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

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)

Is Seattle’s New Gun Storage Law Legal?

Posted Friday, August 10, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Crime victims do not always know that they also have a right to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. Criminal prosecutions focus on punishment of the criminal, and not compensating the victim.

Civil law often allows victims to seek compensation from the people whose actions caused them harm, as well as people other than the ones who directly harmed them. For example, a shooting victim might be able to sue both the shooter and the person who provided access to the weapon.

A new law in Seattle says exactly that, but is the ordinance legal?

*Lawsuits Over Gun Storage Laws*The National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, and two Seattle residents recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle, claiming its new gun storage ordinance violates Washington state law.

Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the ordinance into law in July, but it does not take effect until January 2019. The new ordinance requires gun owners to keep their firearms locked up and penalizes them for failing to do so. Specifically, gun owners can be fined:

  • $500 for not locking up their firearm
  • Up to $1,000 if a minor or other unauthorized user accesses the weapon, and
  • Up to $10,000 if someone uses the weapon to commit a crime or hurt another person.

The law stems from the idea that it is negligent to allow unauthorized users to access a weapon. (The law will help victims filing personal injury lawsuits.) Giving others access can lead to tragic gun accidents and fatalities. In fact, a study found that only 36% of Washington gun owners say they keep their firearms locked and unloaded at home.

The NRA and SAF also filed a lawsuit against the City of Edmonds after the city council passed a similar gun storage ordinance. The Edmonds ordinance allows fines up to $10,000 when children and at-risk people have access to a gun owner’s firearm. The lawsuits say that Washington cities can not regulate guns and these storage requirements are gun regulations. The idea is that state law preempts (takes precedence over) city law.

*Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington*Seattle’s new law will make it easier to establish negligence, but you can make that case regardless. If you are injured in a gun accident, you just need to prove that the gun owner breached a duty of care. This means that the owner had a responsibility (to you) to prevent the shooter from accessing the gun. For example, parents have a responsibility to keep their children from hurting others. This applies in school shootings and one-on-one incidents. If the parents know their child has a propensity for harming others, then they need to take special care to prevent the child from accessing their firearms.

Victims have three years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Washington (unless the victim is a minor.) Washington is also a comparative fault state, meaning that damages are reduced by the victim’s own percentage of fault.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in a gun-related incident. You have the right to seek compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We will help identify the persons who are responsible for your injuries and devise an effective legal strategy. Remember that a civil lawsuit is not a criminal prosecution, and one lawsuit does not depend on the other.