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

Ways To Resolve Personal Injury Claims

Posted Friday, August 26, 2016 by Chris Thayer

If you are injured and file a personal injury claim, the chance is that the issue of resolving your claim will come up quickly. Insurance adjustors and defense attorneys are often anxious to put your case behind them and will set forth several theories to limit your monetary recovery and to convince you to settle your case. It is often difficult to put a monetary value on our injuries and to know whether to accept an offer or continue to negotiate. When you are injured in an accident, you have several avenues available to resolve your personal injury case. This is an overview of the options to resolve your personal injury claim and what you can reasonably expect from these processes.

You Can Settle Your Case

You always have the option of settling your claim during your case. All settlements are voluntary. A settlement can be reached from the time of your injury to during the middle of a trial. These are some of the ways in which settlement comes about.

You receive an offer from an opposing party (wrongdoer) before or after your claim is filed. This can be, for example, if the opposing party calls you and make an offer or you receive an offer from the opposing party’s attorney. If the opposing party makes you an offer soon after your injury, be sure to get a professional opinion of the value of your claim so that you do not forfeit any viable claims or accept less money than you have a legal right to.The insurance company makes you an offer after you file your claim. This usually comes after the insurance company investigates your case and comes up with a dollar value for your claim. Insurance companies do offer favorable settlements in some situations because they figure that it would be more expensive to litigate the case than settle it. Be sure to consult with an attorney before agreeing to any settlement offer. Insurance and claims adjustors are often out to get a cut rate deal if they can and do not have the authorization to offer you more money whereas an attorney for an insurance company may be in a better position to offer you a more favorable settlement that you deserve.The opposing parties negotiate independently or through their attorneys and come to a settlement. This usually occurs after a claim is filed. Each party conducts an investigation or analysis of the facts and value of your claim. The parties then negotiate for an agreed monetary amount with the assistance of their attorneys.Settlement negotiations usually require some give and take by both parties. For both parties to reach a successful settlement, both parties usually have to give something up while there is always the possibility that they would have done better in trial. A settlement essentially trades the uncertainty inherent within a trial for a set amount of money and the coinciding terms of settlement. It is highly recommended that you have a professional opinion as to the realistic value of your case before you agree to any settlement.

You Can Go To Mediation

Mediation is part of the formal court alternative dispute resolution process and has gained increasing popularity as a more compassionate, less stressful means of resolving disputes. The parties meet in an informal setting, such as a neutral law office or in a meeting room located within the courthouse. The parties then, with the assistance of a mediator, negotiate with their attorneys to work out a settlement as to some of all of the issues. A mediator is a neutral third party, usually an attorney or retired judge, who listens to each party’s version of events along with the party’s expectations and then attempts to assist the parties to reach a compromise. Even if the parties cannot reach a complete settlement, it is possible that the parties can work out some of their issues at mediation.

A mediator plays a key role in settlement negotiations. The mediator serves as a facilitator for settlement negotiations, and has the responsibility of giving each party their evaluation of their case, its value, and their likelihood of success as trial. A mediator has no independent authority to make orders or to otherwise compel a party to settle a case. However, mediators can often be very effective in spearheading negotiations and settlements.

You May Decide To Attend Arbitration

Arbitration is a mini trial of sorts. Essentially, the parties agree to have a private trier of fact, often a retired judge but may be a neutral attorney, preside over their matter and make a determination as to which party shall prevail or win their case. Despite the informalities of an arbitration (it usually takes place in offices instead of courtrooms), arbitration still has the same formalities as any trial. The parties are expected to present actual evidence, abide by the rules of procedure and evidence, present trial briefs and witnesses, and to present their case as they would in a court of law. Some of the advantages of arbitration are that it often gets done faster than a trial, there is no distraction of a jury, the parties have more control over the trier of fact (that is, they can choose their arbitrator instead of a luck of the draw assigned courthouse judge), and arbitration can readily be rescheduled if necessary. Despite the additional expense of a privately compensated arbitrator, arbitrations have steadily risen as a choice for litigants in the dispute resolution process.

When All Else Fails, You Can Go To Trial

Trial is one of the more glamorous but least understood procedures in the legal system. Essentially, you present your evidence and your case to the trier of fact and they decide which party wins and the value of their case. There are two types of trials.

A jury trial. A jury, a sworn body of I.S. citizens at least 18 years old, is selected by the parties and the jury decides the issues of liability and the value of your case. The jurors are the trier of fact while the judge handles any issues related to the law.A bench trial. The trier of fact, a judge or commissioner, decides which party is liable and the value of your case.Trials tend to be one of the more time consuming and expensive legal procedures but they can be well worth it for a favorable verdict.

