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

Drivers Who Fall Asleep Behind the Wheel

Posted Sunday, August 20, 2017 by Chris Thayer

A nurse who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, told National Public Radio about the time she fell asleep behind the wheel. She had just gotten off her overtime shift and remembers feeling tired, but it was only a few miles home so she decided to push through. The next thing she knew, she had drifted across the double line and struck another vehicle head-on. Luckily both drivers only sustained minor injuries.

About one in five fatal car accidents in the United States involve drowsy drivers. The less sleep a person gets in a 24-hour period, the higher the accident risk. According to an American Automobile Association (AAA) study, people who only get five or six hours of sleep are twice as likely to crash as people who get seven or more hours of sleep.

Here are more drowsy driving facts from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Up to 6,000 fatal car accidents every year are caused by drowsy drivers.
  • One study found that one in 25 adult drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel within the previous 30 days.
  • There is a high likelihood that commercial truck drivers and people who work the night shift will drive drowsy.
  • Drowsy driving warning signs include drifting out of your lane, not remembering the last few miles that you drove, missing your exit, hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road and yawning.
  • Drowsy driving is dangerous because, like impaired driving, it slows reaction times and affects decision making.

The CDC recommends that drivers get at least seven hours of sleep and avoid taking medications or drinking alcohol that makes them sleepy. Additionally, people who suffer from sleep disorders that might make them fall asleep behind the wheel should talk to their doctors about treatment options.

*Drowsy Driving Incidents*In July 2017, a semi-truck driver crashed on Interstate-5 in Tacoma, blocking all lanes of northbound traffic for several hours. He admitted to feeling drowsy when he swerved to avoid another vehicle, hitting the Jersey barriers and overturning. The driver sustained bumps and bruises, but fortunately no one else was hurt.

In May 2017, a 23-year-old semi-truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel near the Interstate 82-U.S. Highway 12 interchange in Yakima. His vehicle went off the road, and the driver overcorrected, striking a pickup truck. They both crashed into the guardrail. Luckily, neither driver was injured in the accident.

In November 2016, eight people were injured when a driver fell asleep just south of Montesano and crashed into a tree. There were two adults and six children (ranging in age from 11 months to 12 years old) in the vehicle, and they all had to be taken to the hospital. The 28-year-old driver was charged with negligent driving in the second degree.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in an accident involving a drowsy driver. We will help you recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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.

Contact Us Today

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.

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.