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

Breaking Down an Alcohol-Related Wreck in Issaquah

Posted Friday, October 28, 2022 by Chris Thayer

Way back in the 1980s, alcohol impairment or intoxication caused almost half of the fatal car crashes in America. So, politicians in Washington and elsewhere promised to “get tough” on “drunk drivers.” The new tough policies included stronger laws and stronger law enforcement tools. Despite all this effort, alcohol abuse still causes almost half of the fatal car crashes in Washington.

When politicians fail to protect people, an Issaquah personal injury lawyer stands in the gap. Attorneys hold tortfeasors (negligent drivers) responsible for the wrecks they cause. More importantly, an attorney obtains the compensation these victims need and deserve. At best, limited compensation is available through the criminal law process. The compensation in a civil claim usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

*First Party Liability* We mentioned alcohol impairment and intoxication above. These two I-words are very different. Either I-word is sufficient to establish liability for damages.

Alcohol is a depressant and a muscle relaxant that impairs judgment ability and slows motor skills and reaction time. These impairing effects begin with the first sip of alcohol. Evidence of impairment includes:

  • Erratic driving before the wreck,
  • The odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and other physical symptoms,
  • Tortfeasor’s statements about alcohol use, such as the infamous “I only had a couple of beers,” and
  • Previous schedule of the tortfeasor.

If the tortfeasor was recently at a party where alcohol was available, or at a restaurant that served alcohol, it is more likely than not that the tortfeasor had something to drink. More likely than not (a preponderance of the evidence) is the burden of proof in a civil claim.

An Issaquah personal injury attorney could use the negligence per se rule to establish liability if an emergency responder cited the tortfeasor for DUI or a similar infraction. Generally, people who violate penal safety laws and cause crashes are responsible for them as a matter of law. Negligence per se usually still applies regardless of the criminal court outcome. So, even if the tortfeasor “beats” the DUI in criminal court, s/he is most likely still on the hook for the aforementioned damages.

*Third-Party Liability* Fundamentally, civil claims force people to accept responsibility for the mistakes they make. Sometimes, this mistake and this responsibility happen before the tortfeasor gets behind the wheel.

In Washington, it is illegal for bars, restaurants, and other commercial providers to sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated people. Evidence of intoxication at the point of sale usually includes bloodshot eyes, unsteady balance, and the other aforementioned physical symptoms.

It is also illegal to sell alcohol to minors. Some once-common defenses, like they looked older, usually do not hold up in court in King County.

Speaking of alcohol and minors, it is also illegal for party hosts to provide alcohol to minors. So, if a host lets a minor consume alcohol, and that minor subsequently causes a car crash, the party host could be financially responsible for damages. If the impaired or intoxicated guest was an adult, another legal theory, like negligent undertaking, might be available.

*Connect With a Diligent King County Attorney* Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Mercer Island, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

Nursing Home Fall Claims in Bellevue: What You Should Know

Posted Friday, October 21, 2022 by Chris Thayer

Negligence causes most falls, especially serious injury falls. At nursing homes in Bellevue, understaffing, which affects about 94% of these facilities, often causes such negligence. Understaffed facilities often do not have staff members in common areas to assist residents as they walk around or, more importantly, as they get up and sit down. Additionally, understaffed facilities do not have staff members to redirect residents away from construction areas and other hazardous areas.

Many older adults have pre-existing conditions which contribute to the risk of a fall or the injuries the victim sustains. We mentioned getting up and sitting down above. Frequently, these everyday movements cause older adults to break their hips, usually because the victim’s center of gravity is off. Additionally, many older adults have gait disorders. Since they shuffle their feet when they walk, when these individuals stumble, they cannot regain their balance, and they fall.

A fall causes severe physical and emotional injuries. In fact, these injuries are so severe that most nursing home fall victims cannot ever live independently again. A Bellevue personal injury lawyer obtains the financial compensation these victims need to make the most out of the rest of their lives. Maximum compensation is a process and not a result. An attorney stands with you throughout the process, no matter how long it takes.

*Legal Responsibility* Most people are familiar with the duty of care. For example, motorists have a legal responsibility to drive defensively and, if possible, avoid accidents. Property owners have a similar responsibility if the victim was an invitee.

Basically, an invitee is anyone with permission to be on the property. Furthermore, an invitee must benefit the owner in some way. Nursing home residents are invitees, specifically commercial invitees, in Washington. Nursing home visitors are arguably invitees as well. Visitors lift residents’ spirits, and that benefits nursing home owners.

To fulfill the duty of reasonable care, owners must create safe environments for invitees. Furthermore, owners must inspect the property, to ensure that it remains safe.

A lesser duty of care applies if the victim was a trespasser (no permission and no benefit) or a licensee (permission but no benefit).

