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

Is Seattle’s New Gun Storage Law Legal?

Posted Friday, August 10, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Crime victims do not always know that they also have a right to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. Criminal prosecutions focus on punishment of the criminal, and not compensating the victim.

Civil law often allows victims to seek compensation from the people whose actions caused them harm, as well as people other than the ones who directly harmed them. For example, a shooting victim might be able to sue both the shooter and the person who provided access to the weapon.

A new law in Seattle says exactly that, but is the ordinance legal?

*Lawsuits Over Gun Storage Laws*The National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, and two Seattle residents recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle, claiming its new gun storage ordinance violates Washington state law.

Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the ordinance into law in July, but it does not take effect until January 2019. The new ordinance requires gun owners to keep their firearms locked up and penalizes them for failing to do so. Specifically, gun owners can be fined:

  • $500 for not locking up their firearm
  • Up to $1,000 if a minor or other unauthorized user accesses the weapon, and
  • Up to $10,000 if someone uses the weapon to commit a crime or hurt another person.

The law stems from the idea that it is negligent to allow unauthorized users to access a weapon. (The law will help victims filing personal injury lawsuits.) Giving others access can lead to tragic gun accidents and fatalities. In fact, a study found that only 36% of Washington gun owners say they keep their firearms locked and unloaded at home.

The NRA and SAF also filed a lawsuit against the City of Edmonds after the city council passed a similar gun storage ordinance. The Edmonds ordinance allows fines up to $10,000 when children and at-risk people have access to a gun owner’s firearm. The lawsuits say that Washington cities can not regulate guns and these storage requirements are gun regulations. The idea is that state law preempts (takes precedence over) city law.

*Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington*Seattle’s new law will make it easier to establish negligence, but you can make that case regardless. If you are injured in a gun accident, you just need to prove that the gun owner breached a duty of care. This means that the owner had a responsibility (to you) to prevent the shooter from accessing the gun. For example, parents have a responsibility to keep their children from hurting others. This applies in school shootings and one-on-one incidents. If the parents know their child has a propensity for harming others, then they need to take special care to prevent the child from accessing their firearms.

Victims have three years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Washington (unless the victim is a minor.) Washington is also a comparative fault state, meaning that damages are reduced by the victim’s own percentage of fault.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in a gun-related incident. You have the right to seek compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We will help identify the persons who are responsible for your injuries and devise an effective legal strategy. Remember that a civil lawsuit is not a criminal prosecution, and one lawsuit does not depend on the other.

Can a Sexually Abused Child Sue a Parent Years After Custody Determination?

Posted Friday, August 3, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Melissa Eckstrom’s parents divorced in 1992. Years later, Eckstrom filed a lawsuit against her father, alleging that he sexually abused her as a child. Eckstrom’s reality tv star father tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that the lawsuit can go forward.

Background on the Lawsuit

Sig Hansen, from the “Deadliest Catch,” divorced Eckstrom’s mother in 1992. During the custody trial, Eckstrom’s mother accused him of molesting Melissa, but the court ruled that the alleged abuse did not happen. That is why Hansen argued that Eckstrom’s lawsuit should be dismissed. If he was already exonerated on those grounds, then he claimed she could not sue him now.

The appeals court disagreed with Hansen for several reasons. For example, Eckstrom’s lawsuit is not the same as a custody hearing. The first lawsuit focused on whether Hansen had the right to visit his daughter, and Eckstrom is seeking personal injury damages. Also, Eckstrom was not a party to the original proceeding and did not get her day in court. (She was also too young to testify or even understand what was happening.) This is not a case where the law precludes Eckstrom from pursuing her claims. Finally, there is a law that allows sexually abused children to pursue civil damages as adults.

(Preclusion is a legal term that basically means parties can not relitigate the same issues.)*Filing a Childhood Sexual Abuse Lawsuit*

Personal injury claims based on childhood sexual abuse are treated differently than other civil cases. Generally, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit is three years from the date of the injury. But the timeframe for filing a civil lawsuit based on childhood sexual abuse does not begin until the child turns 18 years old. Young children may not be able to connect the abuse to their injury and they might repress memories that do not resurface until years later. What the parents knew or did not know is not relevant to the statute of limitations.

Claims based on childhood sexual abuse may be filed within the later of the following time periods:

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

Can a Parent File a Lawsuit on an Abused Child’s Behalf?

Yes. Just because the clock doesn no start to run until the child turns 18 does not mean the lawsuit can not be filed before then. While minors are not allowed to file lawsuits in Washington, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to sue on the child’s behalf. A parent (or both) is usually the designated guardian ad litem.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were sexually abused. You have the right to seek civil damages against the perpetrator. We will do everything we can to make sure you receive the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Understanding Vicarious Liability

Posted Friday, July 27, 2018 by Chris Thayer

The Washington Supreme Court recently ruled that airports are not automatically liable when their contractors act negligently. This decision is important because it limits whom injured plaintiffs can sue for damages in certain circumstances. It also sheds some light on the vicarious liability doctrine.

*What is Vicarious Liability?*Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that holds someone responsible for another person’s actions. This often arises in the employment context, when employers are liable for their employees’ actions. For example, if a truck driver gets into an accident, the injured party can sue the driver’s employer for damages because employers are responsible for an employee’s negligent acts when done in the scope of employment.

*The Washington Supreme Court Case*Brandon Afoa worked as a baggage handler at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport but Alfoa was not employed by the airport. His employer was Evergreen Aviation Ground Logistics Enterprise Inc. (EAGLE), which contracted with four airlines to provide ground services, including baggage handling.

