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

Wait! Be Sure to Get Consent Before Settling Your Uninsured Motorist Claim

Posted Friday, January 8, 2021 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextIt may seem like a silly thing to consider, but if you are in a motor vehicle collision with an uninsured (or underinsured) motorist, then you may need to turn to your own insurance policy in order to be fully compensated. After all, uninsured or poorly insured drivers rarely have substantial assets that you can attach and recover. Therefore, your recovery is often limited to whatever amount of coverage the other driver has or does not have. If you were wise enough to carry an underinsured motorist policy on your own vehicle, then you may have additional cash available to cover your injuries. But wait just a second — there are a few crucial steps you must understand before you sign on the dotted line, so to speak.

*How Underinsured Motorist Coverage Works*When the at-fault driver has a low amount of coverage, let’s say $50,000 in liability protection, and your damages exceed that amount, you can then turn it over to your own insurance company. You could be looking at a serious loss of cash if you go ahead and settle your case with the at-fault driver without first getting your own carrier’s consent. Here is why.

  • Waiver of subrogation. When you settle with the negligent driver, you are essentially resolving any potential claims against that person and their insurance company. You are also waiving your own insurance carrier’s right to sue that person in order to get their money back.
  • Right to Offsets. Your underinsured motorist carrier also has a right to an offset, which means they can reduce the amount they give you by the amount you already received from the other side. So, settling without their consent can also create problems.

*What Happens When I Request Consent?*Only one of two things can happen when you seek your insurance carrier’s consent to settle. First, they can consent, allowing you to settle with the at-fault carrier, then you can bring your remaining claim for underinsured motorist coverage with your own carrier, or your carrier can decline to waive their subrogation rights.

If your insurance company does the latter, then they should forward you the full amount that the at-fault driver is liable for, then your insurance company can take over and pursue a lawsuit against the driver to get reimbursed the money they paid you.

*What Happens if I Do Not Get Consent?*If you do not get the insurance company’s consent to settle, then you may be denied compensation later by your own underinsured motorist carrier. Although injury victims routinely can get around this, it is not something you want to deal with.

*Speak to an Experienced Trial Lawyer Before You Consider Settling Anything*Ultimately, these are precisely the types of nuanced issues that come up in almost every insurance claim, which is also why it is extremely valuable to work with a skilled trial lawyer. The law is designed to give your insurance company ample opportunity to sue the at-fault driver if he or she is wealthy and can afford to reimburse you for your losses. It also gives your insurance company the opportunity to decide if they would like to take the responsibility of suing that driver as opposed to just paying the claim.

If you or someone you know have been hurt in a car or truck accident and feel that the other driver has too little insurance to cover you, but you know you have additional coverage available, call or visit a Seattle personal injury lawyer from Pivotal Law Group and speak with someone who has the experience to maximize your recovery.

Tort Immunity Debates in a Pandemic Age

Posted Friday, January 1, 2021 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextWith the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the country, even as the vaccinations are slowly being doled out, state and federal legislators continue pushing for tort immunity for healthcare providers. This is not a new rallying cry. Tort reform has long latched on to health emergencies and other unforeseen national disasters in attempts to expand protections for the healthcare industry. But this time may be different, and Seattle trial lawyers may well have to get used to a new reality when trying to fight for justice.

*What is Tort Immunity, and Why is it Being Introduced Now?*On state and federal levels, there are discussions about providing absolute protections for healthcare workers and healthcare companies because of COVID-19. In other words, if you or someone you love go to a hospital or doctor’s office and contract the virus and become severely ill or even die, you may have no available recourse. What is more, if that healthcare provider entirely blew off their obligations and ignored basic safety and infection control protocols, under some proposed plans, you would have to just deal with it, as you would have no option to sue.

*Tort Immunity Debates at the National Level*As early as May of 2020, the Chamber of Commerce was already pressing for immunity for businesses in light of COVID-19. Per a May 27, 2020 press release, the Chamber cited fear of lawsuits as part of the motivation behind their position. Of course, there is little evidence of widespread litigation in the wake of COVID-19. In fact, it is more likely that typical rules and laws pertaining to negligence will continue to apply, just as with all claims against healthcare workers and providers. Consider, for example, what would happen if someone attempts to file a lawsuit against a healthcare provider for contracting the virus.

  • Duty - No different from any other claim, a plaintiff will still have to prove that the defendant healthcare provider owed them a specific legal duty to protect them against contracting the virus.
  • Breach - Again, no different from usual, a plaintiff will still need to prove the healthcare provider failed to do something or acted in some negligent or reckless way.
  • Causation - This is the more controversial aspect of suing during COVID-19. The plaintiff in such an action would still need to be able to prove that the provider’s actions were the direct cause of contracting the virus.

*The Unique Challenges of Proving Causation for a Virus*Viruses are, in general, very contagious. Even in an isolated environment like a nursing home, it would be quite challenging to effectively prove who gave a resident the virus and how. This could take on a lot of potential variations of the usual negligence claim. Perhaps a provider failed to exercise reasonable infection control precautions, leading to an outbreak on a particular wing of a hospital or nursing home. Even in this scenario, a plaintiff would still likely need to show that it was the provider’s negligence that specifically caused them to contract the disease.

