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

Can I Get Punitive Damages for My Washington Personal Injury Case?

Posted Friday, October 30, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Punitive damages are a unique type of award that has little to do with compensation, but instead is focused more on deterring others from acting in a certain way and punishing wrongdoers. Under Washington law, punitive damages are greatly disfavored as a form of relief for injury victims, but this does not mean it is impossible. Experienced Washington trial attorneys know that there are a few tricks of the trade, so to speak, that can sometimes help an injured person recover significant compensation, including punitive damages.

**Understanding What Damages are in General

**Punitive damages are not compensation. In general, there are two types of damages that all people can attempt to claim for their injuries. These are compensatory damages and non-compensatory. Most damages are designed to be compensatory, meaning they “compensate” the injured person or their family. These include things like pain and suffering and medical expenses. Non-compensatory damages are designed to satisfy a policy goal generally, such as statutory damages and punitive awards.

*Compensatory Damages:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life - Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses - Loss of income and support

*Non-compensatory* - Punitive damages - Statutory damages

*Economic vs. Non-economic Damages* Compensatory damages can also be further broken down into two distinct groups — economic and non-economic. Economic damages are forms of compensation that are designed to make the injured person “whole” again financially. These would be things like medical expenses and lost income. Whereas, non-economic damages are things like pain and suffering, which cannot be easily measured in numerical terms.

*Washington’s View of Punitive Damages* The best way to explain how Washington law views punitive awards is found in Grays Harbor County v. Bay City Lumber Co., a case where the court stated that “punitive damages are generally not recoverable under Washington law unless expressly authorized by statute.” Other cases, such as Dailey v. North Coast Life Ins. Co., have stated that these types of awards are actually “contrary to Washington’s public policy.” These court decisions are even referenced in the comments to Washington County Jury Instructions.

However, there are exceptions. For instance, when the State of Washington is the plaintiff, it can recover treble damages (i.e. three times the award) in some instances. See RCW 19.86.090. There are also situations, such as consumer fraud claims and claims in which a defendant acted so egregiously and recklessly in disregard for human life that the only way to properly punish them and render justice is to award punitive damages. It is frankly a high standard to meet.

*Get the Best Legal Representation * If you or a loved one are seriously injured in a catastrophic event, or a loved one dies due to the carelessness of someone else, you owe it to yourself and your family to contact Pivotal Law Group today. Consultations are free, and you may be surprised by the kind of damages to which you are entitled. Act fast because Washington law imposes strict time limits on securing compensation. If you wait too long, you could forever lose your right to be compensated.

What Happens When an Accident Victim Shares Liability for Injuries?

Posted Friday, October 23, 2020 by Chris Thayer

When someone is seriously hurt in a car accident, the at-fault party is legally responsible for paying for the damages they caused. However, not every case is so simple. Many times, multiple parties share some of the blame for causing an accident. This can apply to victims, too. Each state must determine how to deal with situations where a victim has done something that contributed to their own injuries. When there is even a slight chance that a severely injured victim may share some responsibility for an accident, a skilled personal injury lawyer is often needed just to get an insurance company to bring money to the table. So, what exactly happens in Washington State when an injured driver shares some liability for the crash?

*The Law Attempts to be Fair* First, it is important to keep in mind that every state deals with this situation differently. There are basically three ways that this situation can be handled. The terms “contributory negligence” or “comparative negligence” are often used interchangeably. But there are differences. The three basic ways of apportioning fault are as follows:

  • Pure Comparative Negligence. In a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction, everyone is able to recover for their injuries, even if they share liability. However, their recovery is reduced by the percentage of liability they share. So, in theory, even someone who is primarily responsible for an accident could arguably recover compensation. Though, there are practical reasons why this is very rare.
  • Pure Contributory Negligence. In these jurisdictions, a party cannot recover compensation if they are even somewhat responsible. In other words, they must be completely absolved of any liability in order to recover. This is basically the opposite of a comparative negligence state.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence. The vast majority of states are moving toward some variation of modified comparative negligence. These states determine just how much fault a victim must have before losing the right to collect.

*Washington’s Approach* Washington State follows a pure approach, which is clearly outlined in Washington State law at RCW 4.22.005. Washington law refers to it as contributory fault, but the law dictates that each party is responsible for their share of liability and that a person who shares some of the blame for their own injuries will have their recovery reduced, but it will not “bar” their claim. In other words, even in situations where a person may be 50/50 responsible, it is theoretically possible to recover compensation.