Alfoa was injured while operating a luggage vehicle. He sued the Port of Seattle (which owns the airport) for negligence, claiming that it failed to provide a safe work environment. Here is what happened at the different court levels:

  • The trial court found that Alfoa suffered $40 million in damages, but apportioned 25% of the fault to the Port of Seattle and 74.8% to the four airlines (0.2% of the fault went to Alfoa).
  • The Court of Appeals found that the Port of Seattle was vicariously liable for the airlines’ portion of the fault. This meant that the Port of Seattle was responsible for 99.8% of the damages.
  • The Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding that the Port of Seattle was not vicariously liable for the airlines’ portion of the fault. Parties are only vicariously liable for a second party’s negligence when the other person is an agent or servant of the first party, or the parties are acting in concert. Here, there was no evidence that the Port retained control of the airlines.

The case might have turned out differently if the jury found that the airlines were agents of the Port, or at least that they were working together.

What Does This Mean for Me?

The Port of Seattle is not automatically liable if you are injured at the airport. It depends on the circumstances of your case and the relationship that the negligent actor has to the airport. But you are entitled to seek damages if you are injured by someone’s negligence. Make sure you file your lawsuit within three years of the accident and seek help from an experienced personal injury attorney.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured because of someone else’s negligence. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine who can be held liable for your injuries. We will do everything we can to make sure you receive the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Child Plaintiffs and School Negligence

Posted Friday, July 20, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Three years ago, a student at Broad View Elementary School in Island County fell off a playground “stepping pod” and landed head-first on a “sharp-edged metal balance beam,” according to a lawsuit recently filed by the student’s parents. The parents claim that their son was unconscious for at least 30 minutes and suffered traumatic brain injuries, skull fractures, vision problems and other various injuries.

They sued Oak Harbor School District, arguing that the district failed to provide “a reasonable safe zone” between the playground equipment and that school personnel did not “exercise ordinary and reasonable care” in supervising the students. They are seeking an unspecified amount of damages in the personal injury lawsuit.

*Suing on Behalf of a Minor Child in Washington*Minors are not allowed to file lawsuits in Washington. Instead, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (usually the parents) to sue on the child’s behalf.

The general deadline (statute of limitations) for filing a personal injury lawsuit is three years from the date of the accident, but the rules are different when the injured plaintiff is a child. In those cases, the three-year filing period does not begin running until the child turns 18 years old. This gives minors more litigation options. Either a guardian ad litem can sue on the child’s behalf, or the child can wait and sue after his or her 18th birthday.

It is generally advisable to file a personal injury lawsuit as soon after the accident as possible. Delaying litigation for too long can make it harder to prove your case. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that crucial evidence gets lost or witnesses’ memories fade.

Also keep in mind that Washington is a comparative fault state, which means that any damages awarded will be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault (if any). This rule applies to child plaintiffs as well. State law does not cap the amount of damages that plaintiffs can receive. This includes compensation for easily quantifiable damages like medical expenses and subjective noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.

*Suing a School District for Negligence*A school districts owes a duty to students “to employ reasonable care and to anticipate reasonably foreseeable dangers so as to take precautions for protecting children in its custody from dangers,” according to the Washington Supreme Court. That means parents can hold schools liable for improper supervision while students are:

  • Playing on the playground;
  • Participating in sporting events, theater rehearsals, band practice, and any other school-sanctioned activity;
  • Attending sanctioned off-campus activities like school dances, fundraisers and field trips;
  • Driving in the school parking lot; and
  • On school grounds generally.

In the Oak Harbor case, the school was arguably responsible for the student’s well-being while he played on the playground.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if your child was injured because of a school’s or school district’s negligence. We will help recover compensation for your child’s injuries, including medical expenses.

Understanding Frivolous Lawsuits

Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Not every personal injury claim is legitimate. In fact, you could be sanctioned if you file a “frivolous” lawsuit in Washington. That is one of the reasons you should always contact an experienced attorney – to make sure your claim is legally viable.

Here are a few things you need to know about frivolous lawsuits and filing legitimate claims in Washington.

Q: What is a frivolous lawsuit?A: Courts have defined a “frivolous lawsuit” as an action that “cannot be supported by any rational argument on the law or facts.” In other words, if your personal injury claim does not make sense legally or factually, then it is probably frivolous.

Q: How do I verify that my personal injury claim is not frivolous?A: There is a body of procedural rules (called the Superior Court Civil Rules) that informs litigants about how to comply with state law when filing a personal injury lawsuit (and other civil lawsuits). Specifically, Civil Rule 11 requires plaintiffs to make sure that any documents filed in court are supported by both factual evidence and the law. Plaintiffs must conduct a “reasonable inquiry” and make that assurance to the best of their “knowledge, information, and belief.” An inquiry is generally considered reasonable if it is what most people would typically do under similar circumstances.

Q: What is an example of a frivolous lawsuit?A: Here is an obvious example. More than two decades ago, a man named Richard Overton filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch in Michigan. Overton sought $10,000 in damages because the beer company “falsely advertised” that drinking Bud Light would make him fantasize about beautiful women on a beach, and he did not have those visions. He claimed the false advertising caused him emotional and psychological distress. The case was dropped.

Q: What happens if I file a frivolous lawsuit?A: You and your attorney can get into trouble for filing a frivolous lawsuit in Washington. The court might order you to pay the other party’s reasonable expenses (including attorney’s fees) if there is no “reasonable cause” for your claim. The prevailing party can file a motion for these fees after the case has been dropped, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and the judge will review the evidence and make a decision. That motion must be filed within 30 days of the dismissal order.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington

The best way to avoid filing a frivolous lawsuit is to talk to an experienced attorney about your case. An attorney can also ensure that you comply with other procedural requirements, like the filing deadline (or statute of limitations). In Washington, you only have three years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured by someone else’s negligent behavior. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine whether you have a viable personal injury claim. Our experienced attorneys will then help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical costs, lost wages, and other related expenses.