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

Understanding Legal Guardianships

Posted Saturday, September 30, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Washington law recognizes that certain people are not capable of making decisions for themselves. In those situations, courts may appoint legal guardians.

What is a Legal Guardian?

A legal guardian is a person or entity appointed by a court to manage another person’s personal and/or financial affairs. There are usually three instances in which a person needs a legal guardian:

  • The person is a minor (under 18 years old),
  • The person is an incapacitated elder, or
  • The person is an adult with developmental disabilities (physical or mental).

Depending on any limitations imposed by the court, a guardian might make financial and medical decisions, file lawsuits on the person’s behalf, and decide where the person will live. For example, an elderly woman who was injured when a Florida nursing home lost power during Hurricane Irma recently sued the facility for negligence. A guardian filed the lawsuit on her behalf.

Who May Serve as a Legal Guardian?

Guardians must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Convicted felons may not serve as guardians. Oftentimes a relative will act as guardian, but there are also professional guardians who charge fees for their services. There is a Certified Professional Guardianship Board that issue certifications to people who act as guardians to three or more people.

How is a Legal Guardian Appointed?

A court will appoint a guardian after a petition has been filed requesting such appointment. Before the court appoints a guardian, it must determine whether the person is incapacitated. Here are the steps in the petition process:

  • The guardianship petition is filed.
  • The person named in the petition must be notified that the petition has been filed. That notice must be delivered in person.
  • The court will designate someone to investigate the situation (a guardian ad litem) and report their findings to the court, including a statement from the person’s physician.
  • The court will hold a hearing and then issue its decision.

What are the Types of Guardianships?

There are two types of guardianships - partial (limited) and full (plenary). In a partial guardianship, the guardian will only assume decisionmaking authority for the rights specifically named in the court order. For example, the court may give the guardian decisionmaking authority over the person’s financial affairs, while the person retains decisionmaking authority over all other aspects of his or her life.

In a full guardianship the guardian assumes decisionmaking authority over the rights specified in Washington law, including filing a personal care plan and an annual status report on the incapacitated person.

Is There a Guardianship Alternative?

There are many legal alternatives to guardianships. For example, you can establish a power of attorney, giving someone else authority to act on your behalf. This often involves giving something authority to make medical decisions for you, like whether to artificially prolong your life. An experienced attorney can help you determine what option is best for you or your loved one.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one have been injured because of someone else’s negligence. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your injuries. We can also walk you through the legal guardianship process if that is a factor in your case.

Drug Overdose Deaths and Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Posted Monday, September 25, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Drug overdose deaths increased by 19% between 2015 and 2016, according to data compiled by The New York Times. This problem does not appear to be improving. In fact, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death of Americans under the age of 50.

While much of the blame falls on recreational drug use and addiction, medication errors and accidental overdoses in hospitals are another contributing factor. A 2016 study found that medical errors in hospitals and other health care facilities could be the third-leading cause of death in United States, causing 251,000 deaths every year.

*Medication Error and Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in North Carolina*In 2012, a 40-year-old veteran went to the Asheville VA Medical Center for what he thought was the flu. Doctors diagnosed him with diverticulitis and a small perforation in his bowel, and he was admitted to the hospital.

It was a busy time for Jason Powell and his family, who had literally just moved to Asheville. His wife left him overnight at the hospital so that she could wait for the moving truck. When she returned the next evening she learned that he had been moved unexpectedly to the intensive care unit.

Powell had been prescribed 1 milligram of a powerful opiate every four hours, but his medical records show that twice he was given 4 milligrams. Doctors found him unresponsive after the overdose, and he later died.

Jason Powell’s wife remembered that the ICU attending doctor admitted the error. “He said, ‘Mrs. Powell, I have to tell you, morally and ethically, I need you to know that there was an error in your husband’s care. There was a medication error. Not just once but twice,’ Jennifer Powell recalled.”

She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in federal court in 2013, which settled out of court in 2015. The hospital did not have to admit liability as part of the settlement.

*Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Washington*What happened to Jason Powell can happen in any hospital, in any state. That is why it is important that you know your rights and responsibilities.

Washington law sets a three-year statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims. That means you have three years from the date of the injury, or the date of your loved one’s passing, to file a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit. If the injury is not readily apparent, you have one year from the date the injury is discovered to file a lawsuit.

If the victim is a minor (someone under the age of 18), a parent or legal guardian can file on his or her behalf. The child can also wait until his or her 18th birthday, no matter when the injury occurred (i.e., even if the injury happened more than three years ago). But the child must file the lawsuit within one year of his or her 18th birthday.

You may sue for medical expenses, lost wages, emotional distress, and other related damages. Note that there is no cap on the amount of noneconomic damages (emotional distress) that you can receive.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one have been injured by any type of medical malpractice. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your injuries.

