then it is the pedestrian who is at fault.

The Due Care Provision

All drivers must “exercise due care” to avoid colliding with any pedestrian on any roadway, even when the pedestrian is not permitted to be in the roadway. Drivers should warn pedestrians who are in danger by honking their horn. They should also exercise “proper precaution” when the pedestrian is a child or an incapacitated person (such as a person who is on crutches).

Other Pedestrian-Related Traffic Laws

Take note of a few other pedestrian-related laws, including rules that pedestrians must follow:

  • Both cars and bicycles must yield the right of way to pedestrians walking on sidewalks.
  • Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians must all obey traffic control devices. For example, drivers and cyclists can’t run red lights, and pedestrians can’t cross the street when there is a no-walking signal. However, if a police officer is directing the flow of traffic then drivers, cyclists and pedestrians should follow his or her directions.Pedestrians are generally not permitted to walk on a road if there is a sidewalk available. However, if there is no wheelchair access on the sidewalk, that person may use the adjacent roadway.
  • If there is not an available sidewalk then pedestrians should walk on the left side of the road so that they are facing oncoming traffic. But if possible they should move off of the road whenever a vehicle approaches.
  • If a pedestrian crosses the street outside of a designated crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, then he or she must yield the right of way to drivers.

Contact Us Today

Motorists who break state traffic laws can be found civilly liable for any injuries that they cause. If you are a pedestrian who was injured because of a motorist’s negligence – or complete disregard of state law – you might be entitled to compensation. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation.