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

Why Does the Insurance Company Focus on My Past Medical Care?

Posted Friday, December 18, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextWhen you are injured in a motor vehicle collision, slip and fall, or some other type of situation where an insured person or business may be negligent in causing the injury, then you should understand the types of things the insurance company will be looking for in defending against your injury claim. This is where an experienced Seattle injury lawyer near you may be able to put things into perspective to maximize your financial recovery. One way that insurance companies limit what they have to pay injury victims is by focusing on past medical issues. Consider a few reasons why this is the case.

*Pre-existing Medical Conditions*First, the at-fault party’s insurance carrier will want to obtain as much of your medical history as they can get. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the very most important is to screen your past medical care for signs of a pre-existing condition. Although under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance companies are currently unable to deny medical coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions, this is not the same with auto and commercial liability policies. An auto insurance carrier or general commercial policy for a store or restaurant will invariably have a right to dig into your past a bit and find out if the injury you are currently claiming was indeed caused by the event. Say, for instance, you fall at a store and claim that the fall caused back injuries. If the insurance company discovers that you had back surgery for a herniated disc three years earlier, then this can be used to suggest that the pain you feel was actually already there prior to ever falling in their insured’s store.

*Malingering*This oft-used phrase just means “faking it” to get paid. Insurance companies will look for a history of filing small injury claims. If they discover that you have had a lot of chiropractic care and several prior injury claims, they may be on high alert in searching for evidence of a potential fraudulent claim. Likewise, a history of medical care for the very thing you are claiming may be a sign that you are faking the current symptoms to play off an old injury or condition.

*Aggravation of Other Conditions*Not all purposes for seeking past medical care are nefarious, however. The insurance company will also want to make sure that they are 100% clear on what injuries the injured person has and is claiming. In some cases, past medical treatment may unearth signs that the person had a weakened spine or some other hereditary condition that puts him or her at a much higher risk of serious injury in certain situations. This could mean that the claim is not a new injury, but rather an aggravation of an existing condition.

*How to Deal With Insurance Company Tactics*If you or someone you care about is hurt in the Seattle area, reach out to Pivotal Law Group. The firm is small enough to provide personal attention but large enough to tackle even the hardest cases. To get a free case evaluation, just call the firm or find us online today.

Weather-Related “Defenses” to Auto Accidents

Posted Friday, December 11, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Alternative TextAs winter hits the Pacific Northwest, accidents and auto injuries throughout the region will likely increase. This is typical, especially in climates like Washington State. In fact, according to the Department of Transportation, nearly 76,000 people are injured nationwide each year in snow and ice related auto collisions. This includes upwards of 900 deaths. But this does not actually mean that winter weather caused all of these accidents. It simply means that weather may have contributed to the crashes, or it can mean that the collisions occurred during winter conditions. As any experienced auto accident lawyer in the Seattle area knows, weather often becomes more of an excuse than a cause. Here are some common examples of weather-related “defenses” that insurance companies and negligent drivers may try to use to avoid liability.

*Sun in My Eyes*It is very common for drivers in good conditions and bad to claim that the sun was in their eyes, thus causing them to lose control of their vehicle or to not see other vehicles. This can also occur in snow, due to the phenomenon known as snow-blindness. This happens when the sun reflects off of bright white snow, causing a blinding glare. The problem, of course, is that it remains the driver’s responsibility to keep control of their vehicle regardless of snow or sunshine.

*Ice Made Vehicle Unstoppable*This or some variation of it is commonly used by insurance companies to claim that their driver was not negligent, but rather, he or she simply could not stop the vehicle as it hydroplaned on ice. This is perhaps true in some very rare and extreme cases, but ultimately, every driver takes a risk when they get behind the wheel. If a driver opts to take to the road in such bad conditions, they assume the responsibility of being able to manage their vehicle in those conditions. If they are unable to do so and cause a serious injury to someone else on the road, then they must still be held responsible.

*No *Time to React

Whatever the insurance carrier wants to call it, sometimes a driver will claim that in a snowy or icy condition, the victim pulled out in front of them or stopped too quickly, leaving them no time to adequately stop. This is generally used in rear-end collisions. The problem with this defense, of course, is that it ignores the fact that it is the duty of all drivers to allow enough space between themselves and the vehicles in front of them, so that in the event of an emergency braking situation, the following vehicle can stop in time. If you are following too closely for the weather conditions, this is still negligence.

