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.

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The Seattle Personal Injury Blog

Filing a Defamation Lawsuit in Washington

Posted Friday, June 1, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Jeff Simpson recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and his former foster parent, ex-mayor Ed Murray. Simpson and others have made child sexual abuse allegations against Murray, and the lawsuit claims that the former mayor improperly used his office to defame his accusers. The suit also claims that government officials negligently failed to investigate the abuse allegations.

*What is Defamation?*Defamation is a type of personal injury. Basically, defamation is the act of damaging a person’s good reputation. There are two types of defamation - slander and libel. Slander is spoken defamation (like in a television interview), and libel is written defamation (like in a newspaper article). To win a defamation lawsuit in Washington, plaintiffs must prove that:

  • The defendant made a false statement about the plaintiff.
  • The statement was published. (It does not have to be published in the traditional sense. It is enough that the statement is publicly seen or heard.)They were injured by the false statement.

The law also differentiates between defamatory statements made about private figures and statements made about public figures. It is easier for a private figure like Jeff Simpson to prove a defamation claim. The standard of proof is the same as in a normal negligence lawsuit, that the defendant did not act like a reasonable person would have acted. Public figures, however, must prove actual malice, which means the defendant acted with reckless disregard for the truth or knew the statement was false.

The deadline for filing a defamation lawsuit in Washington is two years from the date of the slanderous or libelous incident.

*Suing City Officials for Negligence*Unlike other states, Washington has abolished the sovereign immunity doctrine, leaving the state government and its municipalities open to tort liability. (Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that protects the government from being sued without its consent.)

However, this immunity waiver is not without its limits. Claims must arise out of the government’s “tortious conduct to the same extent as if it were a private person or corporation.” In other words, any tort limits that apply to private citizens and businesses also apply to the government. Claimants must also follow certain procedural requirements, depending on what government entity they want to sue.

The first step in filing a claim against Seattle is filing an official damages claim with the City Clerk. The form must be filed within the statute of limitations, which is three years for negligence claims. The city will forward the claim to the Risk Management Office and a claims adjuster will investigate it before making a recommendation. The city may pay you a sum of money, transfer the claim to another entity, or deny the claim entirely.

Claims typically take 60 days to resolve, but complicated cases might take longer. If the city denies your claim, your next option is filing a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced attorney can explain your legal options.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are the victim of defamation. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries.

Seattle Proposes New Negligence Law on Gun Access

Posted Saturday, May 26, 2018 by Chris Thayer

In September 2017, a 15-year-old boy came to Freeman High School in Rockford armed with a rifle hidden in a duffel bag and a pistol in his coat pocket. According to police reports, he got the weapons from his father’s gun safe. The rifle jammed, and when he took out the pistol, another student confronted him. The shooter then shot that student in the abdomen and in the face before firing at other students down the hallway. The student who confronted him died, and three others were wounded.

If one Washington mayor has her way, then that boy would not have had access to his father’s guns. A father – or anyone – who allowed children or other unauthorized users to access their weapons would be civilly liable.

*Legislation Proposed in Seattle*Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan recently proposed legislation that would penalize gun owners for allowing unauthorized users to obtain their weapons and to use them for harm. The proposal stemmed from the spate of mass shootings in recent years, as well as a study finding that only 36% of Washington gun owners say they keep their firearms locked and unloaded at home. (These penalties would only apply to stored guns, and not weapons carried by their owners.)

Violators would be subject to fines ranging from $500 to $10,000. There is also an important component of the law that would help victims filing personal injury lawsuits. A violation of the law would be considered evidence of negligence.

*Suing a Shooter or Gun Owner for Negligence Under Current Law*First, keep in mind that the proposed changes would only affect Seattle.

