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

Renton Nursing Home Falls: A Closer Look

Posted Friday, March 3, 2023 by Chris Thayer

Frequently, falls send older people to nursing homes. Even more frequently, falls keep these individuals at nursing homes longer than planned. Over 60% of nursing home residents in King County sustain a serious fall every year. Frequently, the extended nursing home stay is permanent. Most elderly fall victims cannot live independently again because of their deteriorated physical and mental conditions.

Physically, many older adult fall victims sustain permanent injuries. For example, a broken hip might never completely heal, leaving the victim dependent on a walker or with other mobility impairments. Emotionally, many older adult fall victims are so afraid of a repeat fall that they basically become prisoners in their own nursing home rooms.

Even the best Renton personal injury attorney cannot turn back the clock and alter the chain of events that lead to the fall. But an attorney can do the next best thing, which is to obtain financial compensation for their serious injuries. This compensation helps them pay accident-related bills and move on with their lives.

*Victim Vulnerability*A combination of vision issues, mobility issues, and nursing home staffing issues often contribute to the risk and severity of a nursing home fall.

AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) affects many older adults. Fatty deposits build up around the eyes, restricting their straight-ahead vision. As a result, they often don’t see wet spots on floors and other hazards that a younger person could avoid.

Gait disorders affect many older adults as well. They shuffle their feet when they walk instead of lifting their feet. Since younger people lift their feet, when they stumble, they can often regain their balance. When older people stumble, they usually fall. And, since they often have arthritis and other pre-existing conditions, they usually fall hard.

Well-staffed nursing homes assign employees to quickly address fall hazards and help residents get around. Understaffed facilities do not provide these services, leaving residents on their own.

All three of these issues have something in common. The victim has no control over any of them. Therefore, an insurance company lawyer cannot use these vulnerabilities against them in court.

*Legal Issues*A Renton personal injury attorney can obtain compensation in these cases if the owner had a duty of care and knew, or should have known, about the injury-causing hazard.

Nursing home residents benefit nursing home owners financially. They also have permission to be at the nursing home. Therefore, they are invitees under Washington law. As a result, the nursing home owner has a duty of reasonable care to make the premises reasonably safe. Erecting a warning sign buys them some time to address a hazard but does not fulfill their legal responsibility.

This responsibility only applies if a Renton personal injury attorney also proves actual or constructive (should have known) knowledge.

Direct and circumstantial evidence is admissible in this area. Direct evidence includes smoking guns like prior falls or cleaning reports. Circumstantial evidence often involves the time-notice rule. The longer the hazard exists, the more likely it is that the owner should have learned about it and should have addressed it.

*Work With a Diligent King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Renton, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We routinely handle matters throughout Washington State.

Formal and Informal Defenses in Kent Motorcycle Crash Claims

Posted Friday, February 24, 2023 by Chris Thayer

Over the last 10 years, motorcyclist fatality and serious injury rates have both increased significantly. The medical bills alone in a catastrophic (life-threatening) injury case usually exceed $100,000. Without adequate compensation, crash victims could be financially responsible for those charges. Even if a group health insurance company pays them, which is a big “if,” the deductibles and copays alone could be financially crippling.

To keep that from happening, a Kent personal injury attorney builds a strong claim from the ground up. This claim not only establishes a prima facie (preliminary) negligence case. It also refutes some common insurance company defenses, some of which are outlined below. Our team’s hard work pays off for victims in the form of maximum compensation for their serious injuries.

*Formal Defenses*Comparative fault is probably the most common defense not only in motorcycle crashes, but also in car wrecks in general. Basically, comparative fault shifts the blame for an accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim.

A bad incident like a car crash often has more than one cause. For example, Ben might have been tailgating when Jerry stopped suddenly. When jurors consider such facts, they must divide responsibility on a percentage basis, like 50-50, between the two motorists.

In many jurisdictions, a split like 50-50 eliminates the victim’s compensation. But Washington is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the victim was 99% responsible for the wreck, the tortfeasor must pay a proportionate share of damages.

Other defenses, like last clear chance, only apply in some situations. This doctrine could apply in a left-turn motorcycle crash, one of the most frequent kinds of motorcycle wrecks.

Assume Ben is waiting at an intersection to make an unprotected left turn against traffic. He does not see Jerry the motorcyclist approaching, and Ben turns directly into Jerry’s path.

If jurors determine that Jerry missed the last clear chance to avoid the wreck, perhaps because he did not slam on his brakes, Jerry is legally responsible for the wreck, even though he did nothing wrong.

Evidence is usually the key to refuting these defenses. A Kent personal injury attorney must leave nothing to chance when it comes to reconstructing the crash.

Some defenses that are available in other jurisdictions are unavailable in Washington. The helmet defense is a good example. Many states, including Washington, have universal helmet laws. However, helmet non-use is inadmissible in civil cases in the Evergreen State.

