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

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Affects Where You Can File Lawsuits

Posted Saturday, June 17, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Sometimes the procedure matters more than the substance. For example, a lawsuit can be dismissed if the plaintiff doesn’t file it in the proper court. While that same lawsuit could be refiled in a different court, it is less costly and more efficient to get it right the first time around. Plus, there might be statute of limitations issues (the statutory time limit for bringing certain claims) if the plaintiff has to refile his or her claims elsewhere.

But a recent U.S. Supreme Court case made it a little more challenging for plaintiffs filing personal injury lawsuits. The court ruled that a railroad company could not be sued in Montana for business-related injuries that occurred outside of Montana.

The Facts of the Case

The Supreme Court case actually involved two lawsuits. One was filed by a North Dakota resident named Robert Nelson, who claimed that he injured his knee while working for BNSF Railway Company in Washington state. The second was filed by the wife of a former BNSF employee, Kelli Tyrrell, who claimed that her husband died from cancer after being exposed to chemicals during the course of his employment for the railroad. She was appointed the administrator of her husband’s estate in South Dakota.

The lawsuits were filed in Montana state courts. The Montana courts asserted personal jurisdiction over BNSF Railway under a state rule giving courts authority to decide cases involving “persons found” in Montana. (“Personal jurisdiction” refers to the authority that a court has over the particular parties in a lawsuit.) In other words, according to this rule, because BNSF Railway conducts business in Montana, the company can be sued there.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

Not so fast, said the Supreme Court. The court held that Montana’s rule permitting such overarching jurisdiction violates the U.S. Constitution. While BNSF operates railroad lines in 28 states, including Montana, the company is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Texas. Montana cannot subject BNSF to personal jurisdiction in the state solely because the company does some business there, especially since the injuries in these lawsuits were not caused in Montana.

The court’s decision applies to every state, not just Montana. A state cannot assert personal jurisdiction over a party solely because it does business in that state.

What Does This Decision Mean For My Personal Injury Lawsuit?

It is important to understand the concept of personal jurisdiction and the limits of a particular court’s authority over a particular type of lawsuit and particular parties. The concept of personal jurisdiction is that a party must have certain contacts with a particular state in order for its courts to have authority over that party. Plaintiffs can’t just pick random jurisdictions to file lawsuits, or jurisdictions that they think might be more favorable to them. That’s important to keep in mind because plaintiffs who sue in the wrong court can easily have their claims dismissed.

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Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you have been injured by someone else’s negligence. We can help you decide your best course of action, including finding the best jurisdiction for you to file your lawsuit.

Court Upholds $50 Million Wrongful Birth Verdict

Posted Saturday, June 10, 2017 by Chris Thayer

You’ve heard of a wrongful death lawsuit, but did you know that you can also sue for wrongful birth? It’s a delicate and personal issue, but unfortunately one that many families face. It involves a duty of care owed to parents and their children, who deserve to know the truth about the medical risks involved in new life.

What Is a “Wrongful Birth”?

The Washington Supreme Court first recognized that “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life” are legitimate causes of action in 1983.

Leonard Harbeson served in the air force, and during his tour of duty in 1970 his wife Jean (who was pregnant at the time) was diagnosed with epilepsy. She was prescribed an anticonvulsant drug from doctors at the air force base. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy in 1971.

Jean was eventually prescribed different drugs for her seizures. In 1972 she and Leonard talked about having another baby but were worried about the drug’s’ effect on an unborn child. Doctors told them about a few risks, and they decided to have more children. They had two daughters, born in 1974 and 1975. After their daughters were born Jean and Leonard learned of other possible side effects that their doctors didn’t warn them about – some of which afflicted their daughters. They ultimately sued, and the court held that the parents could sue for wrongful birth.

Moreover, the court found that the daughters could sue for wrongful life. According to the court, “wrongful life is the child’s equivalent of the parents’ wrongful birth action.” The doctor’s’ duty to warn of the side effects extended to the conceived children.

Recent Wrongful Birth Lawsuit

A Washington state appeals court recently upheld a jury verdict awarding $50 million to a King County couple whose son was born with severe birth defects.

