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

Understanding Vicarious Liability

Posted Friday, July 27, 2018 by Chris Thayer

The Washington Supreme Court recently ruled that airports are not automatically liable when their contractors act negligently. This decision is important because it limits whom injured plaintiffs can sue for damages in certain circumstances. It also sheds some light on the vicarious liability doctrine.

*What is Vicarious Liability?*Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that holds someone responsible for another person’s actions. This often arises in the employment context, when employers are liable for their employees’ actions. For example, if a truck driver gets into an accident, the injured party can sue the driver’s employer for damages because employers are responsible for an employee’s negligent acts when done in the scope of employment.

*The Washington Supreme Court Case*Brandon Afoa worked as a baggage handler at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport but Alfoa was not employed by the airport. His employer was Evergreen Aviation Ground Logistics Enterprise Inc. (EAGLE), which contracted with four airlines to provide ground services, including baggage handling.

Alfoa was injured while operating a luggage vehicle. He sued the Port of Seattle (which owns the airport) for negligence, claiming that it failed to provide a safe work environment. Here is what happened at the different court levels:

  • The trial court found that Alfoa suffered $40 million in damages, but apportioned 25% of the fault to the Port of Seattle and 74.8% to the four airlines (0.2% of the fault went to Alfoa).
  • The Court of Appeals found that the Port of Seattle was vicariously liable for the airlines’ portion of the fault. This meant that the Port of Seattle was responsible for 99.8% of the damages.
  • The Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding that the Port of Seattle was not vicariously liable for the airlines’ portion of the fault. Parties are only vicariously liable for a second party’s negligence when the other person is an agent or servant of the first party, or the parties are acting in concert. Here, there was no evidence that the Port retained control of the airlines.

The case might have turned out differently if the jury found that the airlines were agents of the Port, or at least that they were working together.

What Does This Mean for Me?

The Port of Seattle is not automatically liable if you are injured at the airport. It depends on the circumstances of your case and the relationship that the negligent actor has to the airport. But you are entitled to seek damages if you are injured by someone’s negligence. Make sure you file your lawsuit within three years of the accident and seek help from an experienced personal injury attorney.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured because of someone else’s negligence. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine who can be held liable for your injuries. We will do everything we can to make sure you receive the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Child Plaintiffs and School Negligence

Posted Friday, July 20, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Three years ago, a student at Broad View Elementary School in Island County fell off a playground “stepping pod” and landed head-first on a “sharp-edged metal balance beam,” according to a lawsuit recently filed by the student’s parents. The parents claim that their son was unconscious for at least 30 minutes and suffered traumatic brain injuries, skull fractures, vision problems and other various injuries.

They sued Oak Harbor School District, arguing that the district failed to provide “a reasonable safe zone” between the playground equipment and that school personnel did not “exercise ordinary and reasonable care” in supervising the students. They are seeking an unspecified amount of damages in the personal injury lawsuit.

*Suing on Behalf of a Minor Child in Washington*Minors are not allowed to file lawsuits in Washington. Instead, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (usually the parents) to sue on the child’s behalf.

The general deadline (statute of limitations) for filing a personal injury lawsuit is three years from the date of the accident, but the rules are different when the injured plaintiff is a child. In those cases, the three-year filing period does not begin running until the child turns 18 years old. This gives minors more litigation options. Either a guardian ad litem can sue on the child’s behalf, or the child can wait and sue after his or her 18th birthday.

It is generally advisable to file a personal injury lawsuit as soon after the accident as possible. Delaying litigation for too long can make it harder to prove your case. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that crucial evidence gets lost or witnesses’ memories fade.

Also keep in mind that Washington is a comparative fault state, which means that any damages awarded will be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault (if any). This rule applies to child plaintiffs as well. State law does not cap the amount of damages that plaintiffs can receive. This includes compensation for easily quantifiable damages like medical expenses and subjective noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.

*Suing a School District for Negligence*A school districts owes a duty to students “to employ reasonable care and to anticipate reasonably foreseeable dangers so as to take precautions for protecting children in its custody from dangers,” according to the Washington Supreme Court. That means parents can hold schools liable for improper supervision while students are:

  • Playing on the playground;
  • Participating in sporting events, theater rehearsals, band practice, and any other school-sanctioned activity;
  • Attending sanctioned off-campus activities like school dances, fundraisers and field trips;
  • Driving in the school parking lot; and
  • On school grounds generally.

In the Oak Harbor case, the school was arguably responsible for the student’s well-being while he played on the playground.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if your child was injured because of a school’s or school district’s negligence. We will help recover compensation for your child’s injuries, including medical expenses.

Understanding Frivolous Lawsuits

Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Not every personal injury claim is legitimate. In fact, you could be sanctioned if you file a “frivolous” lawsuit in Washington. That is one of the reasons you should always contact an experienced attorney – to make sure your claim is legally viable.