The facts of your case and the surrounding circumstances will influence how your personal injury claim will be resolved. To learn more about your options to resolve personal injury claims, contact Chris Thayer at (206) 966-4785.

What You Can Do To Help Prepare Your Personal Injury Case For Trial

Posted Monday, August 8, 2016 by Chris Thayer

Most people are familiar with a trial. However, most personal injury cases are resolved prior to trial. The purpose of this article is to provide some insight into how a personal injury case comes about, what to expect, and how to prepare for a trial.

**Consult An Attorney Before Signing Anything

After sustaining injuries in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, consult an experienced Seattle trial attorney prior to speaking to the insurance company. Do not agree to or sign anything with the insurance company, who usually offer low-ball settlements. The doctors and nurses will ask questions about the injury so they can provide medical treatment. Answer their questions so they can help you, but do not elaborate on how the incident occurred.

**Understanding Your Facts

The attorney will want to know the facts of the case. Take photographs of the accident. This will help preserve the evidence and provide your attorney with some insight as to the damages. Write down as much as you can remember concerning the incident. Write down the date, time, and names of any witnesses when the incident occurred. If there is a police report or incident report, obtain a copy of the report. If you believe that the accident was video recorded, whether from a traffic camera, from witnesses cellphones, or surveillance cameras, let your attorney know so that he or she can take steps to obtain a copy and demand preservation of the original film.

Also, prepare a description of your injuries. Take photographs of your injuries soon after you sustain them. Since injuries heal, such as bruising, by taking photographs, you are preserving the evidence supporting the severity of the injuries you sustained. Bring any medical records and bills that you have at your disposal. Anticipated future medical expenses are among the expenses that will also need to be calculated.

Do not exaggerate the extent of your injuries, or the facts of the case. For example, if you were involved in an automobile accident, tell the attorney if you were going 65 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour zone. This will come out at some point so it would be better to get it out at first so your attorney can accurately assess the case and provide you with the proper advice.

After your attorney has the facts of the case, the next step is to determine your losses. Keep a journal and any evidence detailing any medical expenses and medical problems. For example, if you suffered a back injury in an automobile accident your life could be changed for an extended period of time. Simple tasks like mowing the lawn may become too difficult. If you needed to hire services to help you maintain your home or assist you with childcare because your injuries prevents you from performing these tasks, you should retain any documents supporting your use of these services. If you have missed work, bring evidence of your lost income, such as your pay stubs or W-2 form. Your attorney is the best person to advise you on what financial recovery to expect.

Your attorney will probably not file an action until you have been released from the doctors’ care, unless you have long term care.

**The Word Is Mum, Except With Your Attorney

Do not talk with your family, friends or anyone else about the accident or your injuries, except in response to medical questions for treatment of your injuries. If an insurance claims adjuster calls you, give them the name and telephone number of your attorney. What you tell other people can be admissible in a trial. Also, what you say can be taken out of context and used against you.

If you suffered a physical injury and have a long-term disability, assume the opposing side has a private investigator watching you. Make sure you follow the doctor’s recommendations. Defense attorneys have been known to hire private investigators to video record or photograph you performing tasks that may be contrary to what the doctor orders. This means you should not pick up a gallon of milk if you are not supposed to pick up anything heavier than ten pounds.

Refrain from posting pictures on social media that could be used against you, such as images of you skiing despite your complaint of a back injury. Request your friends and family to refrain from posting such photographs, even if the images were taken prior to the accident. These photographs can still be used against you, even if unsuccessfully.

What you say to your attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege. Your attorney cannot be required to tell other people what you tell him or her unless you give the attorney permission. It is important to be honest with your attorney, even if the information you provide can seemingly hurt you. This way your attorney can bring the information out in a positive light rather than waiting for the defense attorney revealing the information and hurting your case.

**Negotiating Settlement

Often the case can be resolved through negotiations between your attorney and the opposing side. Before meaningful negotiations occur, both parties want to know two things: the extent of your injuries and the facts of the case. This is also the time to start putting a hard dollar number on your case. The value of your case will be a blend of your damages and your chances to win at trial.

Although depositions generally occur after litigation has been filed, in some cases, the insurance adjuster may request to depose you regarding the accident and your injuries. At a deposition, an attorney from the opposing side will ask you questions. You will be under oath and your answers will be recorded. If you are requested to attend a deposition, your attorney should be present to protect your rights. Listen to the questions that are asked. Answer only the question that is asked, do not elaborate.

If informal negotiations between your attorney and the opposing side do not yield results, the next step is to file a lawsuit.