*Informal Defenses*Repeated delays are an example of an informal defense in a motorcycle wreck claim. Insurance companies typically drag their feet as long as possible in these cases. They know that delay hurts the party with the burden of proof, which in this case is the victim/plaintiff.

Witness availability is a good example. Many people relocate frequently. So, if a motorcycle crash trial is held a few years after the wreck, which is not uncommon, many key witnesses may have moved and not left forwarding addresses. A Kent personal injury attorney must preserve witness testimony early in the process in case that witness is later unavailable.

Additionally, many insurance companies use the motorcycle prejudice, either by itself or in combination with a formal defense, to reduce or deny compensation.

Fundamentally, many jurors think motorcycle riders are reckless thugs who take reckless chances. Therefore, these jurors are more willing to embrace defenses like comparative fault. These jurors could also reduce compensation simply because they do not like the victim.

Usually, the best approach in these situations is to separate the victim from the prejudice. Biased jurors may still believe that “most” motorcyclists are reckless thighs, as long as they separate the victim from the pack.

Rely o*n a Dedicated King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Kent, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Third-Party Liability in Renton Car Crash Claims

Posted Friday, February 17, 2023 by Chris Thayer

The average economic cost of a catastrophic (life-threatening) vehicle collision injury is over $100,000. Most tortfeasors (negligent drivers) do not have enough insurance coverage to make good on these economic losses. Washington has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country.

Additionally, most tortfeasors certainly do not have enough insurance coverage to make good on emotional distress and other noneconomic losses.

It is possible to sue these tortfeasors individually, but most people are judgment-proof. Therefore, a Renton personal injury attorney typically uses third-party liability theories, like one of the theories discussed below, to obtain maximum compensation in catastrophic and fatal injury cases.

*Owner Liability*This third-party liability theory is available in both commercial and noncommercial negligent entrustment matters. Basically, negligent entrustment is an owner allowing an incompetent driver to use their motor vehicle.

Evidence of incompetence includes a safety-suspended driver’s license, a poor driving record with prior safety suspensions, and a poor driving record with recent at-fault collisions. Drivers could also be incompetent as a matter of law if they violate a license restriction, like no nighttime driving.

Commercial owners, like Enterprise and U-Haul, could be liable for car crash damages if they negligently entrust a vehicle to a renter and there is a contractual relationship between the owner and renter. The federal Graves Amendment, which limits owner liability in these situations, could affect a Renton personal injury attorney’s legal claim in this area.

Noncommercial transactions usually include parents letting children borrow cars or roommates letting other roommates borrow cars. Washington courts broadly interpret the family purpose doctrine. There is basically a presumption that a noncommercial borrower used the vehicle for a family purpose. That is another element of many noncommercial negligent entrustment claims.

*Employer Liability*The respondeat superior rule typically applies if the tortfeasor was a truck driver, bus driver, Uber driver, or another commercial operator. This legal doctrine has two basic prongs:

Employee: Most of the aforementioned operators are independent contractors or other non-employees for most purposes. However, these individuals are usually employees for negligence purposes. Uber and other companies control their drivers in areas like passengers or cargo carried.Scope of Employment: We will stay with Uber drivers as an example. Any act that benefits the employer is within the scope of employment. That category includes deadheading drivers who are driving aimlessly, waiting for fares.

Most personal insurance policies do not cover commercial losses. So, unless they have special insurance policies or riders, Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing operators are basically uninsured.

Other employer liability theories, which usually apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent entrustment.

Incidentally, most commercial operators have a higher duty of care in Washington. So, it is easier for a Renton personal injury attorney to prove negligence, or a lack of care, in these situations.

*Dram Shop Liability*Restaurants, bars, and other commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they illegally sell alcohol to a tortfeasor who later causes a car wreck.

Serving an intoxicated patron is the most common illegal sale. Evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes physical symptoms, like slurred speech, and the customer’s recent purchases at that establishment.

Other illegal sales include underage sales, unlicensed sales, and before or after-hour alcohol sales.

*Reach Out to a Hard-Working King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Kent, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

Breaking Down a Burien Nursing Home Fall Claim

Posted Friday, February 10, 2023 by Chris Thayer

Falls send many older people to nursing homes and force them to stay there longer than expected. Falls account for about 40% of nursing home admissions. 60% of nursing home residents sustain a serious fall every year. Our world moves so fast that people with visual or mobility impairments usually get left behind. Furthermore, many nursing homes are so understaffed that there’s no one to keep residents safe at all times.

Society and nursing home owners may not give older people proper respect, but a Burien personal injury attorney treats everyone with equal respect. This treatment includes fighting hard to obtain maximum compensation, regardless of the odds or circumstances. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Ol*der Adult Injuries*Falls happen inside and outside of nursing homes. Falls also cause physical and emotional injuries.

