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

Understanding Proximate and Superseding Causes

Posted Friday, April 20, 2018 by Chris Thayer

In July 2011, a Washington neurosurgeon named Michael Thomas performed spinal surgery on a scoliosis patient. The patient filed a lawsuit in 2015, claiming that the doctor failed to provide adequate post-operative care and that she was in chronic pain for three years until another surgeon corrected the issue. In July 2017, a Washington jury found that Thomas’s negligence was the proximate cause of the patient’s injuries and awarded her $1.2 million in damages.

*What is Proximate Cause?*Proving that the defendant’s negligence actually caused your injuries is an important step toward winning your medical malpractice or personal injury lawsuit. This is called “proximate cause.” According to Washington’s pattern jury instructions, proximate cause means “a cause which in a direct sequence [unbroken by any superseding cause,] produces the [injury] [event] complained of and without which such [injury] [event] would not have happened.”

There are two elements of proximate cause - cause in fact and legal causation.

Cause in fact refers to the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury. In other words, “cause in fact” means that the injury would not have happened “but for” the defendant’s conduct. Legal causation asks whether the defendant should be held responsible for his injurious conduct. In most cases in which the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care (for example, drivers owe a duty to other drivers and to pedestrians to follow traffic laws), the answer to that question is yes.

Note that there can be more than one proximate cause, which can complicate a personal injury lawsuit.

*What if There is a Superseding Cause?*Remember that proximate cause requires conduct “unbroken by any superseding cause.” A superseding, or intervening, cause only breaks the chain of causation if it was unforeseeable. For example, imagine that a city fails to fill in a pothole and a car’s tire is damaged after driving over it. That driver pulls over on the side of the road and is struck by another vehicle. This is a foreseeable scenario that would not break the chain of causation.

However, now imagine that the driver pulls over on the side of the road and another car pulls up beside him. The driver of the second car pulls out a gun and shoots the first driver. That is an unforeseeable intervening cause, and the city would not be responsible for the damages caused by the second driver.

*Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Washington*The statute of limitations, or deadline, for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Washington is three years from the date of the act (or failure to act) that caused the injury. This includes medical malpractice claims. Contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible; the sooner you file your claim the less likely it is that crucial evidence will become lost.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured by someone else’s negligence. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help prove that this negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries.

The Opioid Epidemic and Product Liability Claims

Posted Friday, April 13, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Numerous cities and counties in Washington, and the state itself, have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers for their role in fueling the statewide opioid epidemic. In fact, a King County judge recently made a decision in the state’s lawsuit against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, rejecting the company’s motion to dismiss and allowing the state’s claims to proceed.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit on the state’s behalf. The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the drug manufacturer downplayed addiction risks and deceived both doctors and the public about OxyContin’s effectiveness in treating chronic pain. This is a type of “product liability claim” that may be brought under Washington law. Note that individual consumers who have been harmed by OxyContin, opioids, or other pharmaceutical products may also have a viable product liability claim.

*Other Lawsuits*The City of Seattle filed its own lawsuit against Purdue, as well as other opioid manufacturers, in September of 2017. According to the Office of the Attorney General, “Purdue’s illegal conduct contributed to excessive prescriptions and addiction, causing many addicted patients to look for other ways, including illegal means, to get more pills or to get heroin.”

Thurston County recently announced that it is joining its sister counties and cities in filing a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. The county alleges that the manufacturers’ conduct constitutes negligence and gross negligence, among other claims. (According to the Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions, gross negligence “is substantially greater than ordinary negligence” and means “failure to exercise slight care.” The term has never been explicitly defined by state statute.)

Washington’s Opioid Epidemic

The Office of the Attorney General said in a press release that prescriptions and sales of opioids increased by 500% between 1997 and 2011. Additionally, a 2017 study by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality found that Washington experienced a 60% increase in opioid-related hospital stays between 2009 and 2014, which was the fourth highest increase in the country.