Rhea and Brock Wuth were worried that their baby might be born with a rare genetic abnormality that Brock carried. He was told he had a 50 percent chance of passing the gene onto a child. So when Rhea was pregnant they asked that their doctors perform tests to determine whether their baby would be healthy. They did not want a severely disabled child and were planning to terminate the pregnancy if the baby would be born with this genetic problem. The tests came back negative, but when Oliver Wuth was born in 2008, it was clear that something was wrong.

Oliver was born with tiny hands and feet (but long fingers), legs that would not straighten, a head that was turned and bent, and an underdeveloped brain. He will require extensive medical care for the rest of his life. His parents sued for wrongful birth in 2010, claiming that the doctors failed to conduct proper genetic tests. The defendants argued that the $50 million verdict was excessive, but the appeals court upheld it.

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If you find yourself in a similar situation as the Wuth family, contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation. We can help you decide your best course of action.

Pedestrian Safety in King County

Posted Saturday, June 3, 2017 by Chris Thayer

A recent study found that pedestrians who take leisurely strolls are more likely to choose safer walking routes than people who are running errands or commuting to work. The study compiled data from a 2008-2009 survey in King County to determine what routes pedestrians took for specific purposes. The data was then compared to maps that estimate the risk of pedestrian collisions.

While pedestrians who choose unsafe routes put themselves at risk of injury, drivers also owe pedestrians a certain duty of care. In fact, Washington has several laws designed to keep pedestrians safe, and if a motorist breaks one of these laws and injures a pedestrian, the pedestrian will likely have a viable personal injury claim.

Washington’s Crosswalk Law

Drivers must stop at intersections to allow pedestrians to cross the road within both marked and unmarked crosswalks (cars must also stop for cyclists crossing the road). It is also illegal to pass a vehicle that is stopped for crossing pedestrians. However, if a pedestrian suddenly steps off a curb and into a vehicle’s path when it is too late for the car to stop, then it is the pedestrian who is at fault.

The Due Care Provision

All drivers must “exercise due care” to avoid colliding with any pedestrian on any roadway, even when the pedestrian is not permitted to be in the roadway. Drivers should warn pedestrians who are in danger by honking their horn. They should also exercise “proper precaution” when the pedestrian is a child or an incapacitated person (such as a person who is on crutches).

Other Pedestrian-Related Traffic Laws

Take note of a few other pedestrian-related laws, including rules that pedestrians must follow:

  • Both cars and bicycles must yield the right of way to pedestrians walking on sidewalks.
  • Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians must all obey traffic control devices. For example, drivers and cyclists can’t run red lights, and pedestrians can’t cross the street when there is a no-walking signal. However, if a police officer is directing the flow of traffic then drivers, cyclists and pedestrians should follow his or her directions.Pedestrians are generally not permitted to walk on a road if there is a sidewalk available. However, if there is no wheelchair access on the sidewalk, that person may use the adjacent roadway.
  • If there is not an available sidewalk then pedestrians should walk on the left side of the road so that they are facing oncoming traffic. But if possible they should move off of the road whenever a vehicle approaches.
  • If a pedestrian crosses the street outside of a designated crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, then he or she must yield the right of way to drivers.

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Motorists who break state traffic laws can be found civilly liable for any injuries that they cause. If you are a pedestrian who was injured because of a motorist’s negligence – or complete disregard of state law – you might be entitled to compensation. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation.

Which Court Should You File Your Personal Injury Lawsuit In?

Posted Saturday, May 27, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Which Court Should You File Your Personal Injury Lawsuit In?

There are two important questions to ask before filing your personal injury lawsuit:

Does the court have jurisdiction over your claims?Are you filing your lawsuit in the proper venue?

An experienced personal injury attorney will know the answers to these questions, but it’s also helpful to have a basic understanding of them yourself.

What Is Jurisdiction?

