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

Does the HELPER Mnemonic Really Help in Bellevue?

Posted Friday, March 17, 2023 by Chris Thayer

Roughly 10% of the deliveries in King County hospitals involve shoulder dystocia or another serious complication. SD occurs if a baby’s shoulders are so broad the baby cannot naturally drift down the mother’s birth canal.

If that happens, the umbilical cord cuts off oxygen to the baby’s brain. The resulting hypoxia (lack of oxygen) could cause cerebral palsy in less than five minutes.

When things go wrong in the delivery room, a catch mnemonic device does not always save the day. CP infants have permanent brain damage, which ranges from barely noticeable to completely debilitating. Only a Bellevue personal injury attorney can obtain the compensation these victims need and deserve in court. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Since doctors have such a high duty of care in Washington, a Bellevue personal injury attorney can often obtain additional punitive damages as well. Like the old saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

*HELP: Call for Help*The first step of any journey, including the journey to prevent SD-related cerebral palsy, is often the most important one. Unfortunately, doctors often skip this step.

Many doctors are overconfident. They believe they do not need help. That is also the reason many doctors dismiss SD red flags during prenatal care visits. Beneath the surface, many doctors also believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

Additionally, help is not always available. That is especially true during nights, weekends, holidays, and other low-census periods. Because of the aforementioned duty of care, doctors cannot pawn their failures onto someone else, like a nurse who does not follow instructions or a hospital administrator who permits understaffing.

*EPISIOTOMY*Frankly, we are amazed this step is still in this mnemonic. Back in the day, doctors routinely cut the mother’s perineum (area between the anus and genitals) to widen her birth canal. According to the most recent research, however, these incisions are ineffective and unsafe.

*LEGS: McRoberts Maneuver*In about eight out of ten cases, simply lifting the mother’s legs and bending her knees moves a stuck baby down the birth canal. So, this intervention should probably be earlier. But it is not. Additionally, it only works most of the time. If the maneuver fails, which is not uncommon, more precious time ticks off the SD cerebral palsy clock.

*PRESSURE: Apply Suprapubic Pressure*As we near the end of the countdown, medical interventions are increasingly desperate. Applying suprapubic pressure is a little like performing CPR on a mother’s abdomen. Doctors hope that by poking and prodding, they can force the baby lower.

A Bellevue personal injury attorney often gets involved at this point. Even if these babies don’t have cerebral palsy, the additional pressure often causes head injuries and other such injuries. Tiny babies are so vulnerable that a little bit of force often causes a severe injury.

*ENTER MANEUVERS: Internal Rotation*This step is like advanced CPR. Instead of poking and prodding, doctors try to turn the baby. Usually, they perform this advanced maneuver blind. Therefore, the chances of success are minimal. But since the five minutes are almost up, doctors are willing to try almost anything at this point.

*REMOVE the Posterior Arm*Frequently, the baby is low enough that a limb, usually an arm, is exposed. If doctors remove that limb, a partially successful birth might still be possible. Basically, a doctor plays God and decides that the certainty of losing an arm is better than the possibility of severe cerebral palsy.

*Work With a Diligent King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Bellevue, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We routinely handle matters throughout Washington State.

Lawmakers Mull Lower BAC Limit

Posted Friday, March 10, 2023 by Chris Thayer

Washington is one of several jurisdictions that may follow Utah and lower the Blood Alcohol Content legal limit to .05.

In Washington state, the number of vehicle deaths climbed to 745 in 2022, the highest level since 1990, according to the state’s traffic safety commission. Impairment by alcohol or drugs was a factor in half of those cases, the commission said.

John Lovick, a Washington legislator and former state trooper, said he introduced a BAC .05 bill because of what he saw while on patrol. After dozens of field sobriety checks, he concluded that he would not want someone he pulled over and blew a .06 or a .07 to be on the road where his children played.

“I think we need to get rid of that message, telling people that it’s OK that .08 is legal,” he said. “Zero tolerance is what we’re working toward.”