Filing a Product Liability Claim in Washington

A product liability claim arises when someone has been injured by a particular product. The injury must happen because there is something wrong with the product, specifically related to its:

  • Manufacture,
  • Production,
  • Making,
  • Construction,
  • Fabrication,
  • Design,
  • Formula,
  • Preparation,
  • Assembly,
  • Installation,
  • Testing,
  • Warnings,
  • Instructions,
  • Marketing,
  • Packaging,
  • Storage, or
  • Labeling.

You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other related damages. Keep in mind that you only have three years from the date of the injury to file your claim. (This is called the statute of limitations.)

Injuries caused by general user error, like assembling a product without reading the instructions or taking more than the recommended dosage of a medication, might not be compensable. Make sure you talk to an experienced attorney before deciding whether to file a claim.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have suffered a product-related injury. You might have a viable product liability claim against the manufacturer, supplier, retailer, or marketer. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries.

“Car Surfing” and Negligent School Supervision in Washington

Posted Saturday, April 7, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Lupo Benson was 18 years old when he fell off the hood of his friend’s SUV in 2015. He hit his head and suffered a traumatic brain injury, dying the next day.

Benson’s parents recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kent School District, claiming that school personnel failed to supervise the parking lot the day their son died. They also claim that the school knew that students engaged in “car surfing” but failed to prevent it from happening. “Car surfing” is a dangerous activity that involves riding on the outside of a moving vehicle while someone else is driving, which is what Benson and his friend were doing when he died.

Negligent School Supervision

Washington school districts can be held liable when negligent supervision or failure to supervise student activities results in student injury or death. According to the Washington Supreme Court, “a school district owes a duty to its students to employ reasonable care and to anticipate reasonably foreseeable dangers so as to take precautions for protecting children in its custody from dangers.”

In the car surfing case, the Bensons allege that the school district had a policy “forbidding reckless driving” in their son’s high school parking lot. The district also assigned staff to watch the parking lot to make sure students complied with the policy. The fact that the district has this policy, and actively enforces this policy, suggests that the car surfacing was a reasonably foreseeable danger.

Schools and school districts are also responsible for supervising students while:

  • Playing on the playground during recess;
  • Participating in school-sanctioned activities, like sporting practices and games, theater rehearsals and performances, band practice and any club activity;
  • Attending school dances, fundraisers, field trips and other sanctioned off-campus activities; and
  • Any time during school hours and while on school grounds.

*Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Washington*State law allows family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit against anyone whose negligence or wrongful act results in a loved one’s death. Only certain family members are eligible to seek this compensation. Eligible survivors are:

  • The personal representative of the loved one’s estate;
  • The loved one’s spouse or registered domestic partner;
  • The loved one’s children or stepchildren; or
  • Parents or siblings, if the loved one was not married or did not have any children.

The deadline (statute of limitations) for filing a wrongful death claim in Washington is three years from the date of the death.

Eligible survivors may seek the following compensation:

  • The loved one’s final medical bills and funeral and burial expenses;
  • Lost wages that the loved one likely would have earned throughout his or her lifetime;
  • Pain and suffering that the loved one experienced;
  • Loss of care, companionship and other noneconomic (not easily quantifiable) damages; and
  • Any relevant property damage costs.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if a loved one died because of someone’s negligent actions. Our experienced attorneys will help recover compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death.

Bringing a Personal Injury Lawsuit for Childhood Sexual Abuse

Posted Friday, March 30, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Another trial is underway in a lawsuit filed against the Kennewick School District for allegedly failing to protect high school students from sexual abuse.

15 men claim that administrators and teachers knew that Bill Pickerel, a former teacher and wrestling coach, took out-of-town trips with male students. They are seeking millions of dollars in damages for the district’s alleged negligence in allowing Pickerel to take students on these overnight trips.

The Facts

Pickerel worked for the Kennewick School District for almost 40 years. He started his career at Park Junior High before teaching at Kennewick High, where he retired in 1998. He continued on as a part-time substitute teacher until he was removed from that list in 2007.