Then, rest assured that even if the proposal does not become law, or if you live somewhere other than Seattle, you can still hold a shooter or gun owner civilly liable for gun injuries. While the new law would make it easier to establish negligence, you can make that case regardless. Injury victims just need to prove that the negligent actor breached a duty of care. In a school shooting case, parents owe a duty to keep their children safe and to prevent their children from hurting others. Allowing a child access to guns, especially if that child has a propensity for harm, is arguably a breach of that duty.

As with any negligence case, you have three years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit in Washington (the rules are different when the injured person is a minor.) Also remember that Washington is a comparative fault state, which means that if you were partially at fault for your injuries, any damages awarded to you will be reduced by your percentage of fault, although it is hard to imagine how a shooting victim could be found partially at fault.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in a shooting incident caused by a gun owner’s negligence. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries, whether or not the proposed legislation becomes law.

Sources of Personal Injury Claims

Posted Friday, May 18, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Accidents happen. But when an accident is caused by another person’s negligence, the injured party is entitled to compensation. Here are eight common sources of injury that lead to personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in Washington:

  • Car accidents: Negligent driving is a common cause of personal injury and wrongful death. Texting while behind the wheel, drinking and driving, speeding, and failure to follow posted traffic signs are all examples of negligent behaviors that cause accidents.
  • Slip-and-fall accidents: Slippery retail floors are dangerous to both customers and employees. If a liquid substance is spilled on the floor and not cleaned up or blocked off in some way, odds are than someone will slip and fall because of it.
  • Defective products: Under Washington’s products liability law, manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, and marketers are all responsible for ensuring that their products are safe for consumers. If a product is not designed or manufactured properly, or if someone fails to warn consumers about a product’s risks, then they could be liable for any resulting injuries.
  • Assault or battery: Some assault and battery victims might not realize that they have the right to file a civil lawsuit. While criminal prosecution is one way to seek justice, it is designed to punish the wrongdoer, not to make the victim whole. Also keep in mind that prosecution is not a prerequisite to seeking civil compensation.
  • Dog bites: Pet owners can be held liable for injuries caused by their dogs and other pets. Animal bites and scratches can cause serious injuries and should not be taken lightly. Seek medical attention immediately, especially if the animal might have rabies.
  • Bike accidents: Bicyclists often share the roads with cars, which puts them at risk of collisions with negligent drivers. Note that drivers owe the same duty of care to bicyclists as they do to other drivers. Everyone on the road has a duty to drive safely.
  • Pedestrian accidents: Pedestrians, too, are in danger of being struck by negligent drivers. They are owed the same duty of care by drivers, bicyclists, and anyone on the road. Remember that pedestrians always have the right of way.
  • Defamation: Someone who makes a false statement that harms another person may be guilty of defamation and liable for damages to that person’s reputation. Written defamation is called libel, and spoken defamation is called slander.

The deadline for filing most personal injury lawsuits in Washington is three years from the date of the accident, including negligence and product liability claims (this timeline also applies to wrongful death lawsuits). However, defamation, assault, and battery claims must be brought within two years.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in a car or slip-and-fall accident, by a defective product or dog bite, or any other incident potentially caused by someone else’s negligence. 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.

Suing an Airline for Damages

Posted Friday, May 11, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Airlines are responsible for the safety of their passengers and also their employees. If an airline employee (like a flight attendant or pilot) acts negligently, or if the airline is negligent in its response to a personal injury complaint, then the airline can be held liable for any resulting damages.

Of course, it can be tricky to determine which law should apply and where to file a lawsuit when an injury occurs in the middle of a flight. If you live in Seattle, were injured in Seattle, or were injured by someone who resides in Seattle, then you might be able to seek compensation in a Seattle court. An experienced personal injury attorney can help determine your legal options.

Here are two examples of personal injury lawsuits filed against an airline.

*Passenger Allegedly Attacked by Fellow Passenger During Flight*A Washington woman recently filed a personal injury lawsuit against Delta Air Lines, alleging that she was sexually assaulted on an overnight flight from Seattle to Amsterdam and that the crew was negligent in its response.

