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

Defenses to a Premises Liability Lawsuit

Posted Friday, September 14, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextUnder Washington law, property owners are responsible for maintaining their premises in a safe condition and warning visitors of hidden hazards. If you are injured while visiting someone’s home or business, the owner might be liable for your medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses. There are certain defenses that property owners can use to avoid liability.

*Who can Bring a Premises Liability Claim?*Whether the owner is responsible depends on whether he or she owed you a duty of care. The standard of care depends on whether you are an invitee, social guest, licensee, or trespasser:

  • If you are an invitee, that means you were invited onto someone’s property. Property owners have a duty to exercise ordinary care in maintaining safe conditions where invitees are invited or reasonably expected to go.
  • If you enter someone’s property with the owner’s permission for your own business purposes, then you are a licensee. For example, homeowners generally “allow” people, including salespeople, to come knock on their front door. The property owner is only responsible for fixing unsafe conditions that he is or should be aware of, or to at least post a warning.
  • If you enter the property with the owner’s permission for non-business purposes, then you are a social guest (like if you randomly stop by to see if your friend is home). The owner owes the same duty of care to social guests as to licensees.
  • If you go onto someone’s property without permission, that means you are trespassing and you are proceeding at your own risk. Property owners do not owe you any particular duty of care other than not deliberately injuring you.

*Common Defenses Used to Defeat a Premises Liability Claim*One common defense used against premises liability plaintiffs is that the injury happened because of an open and obvious danger. For example, a staircase – with no extenuating circumstances like a spilled substance or rotten floorboard – is an obvious danger. If you trip on the stairs then you probably can not sue the property owner.

Another common defense is that the plaintiff assumed the risk. Generally, “assumption of risk” means that when someone voluntarily enters onto property with known, inherent risks, that person cannot sue for injuries unless the injuries were actually caused by negligence. For example, if you visit a campground knowing that bears sometimes wander through the campsites – and there are signs warning you about bears – then you have assumed the risks that the bears pose.

Washington is also a comparative fault state, meaning that damages are reduced by the victim’s own percentage of fault. So, even if the property owner was negligent, you are not entitled to compensation for your role in the injury.

*Contact Us Today*If you are injured at someone’s home or business, you might have a premises liability claim. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation. We will craft an effective litigation strategy against any defenses that might be used against you and help recover the compensation that you deserve.

(image courtesy of Luca Bravo)

The Sudden Emergency Doctrine

Posted Friday, September 7, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextSome accidents are caused by negligence, but other accidents are out of our control, happening because of our response to sudden emergencies. Or at least that is what a personal injury defendant might argue when the injured plaintiff files a lawsuit against him or her. Conversely, the injured plaintiff can invoke the sudden emergency doctrine to argue that he or she is not partially at fault for his or her own injuries.

There is a legal principle called the sudden emergency doctrine that says people are not liable when their otherwise negligent actions stemmed from an emergency situation. This is an important doctrine for plaintiffs to understand, since it might prevent them from recovering damages or ensure they recover full compensation for their injuries.

*What is the Sudden Emergency Doctrine?*According to the Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions:

“A person who is suddenly confronted by an emergency through no negligence of his or her own and who is compelled to decide instantly how to avoid injury and who makes such a choice as a reasonably careful person placed in such a position might make, is not negligent even though it is not the wisest choice.”

For example, imagine that a car passenger suddenly has a heart attack. The driver speeds through a light just as it is turning red, in an attempt to get to the emergency room faster. The driver slams into a vehicle that has just legally entered the intersection. A jury could conclude that the driver’s decision to run the light was reasonable given the emergency situation.

*Other Examples of Sudden Emergencies*In the 1970s, a motorcyclist and school bus collided on a curvy, hilly road. The motorcyclist filed a personal injury lawsuit claiming that the bus driver was responsible for his injuries. The motorcyclist lost at trial, but on appeal, the court said that the sudden emergency doctrine may apply. Specifically, the jury should have considered whether the bus illegally crossed into the oncoming lane, causing the motorcyclist to swerve and crash into the bus. Swerving to avoid a vehicle that has drifted into your lane is an example of a sudden emergency.