*The Problem*As recently as the early 1990s, DUI was basically a serious traffic ticket. Most states had weak DUI laws that were weakly enforced. Then, politicians vowed to “get tough” on drunk drivers. They passed new laws, like a per se DUI law which made these cases easier to prove in criminal court. They also authorized controversial law enforcement tools, like DUI roadblocks.

Additionally, all states lowered their BAC limits to .08, under tremendous pressure from the federal government.

All these efforts haven’t had much effect. Alcohol is still a factor in about a third of fatal car crashes in Washington. That is about the same proportion as it was in the late 1980s, before the crackdown began.

Strict laws and harsh penalties may take some drunk drivers off the streets, at least temporarily. But these initiatives do little or nothing to compensate the victims of alcohol-related collisions. Only a Kent personal injury attorney can do that.

These victims need compensation for their serious injuries. Common car crash injuries in Washington State include:

  • Head Injuries: The force of a wreck often causes such injuries. This force causes the brain, which is not much bigger than two clenched fists, to repeatedly and violently slam against the insides of the skull. These injuries are usually permanent. At best, doctors and physical therapists can only ease the symptoms.
  • Broken Bones: The same force that causes brain injuries also shatters bones. Normally, doctors must use metal parts, like pins and rods, to painstakingly reconstruct crushed bones. As a result, victims must be almost completely immobile until the bones heal. That inactivity means physical therapists have a hard time helping victims regain lost function.
  • Spine Injuries: During a car crash, the jostling motion often knocks the spine out of alignment or even breaks delicate vertebrae. Effects of such injuries include herniated discs and pinched nerves. These injuries are practically debilitating, and victims have few treatment options aside from addictive painkillers or risky surgery.

The medical bills in a catastrophic (life-threatening) injury case often exceed $100,000. A Kent personal injury lawyer can connect victims with doctors who charge nothing upfront for their services. Therefore, victims get the treatment they need instead of the treatment a stingy insurance company will pay for.

*The Solutions in Court for Victims*These bills must be paid eventually. Unless an attorney proves negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not, the victim is usually financially responsible for these bills.

Intoxicated motorists who are charged with DUI could be liable for damages as a matter of law in civil court.

Impaired motorists could be responsible for damages as well. Attorneys generally use circumstantial evidence to prove these claims. Such evidence includes:

  • Erratic driving before the wreck,
  • Physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol,
  • Recent alcohol purchases, and
  • Tortfeasor’s statements about alcohol consumption.

Commercial alcohol providers could be vicariously liable for car crash damages. It’s illegal for these providers to sell alcohol to patrons who are visibly intoxicated. Liability attaches if these patrons later cause car crashes or other injuries.

*Work With a Diligent King County Attorney* Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Bellevue, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We routinely handle matters throughout Washington State.

Renton Nursing Home Falls: A Closer Look

Posted Friday, March 3, 2023 by Chris Thayer

Frequently, falls send older people to nursing homes. Even more frequently, falls keep these individuals at nursing homes longer than planned. Over 60% of nursing home residents in King County sustain a serious fall every year. Frequently, the extended nursing home stay is permanent. Most elderly fall victims cannot live independently again because of their deteriorated physical and mental conditions.

Physically, many older adult fall victims sustain permanent injuries. For example, a broken hip might never completely heal, leaving the victim dependent on a walker or with other mobility impairments. Emotionally, many older adult fall victims are so afraid of a repeat fall that they basically become prisoners in their own nursing home rooms.

Even the best Renton personal injury attorney cannot turn back the clock and alter the chain of events that lead to the fall. But an attorney can do the next best thing, which is to obtain financial compensation for their serious injuries. This compensation helps them pay accident-related bills and move on with their lives.

*Victim Vulnerability*A combination of vision issues, mobility issues, and nursing home staffing issues often contribute to the risk and severity of a nursing home fall.

AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) affects many older adults. Fatty deposits build up around the eyes, restricting their straight-ahead vision. As a result, they often don’t see wet spots on floors and other hazards that a younger person could avoid.

Gait disorders affect many older adults as well. They shuffle their feet when they walk instead of lifting their feet. Since younger people lift their feet, when they stumble, they can often regain their balance. When older people stumble, they usually fall. And, since they often have arthritis and other pre-existing conditions, they usually fall hard.

Well-staffed nursing homes assign employees to quickly address fall hazards and help residents get around. Understaffed facilities do not provide these services, leaving residents on their own.

All three of these issues have something in common. The victim has no control over any of them. Therefore, an insurance company lawyer cannot use these vulnerabilities against them in court.

*Legal Issues*A Renton personal injury attorney can obtain compensation in these cases if the owner had a duty of care and knew, or should have known, about the injury-causing hazard.

Nursing home residents benefit nursing home owners financially. They also have permission to be at the nursing home. Therefore, they are invitees under Washington law. As a result, the nursing home owner has a duty of reasonable care to make the premises reasonably safe. Erecting a warning sign buys them some time to address a hazard but does not fulfill their legal responsibility.

This responsibility only applies if a Renton personal injury attorney also proves actual or constructive (should have known) knowledge.

Direct and circumstantial evidence is admissible in this area. Direct evidence includes smoking guns like prior falls or cleaning reports. Circumstantial evidence often involves the time-notice rule. The longer the hazard exists, the more likely it is that the owner should have learned about it and should have addressed it.

*Work With a Diligent King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Renton, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We routinely handle matters throughout Washington State.

Formal and Informal Defenses in Kent Motorcycle Crash Claims

Posted Friday, February 24, 2023 by Chris Thayer

Over the last 10 years, motorcyclist fatality and serious injury rates have both increased significantly. The medical bills alone in a catastrophic (life-threatening) injury case usually exceed $100,000. Without adequate compensation, crash victims could be financially responsible for those charges. Even if a group health insurance company pays them, which is a big “if,” the deductibles and copays alone could be financially crippling.

To keep that from happening, a Kent personal injury attorney builds a strong claim from the ground up. This claim not only establishes a prima facie (preliminary) negligence case. It also refutes some common insurance company defenses, some of which are outlined below. Our team’s hard work pays off for victims in the form of maximum compensation for their serious injuries.

*Formal Defenses*Comparative fault is probably the most common defense not only in motorcycle crashes, but also in car wrecks in general. Basically, comparative fault shifts the blame for an accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim.

A bad incident like a car crash often has more than one cause. For example, Ben might have been tailgating when Jerry stopped suddenly. When jurors consider such facts, they must divide responsibility on a percentage basis, like 50-50, between the two motorists.

In many jurisdictions, a split like 50-50 eliminates the victim’s compensation. But Washington is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the victim was 99% responsible for the wreck, the tortfeasor must pay a proportionate share of damages.

Other defenses, like last clear chance, only apply in some situations. This doctrine could apply in a left-turn motorcycle crash, one of the most frequent kinds of motorcycle wrecks.

Assume Ben is waiting at an intersection to make an unprotected left turn against traffic. He does not see Jerry the motorcyclist approaching, and Ben turns directly into Jerry’s path.

If jurors determine that Jerry missed the last clear chance to avoid the wreck, perhaps because he did not slam on his brakes, Jerry is legally responsible for the wreck, even though he did nothing wrong.

Evidence is usually the key to refuting these defenses. A Kent personal injury attorney must leave nothing to chance when it comes to reconstructing the crash.

Some defenses that are available in other jurisdictions are unavailable in Washington. The helmet defense is a good example. Many states, including Washington, have universal helmet laws. However, helmet non-use is inadmissible in civil cases in the Evergreen State.

*Informal Defenses*Repeated delays are an example of an informal defense in a motorcycle wreck claim. Insurance companies typically drag their feet as long as possible in these cases. They know that delay hurts the party with the burden of proof, which in this case is the victim/plaintiff.

