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

Fireworks-Related Injuries in Washington

Posted Friday, July 6, 2018 by Chris Thayer

According to a recent report from the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office, there were 262 fireworks-related injuries in 2017. That is 11% more than the 10-year average.

Nationally, there were almost 13,000 injuries caused by fireworks, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Two-thirds of those injuries happened between June 16 and July 16 (which makes sense, considering the Fourth of July falls within that time frame). Here are a few statistics about common injuries associated with fireworks use:

  • Hands and fingers are the body parts most commonly injured, followed by legs, eyes and arms.
  • A majority of fireworks injuries (53%) treated in emergency rooms were burns, which is the most common type of injury to hands, fingers, and arms.
  • Eye injuries can result in permanent disability and severe vision loss. For example, fireworks can cause retinal detachment, corneal abrasions and chemical and thermal burns, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Most injuries happen when people set off their own fireworks. You are much safer going to a public demonstration put on by professionals.

How do Fireworks-Related Injuries Happen?

Most injuries are caused by misuse or malfunctions, according to the CPSC. Examples of misuse include:

  • Placing fireworks too close to a heat source, like a grill
  • Not standing far enough away from other people when igniting fireworks
  • Holding the fireworks in your hand
  • Not knowing how to properly set the fireworks off
  • Throwing lit fireworks at someone, and
  • Trying to ignite fireworks that did not go off the first time.

You might be entitled to compensation under Washington negligence law if you are injured because someone mishandles fireworks or does not set them off properly. An experienced attorney can explain your legal options. You might also be able to recover damages from the manufacturer if the fireworks malfunction. Examples of malfunctions include:

  • Blowouts (when it explodes inside the tube)
  • Back fire (sparks come out of the rear of the device), and
  • Errant flight paths (meaning the firework does not travel the way it is supposed to).

These are only a few examples of misuses and malfunctions that can result in injuries. Contact an experienced attorney if you were injured in any kind of fireworks-related incident. Do not delay, because you only have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington.

Preventing Fireworks-Related Injuries

There are a few common-sense steps you can take to avoid being injured if you set off your own fireworks. For example, do not carry fireworks in your pockets and keep a bucket of water nearby. Other safety tips from the CPSC are:

  • Do not let children set off fireworks without adult supervision (and keep young children away from them entirely).
  • Never point fireworks at another person.
  • Back away immediately after igniting fireworks.
  • Light fireworks one at a time and do not try to reignite dud fireworks.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in a fireworks-related incident. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine whether the accident was caused by negligence. Our experienced attorneys will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical costs and other related expenses.

New Litigation Protections for Sexual Harassment Victims

Posted Friday, June 29, 2018 by Chris Thayer

The MeToo movement went global after actress Alyssa Milano asked her Twitter followers to share their experiences with sexual harassment using the hashtag #MeToo. That movement reached all the way to the Washington state legislature, which passed a law earlier this year banning privileged medical records and mental health records from being used in most discrimination cases. The law took effect on June 7.

*What is a Discrimination Case?*Washington law prohibits unfair and discriminatory treatment in the workplace, in real estate transactions, and in public accommodations, among other situations. For example, employers can not refuse to hire someone based on certain characteristics. Specifically, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of:

  • race
  • creed
  • color
  • national origin
  • sex
  • marital status
  • age (40 years old or older)
  • disability
  • sexual orientation and gender identity, or
  • military status

Sexual harassment is a type of sex or gender-based discrimination. Whether you are harassed at work or in another protected situation, you have the right to take your harasser to court.

*How Does the New Law Work?*Before the legislature passed this new law, defense attorneys could use victim’s medical records against them. For example, imagine a victim who is experiencing emotional distress and mental anguish after being sexually harassed at work. Now imagine the tactics the harasser might use to avoid paying damages. In the past, the defense could present the victim’s medical history as evidence that his or her emotional distress was actually caused by another event. Maybe the victim had an abortion or was treated for a sexually transmitted disease. All of those private details could be on display.

Now, the harassment victim’s medical records can only be used as evidence under the following circumstances:

  • The victim brings up the records or is relying on a health care provider’s testimony.
  • The victim is seeking compensation for a diagnosable psychiatric or physical injury like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • The victim’s claim is failure to accommodate a disability or discriminating on the basis of disability.

An experienced attorney can develop an effective litigation strategy that takes advantage of these new procedural protections.

*What are Emotional Distress Damages?*Emotional distress damages are noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages are subjective losses, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation, and injury to reputation. Economic damages, on the other hand, are easily quantifiable expenses like medical bills and lost wages.

Washington places a cap on the amount of noneconomic damages that personal injury claimants may receive in personal injury lawsuits. That cap is determined using a very specific formula. An experienced attorney can explain that formula to you and help ensure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were sexually harassed at work. You have a right to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the litigation process and help recover the compensation that you deserve, including emotional distress damages.

Reaching a Settlement Agreement in a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case

Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Not every personal injury lawsuit leads to trial. Some parties might try negotiating a settlement agreement to resolve their dispute outside of the courtroom instead. If successful, settlement negotiations can save both time and money and avoid the hassle of litigation.

*What is a Settlement Agreement?*A settlement agreement is a legally binding contract that resolves a legal dispute. The contract is usually based on one party’s agreement not to sue in exchange for a certain amount of money.

However, the parties cannot just enter into an agreement carte blanche. The court must make sure that the settlement amount is reasonable based on the discharge of claims. The party requesting the settlement has the burden of proving that the offer is reasonable.