In 2009, the Washington Supreme Court considered the application of the sudden emergency doctrine to an accident involving a motorcycle and a deer. To make a long story short, the motorcycle driver could not avoid crashing into a deer that suddenly ran into the road. The motorcycle’s passenger was injured and sued the driver for injuries. The court agreed that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to consider this a sudden emergency.

While many sudden emergencies arrive in the context of car accidents, there are other situations where this doctrine comes up. An experienced attorney can help prepare an effective litigation strategy if a sudden emergency is a factor in your case.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are injured by someone’s negligent conduct. Our experienced attorneys will prepare for any defenses that might be used against you, including the sudden emergency doctrine. We will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

(image courtesy of Deva Darshan)

Intentional Torts

Posted Friday, August 31, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextImagine that a driver rear-ends another vehicle because he did not notice that traffic had slowed ahead of him. Now imagine that the driver has been aggressively tailgating the vehicle and then purposefully rams into the back of it before changing lanes and speeding off. In either case, the injured driver may seek civil compensation, but under what theory of law?

Negligence Vs. Intentional Torts

There is a difference between injuries caused by careless actions and injuries caused by deliberate actions. When people act carelessly or negligently, they do not intend to cause harm and any injuries are purely accidental. They can be held accountable for their conduct, regardless of intent. But sometimes, people intend to cause harm. That kind of behavior is called an intentional tort. (A “tort” is a wrongful act that leads to civil liability.)

Intentional torts are often criminal offenses. But criminal violations are separate and distinct from civil violations. One type of lawsuit does not depend on the other, and an injured plaintiff can seek damages whether or not there is a criminal prosecution or conviction.

Types of Intentional Torts

Washington recognizes several types of intentional torts, including:

  • Assault, which happens when someone attempts to physically harm another person or threatens to harm the person (this is also called attempted battery).
  • Battery, which happens when someone physically harms another person (on purpose).
  • Conversion, which happens when someone intentionally deprives another person of their personal property (the criminal equivalent is theft).
  • Defamation, which happens when someone makes a false statement about another person, either written or spoken. Written defamation is called libel and spoken defamation is called slander. The false statement must cause some kind of harm.
  • False imprisonment, which happens when someone unlawfully and intentionally confines another person (with a few exceptions).
  • Fraud, which happens when someone intentionally misrepresents a fact and someone relies on that fact to their detriment.
  • Tort of outrage (or intentional infliction of emotional distress), which happens when someone’s extreme or outrageous conduct causes another person severe emotional distress (they are also liable for any resulting physical injuries).
  • Trespass, which happens when someone enters private property without permission. This claim exists whether or not the property or owner is actually harmed.

*Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington*The deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Washington is either two or three years, depending on the cause of action. For example, you usually have three years to file a negligence lawsuit, but you only have two years to file a lawsuit for false imprisonment, assault and battery, and defamation. (The rules are different when the victim is a child.)

Contact an experienced attorney, who can ensure you meet these and other statutory deadlines. An attorney can also help determine whether your injury was the result of negligence or an intentional act.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are injured by someone’s negligent or intentional conduct. Our experienced attorneys will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

(image courtesy of Greg Raines)

Driving Under the Influence of Electronics

Posted Friday, August 24, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextLast year, Washington passed a law that makes it illegal for drivers to use cell phones and other handheld electronic devices, even when they are stopped at a red light. It is called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (or E-DUI) law.

Distracted driving is dangerous and causes hundreds of thousands of injuries every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, a study by the state Traffic Safety Commission found that almost one in 10 drivers are distracted while driving in Washington. Distracted driving fatalities also increased 32% between 2014 and 2015. The state passed the E-DUI law last year to discourage drivers from (and punish them for) using a cell phone while behind the wheel.

Violating any kind of traffic law is evidence of negligence, including the E-DUI law. If you are injured by a distracted driver – and that driver was cited for driving under the influence of electronics – you can prove that you are entitled to personal injury damages.