*How Contributory Fault Affects Recovery* If a victim is injured and their claim is worth $50,000 but they were 10% liable for the accident, as determined through negotiations with the insurance carrier or by a jury at trial, then that 10% will be subtracted from the total value of the case, leaving the injured person to still recover, but only $45,000 ($50,000 minus 10% or $5,000).

Insurance companies will look very hard to find any evidence of shared responsibility. It is one of the easiest ways for an insurance company to reduce the risk of paying out claims. So, if you or a loved one believe you have a claim for injuries and are concerned that you may have done something to cause the injury, you should still talk to a lawyer right away. At Pivotal Law Group, our dedicated team of attorneys stand ready to fight to protect your rights. Give us a call or find us online right away and let us set up a free consultation today.

Types of Brain Injuries Caused by Negligence

Posted Friday, October 16, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextPerhaps one of the most severe injuries that a person can suffer is a brain injury. First, a brain injury is often invisible to the naked eye, meaning that even well-intentioned and well-trained general practitioners may miss it in the emergency room or doctor’s office. Second, when the brain is damaged or injured in some way, the effects can be strange and even bizarre, leading to a wide range of misdiagnoses. However, with proper diagnostic testing, most brain injuries can be properly identified, classified, and then treated.

At Pivotal Law Group, our attorneys have handled many types of brain injury cases, and we are ready to help you and your family. Here are some of the more common types of brain injuries that can be caused through someone else’s negligence.

*Traumatic Brain Injury in a Car Accident* Maybe the most common type of brain injury is the TBI or traumatic brain injury, which is typically caused by contact sports, a physical assault, or a car accident. Slip and fall accidents can also cause these injuries where a head strikes a hard surface. In short, a TBI is caused when the brain is violently shaken inside the head due to some outside trauma or momentum, such as what occurs in many car wrecks. Whether minor (concussion) or severe, symptoms can include:

  • Trouble thinking
  • Lethargy
  • Sensory issues (smell, taste, hearing, vision)
  • Hard time concentrating
  • Memory issues

*Diffuse Axonal Injury* This serious type of injury occurs when the brain is damaged by sheer force. In other words, there is likely no bleeding, but the brain endures an internal trauma from violent shaking, such as in a whiplash injury. While invisible and hard to detect, it can be deadly if left untreated.

*Hypoxic or Anoxic Brain Injury* This last kind of brain injury is more commonly seen in medical negligence cases, where a physician or hospital staff takes inappropriate measures or does not follow proper medical procedures or guidelines, leading to a loss of oxygen. Drownings are another cause. Hypoxia is when there is a severe drop in the oxygenation of cells in the brain, often due to not breathing for an extended period of time. Anoxia, by contrast, simply means the entire lack of oxygen.

When a healthcare provider fails to take appropriate steps during a surgical procedure, intubation or some other medical emergency, a person’s oxygen levels can drop rapidly, leading to permanent brain damage from anoxia. In these cases, a person can have irreversible injuries such as:

  • Spastic quadriplegia
  • Loss of all motor skills
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of speech
  • Mental losses
  • Memory losses
  • Loss of mobility and paralysis
  • Death

*Understanding How to Seek Compensation for Brain Injuries* At Pivotal Law Group, our attorneys understand that the first step in recovering compensation is getting proper medical care and assessment. With years of experience in Washington state, our team of skilled trial lawyers can help a brain injury victim seek quality medical attention so as to get to the bottom of things and discover what happened and why. This leads to better outcomes later. If you have a serious brain injury or know someone who is suffering after a brain injury caused by someone else’s careless or negligent conduct, then you owe it to yourself to contact us to learn more. Consultations are always free, so give us a call today.

Washington State Dram Shop Laws

Posted Friday, October 9, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextWashington state, like many states, places specific rules and restrictions on establishments that serve alcohol to the public. One such restriction is that they are not to serve alcohol to anyone who is visibly intoxicated. The goal of such a law is to avoid individuals being over-served alcohol to the point where injuries and other tragedies occur. Not all establishments adhere to these rules, and there are no doubt many businesses that turn a blind eye to the rules. After all, most of the time nothing bad happens. But what happens when something tragic does occur?

This is where a skilled personal injury trial lawyer can be very helpful in assisting with recovering compensation to pay for medical bills and lost income after an accident. To better understand how Washington dram shop laws may affect your rights in an accident, consider the following snapshot of dram shop laws in our state.