He pleaded guilty in 2008 to molestation and sexual misconduct with a minor. Over the years, Pickerel took numerous boys on overnight trips to Seattle, which were not sponsored by the school or school district. The district argues that the parents allowed their sons to take these trips, but the men argue that the district knew about the trips and did not follow the proper standard of care to keep the students safe.

While the criminal charges involved five boys, Pickerel confessed to police that he lost count of the number of boys he molested during a 27-year period. He served five and a half years of a 10-year jail sentence and is not a party to the civil suit. He is, however, a registered sex offender.

The civil lawsuit involves men ranging in age from their 20s to late 40s. How are these men able to bring these lawsuits years, and sometimes decades, after these trips took place?

The Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations, or deadline, for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Washington is normally three years from the date of the accident or injury. But claims based on childhood sexual abuse are treated differently. The state recognizes that victims “may repress the memory of the abuse or be unable to connect the abuse to any injury.” And while “victims may be aware of injuries related to the childhood sexual abuse, more serious injuries may be discovered many years later.”

That is why the time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit based on childhood sexual abuse does not even begin to run until the child turns 18. Claims may be filed within the later of the following periods:

  • Within three years of the allegedly abusive act that caused the injury,
  • Within three years of the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered the injury, or
  • Within three years of the time the victim discovered that the abuse caused the injury.

Note that it does not matter what the child’s parent or guardian knew or did not know. That knowledge “shall not be imputed to a person under the age of eighteen years.”

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one were the victim of childhood sexual abuse. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your claim and help recover the compensation that you deserve.

Who Pays When Your Vehicle is Damaged by a Pothole in the Road?

Posted Friday, March 23, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Potholes are a menace to all drivers, especially in Seattle, where the City Department of Transportation has recognized a pervasive problem with the city’s roads. In fact, in 2017 Seattle launched a targeted 10-day campaign to address the pothole problem. An ongoing effort asks residents to report potholes to city officials by using the FindIt FixIt app, filling out an online form, or calling the department.

Hitting a pothole can cause serious damage to your car. Since it is not your fault that there are potholes in the road, who is responsible for paying for that damage?

*Will the City Pay for Damage Caused by Potholes?*In February 2015, Jason Tingle hit a pothole as he merged onto Interstate 5 from Interstate 405. He said the impact “shook the steering wheel and jolted the whole car,” causing $1,100 in damage. He filed a claim with the state, which compensated him for the entire $1,100.

Drivers generally have two options for requesting compensation after a pothole incident - file an insurance claim or file a claim with the state, county, city or other entity responsible for maintaining the road. You may file both an insurance claim and a tort claim, but the government will likely deny your claim if the insurance covers the damage in full.

*Filing a Claim Against Seattle or Washington State*The first step in filing a claim against Seattle is filing an official damages claim with the City Clerk. The form must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations, which is three years for personal injury claims (including property damage).

You may submit receipts, photos, and other supporting evidence to bolster your claim. The City Clerk will send your claim to the Risk Management Office and a claims adjuster will investigate it and recommend a resolution. The city may decide to pay you a sum of money, transfer your claim to another entity, or deny your claim completely.

Claims typically take about 60 days to resolve, but complicated cases can take much longer. If the city denies your claim, then litigation might be your best option. An experienced attorney can help determine your best course of action.

Claims arising against the state must be presented to the Office of Risk Management in the Department of Enterprise Services using the official claim form, which is available on the department’s website. If, after consulting with an experienced attorney, you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit, you must wait 60 calendar days after delivering the form to the department.

An experienced attorney can walk you through the claims process against Seattle and Washington, as well as other municipalities, counties, and potentially responsible entities. If your claim is denied, we will then guide you through the litigation process.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if your car is damaged by a pothole in the road. You might have legal recourse against the city, county, state, or other entity responsible for maintaining the road. Our experienced attorneys can help you recover compensation for the damage to your vehicle.