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

Social Host Liability in Washington

Posted Saturday, October 28, 2017 by Chris Thayer

The holidays are right around the corner, which means more parties, social gatherings, and opportunities to overindulge on food and drink.

Some overindulgences can be legally problematic. For example, Washington law makes it illegal for social hosts to provide minors with alcohol. Social hosts may also be held civilly liable if the minor is injured because of the alcohol consumption. Personal injury risks associated with underage drinking include automobile accidents, sexual assault and acute intoxication. Teens who have been drinking are also more likely to fall and injure themselves or get into fights that result in injuries.

In February 2017, four adults were arrested in conjunction with a Stanwood party where more than 150 minors were drinking. Snohomish County deputies showed up after a woman reported her 13-year-old niece was drinking at the party with other minors. One boy was reportedly passed out inside the home. An ambulance also responded to the scene. In addition to criminal liability, the social hosts could be sued for any injuries stemming from the underage drinking.

Who is a “Social Host” Under State Law?

According to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the social host liability law “create[s] responsibilities on the part of ‘social’ hosts, such as homeowners, to persons affected by drinking on property that the host owns, leases, or otherwise controls.” Specifically, state law makes it illegal to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to minors or to allow minors to consume liquor on premises under their control.

A social host is not a commercial establishment, like a bar or restaurant, which must comply with a separate law creating a “duty of care” to people affected when patrons become intoxicated, leave the premises, and injure third parties.

Municipalities may also pass local social host ordinances that allow property owners to be cited without proof that they provided for or allowed underage drinking.

Tips for Parents

The Liquor and Cannabis Board advises parents not to allow underage drinking in their homes. Aside from complying with state law themselves, the board also advises parents to:

  • Not let their teens host parties without adult supervision. While parents do not have to hover, they should occasionally walk through to make sure no one brings alcohol to the party.
  • Speak with their adult children about not giving alcohol to underage siblings and friends.
  • Ask a neighbor or relative to check on their teen if the parents are away overnight. Knowing that someone will be checking in on them should dissuade teens from throwing their own house parties.
  • Talk to other parents about keeping social gatherings alcohol and drug free.Encourage alcohol-free activities. Host these activities in your home.Report known underage drinking violations to local police.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if your underage child was provided with alcohol at a house party or other social gathering covered under the social host liability law. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for any injuries sustained by your child.

School Bus Safety in Washington

Posted Saturday, October 21, 2017 by Chris Thayer

The school year is well underway, and all Washington drivers should approach school zones with caution. They should take particular care when sharing the roads with school buses, which frequently stop to load and unload children. Bus drivers, too, must take certain precautions in transporting children to and from school.

Washington law imposes several requirements on motorists and school bus drivers in order to keep children safe. Here is what you need to know if you come across a school bus or if you are a school bus driver:

  • Motorists traveling in the same direction as a school bus must stop when the bus is stopped with its stop sign extended and red lights flashing.
  • Motorists traveling in the opposite direction must stop on two-lane roads when the bus is stopped with its stop sign extended and red lights flashing.
  • Motorists traveling in the opposite direction need not stop if there are three or more marked traffic lanes (including turn lanes) for stopped school buses.
  • School bus drivers must activate the requisite visual signals when it stops to load or unload children.

School buses do not stop without notice. If you see flashing yellow lights on the front and back of the vehicle it means the bus is about to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop when the bus driver extends the stop sign and turns on the flashing red lights. Unfortunately, school bus drivers report that far too many drivers pass them illegally.

School Bus Riders Injured

In April of 2017, a school bus driver failed to yield while making a turn on Highway 395. The Colville bus collided with a semi truck driver, injuring the bus driver and two students.

In June 2016, two Renton school buses collided near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and SW Sunset Boulevard. 20 elementary-age children and one bus driver sustained injuries in the crash.

In April of 2016, a man lost control of his pickup truck and crashed into six middle school boys waiting to catch their school bus in Maple Valley. The 19-year-old driver, whose license was suspended, had apparently suffered a seizure right before the accident. All six boys were injured, but three were taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

In March of 2015, a truck driver crashed into a school bus, injuring 43 students. The driver also struck another car, whose driver was pronounced dead at the scene. In all, 56 people were taken to the hospital with injuries. Investigators say that the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and drifted into oncoming traffic, striking the bus and car. The accident took place 150 miles east of Seattle on Highway 97.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if your child has been injured in a school bus accident, while waiting to catch the bus, or getting on or off the bus. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your child’s injuries.

