Accident Injury Claim

Oregon Statute of Limitations

Injury Lawyer Roy DwyerEvery state, including Oregon, has deadlines to file a lawsuit.  If you miss this deadline, you will not be permitted to take your case to trial.  In most situations, you or your attorney will make efforts to settle your case, but if those efforts are unsuccessful, you’ll need to file suit before the deadline.  Please note—the law is complicated, and there are several exceptions and unique fact patterns that we can’t cover in the scope of one post.  The best practice should be to call an attorney after an accident and get some advice.

The majority of personal injury claims, like automobile accidents, premises liability (slip-and-fall cases), and dog bite cases must be filed within two years of the date of injury.

Governmental Entities

There is also a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits against public bodies and their officers, employees or agents.  For example, if you have a claim against a police department, or a truck driver who was working for the city at the time of an accident, the two year deadline usually applies.  It’s important to note that there is an additional notice deadline in claims against governmental entities.  Within 180 days of the accident (about 6 months), very specific notice must be given in order to preserve your right to make a claim.  This notice deadline expands to one year for wrongful death cases.

Minors

Children under age 18 have a special general rule (yes, there are exceptions).  Usually, minors must file their cases at the earlier of (1) one year after they turn 18; or (2) seven years (five years plus the original two years) after the accident.  One important exception is a claim against a governmental entity, which will not be extended beyond two years.

Wrongful Death

Claims for wrongful death may typically be filed within three years of the negligence that ultimately caused the death.

Discovery Rule

Some types of cases have what is called a “discovery rule.”  For example, in a medical malpractice case, a lawsuit must be filed within “two years from the date when the injury is first discovered or in the exercise of reasonable care should have been discovered.”  However, there is usually a maximum limit of five years from the date of treatment.

This rule extends the deadline to file a suit, because in some cases you may suffer an injury, but there’s no way to know you suffered an injury.  The classic example is a cancer misdiagnosis.  If you go in for a mammogram on 05/01/14, and the results show cancer but the doctor reports it as normal, you won’t know that the doctor committed malpractice.  Let’s say your first indication that anything is wrong is 3 years later, on 05/01/17, when you get another mammogram.  Applying the standard statute, you will not be permitted to file a lawsuit.  With the discovery rule, however, you will have additional time.  A court might decide that the time limit runs from 05/01/17, meaning you could have as long as 05/01/19 (five years after the misread mammogram).    Applying the discovery rule can be difficult—they are very case-specific.  This situation is even more complicated if, using this example, you had other symptoms before the 2017 mammogram—for example, you felt a lump, or had other medical problems that could be linked to breast cancer.

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Remember—the law regarding statute of limitations (deadlines) is complex—there are rules set by the legislature, and those rules are interpreted by courts.  Several exceptions exist.  The main point is that you should contact a lawyer soon after any type of accidental injury.  That lawyer can give you guidance as to the deadlines.  If you have questions, contact us at 1-541-617-0555, or fill out our internet Contact form on the right side of the page.     

Timeline for an Injury or Accident Settlement

Oregon SettlementMany people who contact a lawyer want to know how long it will take to get a settlement.  Like most things in the law, the answer is “it depends.”  However, we can give you some guidelines.

First, let’s talk about when a case won’t settle.

Medical Treatment

In most cases, we will not settle your case while you are actively receiving medical care for your injuries.  The reason is simple—when you settle your case, that’s the absolute end.  You cannot come back five or ten or fifteen years later because you still have injuries and want more money.  For this reason, it’s important that you be finished with treatment so we can include all of your injuries and medical expenses in your settlement.  The exception to this is where you have a permanent injury—if a doctor says you are at maximum medical improvement, it means you are not expected to get any better.  You might keep going for treatment (medication, pain injections, physical maintenance), but those things are expected to continue indefinitely.

Liability Denial

The first step to proving a case is liability—the majority of cases won’t settle unless the negligent driver (or his/her insurance company) admit that the driver was negligent.  Sure, we sometimes get settlement offers when there is a liability denial, but that only happens in situations where the other side realizes that we may have a decent chance of proving liability.  Even those cases may not settle, though, because the other side will “discount” their offer based on their expectation that they might be able to win on liability.

The cases that do settle will either settle before a lawsuit is filed, or after a lawsuit is filed.  The majority of cases settle before, and litigation is not necessary.

