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

Did You Witness a Loved One’s Accident?

Posted Friday, January 12, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Washington law permits a family member who is present when a loved one is physically injured in an accident to recover damages for bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress. A family member who was not present but arrives at the scene shortly after the accident may also be entitled to compensation. What if the family member already knows about the accident before he or she arrives on the scene?

Knowledge of a Loved One’s Accident

Case 1

When Shaila Haynes learned that her husband had been in a motorcycle accident, she “honestly didn’t know” what to expect. Randy Haynes and two friends were riding their motorcycles on Interstate 90, west of Ellensburg, when an erratic van driver forced Randy off the road. One of the other riders knew that Shaila was at a friend’s house and called the friend, who in turn told Shaila about the accident.

Shaila and her friend immediately went to the accident scene, arriving about 10 to 15 minutes after the phone call. The ambulance just beat them there. When Shaila arrived, her husband was still in his original location, although he had been turned over and placed onto a backboard. She noticed his crumpled motorcycle, damaged helmet, and the blood on his head. Randy did not respond when Shaila knelt beside him, took his hand, and spoke to him. He died soon after being taken to the hospital.

The trial court ruled that Shaila could not recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress because she did not “unwittingly” stumble upon the accident. A Washington appeals court disagreed, finding in March of 2017 that Shaila only had limited information of the accident, and that she arrived before there was a material change in Randy’s condition or location.

Case 2

A different Washington appeals court recently reviewed a case in which Trina Cortese learned of her 17-year-old son’s death before arriving at the scene of the car accident. He died of mechanical asphyxiation after the pickup truck he was a passenger in overturned. One of the teen’s friends called Trina to tell her about the accident. Then the pickup driver’s father came to the house to tell Trina that her son had not survived the accident.

Trina and her husband arrived at the scene about 20 minutes after the accident. Emergency personnel had already blocked off the area, and their son’s body was lying on the side of the road and covered by a sheet. Unlike in Shaila’s case, the appeals court here found that there had been a material change in the accident scene. The court also determined that Trina’s knowledge of the accident was not limited and that she could not recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Negligent infliction of emotional distress is a fact-specific claim, and it can be difficult for plaintiffs to prevail. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and help you determine how to proceed.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you witnessed a loved one’s accident. You might be entitled to damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Our experienced attorneys will help determine whether you have a viable claim and help recover the compensation that you deserve.

Lawsuits Filed Against Amtrak Following DuPont Derailment

Posted Friday, January 5, 2018 by Chris Thayer

The first of what could be dozens of personal injury lawsuits have been filed against Amtrak after a train fell off an Interstate-5 overpass near DuPont, killing three people and injuring almost 80 others.

A conductor, who suffered a shattered pelvis and cracked ribs, and a passenger, who suffered a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a neck injury and internal injuries, each filed a lawsuit against the train company. Additionally, a man whose car was crushed when the train fell onto the interstate also filed a lawsuit.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the train was traveling 78 miles per hour as it approached the curve where it derailed, despite a 30 mph speed limit sign. Federal safety officials also said that the automatic-braking system was not operational. While officials have not concluded their investigation, it is clear that Amtrak could be held responsible for numerous injuries.

*The Conductor’s Case Against Amtrak*Garrick Freeman is a 48-year-old conductor for Amtrak who was asked to work on the train’s inaugural trip through the Point Defiance Bypass between Seattle and Portland. But Freeman says he told his supervisors he was not comfortable working that route because he had not received training on the bypass segment. Amtrak instead asked him to ride in the lead train car with the engineer so that he could learn the route.

Freeman alleges that the engineers and conductors were not adequately trained on the route. He filed his lawsuit in Pierce County, where the derailment occurred.

Note that under Washington law, a personal injury complaint should not include a specific request for damages. It should instead contain “a prayer for damages as shall be determined.” However, the defendant may “request a statement from the plaintiff setting forth separately the amount of any special damages and general damages sought.”