Does Washington State Award Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases?

Posted Thursday, October 12, 2017 by Chris Thayer

A Washington judge recently ruled that she will not award punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit involving a 2015 Ride the Ducks crash. On September 24, 2015, a Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle crashed into a charter bus on Aurora Bridge, killing five North Seattle College international students and injuring dozens of other students and tourists. Multiple personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits were filed against the Ride the Ducks company and government officials, among other defendants.

The National Transportation Safety Board had determined that a defective axle on the Ducks vehicle caused the crash. In fact, the axles had been rebuilt in Missouri, where Ride the Ducks International is based. The plaintiffs tried arguing that because the rebuild happened in Missouri, that Missouri law should apply to their case. Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer held that Washington law, and not Missouri law, applied. Even though the rebuild occurred in Missouri, vehicle maintenance took place in Washington, as did the accident.

Shaffer also ruled that the crash did not meet the high bar set for awarding punitive damages in Washington.

Punitive Damages Law in Washington

Courts award punitive damages to punish wrongdoers for malicious, intentional, or reckless conduct. Punitive damages go beyond compensating the victim for his or her injuries and also seek to deter future wrongdoing. While most states permit punitive damages in personal injury cases, Washington generally does not. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, punitive damages may be awarded in malicious harassment lawsuits.

Compensatory Damages

Courts award compensatory damages to plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits to compensate them for their injuries. In other words, compensatory damages are actual damages that pay for the plaintiff’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related expenses. Here are a few things you should know about compensatory damages:

  • 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 will only recover 80% of the damages.
  • However, Washington does not place a cap on the amount of damages that you can receive, including damages awarded for emotional distress (noneconomic damages).
  • “Fault” can be a tricky thing to determine. Note that Washington’s legal 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.
  • State district courts handle personal injury cases seeking less than $50,000, and state superior courts handle personal injury cases seeking more than $50,000.
  • The jury calculates the personal injury award. The judge will give them instructions to follow in calculating the award.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one have been injured in an accident. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your injuries.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods

Posted Sunday, October 8, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Have you been injured in an accident? Are you seeking damages from the wrongdoer in a personal injury lawsuit? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, it is important to understand all of your legal options.

While you might imagine pleading your case before a judge and jury, not every personal injury claim is resolved in a courtroom. In fact, it is often cheaper and less time-consuming to resolve claims through arbitration or mediation. Generally everyone involved in the dispute must agree to arbitration or mediation, but sometimes a contract or court will mandate the alternative resolution process.

What is Arbitration?

In arbitration, the parties present their arguments to a neutral third party outside of the court system. This third party is called an arbitrator. An arbitrator may be an attorney but does not have to be. Unlike judges, arbitrators handle cases in private and try to help the parties reach an agreement. Under Washington law, an arbitrator’s decision is final, binding, enforceable, and usually non-appealable.

Here is how the arbitration process typically works:

  • The parties will agree to arbitration rules.
  • The rules outline how the arbitrator will be selected and the arbitration process.
  • The parties will sign a written contract that names the arbitrator and explains what the arbitrator will decide.
  • There will be an arbitration hearing, where each side may present witnesses and evidence, as well as question the other side’s witnesses (similar to a courtroom proceeding).
  • The arbitrator will render his or her decision.

What is Mediation?

In mediation, the parties involved in the dispute will meet with an impartial third person. This person is called the mediator, who will try to help the parties reach a settlement agreement. Unlike an arbitrator, mediators do not issue decisions or apportion fault. They also do not hear witness testimony or examine evidence. Their job is to help parties communicate and to set forth options. While mediators are often lawyers, they do not have to be.

Here is how the mediation process works:

  • The parties will meet with the mediator to explain their views of the dispute. Mediation sessions are held outside the courtroom.
  • The mediator then might meet with each party separately to discuss the dispute and possible resolutions.
  • The mediator may go back and forth between the parties multiple times until they can reach an agreement. Other joint mediation sessions may also be held.
  • Once the parties reach an agreement they can sign a written settlement agreement, which is a binding and enforceable contract.
  • All the parties must agree to the resolution – otherwise the dispute is left unresolved.

Anything you say at a mediation session is confidential and cannot be used against you later in a legal proceeding if the dispute is not settled.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one have been injured in an accident. Our experienced attorneys will discuss your legal options – including arbitration, mediation and litigation – and help you recover compensation for your injuries.

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.