Once you finish medical treatment (or when your doctors say you are at maximum medical improvement), we will collect all of your final medical records and bills.  That process usually takes between one and two months.  When those records come in, we review them, do a summary demand letter and send them off to the insurance adjuster.  Usually within about one to two months, the insurance adjuster will review those documents, will let us know if they are interested in settling, and how much money they want to put on your legal claim.

This begins the process of negotiation.  We will talk with you about their offer, and with your approval, will give a counter-demand.  This phase of negotiation typically goes fairly quickly—in some cases, it might take a couple of days, or a few weeks.  The larger the claim, the more time-consuming negotiation might be.  For most cases, settlement will be accomplished within about three to six months after you finish medical treatment.

It is only when the other side denies liability, they refuse to offer what your case is worth, or negotiations move too slowly that we may recommend to you that we file a lawsuit.

Contact Us

If you have questions about the settlement process, contact our attorneys at 1-541-617-0555, or fill out our internet Contact form on the right side of the page.  We can answer all of your questions about how long it takes, the value of your case, and what to expect from a lawsuit.       

Oregon Teens Avoiding the Dreaded Road Test by Taking Drivers Education

Auto AccidentThe Register-Guard reports that an increasing number of Oregon teenagers are avoiding taking the state driving test to get their license.  In a bid to prevent traffic accidents, the number one preventable cause of death for teenagers, the legislature has given teens a way out of the driving test: take a driver’s education course.

The new law, which has been in effect since January, allows applicants between the ages of 15 and 17 with a provisional Class C instruction permit to take a state certified class.  So long as they pass that class, and also have fifty hours of adult-supervised driving experience, they can get their license without taking the road test.  They are still required to take the written test though.  Also, passing that state certified class requires passing a driving test in class that is as difficult as or more difficult than the state road test.  The reason lawmakers passed this new law is because of a federal government study that shows teen drivers who receive formal training are less likely to crash than those trained by a parent.  Another benefit for the young drivers is that taking the class may decrease their (or their parents’) insurance premiums.

Oregon as a National Model for Preventing Teen Traffic Accidents

In 2012 the New York Times published a story about the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of driver’s education nationwide.  The general theme is that driver’s education is less available and less effective than it previously has been, and that its use may undercut important graduated license requirements.  But, the article pointed out that Oregon is the exception: Oregon’s program includes classroom training, substantial supervised driving instruction, parental involvement, a focus on risk assessment, and state trained and certified instructors.  A spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation told the New York Times reporter that Oregon’s program leads to fewer citations, fewer crashes, and a reduction in suspensions.

Teen Drivers Are Extremely Likely to Be Involved in Auto Accidents

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2010, seven teens between ages 16 and 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries.  About 2,700 teens were killed and 282,000 were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal injuries that year.  Those non-fatal injuries include some very serious injuries like permanent deformities, lost limbs, paralysis, and brain injury.  Mile for mile, drivers in that age group are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as those aged 20 or over.

The CDC’s statistics also show that young male drivers are particularly at risk for accidents.  The motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers aged 16 to 19 was almost twice that of female drivers in the same age group.  And, as one would suspect, those who are newly licensed are at the greatest risk of all.

Part of the problem is low seatbelt use rates amongst teen drivers.  The CDC reports that in 2011, only 54% of high school students reported that they always wear seatbelts when riding with someone else.  This may be part of the reason why driving education programs that involve a large amount of supervised driving are effective.  Of course, if the student wants to pass such a class, he or she will buckle up.  It could just become a habit to do so by the end of the class.  Seatbelt usage should not be learned for the first time as a teenager though, and should be modeled and enforced by parents from a young age.

If you or your teen has been injured in a car accident, contact an Oregon auto accident attorney to help file a claim immediately.

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Portland Teens Killed in Commercial Truck Accident

Portland Truck Accident A commercial truck accident killed two Portland teenagers earlier this month, reported news station KOIN.  The crash occurred on Highway 47 north of Forest Grove during the morning of April 7, 2014.  The driver of the truck was not injured.  The report indicates that law enforcement had not yet determined precisely how the accident occurred.