Specifically, Allison Dvaladze claims that the man seated next to her grabbed her crotch in the darkened cabin and then repeatedly groped her as she tried to get out of her seat. Dvaladze says she reported the attack to the flight crew, who allowed her to change seats, but then asked her to return to her original seat before landing. She understandably refused to do so. Dvaladze also claims that the flight crew did not contact law enforcement.

Dvaladze contacted Delta Air Lines, which offered her 10,000 SkyMiles as a “small token in hopes of easing some of the frustration and inconvenience you may have felt.” But Dvaladze wanted a tougher response. However, no one was able to identify the man sitting next to her. Officials told Dvaladze that her the man was not sitting in his assigned seat.

So now Dvaladze is suing Delta for negligence, alleging that the airline is liable under a treaty that governs international air travel and establishes airline liability for passenger injuries.

*Pilot Allegedly Attacked by Co-Pilot During Layover*Pilot Betty Pina filed a lawsuit against Alaska Airlines after a co-pilot allegedly drugged and raped her during a layover in Seattle last June. Pina claims that the co-pilot invited her to the hotel bar for pizza and drinks, and that she had two glasses of wine. After he brought her the second, she had a “hard time keeping her head up” and “things appeared to be closing in,” according to the complaint.

Pina says she woke up the next morning in his hotel room bed, naked from the waist down. She reported the incident to union officials, human resources and an investigator referred by the airline. She is now suing the airline for failing to hold the co-pilot accountable and preventing the same thing from happening to other employees. Specifically, she is seeking personal injury damages for workplace rape and unlawful retaliation.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured because of an airline’s negligence. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and explain your legal options. You deserve compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

When can an Employer be Held Liable for Employee Negligence?

Posted Friday, May 4, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Are there circumstances in which a third party can be held liable for a negligent actor’s conduct?

There is a legal principle called respondeat superior, or vicarious liability, that sometimes holds an employer responsible for an employee’s negligent conduct. The general rule in Washington is that employers are only liable if the employee was acting within the scope of employment. But there are a few exceptions.

Understanding Respondeat Superior

According to the Washington Supreme Court, there are two elements that personal injury plaintiffs must prove in order to establish that an employer is vicariously liable for an employee’s actions:

  • The employee actually works for the employer, and
  • The employee’s negligence was committed within the scope of employment.

For example, a trucking company can be held responsible if one of its drivers causes an accident. The plaintiff must prove that the driver was on duty at the time. There are cases where drivers make unauthorized detours, and under those circumstances the company might not be liable. Other situations in which employees have been found not acting within the scope of employment include:

  • Leaving work in their own vehicle, turning around to retrieve a forgotten item from their place of employment, and causing an accident when the trip back to the office was not at the employer’s request; and
  • Assaulting a customer (unless an exception, explained below, applies).

Note that the state Supreme Court has said that social functions that “enhance employee relations” are within the scope of employment for vicarious liability purposes. Also, the fact that an employee has violated a workplace safety rule is not necessarily a defense to vicarious liability. (But, of course, that does not mean employers should forgo safety rules. There are instances where it could be a successful defense, and safety rules are both wise and necessary for other reasons.)

Exceptions to the General Rule

There are exceptions to the general rule that employers can only be held vicariously liable for employee conduct that is within the scope of employment. Specifically, the Washington Supreme Court said in a 1997 case:

“Even where an employee is acting outside the scope of employment, the relationship between employer and employee gives rise to a limited duty, owed by an employer to foreseeable victims, to prevent the tasks, premises, or instrumentalities entrusted to an employee from endangering others. This duty gives rise to causes of action for negligent hiring, retention and supervision.”

In other words, an employer who knows that an employee has dangerous propensities can be held responsible when that employee injures someone, even if the employee was not acting within the scope of employment.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured by a negligent employee. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help determine who can be held liable for your injuries, whether it is the employee, employer, or both. We will then help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.