*Practical Responsibility* Additionally, a Bellevue personal injury lawyer must prove the owner knew or should have known about the fall-causing hazard, and that owner negligence, or a lack of care, caused the injury.

Wet spots on floors, uneven indoor walkways, loose handrails, and icy outdoor walkways are the most common fall hazards in Washington nursing homes. Direct evidence of actual knowledge of these hazards includes restroom cleaning reports and safety inspection reports. Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) usually goes back to the reasonableness standard. If the owner had a reasonable opportunity to address the hazard, the owner should have done so.

Before 2022, the open-and-obvious doctrine was the most effective insurance company defense in fall injury cases. Basically, if the victim did not watch where s/he was going, the owner was not responsible for a fall injury. However, a Washington Court of Appeals decision essentially gutted this defense and made it much less effective. So, it is easier to prove negligence and obtain compensation.

This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

*Rely on a Hard-Working 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. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.

Who is at Fault in Most Kent Motorcycle Accidents?

Posted Friday, October 14, 2022 by Chris Thayer

In most cases, it does not matter who was at fault for a motorcycle accident. There is a difference between fault, which is a preliminary determination, and liability, which is a final determination, just like there is a difference between a halftime score and a final score. An investigator, often an insurance adjuster, determines fault based solely on the evidence immediately available at the scene. A jury determines liability, or legal responsibility for damages, based not only on all evidence but also on applicable legal theories.

Frequently, often because of aggressive driving or driver impairment, four-wheel vehicle operators do not see cyclists in a sea of pickups, SUVs, and other large vehicles. If the other driver was legally responsible for damages, which is usually the case, a Kent personal injury attorney can obtain substantial compensation for victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

*First Party Liability* Driver error causes over 98% of motorcycle wrecks in Washington. Defective products, such as defective brakes or tires, cause most of the other 2%. Generally, this driver error is:

  • Aggressive Driving: Speed is the most common, and most dangerous, form of aggressive driving. Speed increases the risk of a collision. It gives less time to react to situations like an unseen motorcycle rider. Speed also multiplies the force in a collision. Other kinds of aggressive driving include tailgating, running a red light, and changing lanes unsafely.
  • Impaired Driving: Almost half of the at-fault motorists test positive for alcohol and/or drugs. These substances cloud personal judgment, such as the distance between their vehicles and motorcycles, and impair motor skills. Other kinds of impairment include excessive fatigue, a moderate or serious medical condition, and driver distraction. The duty of care requires motorists to be at their best, physically, mentally, and otherwise, when they get behind the wheel.

Sometimes, the motorcycle rider and vehicle operator are partially at fault for a crash. Washington is a pure comparative fault state. If a tortfeasor (negligent driver) is only 1% responsible for a wreck, a Kent personal injury lawyer can still obtain a proportionate share of compensation.

Other car crash defenses include sudden emergency and last clear chance. Comparative fault usually shifts some of the blame. These defenses, if they apply, shift all of the blame.

*Third-Party Liability* Individuals are liable (legally responsible) for wrecks. Frequently, third parties are financially responsible for compensation.

Respondeat superior employer liability is a good example. This theory usually applies in taxi driver, Uber driver, and other commercial operator collisions. Employers are responsible for damages if their employees were negligent during the course and scope of their employment.

Washington law defines key terms, like “employee,” in broad, victim-friendly ways. For example, Uber drivers are normally independent contractors for most purposes. However, these drivers are usually employees for negligence purposes.

Other vicarious liability theories in motorcycle wrecks include negligent entrustment owner liability and dram shop alcohol provider liability.

*Reach Out to a Thorough 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. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.

What Causes Truck Wrecks in Renton?

Posted Friday, October 7, 2022 by Chris Thayer

In one way or another, vehicle size causes most large truck wrecks in Renton. A fully-loaded large truck weighs over 80,000 pounds. This size magnifies aggressive driving and other errors. Little mistakes that noncommercial drivers get away with are usually negligence, or a lack of care. That is especially true since the duty of care is so high in truck wreck cases. Additionally, large trucks are so big that these drivers must bring every bit of their experience and skill to bear in every moment of every trip.

Vehicle size also complicates these claims. Truck crashes often cause catastrophic injuries, like spine injuries. The lifetime medical bills in such instances often exceed $5 million. Additionally, trucks are loaded with goods from another company. The company that owned these goods, or the shipping or transportation company which employed the driver, is financially responsible for damages, in most cases. Because of these additional dimensions, only the most experienced Renton truck wreck lawyer should handle these cases.