Here are a few things you need to know about frivolous lawsuits and filing legitimate claims in Washington.

Q: What is a frivolous lawsuit?A: Courts have defined a “frivolous lawsuit” as an action that “cannot be supported by any rational argument on the law or facts.” In other words, if your personal injury claim does not make sense legally or factually, then it is probably frivolous.

Q: How do I verify that my personal injury claim is not frivolous?A: There is a body of procedural rules (called the Superior Court Civil Rules) that informs litigants about how to comply with state law when filing a personal injury lawsuit (and other civil lawsuits). Specifically, Civil Rule 11 requires plaintiffs to make sure that any documents filed in court are supported by both factual evidence and the law. Plaintiffs must conduct a “reasonable inquiry” and make that assurance to the best of their “knowledge, information, and belief.” An inquiry is generally considered reasonable if it is what most people would typically do under similar circumstances.

Q: What is an example of a frivolous lawsuit?A: Here is an obvious example. More than two decades ago, a man named Richard Overton filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch in Michigan. Overton sought $10,000 in damages because the beer company “falsely advertised” that drinking Bud Light would make him fantasize about beautiful women on a beach, and he did not have those visions. He claimed the false advertising caused him emotional and psychological distress. The case was dropped.

Q: What happens if I file a frivolous lawsuit?A: You and your attorney can get into trouble for filing a frivolous lawsuit in Washington. The court might order you to pay the other party’s reasonable expenses (including attorney’s fees) if there is no “reasonable cause” for your claim. The prevailing party can file a motion for these fees after the case has been dropped, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and the judge will review the evidence and make a decision. That motion must be filed within 30 days of the dismissal order.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Washington

The best way to avoid filing a frivolous lawsuit is to talk to an experienced attorney about your case. An attorney can also ensure that you comply with other procedural requirements, like the filing deadline (or statute of limitations). In Washington, you only have three years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured by someone else’s negligent behavior. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine whether you have a viable personal injury claim. Our experienced attorneys will then help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical costs, lost wages, and other related expenses.

Fireworks-Related Injuries in Washington

Posted Friday, July 6, 2018 by Chris Thayer

According to a recent report from the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office, there were 262 fireworks-related injuries in 2017. That is 11% more than the 10-year average.

Nationally, there were almost 13,000 injuries caused by fireworks, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Two-thirds of those injuries happened between June 16 and July 16 (which makes sense, considering the Fourth of July falls within that time frame). Here are a few statistics about common injuries associated with fireworks use:

  • Hands and fingers are the body parts most commonly injured, followed by legs, eyes and arms.
  • A majority of fireworks injuries (53%) treated in emergency rooms were burns, which is the most common type of injury to hands, fingers, and arms.
  • Eye injuries can result in permanent disability and severe vision loss. For example, fireworks can cause retinal detachment, corneal abrasions and chemical and thermal burns, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Most injuries happen when people set off their own fireworks. You are much safer going to a public demonstration put on by professionals.

How do Fireworks-Related Injuries Happen?

Most injuries are caused by misuse or malfunctions, according to the CPSC. Examples of misuse include:

  • Placing fireworks too close to a heat source, like a grill
  • Not standing far enough away from other people when igniting fireworks
  • Holding the fireworks in your hand
  • Not knowing how to properly set the fireworks off
  • Throwing lit fireworks at someone, and
  • Trying to ignite fireworks that did not go off the first time.

You might be entitled to compensation under Washington negligence law if you are injured because someone mishandles fireworks or does not set them off properly. An experienced attorney can explain your legal options. You might also be able to recover damages from the manufacturer if the fireworks malfunction. Examples of malfunctions include:

  • Blowouts (when it explodes inside the tube)
  • Back fire (sparks come out of the rear of the device), and
  • Errant flight paths (meaning the firework does not travel the way it is supposed to).

These are only a few examples of misuses and malfunctions that can result in injuries. Contact an experienced attorney if you were injured in any kind of fireworks-related incident. Do not delay, because you only have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington.

Preventing Fireworks-Related Injuries

There are a few common-sense steps you can take to avoid being injured if you set off your own fireworks. For example, do not carry fireworks in your pockets and keep a bucket of water nearby. Other safety tips from the CPSC are:

  • Do not let children set off fireworks without adult supervision (and keep young children away from them entirely).
  • Never point fireworks at another person.
  • Back away immediately after igniting fireworks.
  • Light fireworks one at a time and do not try to reignite dud fireworks.

*Contact Us Today*Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were injured in a fireworks-related incident. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine whether the accident was caused by negligence. Our experienced attorneys will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical costs and other related expenses.

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.