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 to expect from an IME

Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2011 by Chris Thayer

An “IME” (independant medical examination) is an examination by a supposedly independant doctor or chiropractor, generally performed at the request of an insurance company. These arise primarily in two contexts: at the request of your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurer, or at the request of the third party liability carrier.

Your PIP policy typically provides that it will pay for all medical expenses that are “reasonable, necessary and related [to the accident]” or words to that effect. This means that, regardless of fault in the accident, your PIP policy will cover your medical expenses. However, if the insurance company starts to have concerns about whether or not the treatment you are receiving is “reasonable, necessary or related”, it may request an IME by a doctor or chiropractor of its choosing. You have certain rights with respect to a PIP IME, and if you have not already retained an attorney to protect your interests, if you receive a request for a PIP IME, you should consider consulting an attorney. Very generally, you are typically going to be required to undergo the IME as there is most likely a “cooperation” clause in your insurance policy, but you should be aware of your rights before you attend the examination.

An IME by a third party liability carrier typically only arises after a lawsuit has been filed. If the third party carrier requests such an examination pre-lawsuit, you should absolutely consult an attorney. You have the right to refuse this examination pre-lawsuit and most cases you should refuse.

Keep in mind that insurance companies typically refer IME request to the same select group of doctors and chiropractors. Some of these doctors and chiropractors no longer maintain a clinical practice and their entire business is devoted to working with insurance companies. The insurance companies are looking for ways to reduce the amount they have to pay on claims. It is not surprising then that many of these IME doctors and chiropractors retained by the insurance industry are very conservative and routinely issue reports that are contrary to the claimant’s own treating healthcare provider’s assessments and recommendations.

Understand the role of the IME doctor or chiropractor before you attend your examination. Also, you should reach agreement that the examination will be videotaped, or at least audiorecorded to protect yourself and ensure that the examining doctor or chiropractor honestly reports their findings. You should familiarize yourself with “Waddell Signs” which are a series of tests that the examiner will likely conduct, with the purported purpose of determining whether or not a person is exaggerating or manufacturing certain symptoms.

Dealing with an IME request by an insurance company can be challenging and complicated. You do have rights and there are measures that can be takent to try to ensure you are treated as fairly as possible. If you have received a request for an IME from an insurance company, you should consider consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney promptly, to ensure your rights are protected.

Personal Injury Claims: What Are "Non-Economic" Damages and how to I prove them?

Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2011 by Chris Thayer

One component of damages that a claimant in a personal injury action is entitled to are what is known as “non-economic” damages. These are very broadly defined as subjective, nonmonetary losses, including but not limited to pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, disability or disfigurement, emotional distress, loss of “society and companionship”, loss of “consortium” (if married), and other similar injury.

There is no fixed mathematical formula for calculating the amount of award that is reasonable to compensate an injured person for his or her “non-economic” damages. The factors that are generally to be considered are: the nature and extent of injuries, the amount of pain and suffering, and the duration of any disability (and the expected duration of such disability). The majority of these elements are typically established by medical experts and as documented in your medical records.

Keep in mind that, although there is no set formula for determining what constitutes a fair or reasonable award for pain and suffering, many insurance companies nonetheless will attempt to do just that. There are a number of insurance companies that utilize proprietary computerized software to come up with what they think is a “fair” award. Most often these calculations dramatically undervalue a claimant’s actual experience, and in order to ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated, you will need to consider consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney to help protect your rights.

As noted in previous blog posts, one thing you can to do help ensure that your claim gets fairly evaluated is to ensure that you provide a clear, detailed (and honest) description of all of your symptoms to your medical providers. Make sure to the best of your ability that your pain complaints and any limitations on your daily activities are clearly documented by your provider. This will not only help with directing your care, it will help the insurance adjuster properly evaluate your personal injury claim.

Keep in mind that documentation (and for some items pictures or video) are essential. Maintain a journal that details how the accident and your injuries are affecting you on a day to day basis. Take pictures of bruises or other visible injuries or scarring. There are other tips that an experienced personal injury attorney can provide, which cannot be shared on such a public forum. If you have questions, I would encourage you to call me for a free initial consultation or evaluation.

