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

What Happens to Personal Injury Proceeds if the Plaintiff Dies?

Posted Friday, January 22, 2021 by Chris Thayer

Maybe one of the more common questions that people ask about personal injury cases - especially serious or catastrophic ones - is what will happen to the funds if they die. Sometimes the question comes from adult children or other relatives. Other times, the injured person will ask, worried that there will be nothing left for their heirs. Fortunately, there is an easy answer that typically sets people at ease when they hear it. Local Seattle personal injury lawyers are often able to secure settlements and verdicts on behalf of the deceased victim, even long after they pass away.

*Washington’s Survival Act*Under Washington law, there is a statute known as the Survival Act, found at RCW 4.20.046, which allows legal actions to “survive” a deceased victim. It works by preserving the right of a victim to pursue an action even after death. But because dead people cannot legally sue, a personal representative must bring a lawsuit on behalf of the estate and heirs.

*Why Allow Lawsuits After Death?*Some may find it odd that an estate can sue for injuries to someone who has already died, but there are a couple reasons.

  • The injury becomes a right to collect the moment it occurs. This is a bit of a theoretical concept, but in short, as soon as a person is injured by someone else’s negligent or wrongful act, the victim immediately has a legal right to pursue compensation for the injury and losses it causes. Just like a car, bank account, or anything else the person has in his or her possession at death, the right to sue passes to the person’s estate.
  • Defendants should not avoid liability just because their victims die. If wrongdoers and negligent people and companies could escape responsibility for their actions solely because their victims die, then it would have an absurd and backward result. It would essentially mean it is better to kill your victim than to just injure them. Public policy cannot allow that.

*Who Gets the Money?*Whether the injury causes the death or not, the funds recovered will pass to the decedent’s heirs. Most of the time, this means the funds are distributed to the immediate family or as otherwise stated in a will. In some situations, heirs may have disputes about how money should be distributed, but fortunately, Washington State has a statute that applies.

Under RCW 11.04.015, the state has created a hierarchy of inheritance rules, which applies when there is no will. Under this statute, there is a clear “pecking order” that explains who gets what and in which circumstances.

*Get Help Early*It is very wise to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as early as possible because the sooner an attorney is involved, the sooner you can protect your right to pursue compensation. Call Pivotal Law Group today, and schedule your free case evaluation. There is no risk and no obligation, so call now.

Why People Get More Compensation When Using a Personal Injury Lawyer

Posted Friday, January 15, 2021 by Chris Thayer

It probably comes as no surprise that thousands of people throughout Washington State recover compensation for their injuries every year. After all, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation, there were more than 82,000 auto collisions in 2020 alone. Not all accidents are serious or fatal. In fact, the majority of car accidents do not cause serious injuries. However, when they do, it is important to navigate the insurance system to protect your rights.

Sadly, there are plenty of people who attempt to handle their injury claim alone. While this may technically result in them receiving some compensation, generally it is far less than if they retained competent and experienced legal representation. Seattle injury lawyers handle claims every day and know the ins and outs of the process. But there are more reasons why people recover more compensation with an attorney. Consider just a few.

*Higher Threat of Verdict*When you hire a skilled trial lawyer, the insurance company knows that they risk having to hire a defense lawyer, spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting you in court, and still have a strong possibility of being hit with a large jury verdict. This is the leverage a plaintiff has when a good personal injury lawyer is at their side. This is not to say that every case should go to trial or should even be filed in court. However, the mere fact that you have a person working with you who knows how to do it and has done it many times before is usually enough to get the insurance company to come to the table with a more reasonable offer. When you represent yourself, that risk is practically zero for the insurance company.

*Avoid Costly Mistakes*True, one could search the Internet for statutes of limitations, jury instructions, and rules of evidence, and perhaps gain some basic understanding of the law applicable to their injury claim. But it would be practically impossible to catch everything. Here are some big questions to ask yourself before attempting to represent yourself:

  • Are you sure you know the specific deadline that applies to your unique case?
  • Do you have a firm grasp on what evidence the court would allow you to introduce and how to get it admitted into evidence?
  • Do you know the court system, judge, and procedures that will apply if your case goes to trial?

These are just a few examples of things that can present problems when representing yourself. There are complex local court rules, jury instructions, procedural rules, and even unwritten norms and processes that Seattle attorneys learn over years of regular practice. One mistake, and your case could be dismissed long before you ever get to court.

*Value Assessment*Maybe a person believes that he or she understands the value of a claim, but typically damages are based on a lot of factors people do not really recognize. For instance, the following are just a handful of things that may go into an insurance carrier’s determination of value (or a jury’s verdict):

  • Age of the victim
  • Relative health of the victim before the accident
  • The victim’s share of the responsibility for causing his own injuries
  • Provable income of the victim and evidence of specific amounts lost due to the accident
  • Expert assessments of the victim’s lost future earnings
  • Cost of medical expenses and whether they are related or not

*Hire a Skilled Seattle Personal Injury Lawyer Today*With some of the most talented and experienced attorneys around, Pivotal Law Group provides serious representation for clients with serious injuries. When you are losing money from work, recovering from injuries, and worrying about mounting medical debt, there really is no substitute for working with an injury attorney near you. Call or find us online today, and get a free consultation with one of our trial lawyers to see if you may be entitled to compensation.

