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

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.

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 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.

Fewer DUI Arrests, but Not Fewer DUI Fatalities

Posted Friday, July 7, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Fewer people are being arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but DUI fatalities are rising and there is no indication that there are fewer drunk or drugged drivers on Washington roads. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, DUI fatalities rose steadily between 2011 and 2015, but according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, more than 10,000 fewer DUI suspects were arrested in 2015 than in 2011.

(Note that Washington law defines impaired driving as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a blood concentration level of 0.08% or above.)

There are numerous reasons why number of DUI arrests has gone down, including a shortage of state troopers and changes in DUI procedures that have increased the amount of time required to process a DUI. Regardless of the factors involved, if you are injured by a drunk driver, you deserve compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other related damages.

Recent Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers

Here are a few examples of car accidents that were allegedly caused by people driving under the influence (in these cases, police arrested all of the alleged DUI drivers):

  • On July 1, two passengers were killed when the driver of their car lost control while going around a curve on Highway 27. The car rolled off the road and hit several trees before catching fire. The two passengers died at the scene and the driver was taken to the hospital with injuries. Police say that drugs and/or alcohol were involved, and the driver has been taken into custody.
  • On June 21, a member of the Spokane school board allegedly clipped a bicyclist and then fled the scene before crashing into a power pole. Paul Schneider was charged with, among other offenses, driving while under the influence. According to police reports, Schneider tried to pass a vehicle on Rockwood Boulevard when he hit a bicyclist who was traveling in the bike lane. He did not stop to offer assistance.
  • On June 20, a man pulled over on I-90 just east of Issaquah to help a woman having car troubles. He was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver. The woman was also injured when the drunk driver struck her car. Her 11-year-old daughter, who was also in the car, did not sustain any injuries. The alleged drunk driver continued on past the accident but eventually lost control of his vehicle and ran off the road. Police arrested the man, who was uninjured.

These accident victims (or their families) likely have cause to bring personal injury lawsuits against the responsible parties. Note that passengers, even those riding in the car responsible for an accident, may also bring personal injury lawsuits against negligent drivers.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one were injured by a drunk driver. We will help you receive the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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.

Contact Us Today

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.

Contact Us Today

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.