*Arguments Against Tort Immunity*At first glance, some may think that immunity for healthcare professionals is a good thing. However, numerous consumer and patient advocacy groups oppose the move, for fear of what it could mean. In fact, as one open letter from advocacy groups to House and Senate Leadership explained it, these calls for tort immunity are “premised on a false choice between the return to a healthy economy and allowing businesses to be held accountable if their carelessness causes people to get sick.” The letter, which was co-authored by Consumer Reports, National Association of Consumer Advocates, and several other groups, went on to explain that the Chamber and various healthcare companies were not genuinely trying to avoid going bankrupt or prevent wildly frivolous lawsuits, but rather, they were nothing more than shameless attempts to use the widespread fear of the American people in order to sneak by a self-serving free pass. Finally, the letter addressed the unmistakable fact that many of the companies and industries most vocal about immunity are those that have been crying for tort reform for years, despite chart-topping profits year after year.

*Help for Everyday Washingtonians Who are Injured*No two injuries are the same, and not every injury is something for which you can sue for compensation. However, when healthcare providers and other large companies make reckless or careless decisions, fail to follow procedures, ignore public health warnings, or otherwise act irresponsibly during a pandemic, there ought to be some accountability. People who lose loved ones because of these careless decisions should have the right to collect compensation for their losses.

If you or a loved one has been affected by a serious personal injury, it is time to talk to an attorney before it is too late. Strict deadlines apply, plus you never know when Congress or the State of Washington will close up liability, leaving you and those you care about out of luck for good. Call or visit Pivotal Law Group today to learn more.

Five Simple Truths About Treating a Bulging Disc After an Auto Accident

Posted Friday, December 25, 2020 by Chris Thayer

If you are thinking about speaking with an attorney near you about suffering a bulging disc after a Seattle car or truck accident, then you should understand these five simple truths. A bulging disc is not a simple or minor injury. It can lead to excruciating pain and suffering, with long recovery times. Sadly, many people do not fully understand the injury, and this even includes some lawyers who profess to be injury attorneys. So, here are five things you must understand about your bulging disc injury.

*A Bulging Disc is Not a Minor Soft-Tissue Injury*If someone refers to your bulging disc as a minor soft-tissue injury, then they are simply uninformed or uneducated in spinal health. The discs in your spine act as shock absorbers. Through these small structures runs a bundle of nerves. Discs can get displaced and pinch nerves (i.e. impingement). Or, they can become deflated, much like a flat tire. When this happens the bones of the vertebrae can start to rub together, causing a lot of pain.

*A Bulging Disc is Not a Herniated Disc*There is actually a difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc. With herniation comes an opening or tear. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, this means that the soft pouch-like structure of the disc is punctured or ruptured, letting out the jelly-like substance inside. This lubricant helps the disc protect and cushion the vertebrae. But when the fluid leaks out, it leads to much the same effect as a bulging disc, though they are not the same.

*A Bulging Disc Cannot Always be Identified Through Imaging*An x-ray commonly does not show a bulging disc. An MRI, however, may. It all depends on the bulging disc and the clarity and strength of the MRI machine being used. The higher the definition, the better the chances of getting a clear image. Of course, like everything in life, with a higher definition laser and better quality imaging, you will pay more for the MRI. This is a good reason why you should work with a personal injury lawyer who has strong relationships with local specialists who can get you in and evaluate your injury.

*Many Americans Have Bulging Discs Already*Not to bring bad news, but many Americans already have disc injuries from normal use, wear and tear, age, and past traumas. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that each year, between five and 20 adults out of 1,000 will have a bulging disc. It is most common in later years (after about 40), and men get them at about twice the rate as women. Of course, this does not mean that you should walk away from an injury claim just because bulging discs are somewhat common. It is still a very painful condition. Even if you already have this condition, an auto accident or slip and fall can certainly aggravate it.

*Bulging Discs Often Improve With Physical Therapy and Weight Loss*Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that dropping some pounds will help alleviate pressure on the discs, thus helping to relieve back pain relating to bulging discs. Likewise, physical therapy can play a very big role in the treatment plan. But when all these things fail to help, doctors may be able to use steroidal injections, nerve blocks and other surgical techniques to relieve pain. In fact, these are just some of the remedies available:

  • Steroids
  • Pain medications
  • Surgery
  • Injections
  • Spinal Blocks
  • Nerve ablation (destroying the nerve root causing the pain)
  • Weight loss
  • Physical therapy
  • Disc replacement surgery

*What to Do if You Suffer a Bulging Disc Due to an Accident*If someone else is responsible for causing your bulging disc, and you are suffering serious pain from the injury, then you deserve to be compensated. A back injury can greatly affect your ability to enjoy your life, play with children, keep employment, and enjoy the same quality of life as before. Call or visit Pivotal Law Group today, and let us offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation. You may be entitled to more money than you realize. But you will not know if you do not call.