*What is a Dram Shop Law?* In Washington, RCW 66.44.200 is a statute that limits the service of alcohol. Under this law, a business may not serve alcohol to anyone who is “apparently under the influence of alcohol.” In practice, this can be tricky. After all, people go to bars to drink. Most people in a bar are “under the influence,” technically. However, Washington law also requires that bars and restaurants provide basic training to waitstaff and bartenders, which includes information on how to identify the signs of intoxication, such as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Imbalance
  • Difficulty completing sentences
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Lack of judgment / heightened emotional responses
  • Difficulty staying awake when sitting down
  • Loss of fine motor skills

*What Happens if a Bar Over-Serves Someone and They Cause a Wreck?* This is where dram shop laws come into play. When a bar is reckless in over-serving someone who then goes outside, gets into a car, and causes serious injury or death to another person on the roadway, the bar may share liability for the injuries or death.

Consider that if a lawsuit must be filed and the case proceeds to a jury trial, there are specific instructions that a court must give to the jury to help them in making a decision about liability. These are commonly known as “jury instructions.” WPI (Pattern Jury Instruction) 370.01 reads as follows: “A vendor of alcohol owes a duty to third persons not to serve alcohol to a person who is apparently under the influence of alcohol.”

So, if an attorney can prove to a jury that a bar did indeed over-serve a patron, and that patron did indeed cause or contribute to the injuries of another, then the bar may be held in part or wholly responsible for the injuries caused by that patron.

*Getting Help After an Injury* If you or a loved one have been hurt by a drunk driver in Washington state, it is important to work with a firm that understands all the nuances of injury law, including the many sources of compensation that exist, even beyond the negligent driver who caused the wreck. At Pivotal Law Group, our attorneys maintain a close relationship with treatment providers and private investigators. We are often able to locate additional sources of financial recovery to help our clients maximize their compensation. Call or visit our firm online today to set up a personal and private free consultation to learn more about how we may be able to help.

Winter Driving Tips for 2020

Posted Friday, October 2, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextAs the winter season rapidly approaches in many parts of Washington State, accidents and emergencies are going to start happening, as they always do. This is especially true in places like Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie Pass. Often, these Passes close or become inaccessible as early as October and November. With snow beginning to fall in some parts, it is important to once again revisit some basic safety tips for winter driving. Of course, if you are seriously hurt by a careless or reckless driver who is disregarding basic safety rules, you should always reach out to a skilled Washington personal injury attorney near you.

*Know Your Limits* It is easy for long-time or even lifelong residents of rural Washington State to become overconfident in their driving and survival skills. After all, once you have lived through deadly winter storms a few times, you begin to feel like a bit of an expert. Take a step back and reassess your abilities and comfort levels. Do you have the right vehicle for the conditions? Do you feel comfortable navigating a road with little to now emergency services available for upwards of 40-50 miles? Think twice and do not take unnecessary chances.

*Pack Heavy* It is a bit obvious to suggest packing survival gear, but it is essential. If you are going to drive outside of the heart of any major city, you need to have the following items at a minimum:

  • Bottled water
  • Blankets
  • Flashlight
  • Source of heat (heated blanket, foot/hand warmers)
  • Food
  • Battery charger for cell phone

*Slow Down* Again, it may seem obvious, but a lot of people continue trying to drive the speed limit (or faster) even when snow and ice are on the road. This is pure folly, as it greatly increases your risk of crashing. According to a report by the International Transport Forum, an independent committee that consists of 59 member countries, speed is directly linked to the risk of a crash. In fact, the faster the speed, the more likely a collision will occur, regardless of weather conditions. And the more severe the conditions, this risk can be increased exponentially, due to decreased reaction time.

*Tires are Key* No matter what, make sure your tires get checked. They should be adequately inflated, have plenty of tread, and be the right type of tires for the conditions. Those rain tread tires may be fine for a rainy Seattle slush, but east of the Cascades in the dead of winter, those tires will do little to help you maintain traction on a snow-covered pass.

*Getting Help After a Collision* We all know that no matter what precautions we take, there will always be those careless individuals who put us all in harm’s way. When these reckless drivers seriously hurt people, there is often little that can be done to undo the harm. But the law does provide options for making sure these people are held accountable and that they cover the cost of the damages they cause. If you or a loved one are hurt in a winter crash, call Pivotal Law Group today, and schedule a free case evaluation to discuss your situation right away.