If a court has jurisdiction over your claims, that means it has the legal authority to make a decision in your case. There are two types of jurisdiction: subject matter and personal. Subject matter jurisdiction means the court has the authority over a particular type of claim. For example, in Washington, district courts have jurisdiction over personal injury claims that don’t exceed $100,000 (not including attorney’s fees). So if you are seeking damages for $30,000 worth of injuries then you would file your lawsuit in district court.

Personal jurisdiction is a court’s power over particular parties. Courts only have personal jurisdiction over parties who have certain contacts with that forum. For example, if you live in Seattle, then a district court in King County would have jurisdiction over your claims, unless they involved another party who had absolutely no connection to King County (determining whether the court has subject matter or personal jurisdiction can require extensive litigation).

What Is Venue?

Venue is the place where a case is heard. More than one court might have jurisdiction over your personal injury claims (for example, the district court in the county where you live as well as the district court in the county where the accident took place), but there might only be one or two proper venues.

In fact, Washington has particular rules for determining the proper venue for a particular legal action. Personal injury claims should be brought in the county in which the accident occurred or the county in which the defendant resides. If there is more than one defendant involved then the proper venue is a county in which any of the defendants resides.

What happens if your personal injury lawsuit is against a corporation? For example, if you were injured because of a defective product then you might sue the manufacturer of that product, but where? Washington plaintiffs have four options:

Sue the corporation in the county in which the tort was committed (where the injury occurred).Sue the corporation in the county where the work was performed (i.e., where the product was manufactured).If a contract is at issue, sue the corporation in the county where the agreement was entered into.Sue the corporation in the county where it has its corporate residence.

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When you have multiple venue options, it often comes down to strategy: Where is the best place for you to file your personal injury lawsuit? An experienced personal injury attorney will ensure that your personal injury lawsuit is filed in the proper court so that you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation.

Are You Entitled to Damages for Pain and Suffering?

Posted Saturday, May 20, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Not all injuries are physical. The emotional pain that accompanies a physical injury can be just as damaging as the actual injury. That’s why Washington law permits victims to recover certain non economic damages. How much a personal injury claimant may recover depends on whether he is pursuing damages in a courtroom or from an insurance company.

Economic Vs. Non economic Damages

Washington places a cap on the amount of non economic damages that personal injury claimants are entitled to receive in personal injury lawsuits. But what is the difference between economic and non economic damages?

Washington law defines “economic damages” as “objectively verifiable monetary losses, including medical expenses, loss of earnings, burial costs, loss of use of property, cost of replacement or repair, cost of obtaining substitute domestic services, loss of employment, and loss of business or employment opportunities.”

In other words, “economic damages” are expenses with obvious monetary values. If you receive a medical bill for $5,000, then your medical damages are $5,000. If is almost impossible to dispute that amount.

“Non economic damages,” however, are “subjective non monetary losses, including, but not limited to pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, disability or disfigurement incurred by the injured party, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation and humiliation, and destruction of the parent-child relationship.”

Because such damages are subjective, Washington has a specific formula for determining how much a claimant is entitled to recover in a personal injury lawsuit (note that there is not a cap on how much you can receive from an insurance company).

Calculating Non economic Damages

Non economic damages are determined by multiplying 0.43 by the personal injury claimant’s annual average wage and life expectancy (not less than 15 years). The claimant may not recover damages more than this amount.

But that cap is limited to personal injury lawsuits. Insurance companies have their own methods of determining how much a person may receive for pain and suffering. For example, companies may use a variation on the multiplier method that multiples the claimant’s medical expenses and other economic damages by 1.5 to 5, depending on the severity of the injuries. In some cases, “5” might not be enough and the company might use a higher multiplier. Factors the company may consider in deciding on what multiplier to use include:

Length of recovery – prolonged recoveries of six months or more may justify a higher multiplier;Permanent scarring, mobility issues, pain or other medical issues; andDocumentation from your physician that you will have recurring problems in the future.

Proving pain and suffering can be difficult, which is why you should always consult with an experienced attorney before pursuing both economic and non economic damages. Remember that you have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact Us Today

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you might be able to recover non economic damages. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation. We will help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.