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

Federal Judge Says Government Knew Soldier Posed “Substantial Risk”

Posted Saturday, April 1, 2017 by Chris Thayer

A wrongful death occurs when someone dies because of the negligence or misconduct of another person. If someone’s behavior results in the death of your loved one, your family has the right to recover damages for lost future wages, lost compensation, and pain and suffering.

The following is an example of conduct that a federal judge might find resulted in two wrongful deaths. Note that this is a federal claim involving federal law. Washington, however, also has a wrongful death statute that allows families to recover damages.

Wrongful Deaths Caused by Soldiers

In 2011, a high school student and her boyfriend, a Marysville native, were killed (in an execution-style shooting) in the woods outside of Fort Stewart, a military base in Georgia. The student’s parents brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that the government acted negligently in not acting on incriminating evidence it had against the group of soldiers that killed their daughter.

A federal judge in Seattle recently issued an adverse (or legal) inference, finding that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Army knew two months before the shooting that the leader of the renegade group of soldiers “posed a substantial risk” to the public.

The Marysville native was former Army Pvt. Michael Roark, who was allegedly killed because the renegade group leader, former Pvt. Isaac Aguigui no longer trusted him. Roark’s 17-year-old girlfriend died because she was with him. (Aguigui is a native of Cashmere, which is in Chelan County.)

There will be a bench trial in April. (Note that while Washington has a wrongful death statute, so does the federa

The Government’s Evidence

Here is some of the evidence that the government had that Aguigui posed a risk to the public:

In 2009, Aguigui was thrown out of the U.S. Military Academy prep school because he held a knife to another cadet’s throat.In 2011, Aguigui told military police officials that he and another soldier had conspired to kill a civilian drug dealer.Also in 2011, Aguigui’s pregnant wife was found dead. (He was convicted of her murder in 2014.)The day after his wife died, Aguigui applied for Army death benefit, which he used to fund his plan to overthrow the government.$30,000 of that money was used to buy dozens of military-style firearms.Aguigui was planning an attack at Fort Stewart and had talked about poisoning Washington’s apple crop.

While this is an extreme example, it is possible that your employer or someone else had information that could have prevented your loved one’s wrongful death. You might be entitled to damages if someone has withheld information or failed to act when they had an obligation to do so, and that action (or inaction) results in a wrongful death.

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If a loved one has died because of the negligence or misconduct of another person, your family has the right to compensation. Contact an experienced wrongful death attorney at Pivotal Law Group today for a free consultation.

Pending Federal Legislation That Could Affect Personal Injury Lawsuits

Posted Saturday, March 25, 2017 by Chris Thayer

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed two bills that could affect personal injury litigants if also passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017

One is the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017, which requires federal judges to impose penalties on plaintiffs who bring frivolous lawsuits. While it doesn’t change the standard that judges use to determine whether a lawsuit is frivolous, it eliminates the plaintiff’s ability to avoid sanctions by voluntarily withdrawing his or claim within 21 days.

A lawsuit is considered frivolous if it was filed with the intention of harassing the party against whom the lawsuit is filed. It may also be considered frivolous if the plaintiff knows there was little or no chance that the lawsuit will succeed.

While proponents of the bill argue that reducing frivolous litigation will eliminate the overburdened federal judiciary, opponents contend that the bill isn’t necessary.

If the bill becomes law, it will not affect litigation in state courts. But Seattle residents pursuing personal injury claims might bring their claims in federal court, particularly if they are claims are against an out-of-state resident. It is imperative that any person pursuing a personal injury lawsuit consult with an experienced attorney to ensure that they are bringing a viable and not a frivolous claim.

The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017

The second bill is the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, which would make it more difficult for plaintiffs to file class actions in federal court. Any individual who wants to join the class action would have to prove that he or she suffered the same type and the same extent of personal injury or economic group that the lead plaintiff suffered.

Opponents argue that the bill violates the constitutional separation of powers by impeding on courts’ ability to determine their own rules and procedures. They also argue that the bill erodes the fairness of the class action process.

If this bill becomes law, it could affect personal injury class lawsuits, which often arise when something happens that injures multiple people at the same time (like a defective product). Making all class action members prove that they’ve effectively suffered the same injury would make it difficult for everyone to receive the compensation that they deserve. If the bill becomes law, it might be more difficult for class action lawsuits to succeed and would-be class members might have to bring individual personal injury lawsuits.

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If you are pursuing a personal injury claim, the last thing you need to worry about is legal procedure. The Pivotal Law Group stays abreast of the latest developments in judicial rules and procedures and will ensure that you file a viable personal injury claim that won’t get you into trouble. (We will also make sure that your claim is filed in the proper court.) Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation.

Laws Specific to Motorcyclists

Posted Sunday, March 19, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Laws Specific to Motorcyclists

Motorcyclists lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, which is why riders are more likely to suffer injuries or die when involved in an accident. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 4,693 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2015. In fact, motorcycle deaths accounted for 13 percent of all motor vehicle accident fatalities. There were also 88,000 motorcyclists injured, down from 92,000 in 2014.

