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

New Litigation Protections for Sexual Harassment Victims

Posted Friday, June 29, 2018 by Chris Thayer

The MeToo movement went global after actress Alyssa Milano asked her Twitter followers to share their experiences with sexual harassment using the hashtag #MeToo. That movement reached all the way to the Washington state legislature, which passed a law earlier this year banning privileged medical records and mental health records from being used in most discrimination cases. The law took effect on June 7.

*What is a Discrimination Case?*Washington law prohibits unfair and discriminatory treatment in the workplace, in real estate transactions, and in public accommodations, among other situations. For example, employers can not refuse to hire someone based on certain characteristics. Specifically, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of:

  • race
  • creed
  • color
  • national origin
  • sex
  • marital status
  • age (40 years old or older)
  • disability
  • sexual orientation and gender identity, or
  • military status

Sexual harassment is a type of sex or gender-based discrimination. Whether you are harassed at work or in another protected situation, you have the right to take your harasser to court.

*How Does the New Law Work?*Before the legislature passed this new law, defense attorneys could use victim’s medical records against them. For example, imagine a victim who is experiencing emotional distress and mental anguish after being sexually harassed at work. Now imagine the tactics the harasser might use to avoid paying damages. In the past, the defense could present the victim’s medical history as evidence that his or her emotional distress was actually caused by another event. Maybe the victim had an abortion or was treated for a sexually transmitted disease. All of those private details could be on display.

Now, the harassment victim’s medical records can only be used as evidence under the following circumstances:

  • The victim brings up the records or is relying on a health care provider’s testimony.
  • The victim is seeking compensation for a diagnosable psychiatric or physical injury like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • The victim’s claim is failure to accommodate a disability or discriminating on the basis of disability.

An experienced attorney can develop an effective litigation strategy that takes advantage of these new procedural protections.

*What are Emotional Distress Damages?*Emotional distress damages are noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages are subjective losses, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation, and injury to reputation. Economic damages, on the other hand, are easily quantifiable expenses like medical bills and lost wages.

Washington places a cap on the amount of noneconomic damages that personal injury claimants may receive in personal injury lawsuits. That cap is determined using a very specific formula. An experienced attorney can explain that formula to you and help ensure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were sexually harassed at work. You have a right to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the litigation process and help recover the compensation that you deserve, including emotional distress damages.

Reaching a Settlement Agreement in a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case

Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Not every personal injury lawsuit leads to trial. Some parties might try negotiating a settlement agreement to resolve their dispute outside of the courtroom instead. If successful, settlement negotiations can save both time and money and avoid the hassle of litigation.

*What is a Settlement Agreement?*A settlement agreement is a legally binding contract that resolves a legal dispute. The contract is usually based on one party’s agreement not to sue in exchange for a certain amount of money.

However, the parties cannot just enter into an agreement carte blanche. The court must make sure that the settlement amount is reasonable based on the discharge of claims. The party requesting the settlement has the burden of proving that the offer is reasonable.

*Pros and Cons of Settling a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case*Deciding whether to settle a case instead of going to trial is a major decision that should not be rushed. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. For example:

  • Trials can take a long time, depending on how complex your case is. A settlement means you will receive compensation sooner and be able to pay your medical bills and other expenses.
  • A settlement agreement, unlike court records, can remain confidential.
  • The settlement amount might be less money than what a jury or judge would award in a trial.
  • However, there is no guarantee that you will win at trial or that the judgment amount will be higher than the settlement.

An experienced attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons and determine which option is right for you. (Keep in mind that you might fail to reach a settlement agreement. In that case the lawsuit can still go to trial.)

*Example of Case Resulting in Settlement Agreement*In April of 2017, Brook Ashcroft found her sister Kelli and Troy Sullivan dead in a bedroom at her parents’ house in San Juan County. Investigators determined that Kelli and Troy died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Brook and Troy’s family both filed wrongful death lawsuits against the Ashcroft parents, Jim’s Heating and Refrigeration, and Inter-Island Propane for negligence, wrongful death, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The two lawsuits were consolidated and ultimately dismissed after the parties reached an undisclosed settlement agreement.

In this case, the parties decided to keep their settlement agreement confidential. They would not have been able to keep court records private had they gone to trial. Also note that the case was dismissed, which means Brook and Troy’s family will not be able to pursue legal claims related to their loved one’s death in the future (depending on the terms of their settlement agreement, of course.)

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured or a loved one was killed because of negligence. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries, whether by reaching a settlement agreement or proceeding to trial. We can explain your legal options and develop an effective strategy that suits your needs.

Driving in the Left Lane can be Dangerous and Illegal

Posted Friday, June 15, 2018 by Chris Thayer

If you have ever been stuck behind a slowpoke driver in the left lane, or if you have been tailgated because you are driving too slowly in the left lane, then you probably understand the frustrations and dangers of hanging out in the “fast” lane.

Driving in the left lane causes thousands of accidents every year, according to research done by the Traffic Operations & Safety Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That is one of the reasons many states make it illegal to drive in the left lane unless you are passing another driver or the right lanes are blocked. Even states that do not penalize left-lane driving urge slower drivers to stay on the right.

Washington is one of those states where you can not camp out in the left lane. It is illegal to drive in the left lane on highways with two or more lanes, except when passing, moving to the left to allow other drivers to merge, or exiting on the left.