Accordingly, none of the lawsuits that have been filed include a specific dollar amount.

*The Passenger’s Case Against Amtrak*Pennie Cottrell was a passenger in the seventh rail car, which was dangling over the interstate. In addition to physical injuries, she says she is also suffering from emotional trauma. Both she and Freeman argue that Amtrak should not have used the new route before installing “positive train control” technology, which automatically slows trains down if they are at risk of derailing.

Cottrell filed her lawsuit in King County Superior Court.

The Commuter’s Case Against Amtrak

Blaine Wilmotte was a passenger in a Ford pickup truck when the train derailed in front of them and they crashed head-on into the train. He suffered cuts, soft tissue damage, and multiple broken bones. His wife is also suing for loss of consortium.

Their lawsuit alleges that Amtrak failed to adequately train its employees for the new route and faults the company for not using the positive train control technology.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in the Amtrak derailment or any public transit accident. Our experienced attorneys will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against the City of Seattle

Posted Friday, December 29, 2017 by Chris Thayer

In June 2017, two Seattle police officers shot and killed 30-year-old Charleena Lyles after responding to a 911 call at her apartment. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging both racial discrimination and that the shooting could have been avoided.

Lyles, who was African American and four months pregnant, called 911 to report a residential burglary at her home in Magnuson Park. When the two officers (both white) arrived, they found no evidence of a burglary. They had already been warned that Lyles had a history of being aggressive toward police, and the officers said Lyles threatened them with a knife. Three of Lyles’ four children were present when she died.

An autopsy found that Lyles was shot seven times and did not have drugs or alcohol in her system. She also had a history of mental illness, including depression.

Because the officers are city employees and the charges involve actions taken in the course of their employment, any damages would be paid by the city of Seattle. But a recently added defendant, a nonprofit social services agency that provided housing to Lyles, would not be indemnified by the city. The lawsuit alleges that Solid Ground failed to report to police that Lyles had previously threatened children with a knife.

Filing a Damages Claim Against Seattle

Here are a few things you need to know about filing a lawsuit against the city. The first step is filing an official claim for damages with the City Clerk. The form must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations, which varies depending on the specifics of your claim.

Claims must include the following information:

  • Your name, birth date, and contact information;
  • A description of the injury or damage and a description of the cause;
  • The time and place that the injury or damage occurred;
  • The people involved and their contact information;
  • The amount of damages claimed;
  • The claimant’s residence when the claim arose; and
  • The claimant’s signature and his or her attorney’s signature.

The claimant may also submit supporting evidence, such as receipts and photos. After the City Clerk receives your claim, it will be sent to the Risk Management Office. A claims adjuster will investigate and recommend a resolution. Options include paying the claimant a sum of money, transferring the claim to another entity or denying the claim altogether.

Claims typically take about 60 days to resolve, but more complicated cases can take longer. The adjuster will consider the particular facts resulting in the injury or damage, the applicable law, the claimant’s role and whether the city should be held responsible.

If the city denies your claim then litigation might be your next option. An experienced attorney can help determine your best course of action.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one have been injured or killed because of municipal negligence or misconduct. Our experienced attorneys will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Lawsuits Likely After Amtrak Derailment

Posted Friday, December 22, 2017 by Chris Thayer

At least three people died and dozens were injured when an Amtrak train fell off an Interstate-5 overpass near DuPont on December 18.

It was the first day of public service on the new Point Defiance bypass. The Portland-bound train rounded a curve going 80 miles per hour, almost three times faster than the 30-mile-per-hour limit. It careened off the rails and fell onto the interstate where motorists were navigating the morning rush hour.

The National Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency that determines why public transportation accidents happen and issues safety recommendations to prevent future accidents, is still investigating the derailment, but preliminary reports concluded that the driver was not using his cellphone before the crash.

The bypass was designed to cut journey times between Seattle and Portland, allowing passenger trains to travel on a route that avoided the congested and curvy track along Puget Sound. While trains can travel up to 79 mph on the bypass, the rain was traveling 80 in a 30-mph zone when it derailed, according to the NTSB.