Witness availability is a good example. Many people relocate frequently. So, if a motorcycle crash trial is held a few years after the wreck, which is not uncommon, many key witnesses may have moved and not left forwarding addresses. A Kent personal injury attorney must preserve witness testimony early in the process in case that witness is later unavailable.

Additionally, many insurance companies use the motorcycle prejudice, either by itself or in combination with a formal defense, to reduce or deny compensation.

Fundamentally, many jurors think motorcycle riders are reckless thugs who take reckless chances. Therefore, these jurors are more willing to embrace defenses like comparative fault. These jurors could also reduce compensation simply because they do not like the victim.

Usually, the best approach in these situations is to separate the victim from the prejudice. Biased jurors may still believe that “most” motorcyclists are reckless thighs, as long as they separate the victim from the pack.

Rely o*n a Dedicated King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Kent, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Third-Party Liability in Renton Car Crash Claims

Posted Friday, February 17, 2023 by Chris Thayer

The average economic cost of a catastrophic (life-threatening) vehicle collision injury is over $100,000. Most tortfeasors (negligent drivers) do not have enough insurance coverage to make good on these economic losses. Washington has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country.

Additionally, most tortfeasors certainly do not have enough insurance coverage to make good on emotional distress and other noneconomic losses.

It is possible to sue these tortfeasors individually, but most people are judgment-proof. Therefore, a Renton personal injury attorney typically uses third-party liability theories, like one of the theories discussed below, to obtain maximum compensation in catastrophic and fatal injury cases.

*Owner Liability*This third-party liability theory is available in both commercial and noncommercial negligent entrustment matters. Basically, negligent entrustment is an owner allowing an incompetent driver to use their motor vehicle.

Evidence of incompetence includes a safety-suspended driver’s license, a poor driving record with prior safety suspensions, and a poor driving record with recent at-fault collisions. Drivers could also be incompetent as a matter of law if they violate a license restriction, like no nighttime driving.

Commercial owners, like Enterprise and U-Haul, could be liable for car crash damages if they negligently entrust a vehicle to a renter and there is a contractual relationship between the owner and renter. The federal Graves Amendment, which limits owner liability in these situations, could affect a Renton personal injury attorney’s legal claim in this area.

Noncommercial transactions usually include parents letting children borrow cars or roommates letting other roommates borrow cars. Washington courts broadly interpret the family purpose doctrine. There is basically a presumption that a noncommercial borrower used the vehicle for a family purpose. That is another element of many noncommercial negligent entrustment claims.

*Employer Liability*The respondeat superior rule typically applies if the tortfeasor was a truck driver, bus driver, Uber driver, or another commercial operator. This legal doctrine has two basic prongs:

Employee: Most of the aforementioned operators are independent contractors or other non-employees for most purposes. However, these individuals are usually employees for negligence purposes. Uber and other companies control their drivers in areas like passengers or cargo carried.Scope of Employment: We will stay with Uber drivers as an example. Any act that benefits the employer is within the scope of employment. That category includes deadheading drivers who are driving aimlessly, waiting for fares.

Most personal insurance policies do not cover commercial losses. So, unless they have special insurance policies or riders, Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing operators are basically uninsured.

Other employer liability theories, which usually apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent entrustment.

Incidentally, most commercial operators have a higher duty of care in Washington. So, it is easier for a Renton personal injury attorney to prove negligence, or a lack of care, in these situations.

*Dram Shop Liability*Restaurants, bars, and other commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they illegally sell alcohol to a tortfeasor who later causes a car wreck.

Serving an intoxicated patron is the most common illegal sale. Evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes physical symptoms, like slurred speech, and the customer’s recent purchases at that establishment.

Other illegal sales include underage sales, unlicensed sales, and before or after-hour alcohol sales.

*Reach Out to a Hard-Working King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Kent, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.