Why Does the Insurance Company Focus on My Past Medical Care?

Posted Friday, December 18, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextWhen you are injured in a motor vehicle collision, slip and fall, or some other type of situation where an insured person or business may be negligent in causing the injury, then you should understand the types of things the insurance company will be looking for in defending against your injury claim. This is where an experienced Seattle injury lawyer near you may be able to put things into perspective to maximize your financial recovery. One way that insurance companies limit what they have to pay injury victims is by focusing on past medical issues. Consider a few reasons why this is the case.

*Pre-existing Medical Conditions*First, the at-fault party’s insurance carrier will want to obtain as much of your medical history as they can get. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the very most important is to screen your past medical care for signs of a pre-existing condition. Although under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance companies are currently unable to deny medical coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions, this is not the same with auto and commercial liability policies. An auto insurance carrier or general commercial policy for a store or restaurant will invariably have a right to dig into your past a bit and find out if the injury you are currently claiming was indeed caused by the event. Say, for instance, you fall at a store and claim that the fall caused back injuries. If the insurance company discovers that you had back surgery for a herniated disc three years earlier, then this can be used to suggest that the pain you feel was actually already there prior to ever falling in their insured’s store.

*Malingering*This oft-used phrase just means “faking it” to get paid. Insurance companies will look for a history of filing small injury claims. If they discover that you have had a lot of chiropractic care and several prior injury claims, they may be on high alert in searching for evidence of a potential fraudulent claim. Likewise, a history of medical care for the very thing you are claiming may be a sign that you are faking the current symptoms to play off an old injury or condition.

*Aggravation of Other Conditions*Not all purposes for seeking past medical care are nefarious, however. The insurance company will also want to make sure that they are 100% clear on what injuries the injured person has and is claiming. In some cases, past medical treatment may unearth signs that the person had a weakened spine or some other hereditary condition that puts him or her at a much higher risk of serious injury in certain situations. This could mean that the claim is not a new injury, but rather an aggravation of an existing condition.

*How to Deal With Insurance Company Tactics*If you or someone you care about is hurt in the Seattle area, reach out to Pivotal Law Group. The firm is small enough to provide personal attention but large enough to tackle even the hardest cases. To get a free case evaluation, just call the firm or find us online today.

Weather-Related “Defenses” to Auto Accidents

Posted Friday, December 11, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextAs winter hits the Pacific Northwest, accidents and auto injuries throughout the region will likely increase. This is typical, especially in climates like Washington State. In fact, according to the Department of Transportation, nearly 76,000 people are injured nationwide each year in snow and ice related auto collisions. This includes upwards of 900 deaths. But this does not actually mean that winter weather caused all of these accidents. It simply means that weather may have contributed to the crashes, or it can mean that the collisions occurred during winter conditions. As any experienced auto accident lawyer in the Seattle area knows, weather often becomes more of an excuse than a cause. Here are some common examples of weather-related “defenses” that insurance companies and negligent drivers may try to use to avoid liability.

*Sun in My Eyes*It is very common for drivers in good conditions and bad to claim that the sun was in their eyes, thus causing them to lose control of their vehicle or to not see other vehicles. This can also occur in snow, due to the phenomenon known as snow-blindness. This happens when the sun reflects off of bright white snow, causing a blinding glare. The problem, of course, is that it remains the driver’s responsibility to keep control of their vehicle regardless of snow or sunshine.

*Ice Made Vehicle Unstoppable*This or some variation of it is commonly used by insurance companies to claim that their driver was not negligent, but rather, he or she simply could not stop the vehicle as it hydroplaned on ice. This is perhaps true in some very rare and extreme cases, but ultimately, every driver takes a risk when they get behind the wheel. If a driver opts to take to the road in such bad conditions, they assume the responsibility of being able to manage their vehicle in those conditions. If they are unable to do so and cause a serious injury to someone else on the road, then they must still be held responsible.

*No *Time to React

Whatever the insurance carrier wants to call it, sometimes a driver will claim that in a snowy or icy condition, the victim pulled out in front of them or stopped too quickly, leaving them no time to adequately stop. This is generally used in rear-end collisions. The problem with this defense, of course, is that it ignores the fact that it is the duty of all drivers to allow enough space between themselves and the vehicles in front of them, so that in the event of an emergency braking situation, the following vehicle can stop in time. If you are following too closely for the weather conditions, this is still negligence.

*Partnering With a Skilled Trial Team to Maximize Your Recovery*When injured in a Washington State auto accident, weather-related or not, it is always in your best interests to work with a skilled trial team. This means hiring attorneys with real-world trial skills and experience. At Pivotal Law Group, our attorneys have years of trial experience, and they understand the types of defenses that you can expect to face when claiming significant damages from a wreck. Call or visit the firm online today to learn more or to schedule a free one-on-one consultation with one of our attorneys.