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

Did an Injured Photographer Assume Risk of Hammer Throw Injury?

Posted Friday, November 10, 2017 by Chris Thayer

The law holds people civilly accountable if their negligent actions cause or contribute to another person’s injuries. However, the law also provides certain defenses that might prevent injured persons from recovering the compensation to which they would otherwise be entitled.

Photographer Injured During Hammer Throw Competition

There is an event during a track and field competition called the hammer throw. It involves throwing a “hammer,” which is nothing like the tool also called by that name. The throw hammer consists of a metal ball attached to a grip by a steel wire. It is dangerous to stand in the hammer’s path when the athletes throw it.

A photographer learned that lesson the hard way in 2015. Ronald Swords suffered a serious injury when the metal ball and chain struck his leg during a collegiate competition at Eastern Washington University. The hammer event was lined with flags, and Swords was standing just outside these boundaries photographing an athlete from Montana when the accident happened. He did not see the hammer’s path and therefore was not able to get out of the way.

Swords recently filed a lawsuit against Eastern Washington University, seeking compensation for his medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of earning capacity. Because the hammer throw is an inherently dangerous activity, can the school successfully argue that Swords assumed the risk of injury by photographing the event?

What is Assumption of Risk?

Generally, “assumption of risk” 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 cannot 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.

“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.

Eastern Washington University could argue that Swords cannot sue for damages because he knew that the hammer throw is dangerous and that the hammer’s path is often unpredictable, and that he voluntarily impeded his vision by photographing the competition. But an experienced attorney could argue that “assumption of risk” is not applicable to the photographer’s situation.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured in any kind of accident. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and noneconomic damages for pain and suffering. We know how to combat an assumption of risk defense and any other tactics that the negligent party may employ to avoid paying damages.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit After an Accidental Shooting

Posted Saturday, November 4, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Accidents happen. Some accidents can have serious and even deadly consequences, especially when those accidents involve firearms. Accidental shooters, or adults who supply the weapons involved in child accidental shootings, may face criminal charges in some cases. They may also face civil charges because accidental gunshot victims may file personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits seeking compensation for their injuries.

In January 2016, a woman was injured at a Renton movie theater when a man’s gun accidentally went off and shot her in the shoulder. The bullet came from a handgun owned by Dane Gallion, who initially gave conflicting accounts of what happened. Gallion did tell police that he brought the gun to the theater because of his fear of mass shootings in public places.

The injured woman recently filed a personal injury lawsuit against Gallion, claiming that the accidental shooter “was negligent in many respects” when he dropped the gun. Her collar bone was shattered by the bullet, and she seeks damages for her injuries.

*Children Injured in Accidental Shootings*Accidental shootings happen much too frequently. In 2011, a Seattle third-grader brought a parent’s gun to school in his backpack. When the student accidentally dropped his backpack onto the classroom floor, it went off, shooting a classmate in the abdomen. Thankfully the injured student survived.

The trauma surgeon who treated the third-grader told CNN that her case was not the only time he had seen a child with an accidental gunshot wound. He had also treated a 6-year-old boy whose brother received a handgun for his 9th birthday. The 9-year-old accidentally shot his little brother when they were playing with the gun in their backyard.

According to a recent study, 5,790 children receive emergency medical treatment for gun-related injuries in the United States every year. Like the Seattle third-grader, 21% of those injuries are accidental. The study also found that boys are much more likely than girls to be injured in accidental shootings. Other findings include:

  • Between 2012 and 2014, an average of 1,297 died every year in the U.S. from a gun-related injury.
  • Boys accounted for 82% of child deaths caused by firearms.
  • Boys also accounted for 84% of nonfatal firearm injuries.
  • About 19 children a day die from a gunshot wound or receive emergency medical treatment for one.
  • In 2010, 91% of the children killed by gunshot wounds in high-income countries were killed in the U.S.

The researchers noted that their study does not account for accidental firearm injuries that are not treated in a hospital. They also note that accidental firearm deaths might be underreported.

Most accidental shootings are preventable. For example, parents should make sure that their firearms are safely secured and stored so that their children cannot access them.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one was injured in an accidental shooting. Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensation for those injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and noneconomic damages for pain and suffering.

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.