Preventing Teen Auto Accidents

Sometimes there is nothing a parent or a teen driver can do to prevent an auto accident, and an injury or death results.  When that happens, you should contact a personal injury or wrongful death attorney to determine what options you have.  But some of these tragedies can be prevented by parents setting down and teens following some important rules for driving.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has started a “Parents Central” campaign to get the word out about these rules.  The Agency suggests the following rules:

#1 No Cell Phones

The Agency reports that talking on a cell phone while driving decreases even an experienced driver’s reaction time to that of a 70-year-old.  Texting is even worse as it requires taking both the eyes off the road and a hand off the steering wheel.  It is a manual, visual, and mental distraction all at the same time.

#2 No Extra Passengers

In particular, no extra teenage passengers should be allowed in the car.  NHTSA reports that teens are two and a half times more likely to engage in certain risky driving behaviors if there is another teenager in the car, and that the risk of a fatal accident goes up as the number of teenagers in the car increases.

#3 No Speeding

In 2011 speeding was a factor for 35% of teen drivers in fatal accidents.

#4 No Alcohol

While it is illegal for minors to possess or consume alcohol, NHTSA reports that drivers aged 15 to 20 are at a significantly higher risk for death in crashes involving alcohol than adults are.  While underage illegal use of alcohol should never be condoned, it is very important to make it clear to your children from a young age that drunk driving accidents are extremely dangerous and that drinking and driving is a much more serious offense than just drinking.

#5 Always Buckle Up

Always means always.  Make it the rule that your teen drivers wear seatbelts every single time they get in a car, whether they are driving across the country or just moving the car out of the driveway to the street.  This is not just a rule for teens; it should be the rule for your children from the moment they are old enough and large enough to not use special child restraints.  And it’s a rule for adults as well; if you don’t wear your seatbelt when you drive a mile to the store, you can’t expect your child to act any differently when he or she drives.  The same rules apply for passengers, whether in a car driven by you, a car driven by your teen, or even a car driven by a professional such as a taxi driver.  Seat belts save lives.

Often times those who don’t wear seatbelts complain that they are uncomfortable.  And they certainly can be.  If this is your teen’s (or your own) excuse, see if your car has adjustable seatbelts and make sure they are properly adjusted for you and your teen’s height and weight.  If that does not work, there are a plethora of aftermarket products designed to make seatbelts more comfortable. Find one that works for you and your teen.

If you have any further questions, or if you want to file a car accident claim, contact an Oregon accident attorney for help today.

 

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Passenger in an Auto Accident? You Probably Have a Good Case


In most Oregon automobile accidents, passengers will be able to recover for their injuries if they pursue claims.  The reason is simple—it is highly unlikely that a passenger was a cause of the collision.  The liable party is almost always the driver of one of the vehicles.

Certainly, this might not always be the case.  One exception could be where a judge or jury, presented with two different versions of the accident, cannot determine which of them is correct.  In that situation, a defense verdict is possible.  In our experience, however, there is usually some evidence to tip the scales in favor of a passenger against one of the drivers.

It’s easy to imagine other scenarios where the passenger might be responsible for his own injuries, for example, where the passenger grabs the steering wheel and causes the collision.  One situation that does sometimes arise is where the passenger knowingly gets into a car with a driver who has been drinking.  The argument is that the passenger knew or should have known that the driver was drunk, and therefore the passenger was also negligent.  These cases are very fact-dependent, and these defenses may not hold water for many reasons.  In Oregon, implied assumption of the risk is barred by statute.

When a passenger is injured, claims will typically be made against both drivers and their insurance companies.  If one of the insurance companies admits liability, then a claim (and recovery) may proceed against that company.  However, if both insurance companies deny liability, a lawsuit will likely be filed against both drivers.  The risk of filing against just one driver is that, at trial, they will point to the empty chair, and strenuously argue that the other driver caused the accident.  By filing against both drivers simultaneously, a passenger has the best chance of recovery.

One complication is where the driver of the passenger’s vehicle is a friend or family member.  Of course, it may be difficult to file a lawsuit against someone with a close relationship.  However, any friends or close relatives should welcome the lawsuit, if it means that the passenger will recover for his injuries.  These claims are paid by insurance, and the only significant consequence for the driver is that his insurance premiums may go up.  Oftentimes, if liability is disputed, those premiums may stay the same.

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If you were a passenger in an automobile collision, we can help you to decide what to do, and we can help to maximize your chance of an insurance settlement or verdict.  You don’t have go through it alone.  Please contact us at 1-541-617-0555, or fill out our internet contact form on the right side of the page.     

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