Problems with Driving in the Left Lane

More and more people are moving to the Seattle metropolitan area. In fact, between 2016 and 2017, more people moved to Seattle than moved away, making it one of only five metro areas with a “net domestic migration.” Unfortunately, with more people comes more traffic. Seattle’s roads rank 20th in the world for the worst traffic congestion, costing the city more than $5 billion in 2017. Drivers spent about 55 hours stuck in traffic last year.

Slow drivers who camp out in the left lane can incite road rage, cause traffic congestion and block emergency vehicles, according to state patrol troopers. Road rage is a major contributor to car accidents and can take many forms, including:

  • Tailgating (following a car in front of you too closely)
  • Cutting other drivers off
  • Honking
  • Flashing your headlights
  • Cursing or yelling at other drivers, and
  • Brake checking.

Extreme examples include running other drivers off the road or purposefully crashing into another vehicle.

Road rage-related behaviors are obviously negligent and can result in civil liability for personal injuries and fatalities. But, illegally driving in the left lane – especially when coupled with driving too slowly or other unsafe behaviors – is also negligent.

*Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington*You have the right to seek compensation if you have been injured in a car accident caused by a slow driver, aggressive driver, or any other negligent party.

You only have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit, including for property damage, so do not delay. Get medical attention and reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are injured in a car accident, whether it was caused by a slow driver, a driver recklessly changing lanes or tailgating, or any other negligent individual. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Posted Saturday, June 9, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Seventeen years ago, Ray Holman was driving his motorcycle on Interstate 82 between Yakima and Ellensberg when he suddenly crashed. He broke dozens of bones, lost his left eye, and suffered traumatic brain injury. Holman has lived with the aftermath of that brain injury ever since, including difficulty concentrating and keeping up with conversations and severe depression.

In March 2018, 62-year-old John Baretta was hit by a car while crossing the street in Tacoma. Baretta crossed the intersection legally, with a walk sign. But the car that hit him also had a green light. Neither saw the other. Baretta suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident.

In August 2017, a Washington State University freshman suffered brain and spinal cord injuries after falling out of his second-story dorm room window. The accident forced WSU to reconsider its safety policies. Earlier this year the school announced changes that will hopefully prevent other students from experiencing similar accidents.

*What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?*Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a serious problem in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, almost one-third of injury deaths are at least partly attributed to TBIs. Falls and car accidents – often the reason for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits – are two of the leading causes of TBIs.

A TBI is an injury to the brain caused by a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. Symptoms vary based on the severity of the injury but can include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or sleeping more than normal
  • Dizziness
  • Speech difficulties
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Seizures
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Confusion, and
  • Unusual behavior, like combativeness.

TBIs often lead to long-term health problems. For example, a recent study found that a severe brain injury increases the risk of developing dementia by 35%, while a mild brain injury increases the risk by 17%. Such long-term consequences are one factor to keep in mind when seeking compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.

*Filing a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a TBI*The deadline for filing a personal or injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Washington is three years from the date of the injury or death.

Washington is a comparative fault state, which means that any damages awarded to you will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Note that Washington does not place a cap on the amount of damages that you can receive. This includes compensation for economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are easily quantifiable, like medical expenses, while noneconomic damages are more subjective, like pain and suffering.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one suffer a traumatic brain injury because of a negligent act. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Filing a Defamation Lawsuit in Washington

Posted Friday, June 1, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Jeff Simpson recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and his former foster parent, ex-mayor Ed Murray. Simpson and others have made child sexual abuse allegations against Murray, and the lawsuit claims that the former mayor improperly used his office to defame his accusers. The suit also claims that government officials negligently failed to investigate the abuse allegations.

*What is Defamation?*Defamation is a type of personal injury. Basically, defamation is the act of damaging a person’s good reputation. There are two types of defamation - slander and libel. Slander is spoken defamation (like in a television interview), and libel is written defamation (like in a newspaper article). To win a defamation lawsuit in Washington, plaintiffs must prove that:

  • The defendant made a false statement about the plaintiff.
  • The statement was published. (It does not have to be published in the traditional sense. It is enough that the statement is publicly seen or heard.)They were injured by the false statement.

The law also differentiates between defamatory statements made about private figures and statements made about public figures. It is easier for a private figure like Jeff Simpson to prove a defamation claim. The standard of proof is the same as in a normal negligence lawsuit, that the defendant did not act like a reasonable person would have acted. Public figures, however, must prove actual malice, which means the defendant acted with reckless disregard for the truth or knew the statement was false.

The deadline for filing a defamation lawsuit in Washington is two years from the date of the slanderous or libelous incident.

*Suing City Officials for Negligence*Unlike other states, Washington has abolished the sovereign immunity doctrine, leaving the state government and its municipalities open to tort liability. (Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that protects the government from being sued without its consent.)

However, this immunity waiver is not without its limits. Claims must arise out of the government’s “tortious conduct to the same extent as if it were a private person or corporation.” In other words, any tort limits that apply to private citizens and businesses also apply to the government. Claimants must also follow certain procedural requirements, depending on what government entity they want to sue.

The first step in filing a claim against Seattle is filing an official damages claim with the City Clerk. The form must be filed within the statute of limitations, which is three years for negligence claims. The city will forward the claim to the Risk Management Office and a claims adjuster will investigate it before making a recommendation. The city may pay you a sum of money, transfer the claim to another entity, or deny the claim entirely.

Claims typically take 60 days to resolve, but complicated cases might take longer. If the city denies your claim, your next option is filing a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced attorney can explain your legal options.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you are the victim of defamation. Our experienced attorneys will examine the facts of your case and help recover compensation for your injuries.