Wait! Be Sure to Get Consent Before Settling Your Uninsured Motorist Claim

Posted Friday, January 8, 2021 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextIt may seem like a silly thing to consider, but if you are in a motor vehicle collision with an uninsured (or underinsured) motorist, then you may need to turn to your own insurance policy in order to be fully compensated. After all, uninsured or poorly insured drivers rarely have substantial assets that you can attach and recover. Therefore, your recovery is often limited to whatever amount of coverage the other driver has or does not have. If you were wise enough to carry an underinsured motorist policy on your own vehicle, then you may have additional cash available to cover your injuries. But wait just a second — there are a few crucial steps you must understand before you sign on the dotted line, so to speak.

*How Underinsured Motorist Coverage Works*When the at-fault driver has a low amount of coverage, let’s say $50,000 in liability protection, and your damages exceed that amount, you can then turn it over to your own insurance company. You could be looking at a serious loss of cash if you go ahead and settle your case with the at-fault driver without first getting your own carrier’s consent. Here is why.

  • Waiver of subrogation. When you settle with the negligent driver, you are essentially resolving any potential claims against that person and their insurance company. You are also waiving your own insurance carrier’s right to sue that person in order to get their money back.
  • Right to Offsets. Your underinsured motorist carrier also has a right to an offset, which means they can reduce the amount they give you by the amount you already received from the other side. So, settling without their consent can also create problems.

*What Happens When I Request Consent?*Only one of two things can happen when you seek your insurance carrier’s consent to settle. First, they can consent, allowing you to settle with the at-fault carrier, then you can bring your remaining claim for underinsured motorist coverage with your own carrier, or your carrier can decline to waive their subrogation rights.

If your insurance company does the latter, then they should forward you the full amount that the at-fault driver is liable for, then your insurance company can take over and pursue a lawsuit against the driver to get reimbursed the money they paid you.

*What Happens if I Do Not Get Consent?*If you do not get the insurance company’s consent to settle, then you may be denied compensation later by your own underinsured motorist carrier. Although injury victims routinely can get around this, it is not something you want to deal with.

*Speak to an Experienced Trial Lawyer Before You Consider Settling Anything*Ultimately, these are precisely the types of nuanced issues that come up in almost every insurance claim, which is also why it is extremely valuable to work with a skilled trial lawyer. The law is designed to give your insurance company ample opportunity to sue the at-fault driver if he or she is wealthy and can afford to reimburse you for your losses. It also gives your insurance company the opportunity to decide if they would like to take the responsibility of suing that driver as opposed to just paying the claim.

If you or someone you know have been hurt in a car or truck accident and feel that the other driver has too little insurance to cover you, but you know you have additional coverage available, call or visit a Seattle personal injury lawyer from Pivotal Law Group and speak with someone who has the experience to maximize your recovery.

Tort Immunity Debates in a Pandemic Age

Posted Friday, January 1, 2021 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextWith the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the country, even as the vaccinations are slowly being doled out, state and federal legislators continue pushing for tort immunity for healthcare providers. This is not a new rallying cry. Tort reform has long latched on to health emergencies and other unforeseen national disasters in attempts to expand protections for the healthcare industry. But this time may be different, and Seattle trial lawyers may well have to get used to a new reality when trying to fight for justice.

*What is Tort Immunity, and Why is it Being Introduced Now?*On state and federal levels, there are discussions about providing absolute protections for healthcare workers and healthcare companies because of COVID-19. In other words, if you or someone you love go to a hospital or doctor’s office and contract the virus and become severely ill or even die, you may have no available recourse. What is more, if that healthcare provider entirely blew off their obligations and ignored basic safety and infection control protocols, under some proposed plans, you would have to just deal with it, as you would have no option to sue.

*Tort Immunity Debates at the National Level*As early as May of 2020, the Chamber of Commerce was already pressing for immunity for businesses in light of COVID-19. Per a May 27, 2020 press release, the Chamber cited fear of lawsuits as part of the motivation behind their position. Of course, there is little evidence of widespread litigation in the wake of COVID-19. In fact, it is more likely that typical rules and laws pertaining to negligence will continue to apply, just as with all claims against healthcare workers and providers. Consider, for example, what would happen if someone attempts to file a lawsuit against a healthcare provider for contracting the virus.

  • Duty - No different from any other claim, a plaintiff will still have to prove that the defendant healthcare provider owed them a specific legal duty to protect them against contracting the virus.
  • Breach - Again, no different from usual, a plaintiff will still need to prove the healthcare provider failed to do something or acted in some negligent or reckless way.
  • Causation - This is the more controversial aspect of suing during COVID-19. The plaintiff in such an action would still need to be able to prove that the provider’s actions were the direct cause of contracting the virus.