*Partnering With a Skilled Trial Team to Maximize Your Recovery*When injured in a Washington State auto accident, weather-related or not, it is always in your best interests to work with a skilled trial team. This means hiring attorneys with real-world trial skills and experience. At Pivotal Law Group, our attorneys have years of trial experience, and they understand the types of defenses that you can expect to face when claiming significant damages from a wreck. Call or visit the firm online today to learn more or to schedule a free one-on-one consultation with one of our attorneys.

Four of the Biggest Complaints Injury Victims Have When Dealing With Lawyers

Posted Friday, December 4, 2020 by Chris Thayer

For those of us who routinely deal with insurance companies, we are quite accustomed to handling long wait times, adjusters who ignore our communications, and courts that often move a little slower than we would like. But this is largely because Seattle personal injury lawyers deal with this type of thing every single day, whereas the typical injury victim will likely only suffer one catastrophic event in a lifetime. That said, there are a few big complaints that tend to be common when people are dealing with attorneys, and this is why it is so important to work with a lawyer you trust and with whom you enjoy working.

*My Lawyer Never Lets me Know What is Going on*While most attorneys do a good job of trying to keep their clients informed, personal injury cases present a unique set of challenges, and not every attorney is well-equipped to deal with those challenges. For instance, personal injury cases can last for years, regardless of the skill or effort of the attorney. This may be due to a backlog of cases on the court’s calendar, or it may be due to a client needing to continue seeking advanced medical care. Finally, even after a case settles or reaches a verdict, there can be a long lag time waiting for payment. Still, a client should be able to expect that they can call and get updates and that their attorneys will contact them regularly to discuss the case and give updates, even if there really is not much to report.

*My Attorney is Trying to Force Me to Settle*This one is a touchy subject because on one hand, your attorney should never be forcing you to take a settlement that you do not want. On the other hand, there are indeed times when an attorney will strongly advise a client not to go to trial. Striking the balance can be tough.

One thing to consider is that an experienced personal injury lawyer is one who has repeatedly handled cases against insurance companies. After going to trial numerous times, a lawyer develops a certain sense for what a jury may do with certain information. Often, things that seem obvious and clear may not even be admissible in a court of law. It is important to agree on the goals of litigation and reach some consensus on expectations, as well.

*My Lawyer Did Not Explain the Fees*Personal injury cases are generally handled through a contingent fee agreement. A contingent fee is one that is set based on a percentage of the funds recovered. In general, these fees are only paid if the case is successful in recovering compensation. This should be a fairly straightforward arrangement and an easy enough one to explain. Sadly, there are attorneys who charge unreasonable fees. The Washington State Rules of Professional Conduct outline what are considered to be reasonable fees and some of the factors to consider when assessing fees.

*My Case is Taking Too Long*Unfortunately, this complaint is closely related to the first. When people are not kept in the loop, time can pass slowly and make them feel ignored. This should never happen. The fact is, most injury claims do take quite a while to resolve. In some situations, the client must receive lengthy and ongoing treatment. In other cases, the court may have reasons for delaying things. Whatever the case, it is important to understand what to expect from the start.

*Get Compassionate and Skilled Help Now*If you are suffering from injuries and need skilled legal representation, do not take your chances with untested and unproven lawyers. Call Pivotal Law Group, and see the difference. We work hard to make sure each and every client is kept informed from start to finish. Give us a call to get started today. It all begins with your own personalized free consultation.

List of the Most Common Bad Drug Lawsuits

Posted Friday, November 27, 2020 by Chris Thayer

You have probably heard advertisements mentioning bad drugs or dangerous drugs, but do you really know what these ads are talking about? A lot of people think that just because someone had an adverse effect from a prescription medication, that will automatically mean they have a right to compensation. While true that bad side effects are often part of why a drug ends up in litigation, the truth is there is far more to proving a dangerous drug case. Here is a brief list of some of the most common and notable bad drug cases out there, and the reasons why those cases were filed. If you or a loved one has suffered serious consequences or a death due to one of these drugs, you should take action now to protect your rights.