Broken bones may be the most common and severe fall injuries. Many older adults have pre-existing physical conditions, like arthritis. Furthermore, these pre-existing conditions make these victims more vulnerable to serious complications. Therefore, what would be a few weeks in a cast for a younger person could mean a few weeks in the hospital for an older person.

A Burien personal injury attorney can usually obtain maximum compensation in these situations. People should not treat other people differently because they are physically vulnerable. Legally, insurance companies cannot treat vulnerable people differently than anyone else.

Broken bones usually heal, at least for the most part, given enough time and proper treatment. Emotional fall injuries, on the other hand, usually never heal.

These two injuries feed off each other. Broken bones are extremely painful. Therefore, many older adults are so afraid of falling again that they become sedentary. This lifestyle increases the risk of another fall, and the downward spiral continues.

This spiral usually ends with permanent full-time care. Most older adult fall victims cannot ever live independently again.

*Liability Issues*Nursing home owners are liable for fall damages if they had a duty of care to keep the victim safe, and they knew, or should have known, about the injury-causing hazard.

Washington law divides victims into categories to determine the duty of care. Nursing home residents are invitees, which is the highest category. Invitees have permission to be on the land, and their presence benefits the owners. So, nursing home owners must remove or otherwise address injury hazards.

Direct evidence of actual knowledge includes a prior fall related to that hazard and a cleaning report. Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) follows the time-notice rule.

Several effective defenses are available in fall injury claims. These defenses are less effective if the victim is over 65.

Assumption of the risk is a good example. As a temporary remedy, owners can deploy warning signs, like “Caution Wet Floor.” Frequently, older adults cannot see these signs very well, especially if the lights are low.

On a related note, many older adults have gait disorders. They shuffle their feet when they walk. So, when these individuals trip, they cannot regain their balance and usually fall, even if the hazard is not severe.

*Count on a Tough-Minded King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Burien, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.

If a U-Haul Driver Hits Me in Burien, Can I Sue the Company?

Posted Friday, February 3, 2023 by Chris Thayer

The answer to this question is unclear. State law is uncertain on this point. According to a 1943 case, owners are responsible for car crash damages if there is a valid contract between the owner and driver. U-Haul rentals could meet this standard, especially if the lease agreement contained provisions about what the renter could and couldn’t do while behind the wheel. The 2005 Graves Amendment, which is outlined below, runs contrary to this court decision. This law makes it impossible to sue some vehicle owners for negligence if they rent vehicles to people who cause crashes.

The answer to this question is also critical. A fully-loaded U-Haul moving truck weighs over 14,000 pounds. Under other circumstances, most renters aren’t legally qualified to operate such vehicles. Additionally, most renters decline the additional insurance add-on, which means they are dangerously underinsured. So, the possibility of a serious wreck is high, and the likelihood of obtaining maximum compensation from the renter is low.

A Burien personal injury attorney must assume the worst and expect the court to enforce the Graves Amendment instead of the ancient Poutre v. Saunders decision. Fortunately, the brief Graves Amendment, which was a policy rider to a large transportation bill, has some major flaws. Attorneys who know how to exploit these flaws usually obtain maximum compensation for seriously-injured victims.

*Not Otherwise Negligent*Before we dive into this Graves Amendment requirement, let’s take a moment to define “negligence” in this context.

Owners are negligent if they knowingly allow incompetent operators to borrow, or lease, their motor vehicles. People without valid driver’s licenses are usually incompetent as a matter of law, regardless of how much experience they have behind the wheel.

U-Haul and other owners are immune from liability lawsuits if they, or their employees, were not otherwise negligent in the rental transaction at issue.

Back in 2005, owners and clerks had no efficient and cost-effective way to verify a renter’s driver’s license other than a visual inspection. So, there was no way to tell if the renter’s license was suspended.

Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last twenty years. Anyone with an internet connection can verify a license for just a few dollars. The failure to do so violates industry standards in the vehicle rental industry. Violating standards is evidence of negligence.

On a related note, people with bad driving records that include recent safety suspensions or at-fault collisions might also be incompetent operators under Washington law.

*Vehicle Rental Trade or Business*Additionally, Graves Amendment immunity only applies to companies that are in the trade or business of renting vehicles. A company may rent trucks, but that does not mean it is a truck rental company.

Beer and wine sales are, by far, the biggest moneymaker for most convenience stores. Yet these establishments are convenience stores, not liquor stores. By the same token, most U-Haul outlets rent trucks, sell moving supplies, and rent storage units.

So, a Burien personal injury attorney can argue that even if truck rentals generate most of their income, these outlets are moving service companies, not vehicle rental companies. That designation makes Graves Amendment immunity inapplicable.

*Work With a Diligent King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Burien, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We have several offices in Washington State.