Your Personal Injury Claim and Medical Treatment - How Insurance Companies Review Comments in Your Medical Records

Posted Monday, October 10, 2011 by Chris Thayer

As previously discussed, the contents of your medical records will play a large role in how the insurance companies evaluate your personal injury claim. Most people go their whole lives without ever looking at their medical chart and really have no idea what their doctors and other healthcare providers write down. Insurance adjusters frequently seek to take comments in medical records out of context or to overemphasize offhand notes referenced by your healthcare provider.

A common scenario: you are injured in a motor vehicle accident and receiving physical therapy. After a few months of treatment, you start to experience some improvement, but you have “good” days and “bad” days. You find that even limited activity aggravates your symptoms, but you are managing to get through the day and function. During one of your PT appointments you are asked at the beginning, how you are feeling. This is one of your “good” days, so you tell your PT “pretty good”. Later, when pursuing your personal injury claim, the insurance adjuster latches onto this and draws the conclusion that, based on this statement, you must have been doing fine and have been recovered from your symptoms. Obviously, this is an oversimplification, but this is a very common situation that I see played out over and over again with insurance adjusters who are evaluating personal injury claims.

What should you do? A few pieces of key advice:

(1) Be completely honest and forthcoming about how you are feeling. Don’t feel an obligation to be the “tough guy” or to minimize any complaints you have.
(2) At the same time, do not exaggerate your symptoms - just provide a complete and accurate explanation.(3) If you are still having symptoms but are having a “good” day, make sure that is clear with your healthcare provider. Let them know you have “good” days and “bad” days. If you are generally improving, then certainly let your healthcare provider know that; but it is equally important to let your provider know if you are still suffering significant symptoms and have had to curtail your activities as a result.(4) Ask for copies of your records if you have any concerns or questions

Bicycle fatalities in Seattle raise safety issues

Posted Tuesday, September 13, 2011 by Chris Thayer

A recent series of bicycle accidents in the greater Seattle area has lead to some public pressure to make the streets safer for bikes and cars to co-exist. With the traffic and commute challenges in Seattle, more and more people are looking to bicycles as a green alternative. Unfortunately, this has come at an increasing cost.

Bicycle fatality raises safety issues

Healthcare and Your Personal Injury Claim - Dealing with "Soft Tissue" Sprain/Strain Injuries

Posted Monday, September 12, 2011 by Chris Thayer

One issue that I see frequently in my practice is the “whiplash” victim who suffers from long term neck and back pain. For many people these symptoms resolve over a period of a several months. For a certain percentage, however, the symptoms persist over a long period of time and become chronic. Insurance companies are highly skeptical of these types of claims which they characterize as “soft tissue” - meaning that there are no physiological changes viewable on X-Ray or MRI.

If you have suffered a significant sprain/strain injury to your neck, it is essential to get the proper medical treatment as early possible. As I always tell my clients, I am a lawyer, not a doctors, so don’t take medical advice from me. However, you need to be proactive in managing your care if you have a serious whiplash-type injury that is not resolving. If your symptoms persist beyone a few weeks, it is essential that you consider consulting with a specialist - and not just your primary care physician. Depending on your condition and symptoms, you may want to consider seeking treatment from a Physiatrist (also known as a Rehabilitation Medicine Specialist). These are doctors who are specially trained to treat people with a variet of injuries. Often they will be more familiar with the most effective forms of treatment.

When dealing with a “soft tissue” injury, it is important, like any other medical condition, that you are proactive about doing everything you can to get better. Insurance companies are highly skeptical about these injuries - even though the medical literature is quite clear that their effects can be severe and debilitating. If you have a sprain/strain injury or serious “soft tissue” injury as a result of an accident, you should consider consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. Even if you decide not to hire an attorney, an initial free consultation may help you avoid getting taken advantage of by the insurance companies.