Motorcycle Accidents in Seattle

There are unfortunately numerous examples of motorcycle accidents that have resulted in fatalities and serious injuries. Recently, a motorcyclist died in a crash along the Alaskan Way Viaduct, an elevated highway in Seattle.

In August 2016, a motorcyclist was killed when his bike crashed on the 1st Avenue Bridge near State Route 9 in South Seattle. He missed the turn onto an off ramp, crashing into the guardrail and falling to the street below. A witness to the accident said that the man was driving too fast to safely navigate the “treacherous” corner.

In March 2016, two motorcyclists crashed into each other on Airport Way near 8th Avenue South. A man was killed, and a woman sustained life-threatening injuries.

(Note that wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the risk of injury in motorcycle accidents. Washington is one of 20 states (and the District of Columbia) that requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets.)

Pedestrians are also in danger of being injured by a motorcyclist. For example, in December 2016 a motorcyclist severely injured a pedestrian in North Seattle. The woman was walking in a designated crosswalk when a motorcycle hit her at full speed. A surveillance video captured the incident, in which the motorcyclist failed to brake and the woman was lifted into the air by the force of the impact.

Special Laws for Motorcyclists

The state of Washington has specific laws designed to keep motorcyclists safe (or as safe as possible). If a driver doesn’t adhere to one of these laws, he or she could injure himself or someone else. Moreover, violating one of these laws might make it harder for a driver injured in an accident to recover damages from another responsible party. (Washington is a comparative fault state. If you are partially at fault for your injuries then any damages awarded to you will be reduced by your percentage of fault.)

Other than the helmet law mentioned above, here are a few other laws specific to motorcyclists:

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If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you might be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and other damages. Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys for a free consultation.

Slipping and Falling at Starbucks

Posted Saturday, March 11, 2017 by Chris Thayer

Starbucks is a familiar presence in Seattle, which, after all, is where the company opened its first store in 1971. The coffee chain still calls Seattle home.

Today there are more than 25,000 Starbucks stores worldwide, hundreds of which are in the state of Washington. Unfortunately, Starbucks, like any restaurant, coffee shop or retail store, is a consumer-driven business that risks exposing its consumers to hazardous conditions. Slippery floors are one common example of a hazardous condition that is dangerous to consumers.

Slip-and-Fall Incidents at Two Starbucks Locations

In 2008, a California man fell inside a Starbucks located in Vista (which is in San Diego County). He and his wife filed a lawsuit against the company after he slipped and hit his head on a cash register. The area where he slipped had just been mopped. The man alleged that he suffers from bad headaches, extreme fatigue and other side effects that prevented him from returning to his job as a chiropractor. The jury awarded him and his wife $7.5 million in damages.

In 2014, a Montana man visited a Starbucks while traveling in Eugene, Oregon. After ordering his coffee, he exited the Starbucks through an unmarked doorway and onto a raised concrete landing. However, he alleges that he wasn’t aware that the landing was raised and wasn’t prepared when he stepped 6 inches down onto the sidewalk, where he fell and was injured. He is suing the corporation for failing to keep its store conditions safe

Potential Slip-and-Fall Hazards at Starbucks Stores

The mopped floor at the Vista Starbucks and the elevation change between the landing and the sidewalk at the Eugene Starbucks are two examples of hazardous conditions that could cause a consumer to slip and fall. Other examples include:

Spilled food and beverages;Overflowing sinks and/or toilets in the bathroom;Uneven surfaces in outdoor seating areas, like gravel; andWeather conditions like snow, ice or rain that can make outdoor areas slick.

A crowded store can magnify these hazards, potentially making it more difficult for consumers to avoid or see a slippery or uneven surface.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington

There are a few things to keep in mind if you are filing a personal injury lawsuit in the state of Washington. First, the statute of limitations – the time limit – for filing your claim is three years from the date of your injury. If you file the lawsuit after this three-year period then your claim will likely be dismissed.

Second, Washington is a comparative fault state. If you are partially at fault for your injuries then any damages awarded to you will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if the jury determines that you are 20 percent at fault then you can only recover 80 percent of the damages.

Third, Washington does not place a cap on the amount of damages you can receive.

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If you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident at a Starbucks, restaurant or other retail establishment, contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys for a free consultation.

To Settle or Not to Settle a Personal Injury Case

Posted Friday, October 21, 2016 by Chris Thayer

Most cases end in settlement rather than go to trial. There are many reasons to settle a personal injury case, even if the settlement number is less than the potential of your reward at trial. The purpose of a settlement, however, is an exchange. It is a guarantee of compensation and in return for you giving up your right to sue (or continue your suit) against that defendant for liability and your injuries.