*Witnesses Describe Horrifying Scenes*Motorists and witnesses described horrific scenes - vehicles pinned under the train, bodies lying everywhere, a train car dangling from the overpass.

One motorist told a 911 dispatcher that she narrowly avoided the derailment but was hit by “a huge cloud of mud and dirt” that spun her car around. At first she thought it was a mudslide.

A passenger told CBS News that it “seemed like we were reaching sort of a bend in the tracks and all of a sudden we were slammed into the seats in front of us. Then the car careened down an embankment and came to a stop. After that happened we could hear and feel the cars crumpling and breaking apart.”

Lawsuits on the Horizon

No lawsuits have been filed against Amtrak yet, but they are likely coming.

A 26-year-old survivor who suffered four fractures in his back and a brain injury is considering a lawsuit against Amtrak. His parents spent hours trying to find out what happened to their son and says that Amtrak never even called them back. They want compensation for their son but they also want to hold Amtrak accountable and to prevent future derailments.

There are many arguments that victims could make in a personal injury lawsuit. The most obvious example is the alleged negligence and recklessness of the driver in going 80 miles per hour around a curve. The mayor of Lakewood, which is about 11 miles northeast of where the crash occurred, said that the tragedy “could’ve been avoided if better choices had been made” about using the bypass for passenger service.

Time will tell how future lawsuits play out, but it is highly likely that Amtrak will ultimately compensate the victims and their families.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in the Amtrak derailment or any public transit accident. Our experienced attorneys will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Alleged Child Abuse and Neglect at State Facility Results in Settlement Agreement

Posted Friday, December 15, 2017 by Chris Thayer

The Kiwanis Vocational Home served as a state-licensed group home for wards of the state for 25 years. The home, which was located in Centralia, closed in 1994. Former residents have accused the state and the Kiwanis of allowing the foster home to remain open despite allegations of physical and sexual abuse by staff and other residents.

There have been 13 claims filed against the state regarding the Kiwanis home. The Washington Department of Social and Health Services recently settled the first of these lawsuits, in which three plaintiffs alleged negligence, physical abuse and sexual assault. The department agreed to pay $1.5 million, equally divided among the three plaintiffs. But the settlement involves in admission of liability.

One of the plaintiffs says that he was sexually abused at the facility, and that his life spiraled out of control after leaving the home. He is currently incarcerated.

A Lewis County newspaper previously found 40 instances between 1986 and 1994 in which residents reported sexual or physical abuse to DSHS and no police report was filed.

Child Abuse and Neglect

Washington law defines abuse and neglect as “sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or injury of a child by any person under circumstances which cause harm to the child’s health, welfare or safety” or “the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for or providing care to the child.” The responsible person could be a parent or a legal guardian (such as the Kiwanis home).

DSHS lists several signs that might indicate a child has been abused or neglected, including:

  • Sudden changes in behavior or school performance,
  • Physical or medical problems that have not received medical treatment but have been brought to the parents’ attention,
  • Coming to school early or leaving late and not wanting to go home, and
  • Acting passive or withdrawn.

The caretaker might also exhibit certain signs that he or she has committed child abuse or neglect, including:

  • Not showing much concern for the child,
  • Blaming the child for problems in the school or at home or denying that there are any problems,
  • Asking the school to use physical discipline on the child, and
  • Considering the child worthless or burdensome.

Moreover, if the caretaker and child rarely touch or look at each other, that could be a sign that something is wrong.

Children who are abused or neglected may be entitled to compensation for their injuries, both physical and emotional. All caretakers, including state-run facilities, owe a certain duty of care to the children in their care.

DSHS is responsible for investigating claims of child abuse and neglect. When the department fails to perform these duties, it opens itself up to personal injury claims like those filed by the former Kiwanis residents.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one have experienced any kind of negligence or abuse in the foster system or another state-sponsored setting. Our experienced attorneys will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.