If informal negotiations do not work, you will probably go to formal mediation. Your attorney will be present. Mediation is an attempt to resolve the matter before trial with the assistance of an independent third party, called a mediator. Courts usually have a backlog of cases so everyone has an interest in resolving the case.

**When Negotiations Fail

In the uncommon case where negotiation for settlement is unsuccessful, the next step is trial. Seattle trial attorney Chris Thayer begins preparing for trial from the very beginning of a personal injury case to ensure that he can present a strong, persuasive case.

Proving Your Product Liability Claim | Chris Thayer

Posted Thursday, July 28, 2016 by Chris Thayer

When you buy a product, you have a reasonable expectation that it is reasonably safe for its intended use. This is not always the case. Periodically, consumers buy products that are defective or contain defective parts. When that product does not function properly, injuries can occur. If you are injured as a result of a dangerous or defective product, you may have a right to monetary recovery. A Seattle product liability attorney understands that your injuries resulting from an accident could have been caused by a multitude of factors, and not just from one person’s negligence but also from a defect that existed in the product you were using.

**Types of Product Liability

These are some of the ways in which a products liability claim can come about.

  • A manufacturing defect. This is the kind of defect that relates only to the specific product sold to you. For example, something went wrong when the product was being made, and the defect only affected that product or a few products. An example would be a tire or a medical device that was improperly made.
  • A design defect. This refers to something inherently dangerous in the design of the entire product line that makes every product sold unreasonably dangerous for the intended use. An example would be a vehicle part or an electronic device either of which has a design flaw that makes the product unsafe or hazardous.
  • The defendant fails to warn the purchaser or the consumer about the less than obvious risks posed by the product. As an example, the defendant sells an over-the-counter medication and fails to warn the consumer about potential health risks or to give instructions as to the proper dosage.

**Who May Be Liable For A Defective Product

Essentially, any party in the chain of the design, production, distribution and sale of the defective product is a potential defendant. This is particularly true in strict liability claim. The list of potential defendants includes the following parties:

  • The manufacturer. These are the most obvious defendants since they created the product.
  • The distributor. These are the parties who are responsible for actually putting the product on the market.
  • The retailer. These are the defendants who actually sell you the product.Theories Of Law To File A Product Liability Claim

If you are injured as a result of a dangerous or a defective product, you may have several legal theories available to sue upon. You do not have to guess or choose the best one at the beginning of your case. These are the legal theories a Seattle product liability attorney would consider

**Strict liability

In order to prevail on a strict liability claim, you do not have to prove that the defendant did anything wrong. You need only prove that:

  • The product was sold in an unreasonably dangerous condition or with an inadequate or no warning regarding the dangers inherent to the product;
  • The seller expected and intended that the product would reach the consumer without changes to the product; and
  • You or your property was injured by the defective product.

Once all three elements are proven, the defendant has the burden to avail itself of liability. One way is to prove that the defendant did not cause the injury and/or another defendant is liable for the defect causing injury. For example, if a manufacturing company placed a vehicle tire on the market and knew that tire was not suitable for highway driving and the tire exploded on the your car, then the defendant manufacturer would be liable. You can reasonably expect to recover the full array of damages which includes actual and future medical costs, lost wages and earning capacity, and pain and suffering. However, if the accident was caused by a driver who ran a red light and the defective tire did not explode or contribute to the accident or your injuries, then the manufacturing company would not be held liable for your injuries.

**Negligence

Negligence, to some extent, has been replaced by strict liability since strict liability is easier to prove. To prove a negligence claim, you must establish that:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care (i.e., making or selling a product that is free from defects or undisclosed risks);
  • The defendant breached that duty of care to you;
  • You were injured as a result of the defendant’s negligence; and
  • You suffered actual injuries.

Using the same tire example, if the defendant manufacturer placed a tire that it knew was unsafe on the market, then you would have a strong negligence claim against the manufacturer. If you succeed in your claim, then you can expect to recover the full array of damages.

**Breach of warranty

To prevail based on breach of warranty, you must prove that:

  • An express or implied warranty applied to the product; and
  • The product did not meet the terms of the warranty.

Using the same vehicle tire example, the manufacturer puts the tire on the market knowing that it is not up to safety standards for highway driving and the vehicle tire comes with a warranty. You would also have a strong case for breach of warranty. However, damages would be limited to what are referred to as concrete damages that would include, for example, property damages and medical bills.

**Fraud

To succeed in a fraud claim, you must prove that the defendant

  • Made representations to you that the defendant knew were untrue in an intent to get you to purchase a product; and,
  • You justifiably relied upon the defendant’s representations and were injured as a result.