Process from Injury to Trial

After your accident and you seek treatment for your injuries, you should obtain any police, accident or incident report. Bring the report with you when you meet your personal injury attorney so he or she can provide you with a clear assessment of your case.

Filing a Complaint

Once it becomes clear that you have a case, your personal injury attorney will file a complaint in civil court. The purpose of a complaint is to detail the actions taken by the person, or persons and/or entities, who injured you (the “defendant”), and the injuries sustained by you, (the “plaintiff”). It will also include a line or two about the amount of damages sought. This puts the other party (and his or her insurance company) on notice of the suit.


Once the complaint is filed, the defendant is expected to file an Answer to the claims. This must be done within a specified amount of time.


“Discovery” is a word that describes the investigative stage in the process. During the discovery process, the lawyers for both sides gather information from the other side. This will include things like police reports, accident or incident reports, and eyewitness statements, if any. It will also include your medical records from the hospital, your treating physician, your physical therapist, and/or chiropractor. You will be “deposed.” This means you will meet with lawyers for the defendant and be subject to questioning. Your lawyer will be with you. Prior to the deposition, your lawyer will spend considerable time meeting with you in advance of the deposition to make sure you are well prepared, and familiar with what the deposition will feel like. Similarly, the person who injured you will be deposed by your lawyer. You have the right to be present for this deposition as well. The most important rule about being deposed is, “Don’t guess.” If you don’t recall the answer to a question, say you don’t remember.

Case Assessment

Once your lawyer and the lawyer for the other side have gathered all the information they feel is necessary to re-evaluate the case, they will engage in a case assessment. Your lawyer will evaluate any defenses asserted by the respondent. The defense attorney may argue you contributed to your own injuries, by your own negligence. Alternatively, the defense attorney may argue the defendant was not responsible for the accident, your injuries were pre-existing and/or the accident did not cause your injuries. There are any number of different defenses that may be asserted. Your lawyer will carefully review the response, keeping in mind case law and the statutes of the state of Washington. Your lawyer will also evaluate the claims for credibility and truthfulness. Finally, your lawyer will be looking for inconsistencies (or consistencies) in evaluating the strength or weakness of the other side’s response.


After the close of discovery, it is not uncommon for the lawyers from each side to engage in negotiations to determine whether a settlement can be entered into. This will typically involve several back and forth conversations, as both sides seek to agree upon a dollar amount that is satisfactory to both sides.

When Do Settlement Negotiations Occur?

Many people think that when a case is filed, it is likely to go to trial. This is most often not the case. Instead, most civil cases settle somewhere along the line between the filing of the suit and up to and even during the trial. In addition to the negotiations that may take place once discovery is completed, there are more formal procedures in place designed to encourage settlement.

Jury Trial Demand

Once the Answer has been filed, either party can demand a trial. The trial can be either to a jury or to a judge, which is called a court trial.

Settlement Conference

Even though your lawyer has filed a demand for a jury or court trial, the court will set a date for a settlement conference. This typically happens about 90 days before the trial setting. The settlement conference is specifically designed for the parties to come together to engage in discussions about settlement. You, as the injured party, as well as “the person with authority to consent to settlement” for the other side, will be required to attend this hearing.

Confirmation Hearing

Even if your lawyer and the lawyer from the other side have been unsuccessful in any attempt to resolve the matter, a confirmation hearing will be held one week before the scheduled jury trial. The purpose of this is twofold: first, to confirm both sides are ready to proceed to jury trial and second, to determine once again if an alternate resolution can be arrived at.

Couldn’t I Get More Money From Trial Than Settling?

There are many reasons to consider when deciding to settle a personal injury case prior to trial:

  • No guarantee of a win: While it is true that it is possible that you could be awarded more money by a jury than you are being offered to settle, the opposite is also true. It is possible the jury would award you less money than you are being offered to settle or the jury may find in favor of the defendant.
  • Time: Preparing for and the actual trial take time. Not only will you be meeting with your attorney in preparation for your testimony, including going over your testimony and doing a mock cross-examination, at home, you will also be reviewing documents to refresh your memory of the accident, injuries, and treatments you had. You will also be expected to attend every day of the trial.
  • Stress: Trials are stressful. Not only do you need to be prepared to testify, but you will be subject to cross-examination and the opposing attorney will be asking questions in an almost hostile or accusatory fashion. The attorney will be looking for inconsistencies in your prior testimony and will be emphasizing any weakness in your case.
  • Cost: Trials are also costly. Although it is true you do not have to pay your attorneys unless you win, and your attorneys receive a third of your gross award, if you do not win, you still need to pay any expenses. This includes expert witness reports and testimony, court fees, etc. If you do win, your net award is the gross award less attorneys fees and any expenses.
  • Appeal: When a party loses at trial, that party has the right to appeal the decision. This can lead to additional months – even years, of waiting for case resolution if the party appeals. Settling the case guarantees there will be no appeal. Instead, your case will be considered resolved and closed.