Injuries from auto collisions are the majority of cases I pursue. Motor vehicle incidents are, unfortunately, common occurrences. Of course, each one is different, from the fender-bender with minimal injuries to more serious collisions involving multiple vehicles, a semi-truck or a drunk driver. Below are some commonly asked questions regarding vehicle collisions.

Q
How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
AThe statute of limitations, meaning the time you have to file a lawsuit, for most auto collision cases is two years from the date of your injury/the incident.
Q
What compensation am I entitled to?
AYou are entitled to the following:

  • Compensation for your past, current and future medical expenses caused from the collision
  • Repair or replacement of your vehicle or any other property that was damaged
  • Medical treatment, regardless of whether you have insurance
  • Wage loss, including time spent attending medical appointments or therapy
  • Any change in your future earning capacity due to your injury
  • Reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses incurred
  • Rental reimbursement
Q
What if the at-fault driver is uninsured?
AUninsured Motorist coverage under your personal auto insurance should “step in” and act as the at-fault party in this type of situation. Plus, your Personal Injury Protection coverage with your own auto insurance should still cover your medical treatment while you heal.
Q
What is PIP?
APIP stands for “Personal Injury Protection.” Oregon law requires all drivers to carry auto insurance with at least $15,000 in PIP coverage. PIP is no-fault insurance, meaning if you cause a collision or not, your own PIP will cover you. PIP pays for medical treatment up to $15,000 or one year following the incident, whichever happens first. Of course, you can contact your insurance company and ask to increase your PIP coverage beyond the $15,000 minimum. Plus, PIP covers up to 70% of your wage loss up to $3,000 per month if you miss work for 14 consecutive days. If you did not cause the collision, the insurer of the at-fault party will pay your insurer back.
Q
What do I do about my medical care?
AIt is essential to follow recommendations from your doctor, whether it be for medications, exercises and treatment. If you have a primary doctor, he or she may also refer you to a specialty doctor as needed. If you have used all of your PIP benefits and you do not have health insurance, I will contact your medical providers to see if they will wait to be paid until you receive money from your settlement.
Q
What should I do after an auto collision?
AIf the collision causes severe injuries to you or a loved one, don’t wait to call an attorney. Time is of the essence in these cases, particularly for individuals unable to care for themselves. Below are some tips for handling an auto collision right after it happens:

  • Obtain prompt medical attention for anyone who is injured. If you require emergency care, call an ambulance to be transported to a hospital. Otherwise, visit an urgent care facility or arrange to see your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Often injuries in vehicle incidents are not seen or felt immediately, particularly when your body has been traumatized, so be sure you are examined by a doctor without delay.
  • Call the police and file an auto accident report. This will create a record of the facts and help determine who was at fault.
  • Gather information at the scene. If you are able, take photos of the damage to the vehicles and obtain the names, address and phone numbers of any witnesses, police officers and insurance company representatives. Write down anything you can remember about how the collision occurred.
  • Exchange insurance information with all other drivers. Any driver involved in a motor vehicle incident is required by law to do so. You must also file an accident report with the Department of Motor Vehicles if the damage to any vehicle involved exceeds $1,500 or any vehicle is towed from the scene; injury or death occurred from the incident; or damages to any property that is not a vehicle exceed $1,500. Filing a police report does not satisfy the requirement of filing a DMV accident report. You must do that yourself.
  • Do not give statements to the insurance adjusters without first contacting an attorney. Information you give the insurance company can damage your case.
Q
How do I know who is at fault?
ATo collect damages for an injury claim in Oregon, you must prove that the person or entity who caused your injury was negligent, which means the responsible party failed to use “reasonable care.” For negligence in Oregon you must prove:

  • A duty owed to you by the person who caused the injury existed;
  • The person failed to carry out that duty;
  • You suffered damages; and
  • The person’s failure to use reasonable care caused you to have the injury.

If you were careless and your carelessness contributed to your injury, whether you may still recover damages depends on your percentage of fault under Oregon comparative negligence law. Oregon follows a modified comparative negligence fault rule, providing that if you were 51% or more at fault, you cannot recover any damages. If you were 50% or less at fault, you may recover damages, though the recovery will be reduced by your degree of fault.

If more than one person was negligent in your case, each person is responsible for a proportional amount of the total damages.

Q
What if I was injured in a single-vehicle incident?
AYou are still entitled to some coverage from your own auto insurance company. Each Oregon driver is required to carry insurance with a minimum of $15,000 in Personal Injury Protection coverage.
Q
What do I do if the insurance company already offered me money and I signed one of their forms?
ADo not sign anything until you talk to a qualified personal injury attorney. Insurance companies usually approach an unsuspecting victim with a lowball offer to settle the claim. If you already signed a release and took the insurance money, that closes the claim and you cannot go back for more money later.
Q
Won’t hiring an attorney delay my settlement?
AIn some cases, yes, but hiring an attorney means you have the benefit of making sure you’re getting the maximum compensation versus handling a claim on your own. Once an attorney is hired, insurance companies recognize they cannot approach you with a lowball offer. Other times, the insurance adjusters dig in their heels and refuse to bargain on equitable terms. Additionally, hiring an attorney means you can focus on healing while not having to worry about handling your claim. I always advise my clients to make sure they are medically stationary before considering an offer from the insurance company. Once you accept the offer and sign a release, your claim is closed and you cannot file a lawsuit. If you later find out you need surgery or other expensive treatment, you will have to pay for it on your own.
Q
Will my case settle out of court?
AMost personal injury cases settle before trial. Insurance companies know that if you don’t have an attorney, you are unlikely to file a lawsuit. They also know people are willing to take less money right away rather than fight for what the case is worth for the next year or two. While most cases do settle, I typically advise most clients to file a lawsuit in pursuit of a trial. Insurance companies usually offer my clients enough money for them to see that if they go to trial there is a chance they could do worse, so they settle. Only by going to trial are you truly going to get what your case is worth, but trials can be risky. The key is maximizing your compensation while minimizing risk. I always force insurance adjusters to tell me their top settlement offer, so my clients can make a real decision.
Q
Why do I have to wait so long before resolving my case?
ANavigating the court system is a long, complicated process. However, it is key to focus on healing before demanding compensation from the liable party or filing a lawsuit. For many injuries, you will return to your pre-injury status. For others, though, you might have a permanent impairment or long-lasting injury. Unless there is an unusual circumstance or reason to file a lawsuit right away, it is important to wait while you recover in case your injuries worsen or a symptom reappears later. By regularly seeing your doctor and following all recommendations, you should be able to determine when you’re medically stationary to avoid this problem and proceed confidently with the case.
Q
Protect your auto claim – don’t delay!
AAct quickly. If you’re injured in a vehicle collision, contact a reputable auto collision attorney without delay. Why? Because a skilled accident lawyer will:

  • Conduct an investigation to locate witnesses and preserve important evidence before it is lost or altered;
  • Help you navigate obtaining the necessary medical treatment;
  • Communicate with the insurance companies for you;
  • Locate all potential sources of compensation for your losses; and
  • Protect your legal rights against filing deadlines.

Remember, you should not rely on an insurance company–even your own–to protect your interests. Every insurance company has adjusters, investigators and attorneys assigned to auto claims. Their primary goal is to limit the amount they pay. Insurance companies are not the friends of injured auto collision claimants. Don’t make their job easier by providing information they can use or manipulate to deny your claim.

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