  • Actos. Used to treat Type II Diabetes, it also is alleged to cause bladder cancer. The company - Takeda Pharmaceuticals - agreed to pay out $2.5 billion in a settlement in 2015, despite claiming no fault. This enormous settlement may not be the end, as new information is allegedly coming forward regarding additional known complications of the drug that were not communicated to the public and patients.
  • Depakote. Used to treat seizures, this medication has the unfortunate distinction of causing birth defects in babies when the mothers were on the medication. The allegation includes claims that the manufacturer knew about the problem and failed to warn the public and potential patients.
  • Benicar. A basic blood pressure medication, but many patients claim it led to heart conditions, but more commonly sprue-like enteropathy. This is a condition that leads to gastrointestinal problems like weight loss, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain. Again, the allegation is that the company failed to warn consumers.

*Benefits of Talking to an Experienced Washington Injury Lawyer*Time is of the essence when it comes to medication cases. Pharmaceutical companies spend millions on highly skilled and heavily resourced legal teams, all in an effort to avoid responsibility for the medications that they create - even when they knowingly introduce dangerous medications into the market and conceal the potential effects. Often, there are strict deadlines that apply to filing suit for compensation. Just as importantly, however, some settlements have already occurred, leaving large sums of money in managed third-party settlement trusts. These funds can only be accessed if your injury occurred within a certain timeframe and you take actions in time. So there really is no time to waste. Delaying could cost you your entire right to be compensated. In some cases, this can mean walking away from substantial compensation that could help pay for surgeries and future medical care that is necessary due to the pharmaceutical company’s neglect.

At Pivotal Law Group, we are poised and ready to take on Big Pharma. If you are experiencing painful symptoms from a medication and believe you may have a claim for injuries, give us a call or find us online today.

Mediation, Arbitration, and Alternative Dispute Resolution

Posted Friday, November 20, 2020 by Chris Thayer

In Washington, like many states, the vast majority of all injury claims are resolved through non-court remedies nowadays. These include negotiations with insurance adjusters, negotiations with defense lawyers, mediations, arbitrations, and privately held conferences. Even those cases that are filed as lawsuits in court often resolve through settlement of some sort. So, why is it important to still work with experienced trial lawyers, and how do these types of non-litigation methods of settlement actually work in Washington?

*Alternative Dispute Resolution*The term for all these various forms of out-of-court settlement negotiations is alternative dispute resolution (or “ADR”). ADR consists of any form of resolution method that is kept private and does not require a trial in court. Under federal law, these types of settlement methods are favored in the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), under Title 9 of the U.S. Code. That federal statute states unequivocally that:

“an agreement in writing to submit to arbitration an existing controversy arising out of such a contract, transaction, or refusal, shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” (See Sect. 2 of FAA).

Therefore, in most instances, contracts and agreements to arbitrate will be upheld, except where there is a good legal reason not to. For these reasons, many courts are reluctant to permit cases to be filed in court where the parties previously agreed to arbitrate. So, what is arbitration exactly?

*Understanding the Terminology: Arbitration vs. Mediation*Mediation is a voluntary process, typically, whereby a plaintiff and defendant sit down with their respective legal counsels and attempt to hash out differences and negotiate a fair and mutually agreeable settlement. Mediations are led by mediators, who are typically retired attorneys or judges with many years of experience resolving claims this way. Mediations are also sometimes mandatory in other proceedings, such as divorce court. In the context of personal injury claims, they are used as a way to assist the parties in reaching an agreement prior to a trial.

Arbitration, however, is usually a mandatory process required by a court. At one time, all cases with a claimed value under $15,000 had to proceed to arbitration. This is a process where an arbitrator (certified by the state to perform arbitrations) hears the case outside of court and renders an award, much like a verdict. However, the limit was once raised to $50,000 and has been recently raised again to $100,000. This means any case with a claimed value of less than that must proceed to arbitration first.

*What Happens if You are Unhappy with an Arbitration Award?*Those who are displeased with the arbitration award may request a trial de novo, meaning “new trial.” However, if the party who demands trial is not successful in improving the outcome for their side, then they are assessed costs and attorney’s fees. This can be a strong reason to accept the award. But it also means that a rogue arbitration award that is not connected to reality can and should be challenged by going to trial.

With all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise that experienced litigators fair better in arbitrations and mediations. This is largely because of two things. First, the defense knows they are likely to improve the award at trial, so they are more likely to pay better settlements and possibly not even require the case to reach arbitration or trial. Second, experience helps to better inform settlement decisions. So, if you or a loved one are suffering injuries from an accident in Washington, give Pivotal Law Group a call today. Let us discuss your case free of charge and provide you and your family with peace of mind knowing you are represented by experienced trial lawyers who can go the distance.