For example, you purchased the defective tire from the distributor, who has knowledge that the tire may be unsafe. During the sale, the defendant distributor (seller) repeatedly tells you that the tire is suitable for all purposes and issues you a guarantee. In reliance upon defendant’s representations, you purchased the tire, the tire explodes while you are driving and you are injured. You would likely have a strong case against the distributor based on fraud and can reasonably expect to recover all damages available in a personal injury case as well as punitive damages.

Tactics Employed To Weaken Washington Auto Accident Claim

Posted Monday, July 11, 2016 by Chris Thayer

Insurance companies play a big part in any personal injury lawsuit. Whether you are injured in an auto accident or sued as a result of an auto accident, you can reasonably expect to deal with an insurance adjuster or an insurance company’s attorneys when negotiating a settlement. It is not unusual that an insurance company or the opposing party will assert defenses to your claim to avoid liability or try to lessen the amount of any payout. Understanding the defendant’s arguments is essentially in developing a strong case. Knowing your case’s weaknesses is advantageous because your attorney can spin those weaknesses in a favorable light.

Two Categories of Defenses

Defenses to an insurance claim or lawsuit generally fall into two categories: legal and factual. Legal defenses refer to a situation in which a claim is prohibited because of a law or rule. Factual defenses depend on the facts of the case, the degree of fault by the parties, and whether the injured party took action to lessen the effects of the damages from an auto accident.

Common Legal Defenses In A Washington Auto Accident Claim

  • Expiration of the Statute of Limitations. This refers to the time period in which a case can be filed. Simply put, if you wait too long to file a claim or a lawsuit, you will not have a case. Your claim is extinguished and non-existent. The Washington Revised Code §4.16.080(2) provides that the statute of limitations to file personal injury claims in Washington is three years from the date of injury. For auto accident claims, the date of injury generally coincides with the date of the accident. Thus, if you file your auto accident claim three years and a day after the date of your auto accident, your claim is barred unless there are special circumstances.

  • Plaintiff’s claim is barred by law. The law does prohibit a plaintiff from bringing a lawsuit in some situations. For example, if the plaintiff was driving while above the legal blood alcohol limit at the time of the accident, the plaintiff’s claim may be barred by law.

  • Contractual defenses. Contractual defenses refer to the terms of the parties’ insurance policies. For example, if a party’s insurance policy states that an act of God (such as a natural disaster) will not give rise to a legal claim, and if the plaintiff’s claim is based on such facts then the plaintiff would not have a case.

    • Illegal acts of the plaintiff. The illegal acts of a plaintiff can be both a legal and factual defense to an otherwise valid legal claim. Some examples would be plaintiff was driving while intoxicated or was an unlicensed driver.

Common Factual Defenses In A Washington Auto Accident Claim

The facts of your case determine how your case will be handled.

Plaintiff was Negligent:This refers to the degree of fault by both parties in an auto accident case. It is often the case in car accidents that both parties bear some responsibility for the accident and any fault or monetary award is apportioned between the parties. Pursuant to Washington RWC §4.22.005, you are entitled to recover your damages less the proportion of your fault. For example, the jury finds you are 60% at fault and awards you $100,000 for your injuries and loss. Your award is reduced by 60% so your take home award will be $40,000.

Intervening Act:This refers to a situation where there is another act that actually (1) causes the accident that was neither the fault of the plaintiff or the defendant, or (2) causes or worsens the plaintiff’s injuries. An example would be if a truck topples over on the freeway due to the truck driver’s negligence. The defendant swerves to avoid hitting the truck and runs into the plaintiff’s car. Metal from the toppled truck hits both the plaintiff and the defendant’s cars and causes the actual injuries to both parties. In this situation, defendant’s liability for plaintiff’s injuries could be either zero or significantly reduced since the truck driver’s negligence was the main cause for the accident.

Superseding Act: This refers to an unforeseeable situation that occurs after an auto accident whereby the superseding act causes most or all of the damage to plaintiff. For example, defendant is driving on a residential street, changes lanes too fast and bumps plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff and defendant pull over to exchange insurance information. A few minutes later, a third car runs a stop sign and side swipes plaintiff’s legally parked car causing damage to plaintiff’s car and both the plaintiff and defendant. In this situation, the third party’s act likely caused most or all of the damage and the defendant would likely have less or no liability.