*Aggressive Driving* We mentioned aggressive driving above. Most companies pay most drivers by the trip and not by the hour. So, the faster they finish trips, the more money they make. Some examples of aggressive driving include:

  • Speeding: Excessive velocity multiplies the risk of a wreck and the force in a collision. Speed multiplies stopping distance. At speeds under 30mph, most vehicles stop almost as soon as drivers apply the brakes. At 60mph, these vehicles keep traveling forward for at least eighteen vehicle lengths.
  • Tailgating: The recommended stopping distance for passenger vehicles is about two seconds. For large trucks, the recommended following distance is about eight seconds. Many truckers overlook this requirement, especially on busy highways.
  • Changing Lanes Unsafely: A trucker often blames the other driver when the truck cuts off a car or truck. In some states, if both drivers were partially at fault, the victim may be eligible for compensation. But Washington is a pure comparative fault state. So, in most cases, multiple at-fault parties only reduces the victim’s compensation, at most.

As mentioned, Washington truck drivers have a higher duty of care. Therefore, there’s usually no such thing as an aggressive driving “accident.” Pretty much any excess velocity, tailgating, or anything else is negligence, or a lack of care.

*Impaired Driving* Some truck crashes start before the trucker gets behind the wheel. The aforementioned duty of care requires truckers to be at their best, mentally, physically, and otherwise, when they hit the road. Some kinds of impaired driving include:

  • Excessive Fatigue: Truckers are under so much pressure to make on-time deliveries that they often stay behind the wheel too long. That’s especially true since the government has recently watered down many HOS (hours of service) rules. Driving after 18 consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC, which is above the legal limit for truckers in Washington.
  • Substance Abuse: Drug use and fatigue among truck drivers are connected. About half of truckers admit they use amphetamines while they drive. These drugs might make people feel more alert. But these drugs do nothing to address the effects of fatigue, such as poor judgment and slow motor skills. Furthermore, when these drugs wear off, users crash hard and fast.
  • Medical Condition: This form of impairment is often related to fatigue as well. Many truckers suffer from sleep apnea, mostly because they sit for such long periods. This condition closes the primary airway during sleep. Thus, people with sleep apnea nap all night instead of getting deep, restorative rest. So, they are fatigued the next morning, no matter how much rest they had that night.

Compensation in a truck crash case usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. A Renton personal injury lawyer can obtain additional punitive damages as well, in some extreme cases.

*Reach Out to a Thorough 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. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.

When Do Surgical Mistakes Happen in Burien?

Posted Friday, September 30, 2022 by Chris Thayer

Each year, American doctors make about 4,000 surgical mistakes. That number does not sound large, but if you or a loved one was a surgical mistake victim, that statistical analysis is not much comfort. Additionally, as outlined below, this figure only includes the “during” surgical mistakes. It does not include before and after surgical mistakes.

Doctors have a very high duty of care in Washington. So, it is much easier for a Burien personal injury attorney to prove negligence, or a lack of care. If a doctor was negligent, compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Usually, the hospital, clinic, or another facility that employed the doctor, or gave the doctor a place to work, is financially responsible for these and any other damages.

*Before* The duty of care does not begin when a patient is on the operating table. Instead, it begins before the first office visit.

The doctor, and not someone on the medical staff, has a responsibility to thoroughly review patient records. Electronic patient records are the norm today. So, doctors no longer have an excuse not to thoroughly review every page.

On a related note, doctors cannot access patient records on home computers or over unsecured WiFi connections. Such online records are far too easy to tap into. The duty of care extends not only to the patient’s body, but also to personal information about the patient. A Burien personal injury attorney must normally file a separate action to enforce patient rights in this area.

If doctors spot red flags during these reviews, they cannot ignore them. Instead, they must adjust their treatment plans to account for the additional risk. Asking the patient to sign a stronger waiver is not enough. Dismissing the risk as “borderline” is not enough either.

*During* Many doctors take the time to properly review records and make proper responses. This same time crush continues in the operating room itself.

A brief, pre-surgical huddle would allow all team members to catch their breaths and get on the same page in terms of the procedure. Unfortunately, many doctors are unwilling to invest even a few seconds of their precious time to protect patient health and safety.

A post-surgical instrument count would have the same positive effect. It would be easy to count the instruments on the table and make sure that the number is the same as the pre-surgical number. However, once again, many doctors are too anxious to move on to the next patient and make more money.

On a related note, instrument sterilization issues cause many injuries as well. Typically, the team superheats instruments to sterilize them. Too hot, and they cause serious burns. Not hot enough, and not all the bacteria dies, causing infection.

*After* Speaking of infections, this risk goes up dramatically when patients go to recovery rooms. Despite the increased risk, many healthcare teams drop their guard slightly in these situations. Sepsis is the most dangerous hospital infection. Septic infections turn successful surgeries into life-threatening situations.

Serious infections usually develop quickly. Patients are fine one minute and seriously ill the next minute. So, surgical teams must be on their toes at all times.

*Reach Out to a Thorough King County Attorney* Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Burien, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.