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 Washington State a “No-Fault” Injury State?

Posted Friday, November 13, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextNo. Washington State does not apply a “no-fault” approach to insurance claims. However, there are some situations in which similar results may apply. Also, there are times when Washington State drivers get into accidents with drivers from so-called no-fault states. Finally, there are situations in which injured motorists may get into disputes with their own insurance carriers over things like uninsured motorist policies and medical payments insurance. For these reasons, it is worth noting the differences between no-fault states and tort-based states, as well as the types of insurance available to drivers throughout Seattle and neighboring cities.

*What is No-Fault Insurance?*No fault insurance is essentially a type of insurance policy that pays a specific limit of coverage no matter who causes the accident. In certain states, like Michigan, New York, and Florida, injured motorists and their passengers must first file claims for injury coverage with their own insurance companies before they can make claims against the at-fault driver who caused the collision. There are some advantages to this approach, such as not needing to fight over fault and faster payment of medical expenses. However, it also tends to deny people the right to compensation and can make it more complicated to get paid for injuries. Washington does not follow this approach.

*What is a Tort-Based Insurance Model?*Washington follows the same approach as the majority of states, which is holding the at-fault driver responsible for all the injuries they cause. That person’s insurance carrier is primarily going to have to cover the injuries, unless it is insufficient to cover all the damages. In that case, we would turn to the injured person’s own insurance company for excess coverage.

*What Types of Insurance Can You Carry in Washington?*In Washington, there are four basic types of injury policies:

  • Liability. This coverage pays for the injuries you cause to other people.
  • Medical Payments (med pay). This is designed to pay for your medical bills and those of your passengers without any consideration for fault.
  • Uninsured Motorist. This insurance covers your injuries and your passengers’ injuries in the event the at-fault driver did not have insurance.
  • Underinsured Motorist. This coverage fills the gap between your limits and those of the person who caused the crash. If they had a low policy limit and it leaves you under-compensated, then this insurance makes up the difference.

Out-of-state drivers often carry different limits of coverage or may come from no-fault jurisdictions. In these limited situations, there is a need to review the insurance policies to determine what coverages will apply. This is where an experienced personal injury lawyer comes in handy.

*Steps to Take if Hurt in a Car Accident*If you are injured in a motor vehicle crash in Washington, first call the police and make a report. Next, get medical treatment immediately. Finally, call a lawyer as soon as you are able. The faster that an attorney gets involved, the sooner your rights can be protected. For help, check out Pivotal Law Group online, or just give us a ring to set up an initial case evaluation today.

What if I Die Before My Case Settles?

Posted Friday, November 6, 2020 by Chris Thayer

When people are seriously hurt in accidents, one of the common concerns is how much money they will receive. But for older victims or those with terminal illnesses, it is also common to fear what happens if they should pass away before the conclusion of their case. Fortunately, there is good news for Washington State residents who are hurt due to negligence. Washington law allows surviving family members to collect the money upon compensation. Experienced injury lawyers can help to preserve your claim even if you should pass away.

*Washington Survival Act* Under the Washington Revised Code, Section 4.20.046, actions that survive the death of a plaintiff then pass to the probate estate of that decedent. Not all claims pass to the estate, but injury claims generally do. For instance, here are just a few types of cases that can be brought by the surviving representative of the estate:

  • Car accident claims
  • Slip and fall claims
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect cases
  • Medical malpractice claims
  • Intentional torts (battery, etc.)

*Deadlines That Apply to Survival Claims* In most cases, you will have just three years from the date of injury, not death, in order to bring a lawsuit for your injury. So, if you are injured in a car accident but later die of unrelated causes, your estate will be bound to file a claim with the court within three years of your accident. One court case further explains how these statutes of limitations can be affected by death or disability. There are some unique situations that can change this. For instance:

  • If you die due to your injuries, your heirs may have a separate claim for wrongful death.
  • If you are mentally incompetent (dementia, coma, etc.), the statute of limitations may toll (be delayed) until after death.

Ultimately, there are many unique facts that can make a significant difference in how long you have to pursue your case. This is why it is so important to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury law firm with decades of experience helping injury victims in Washington State.

*How Wrongful Death Differs From Survival* A survival claim is an injury to the decedent that would have been compensable had he or she lived. If the decedent lived, then that person could have pursued compensation. Due to the death, those rights pass to the decedent’s estate, and any money collected passes by will or action of law.

On the contrary, wrongful death claims are the property of the heirs. The surviving spouse and children bring these claims for their own losses, emotional distress, loss of society and income. These claims do not pass through a will or probate estate. Instead, they are direct claims that can be compensated through negotiations or litigation.

At Pivotal Law Group, our attorneys frequently appear in state and federal courts throughout the state, working hard to protect the rights of injured citizens everywhere. For more information or to speak with an attorney free of charge, find us online or give us a call. There is no obligation and no risk for calling today.

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.