Plaintiff failed to mitigate damages: Every injured party has a duty to lessen any damages incurred as a result of an auto accident if they can. If an injured party fails to do so, that could be a valid defense to a legal claim. For example, plaintiff and defendant are both driving. Defendant’s car hits plaintiff’s car, breaks a window, and cracks the plaintiff’s windshield. The parties both pull over to exchange insurance information and there are visible cuts on plaintiff’s hands from the broken glass. Plaintiff does not seek medical attention and those cuts become so infected that plaintiff’s hand is permanently damaged. In this example, it would be difficult for plaintiff to recover the full amount of any physical damages since plaintiff could have sought medical attention but failed to do so, thus worsening plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant would have little or no liability if the plaintiff’s injuries were attributed to the plaintiff’s failure to act.

Overview Of Personal Injury Lawsuits In Washington

Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2016 by Chris Thayer

If you are injured due to the negligence of someone else, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries. Your medical bills, loss of income, as well as pain and suffering are all elements for which you may be compensated.

What Constitutes A Personal Injury Claim?

Personal injury cases can arise in a number of different situations where there is an injury caused by an accident or harm. Automobile accidents are a common source of personal injury. However, injuries can occur due to product defects. Also, you may suffer a personal injury when a landowner fails to maintain his property in the proper fashion. If you are bitten by someone’s dog, you may be entitled to compensation. You may also be entitled to compensation if you were harmed due to exposure to toxins through a person’s inattention and negligence. These are a few examples of how people suffer personal injuries and may have a case against the party that hurt them. Many more exist.

A cause for a lawsuit arises when a person has a legal duty of care and fails in that duty. As a result of that person’s failure to exercise due care, another person is injured. Suppose Joe is speeding down the road in his car and fails to stop at a traffic signal when the light is red. He hits a car that is driven by Inez. Because of the accident, Inez suffers a back injury and is temporarily paralyzed. In this case, Joe had a legal duty to drive his car in a safe and prudent manner. When Joe failed to stop at the red light, he failed to operate his car in a proper manner and breached his duty of care. As a result of running the red light, Joe’s car crashed into Inez’s car, which caused her injuries. Therefore, Joe is liable and has to pay for injuring Inez.

A personal injury case is a civil action. The purpose of a civil action is to resolve disputes between parties. In a personal injury case, you can sue the person or company that caused your injury. Often the cases do not go to trial, but are resolved through mediation and negotiations. Possibly, the party that injured you will make a settlement offer. Be careful if they do offer a settlement. Make sure you consult with an attorney before you accept or sign anything.

Attorneys Are Important At Trial And Negotiations

An attorney can strengthen your hand in negotiations by collecting evidence, examining police reports when they are available, and interviewing witnesses. The process is important because if you go to trial, preparation is key. Most cases do not go to trial but are ended in negotiations. If you negotiate a settlement, an experienced Washington personal injury attorney can review the case to be sure you are receiving a fair settlement. Also, an attorney will collect and preserve the evidence that is needed to prove your claim.

The Importance Of The Timing Of Lawsuits

The timing of a lawsuit is important. Personal injury lawsuits in Washington must be brought within three years of the date of the injury. However, if the injury occurred while you were under a disability that prevented you from filing an action within three years or you were less than eighteen years of age when the injury occurred, consult an attorney to determine whether your case can still be filed. If possible, consult an attorney immediately after the injury.

You also should know the full extent of your losses before you file a suit or reach an agreement with the party that injured you. Be certain to take a hard look at all of your losses. For example, if you provide services in the home for your family, you may need to hire someone to help you. Who will run the errands, take care of your small child, and take care of other essential responsibilities? You may recover for the added cost of hiring someone to help you with the services you could no longer due, whether permanently or temporarily.

Once a verdict is returned and no appeal is filed or an agreement is reached prior to trial; that is the end of the case. Consequently, if you later discover additional losses or need more medical care because of the injury, you cannot file an additional suit. Therefore, review losses and expected losses closely with your attorney.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are monetary awards to compensate you for damages, which include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include losses that can be measured in money. For example, medical bills, loss of income, and nursing care can be counted and documented. Future medical expenses can also be anticipated and estimated. Pain and suffering is also recoverable but is considered a non-economic damage. Placing a dollar amount on pain and suffering is not objective compared to medical expenses and loss of income. Different approaches are used to calculate the amount. Thus, non-economic damages are intangible harms and, aside from pain and suffering, include emotional distress and loss of consortium.

Comparative Negligence Affects Your Compensatory Damages

Some factors can prevent an injured party from receiving compensation for their full losses. Washington is a pure comparative negligence state. In comparative negligence, a percentage of fault can be assigned to the injured party. When a percentage of fault is assigned, the compensation is reduced by the same percentage. Suppose the jury determines the injured party had losses of $100,000, but was 10% at fault for the accident, then the award would be reduced by 10%. So, instead of collecting $100,000, the injured party would receive $90,000.

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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