Chris Thayer Seattle Personal Injury Attorney
(206) 340-2008
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

Hello, and thank you for visiting my website. 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. I have developed this website to provide information about me, the services my law firm provides, and to give the consumer some basic background information and resources relating to personal injury claims in Washington state.

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The Seattle Personal Injury Blog

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.

Sick After Eating Raw Oysters?

Posted Friday, July 28, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Foodborne illnesses affect one in six Americans every year, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Common causes of food poisoning include norovirus, salmonella, E. coli and vibriosis.

Seattle has seen a spike in vibriosis cases this summer, with 25 people becoming sick from the disease. Vibriosis is caused by the vibrio bacteria, which may be present in raw or undercooked shellfish like oysters, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most people sickened by vibriosis recover after a few days and suffer no lasting effects, more serious infections may require intensive care.

Recent Vibriosis Cases

Earlier this summer, a number of people (up to 12) became ill after eating raw oysters at Salted Sea, a restaurant located on Rainier Avenue South. Local government officials investigated the illnesses and reported them to the State Department of Health Shellfish Program, which is responsible for tracking the harvest locations of the oysters involved in these disease outbreaks. Symptoms can include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, fever, and chills.

Several people also became sick after eating raw oysters at the White Swan Public House restaurant, located on Fairview Avenue North. Inspections at both restaurants concluded that the facilities did not contribute to the illnesses – for example, there were no indications of insufficient refrigeration or cross-contamination. But proper seafood handling and storage may not prevent vibriosis because the vibrio bacteria are naturally occurring. However, the Seattle-King County Public Health Department offered several prevention tips, including:

  • Cook shellfish and other seafood completely before eating (in other words, do not eat raw seafood);
  • After preparing shellfish washing cutting boards, counters, and other food surfaces thoroughly to avoid cross-contamination;
  • Wash hands thoroughly, using soap, after handling shellfish; andDo not touch raw seafood if you have any open wounds on your hands.

Another man was diagnosed with a Vibrio vulnificus infection after purchasing fish from a live fish tank at the Seattle Supermarket on Beacon Avenue South. While he and his wife both became sick after eating the prepared fish, he ended up in the hospital with a rare infection.

*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.

Accidents Involving Rideshare Vehicles

Posted Friday, July 21, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Uber and Lyft have changed the way that people travel from place to place, especially in cities like Seattle that do not offer expansive public transit options. Now, instead of trying to flag down a taxi or predict the bus schedule, you can quickly request a ride using a smartphone app.

With this improved technology and transportation efficiency comes new legal questions. For example, if you are injured in a car accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, who can you sue for damages?

Uber Accident Fatality in Seattle

A 35-year-old man was killed by an Uber driver in March of 2017. The accident happened when the 60-year-old Uber driver struck the victim’s Honda Accord on Holman Road Northwest, causing the car to slide sideways into a tree on a planter strip. The impact sliced the car in half and trapped the man inside. While firefighters were able to get him out of the car, he later died at the hospital.

Meanwhile, the Uber driver (who was driving an SUV) then crashed into a gas pump at a service station, causing a small explosion and a fire. A female passenger in the SUV was hospitalized with minor injuries while the driver remained unhurt. Under a two-year-old state law, both she and the family of the victim should be able to recover damages from the Uber driver’s insurance company.

State, City Laws Involving Rideshare Drivers

Washington state did not regulate rideshare car insurance until 2015. Without these regulations it would be difficult for rideshare passengers to recover damages for their injuries in some cases. Now, there are statewide mandatory minimum commercial insurance limits for all ridesharing vehicles in Washington. These regulations are distinct from other public transportation services that are already regulated under state law.

Insurance coverage begins as soon as the rideshare driver logs in and is waiting for a fare request. This means the insurance will cover an accident that happens with or without a rideshare passenger in the vehicle. Here are a few other things you should know about this law:

  • The rideshare vehicle must be covered with minimum liability benefits up to $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident and $30,000 for property damage before the driver has accepted a ride (but while he or she is waiting for a fare request). The vehicle must also have the proper personal injury protection and underinsured motorist protection.
  • Once the driver accepts a ride and is on his or her way to pick up the passenger, the coverage increases. It is now single limit liability coverage of $1 million, plus UIM coverage of $1 million and the personal injury protection required by state law.
  • The rideshare company must have proof that their affiliated drivers have this insurance coverage. If the drivers do not have the insurance, then the company must provide it.
  • If a driver is operating under multiple networks (i.e., he or she has both the Uber and Lyft apps open at the same time), then the responsibility is split equally between the companies.

Additionally, Seattle was the first city in the country to pass a law allowing Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers to unionize and collectively bargain for like pay, working conditions and other benefits. But a federal judge temporarily blocked the measure after two lawsuits were filed challenging its implementation.

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Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured in a car accident caused by an Uber or Lyft driver. Our experienced attorneys can help you receive the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Who is Liable in an Accident Involving an Autonomous Vehicle?

Posted Friday, July 14, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Governor Jay Inslee recently signed an executive order that permits the testing of driverless cars on Washington roads, whether or not there is a human behind the wheel. Specifically, the order allows companies to apply for permission from the state Department of Licensing for permission to launch pilot autonomous vehicle testing programs.

According to Inslee, 94% of car accidents are caused by human error. He said that autonomous vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce the number of accidents.

While that potential does exist, it does not take into account the potential for accidents caused by driverless vehicles, nor does it clarify who will be legally responsible for injuries resulting from such accidents. Will the car manufacturer be responsible? The person behind the wheel (even if he or she is not driving the car)? The government?

*Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous Vehicle Accident Examples*Earlier this year federal regulators concluded an investigation into the 2016 fatal Tesla crash in Florida that involved the car’s autopilot system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the Tesla Model S did not have any safety defects and did not need to be recalled. But the NHTSA warned drivers to pay attention even when using cruise control, automatic braking and other driver-assist technologies.

The 2016 crash resulted in the only fatality involving a Tesla (but there have been injuries in other accidents). In this case, a 40-year-old man from Ohio was driving his Tesla on autopilot when he drove under a big-rig truck turning left across a highway. The Tesla was crushed and the Ohio man was killed. The truck driver said he could hear one of the Harry Potter movies playing in the crushed car.

In March, a self-driving Uber crashed in Tempe, Arizona, when the driver of a second vehicle “failed to yield’ to the Uber while making a turn, according to the police. There were two “safety drivers” in the Uber and no serious injuries. But the incident demonstrated that autonomous vehicles are not immune from car crashes.

In fact, when Uber launched its pilot program, the company said that even driverless cars sometimes need human intervention. For example, driverless cars might not be able to easily adapt when there is bad weather or negligent human drivers on the roads.

What Does Inslee’s Order Mean for Me?

It remains to be seen what regulatory action the government will take regarding driverless cars. There is no clear direction on who may be sued when autonomous vehicles are involved in accidents, which is why it is important that victims consult with experienced personal injury attorneys who can advise them on their best course of action. Washington is still a comparative fault state, so it is possible that both vehicles would be found partly responsible and their liability divided accordingly.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if have been injured in a car accident caused by an autonomous vehicle. This is an emerging area of law, and you will need an experienced attorney to help you receive the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Chris Thayer Seattle Personal Injury Attorney

For more information, or to schedule an initial, no obligation consultation and case evaluation, please call Chris Thayer at (206) 340-2008 or complete the contact form below:

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