*The Unique Challenges of Proving Causation for a Virus*Viruses are, in general, very contagious. Even in an isolated environment like a nursing home, it would be quite challenging to effectively prove who gave a resident the virus and how. This could take on a lot of potential variations of the usual negligence claim. Perhaps a provider failed to exercise reasonable infection control precautions, leading to an outbreak on a particular wing of a hospital or nursing home. Even in this scenario, a plaintiff would still likely need to show that it was the provider’s negligence that specifically caused them to contract the disease.

*Arguments Against Tort Immunity*At first glance, some may think that immunity for healthcare professionals is a good thing. However, numerous consumer and patient advocacy groups oppose the move, for fear of what it could mean. In fact, as one open letter from advocacy groups to House and Senate Leadership explained it, these calls for tort immunity are “premised on a false choice between the return to a healthy economy and allowing businesses to be held accountable if their carelessness causes people to get sick.” The letter, which was co-authored by Consumer Reports, National Association of Consumer Advocates, and several other groups, went on to explain that the Chamber and various healthcare companies were not genuinely trying to avoid going bankrupt or prevent wildly frivolous lawsuits, but rather, they were nothing more than shameless attempts to use the widespread fear of the American people in order to sneak by a self-serving free pass. Finally, the letter addressed the unmistakable fact that many of the companies and industries most vocal about immunity are those that have been crying for tort reform for years, despite chart-topping profits year after year.

*Help for Everyday Washingtonians Who are Injured*No two injuries are the same, and not every injury is something for which you can sue for compensation. However, when healthcare providers and other large companies make reckless or careless decisions, fail to follow procedures, ignore public health warnings, or otherwise act irresponsibly during a pandemic, there ought to be some accountability. People who lose loved ones because of these careless decisions should have the right to collect compensation for their losses.

If you or a loved one has been affected by a serious personal injury, it is time to talk to an attorney before it is too late. Strict deadlines apply, plus you never know when Congress or the State of Washington will close up liability, leaving you and those you care about out of luck for good. Call or visit Pivotal Law Group today to learn more.

Five Simple Truths About Treating a Bulging Disc After an Auto Accident

Posted Friday, December 25, 2020 by Chris Thayer

If you are thinking about speaking with an attorney near you about suffering a bulging disc after a Seattle car or truck accident, then you should understand these five simple truths. A bulging disc is not a simple or minor injury. It can lead to excruciating pain and suffering, with long recovery times. Sadly, many people do not fully understand the injury, and this even includes some lawyers who profess to be injury attorneys. So, here are five things you must understand about your bulging disc injury.

*A Bulging Disc is Not a Minor Soft-Tissue Injury*If someone refers to your bulging disc as a minor soft-tissue injury, then they are simply uninformed or uneducated in spinal health. The discs in your spine act as shock absorbers. Through these small structures runs a bundle of nerves. Discs can get displaced and pinch nerves (i.e. impingement). Or, they can become deflated, much like a flat tire. When this happens the bones of the vertebrae can start to rub together, causing a lot of pain.

*A Bulging Disc is Not a Herniated Disc*There is actually a difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc. With herniation comes an opening or tear. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, this means that the soft pouch-like structure of the disc is punctured or ruptured, letting out the jelly-like substance inside. This lubricant helps the disc protect and cushion the vertebrae. But when the fluid leaks out, it leads to much the same effect as a bulging disc, though they are not the same.

*A Bulging Disc Cannot Always be Identified Through Imaging*An x-ray commonly does not show a bulging disc. An MRI, however, may. It all depends on the bulging disc and the clarity and strength of the MRI machine being used. The higher the definition, the better the chances of getting a clear image. Of course, like everything in life, with a higher definition laser and better quality imaging, you will pay more for the MRI. This is a good reason why you should work with a personal injury lawyer who has strong relationships with local specialists who can get you in and evaluate your injury.

*Many Americans Have Bulging Discs Already*Not to bring bad news, but many Americans already have disc injuries from normal use, wear and tear, age, and past traumas. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that each year, between five and 20 adults out of 1,000 will have a bulging disc. It is most common in later years (after about 40), and men get them at about twice the rate as women. Of course, this does not mean that you should walk away from an injury claim just because bulging discs are somewhat common. It is still a very painful condition. Even if you already have this condition, an auto accident or slip and fall can certainly aggravate it.

*Bulging Discs Often Improve With Physical Therapy and Weight Loss*Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that dropping some pounds will help alleviate pressure on the discs, thus helping to relieve back pain relating to bulging discs. Likewise, physical therapy can play a very big role in the treatment plan. But when all these things fail to help, doctors may be able to use steroidal injections, nerve blocks and other surgical techniques to relieve pain. In fact, these are just some of the remedies available:

  • Steroids
  • Pain medications
  • Surgery
  • Injections
  • Spinal Blocks
  • Nerve ablation (destroying the nerve root causing the pain)
  • Weight loss
  • Physical therapy
  • Disc replacement surgery

*What to Do if You Suffer a Bulging Disc Due to an Accident*If someone else is responsible for causing your bulging disc, and you are suffering serious pain from the injury, then you deserve to be compensated. A back injury can greatly affect your ability to enjoy your life, play with children, keep employment, and enjoy the same quality of life as before. Call or visit Pivotal Law Group today, and let us offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation. You may be entitled to more money than you realize. But you will not know if you do not call.