Abuse of Nursing Home Patients Going Unreported

Posted Sunday, September 17, 2017 by Chris Thayer

A federal government audit recently found that more than one in four cases of possible physical and sexual abuse against nursing home patients goes unreported. Investigators from the Department of Health and Human Services say that Medicare is responsible for reporting such incidents to the police and other government agencies. The audit is not yet complete, but the inspector general’s office issued this “early alert” so that Medicare can correct its practices.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a statement saying it does require nursing homes to immediately report abuse and neglect to state officials and that it will formally respond to Health and Human Services once the audit is complete.

Nursing Home Abuse Laws in Washington

Washington has several laws designed to protect elderly individuals from abuse. State law also spells out certain rights guaranteed to residents living in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes. These rights include:

  • The facility must care for its residents in a manner and environment that respects each resident’s dignity and individuality.
  • Residents have a right (within reasonable facility rules) to choose their own activities, schedules and health care treatment.
  • Residents may wear their own clothing and make their own choices about certain aspects of their lives.
  • Unless a resident has been adjudged incompetent or found legally incapacitated, he or she may participate in planning his or her own care and treatment.
  • Residents may organize and participate in resident groups at the facility. Similarly, residents have the right to participate in social, religious and community activities as long as they do not interfere with another resident’s rights.
  • Residents must be notified before any changes to their room or roommate.
  • A resident has the right to share a double room with a spouse or domestic partner.
  • Residents have the right to reside and receive services in the facility with reasonable accommodation of their individual needs and preference, except when health and safety are a concern.

A violation of any of these rights might be evidence of elder abuse.

Types of Elder Abuse

In addition to the rights listed above, nursing home and other long-term care facility residents have a right to be protected from physical, emotional, and financial harm. Common types of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse. As found by the government audit, nursing home patients might be sexually or physically abused.
  • Emotional abuse. Examples include name calling and belittling a patient’s self-worth. Such emotional abuse can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
  • Financial abuse. Staff members sometimes steal money and other personal property from residents.
  • Neglect. This often results in physical harm to the senior. For example, a caregiver who deprives a senior of a basic need, like food, is guilty of neglect.

If you suspect that your loved one is being abused, contact the police and an experienced attorney immediately.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one have suffered nursing home abuse. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

Pedestrian Safety in Seattle

Posted Sunday, September 10, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Seattle is one of the safest cities in America for pedestrians, according to a study released in January 2017 by Smart Growth America, a national organization that advocates for safe, prosperous, and environmentally friendly neighborhoods. Specifically, Seattle ranked eighth out of the 104 largest metropolitan areas, based on the number of pedestrian fatalities (adjusted for population). There were five pedestrian deaths and three bicyclist deaths here in 2015, which is eight more than the city’s stated goal of zero pedestrian deaths or serious injuries.

The eight fatalities were a significant decline from previous years, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation. The beginning of the school year is a good time for drivers to think about pedestrian safety. According to Safe Kids, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent injuries to children, the fifth-leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 19 is pedestrian-vehicle injuries. Here are a few ways that can drivers can prevent these and other vehicle-pedestrian accidents:

  • Do not illegally pass a stopped school bus. Drivers who do so run the risk of hitting children who are exiting the bus and crossing the street.

  • Be cognizant of children riding their bikes and walking to school. Always slow down in school zones and double check that crosswalks are empty before driving through them.

  • Yield to transit buses that have stopped for rides and then allow them to merge back into traffic.

Dangerous Intersections in Seattle

Even though Seattle has made serious strides toward reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities, accidents still happen. For example, in July 2017, a 78-year-old pedestrian was struck by a car while crossing the street in a marked crosswalk. She sustained serious injuries when the 35-year-old driver turned right into the crosswalk on Rainier Avenue South in Seattle.

The Seattle Times recently published an article listing some of the most dangerous intersections in Seattle for pedestrians and bicyclists (which does not include the intersection where the 78-year-old was struck). Those intersections include:

Fifth Avenue and Spring Street, next to the Seattle Public Library – There have been 20 injuries at this intersection since 2008. However, the city has installed a red-light camera and made the traffic lights more visible, which should help prevent accidents.Fifth Avenue and Pike Street, right downtown – There have been 18 injuries at this intersection since 2008.

Third Avenue and Pike Street, which is only a couple of blocks from Pike Place Market and a major transit and pedestrian hub – There have been 15 injuries here since 2008.Broadway East and East Olive Way – There have been 14 injuries at this intersection since 2008. A recent improvement is having the walk sign turn on before giving cars a green light. The goal is making pedestrians more visible to drivers.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are a pedestrian or bicyclist who has been injured by a negligent or reckless driver. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your injuries.

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.

Contact Us Today

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.