*Pros and Cons of Settling a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case*Deciding whether to settle a case instead of going to trial is a major decision that should not be rushed. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. For example:

  • Trials can take a long time, depending on how complex your case is. A settlement means you will receive compensation sooner and be able to pay your medical bills and other expenses.
  • A settlement agreement, unlike court records, can remain confidential.
  • The settlement amount might be less money than what a jury or judge would award in a trial.
  • However, there is no guarantee that you will win at trial or that the judgment amount will be higher than the settlement.

An experienced attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons and determine which option is right for you. (Keep in mind that you might fail to reach a settlement agreement. In that case the lawsuit can still go to trial.)

*Example of Case Resulting in Settlement Agreement*In April of 2017, Brook Ashcroft found her sister Kelli and Troy Sullivan dead in a bedroom at her parents’ house in San Juan County. Investigators determined that Kelli and Troy died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Brook and Troy’s family both filed wrongful death lawsuits against the Ashcroft parents, Jim’s Heating and Refrigeration, and Inter-Island Propane for negligence, wrongful death, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The two lawsuits were consolidated and ultimately dismissed after the parties reached an undisclosed settlement agreement.

In this case, the parties decided to keep their settlement agreement confidential. They would not have been able to keep court records private had they gone to trial. Also note that the case was dismissed, which means Brook and Troy’s family will not be able to pursue legal claims related to their loved one’s death in the future (depending on the terms of their settlement agreement, of course.)

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured or a loved one was killed because of negligence. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries, whether by reaching a settlement agreement or proceeding to trial. We can explain your legal options and develop an effective strategy that suits your needs.

Driving in the Left Lane can be Dangerous and Illegal

Posted Friday, June 15, 2018 by Chris Thayer

If you have ever been stuck behind a slowpoke driver in the left lane, or if you have been tailgated because you are driving too slowly in the left lane, then you probably understand the frustrations and dangers of hanging out in the “fast” lane.

Driving in the left lane causes thousands of accidents every year, according to research done by the Traffic Operations & Safety Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That is one of the reasons many states make it illegal to drive in the left lane unless you are passing another driver or the right lanes are blocked. Even states that do not penalize left-lane driving urge slower drivers to stay on the right.

Washington is one of those states where you can not camp out in the left lane. It is illegal to drive in the left lane on highways with two or more lanes, except when passing, moving to the left to allow other drivers to merge, or exiting on the left.

Problems with Driving in the Left Lane

More and more people are moving to the Seattle metropolitan area. In fact, between 2016 and 2017, more people moved to Seattle than moved away, making it one of only five metro areas with a “net domestic migration.” Unfortunately, with more people comes more traffic. Seattle’s roads rank 20th in the world for the worst traffic congestion, costing the city more than $5 billion in 2017. Drivers spent about 55 hours stuck in traffic last year.

Slow drivers who camp out in the left lane can incite road rage, cause traffic congestion and block emergency vehicles, according to state patrol troopers. Road rage is a major contributor to car accidents and can take many forms, including:

  • Tailgating (following a car in front of you too closely)
  • Cutting other drivers off
  • Honking
  • Flashing your headlights
  • Cursing or yelling at other drivers, and
  • Brake checking.

Extreme examples include running other drivers off the road or purposefully crashing into another vehicle.

Road rage-related behaviors are obviously negligent and can result in civil liability for personal injuries and fatalities. But, illegally driving in the left lane – especially when coupled with driving too slowly or other unsafe behaviors – is also negligent.

*Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington*You have the right to seek compensation if you have been injured in a car accident caused by a slow driver, aggressive driver, or any other negligent party.

You only have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit, including for property damage, so do not delay. Get medical attention and reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are injured in a car accident, whether it was caused by a slow driver, a driver recklessly changing lanes or tailgating, or any other negligent individual. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Posted Saturday, June 9, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Seventeen years ago, Ray Holman was driving his motorcycle on Interstate 82 between Yakima and Ellensberg when he suddenly crashed. He broke dozens of bones, lost his left eye, and suffered traumatic brain injury. Holman has lived with the aftermath of that brain injury ever since, including difficulty concentrating and keeping up with conversations and severe depression.

In March 2018, 62-year-old John Baretta was hit by a car while crossing the street in Tacoma. Baretta crossed the intersection legally, with a walk sign. But the car that hit him also had a green light. Neither saw the other. Baretta suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident.

In August 2017, a Washington State University freshman suffered brain and spinal cord injuries after falling out of his second-story dorm room window. The accident forced WSU to reconsider its safety policies. Earlier this year the school announced changes that will hopefully prevent other students from experiencing similar accidents.

*What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?*Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a serious problem in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, almost one-third of injury deaths are at least partly attributed to TBIs. Falls and car accidents – often the reason for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits – are two of the leading causes of TBIs.

A TBI is an injury to the brain caused by a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. Symptoms vary based on the severity of the injury but can include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or sleeping more than normal
  • Dizziness
  • Speech difficulties
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Seizures
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Confusion, and
  • Unusual behavior, like combativeness.

TBIs often lead to long-term health problems. For example, a recent study found that a severe brain injury increases the risk of developing dementia by 35%, while a mild brain injury increases the risk by 17%. Such long-term consequences are one factor to keep in mind when seeking compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.

*Filing a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a TBI*The deadline for filing a personal or injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Washington is three years from the date of the injury or death.

Washington is a comparative fault state, which means that any damages awarded to you will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Note that Washington does not place a cap on the amount of damages that you can receive. This includes compensation for economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are easily quantifiable, like medical expenses, while noneconomic damages are more subjective, like pain and suffering.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one suffer a traumatic brain injury because of a negligent act. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.