Is the E-DUI Law Working?

The King County Target Zero Task Force conducted a survey to see if the new law has changed driving behaviors. According to the survey, drivers are still confused about what behaviors are prohibited. For example, many people think they can look at their phones while stopped in traffic, but even holding your phone is illegal (one of the few exceptions is calling 911).

Between July 2017 and July 2018, Washington drivers received more than 27,800 E-DUI citations, according to the Washington Administrative Offices of the Courts. At least 9,676 of these citations came out of King County. However, this is not the full story. Those numbers do not include Seattle Municipal Court or part of Spokane Municipal Court.

Clearly distracted driving is still an issue in Washington. With distracted drivers comes car accidents, property damage, personal injuries and untimely deaths.

Specifics of the E-DUI Law

Washington had already banned drivers from texting and talking on handheld cell phones, but the under the E-DUI law drivers can not even hold their phones at all. This rule applies anytime you are behind the wheel, even if you are stopped at a light or stuck in traffic. (You can still call 911 or seek other emergency services.)

The ban applies to all personal electronic devices, including cell phones, tablets, laptops, two-way messaging devices, and electronic games.

You can also get in trouble for eating, drinking, or grooming (like brushing your hair or applying makeup) while behind the wheel. These are secondary offenses, meaning you will not get pulled over for eating a sandwich, but you can get a ticket if the police officer determines that you were distracted by these activities.

Again, a distracted driving citation, even for eating or drinking, is also evidence of negligence.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are injured by a distracted driver. Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the litigation process, and help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

(image courtesy of Alexandre Boucher)

Understanding Summary Judgment Motions

Posted Friday, August 17, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Alternative Text17-year-old Hayden Simmons died in 2015 when the helicopter he was piloting hit two power lines over Ayers Canyon. Hayden was a certified pilot. His 16-year-old cousin also died in the crash.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the canyon, and the power lines are operated by Clearwater Power. Hayden’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department and the power company, alleging that the power lines and utility poles “constituted an unsafe and dangerous condition to aircraft in flight over Ayers Canyon” because they were unmarked and difficult to see.

The parties are currently debating whether they are entitled to summary judgment.

*What is Summary Judgment?*Summary judgment is a court decision for one party without a full trial. If a party believes there are no factual disputes requiring jury input, he can ask the judge to decide the case. Parties make this request by filing a motion for summary judgment.

*Filing a Summary Judgment Motion*Here are a few things you need to know about filing a summary judgment motion in your personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Timing is key. As with everything in litigation, there are rules about when you can file a summary judgment motion. You can either file “after the expiration of the period within which the defendant is required to appear” or after the defendant files his or her own summary judgment motion. Specifically, you must file the motion no later than 28 calendar days before the hearing. An experienced attorney can help you with this.

  • You can file opposing documents. If the other party files a summary judgment motion first, you can file one, too. Or you can just provide evidence opposing the other party’s motion. Your attorney can help you with this, too.

  • Summary judgment might not dispose of the entire case. Lawsuits do not usually involve a singular issue or point of law. For example, in a wrongful death case you are arguing that the defendant acted negligently and that you are entitled to damages. It might be obvious that the defendant was negligent, and you might seek summary judgment just on that issue. The trial might need to proceed on the amount of damages that you are entitled to receive.

*Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Washington*Grieving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person whose negligence or wrongful act results in their loved one’s death. But only certain family members are eligible:

  • The personal representative of the loved one’s estate;
  • The loved one’s spouse or registered domestic partner;
  • The loved one’s children or stepchildren; or
  • Parents or siblings, if the loved one was not married or did not have any children.

The deadline for filing a wrongful death claim in Washington is three years from the date of the death.

Eligible survivors may seek compensation for:

  • Medical bills and funeral and burial expenses;
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of care, companionship and other noneconomic (not easily quantifiable) damages; and
  • Any relevant property damage costs.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one was injured or killed by an act of negligence. Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the litigation process, including a summary judgment motion if that is relevant in your case.

(image courtesy of Joseph Pearson)