If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, it is important to seek help for recouping your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. Our expert personal injury lawyers in Medford, Oregon can ensure you are fairly compensated for your pain. When you or someone you care about is involved in a serious car accident, the resulting feeling can be one of the loneliest in the world. While everyone else’s lives continue on uninterrupted, you feel as though yours has ground to a halt. Other people express their concern in little “side trips” which occur throughout the normal events of their life proceeding on schedule, while an accident victim may be unable to work, to attend family events, or in any other way “be” the person that they were before their accident for months… in some cases, for years.
Statistics and Causes for Auto Accidents
Across the United States each year, there are as many as 2.5 million serious injuries resulting from a total of roughly 5.5 million accidents. Roughly 45% of individuals involved in traffic accidents receive a serious injury. Many of these people are unaware of any legal recourse for their resulting expenses. They have nobody looking out for their interests, or helping them into a position from which they can recover safely, at their own pace, with greater peace of mind. This doesn’t have to be the case; the victim of a severe automobile accident, for which they were not at fault, may be owed damages to the effect of medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Those who have lost a loved one on whom they were dependent for income, or with whom they were involved in a long-term relationship, may be owed compensation for wrongful death, loss of spouse, or loss of companionship.
- Alcohol: For drivers over the age of 21, a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more means that, legally, a person is too inebriated to get behind the wheel of a car. Despite this, nearly 1/3 of all accidental road-related fatalities in America each year are due to the at-fault party being under the influence of alcohol… and the average drunk driver will drive under the influence more than 80 times in America before getting caught! Think about that – they knowingly put others’ lives at risk 80 times before being held accountable. These are people who willfully flout their personal responsibility in regards to the safety of driving conditions on our roads.
- Distractions: It’s easy to be distracted today. Passengers, gadgets, and driving conditions can all provide distractions as we attempt to navigate from points A to B, but the responsible driver does their best to stay focused on the road, and doesn’t exacerbate their situation by adding to their own sense of distractions. Drivers who change clothes, answer their cellphones, or snap pictures of their surroundings while driving are responsible for as many as 1 in 8 of all fatal car accidents in the United States – the same portion attributed to semi trucks and other large vehicles being operated irresponsibly.
- Speeding doesn’t result in the majority of overall accidents; between 4 and 5% of all accidents are caused by speeding. However, it does result in a disproportionate number of serious injuries and fatalities, due to the increased forces that act upon the body as a result of an accident involving speeding or other aggressive driving behaviors. Meanwhile, as few as 10% of Americans believe that it is inherently dangerous to travel at speeds of up to 10-15mph above the speed limit, and a significant majority of Americans believe that speeding is overrated as a cause of accident-related deaths… despite its contributing to nearly 1 out of 3 thereof.
Don’t let someone else’s bad driving put you out of commission for any longer than you have to be! If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, call our Medford, OR law offices today, or contact one of our offices throughout the remainder of Oregon that better corresponds to where you live. You deserve someone in your corner who will fight for the compensation you need to get back on your feet.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
All Oregon private auto insurance policies include Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which provides payment for medical bills, lost wages, and even some household expenses. Passengers are covered by the driver’s PIP policy. However, your right of recovery does not stop at the limited items that your PIP policy covers.
If the other driver is liable and you are injured, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance policy for any injuries, lost wages, or pain and suffering. The insurance company may deny your claim or offer you a settlement that is too low. If that happens, you should retain the services of an auto accident attorney.
You have a right to legal representation, just like the driver of a car involved in an auto accident.
During a trial we won, we withdrew the claim for “lost wages,” instead claiming “impaired earning capacity.” Having won at trial, including on the claim of impaired earning capacity, the insurance company for the defendant now wanted credit for the lost wages it had to pay back to our client’s Personal Injury Protection insurer.
Plainly put, we did not feel that the defendant’s insurance company was entitled to that credit. Thus, we wrote the defense attorney a letter explaining my position, which is summarized below:
- The verdict did not include wage loss as an element of damages. That claim was voluntarily stricken in favor of a claim of impaired earning capacity.
- A claim for “lost wages” and a claim for “impairment of earning capacity” are distinct claims under the law, and involve a different analysis to award each, respectively. Furthermore, the two claims cannot be made for the same period of time (cannot overlap) and a claim for impaired earning capacity is also not subject to the objectively verifiable requirement of lost wages as an element of damages. Clearly, they are two separate and distinct claims.
- PIP benefits do not include impaired earning capacity – only lost wages, and only if off work for at least 14 consecutive days, for a total of 56 weeks of benefits.
- Because the verdict did not include an award for “wage loss”, the adverse insurer should not get the benefit of a PIP offset for wage loss. There can be no offset for paying something that was not claimed or awarded in the verdict; a party is only entitled to an offset if the jury actually awarded those damages. Thus, the analysis should end here.
- In order to receive an offset for PIP paid wage loss, and assuming (though not agreeing) that the wage loss claim is a part of the impaired earning capacity claim, the adverse insurer still bears the burden of proof.
- Granted, the impairment of earning capacity claim covered the time period for which lost wages were paid by PIP. However, we do not know whether the jury included this period in its calculation or award. For all we know, it may have been for future impaired earning capacity only. The jury awarded $65,000 in impaired earning capacity benefits, even though a higher amount was claimed. We do not know, nor are we entitled to know, the rationale for this award. Indeed, it is improper for us to inquire of the jurors their thought process in making their determination of issues before them.
- Given this, the adverse insurer cannot meet its burden of proof to get the offset, as again we do not know how the jury came to award the $65,000.
- Thus, even assuming the PIP wage loss was included in the impaired earning capacity claim (with which, again, we vehemently disagree) the adverse insurer would not be entitled to the PIP wage loss offset under the “We Can’t Tell Rule,” as the court is not allowed to speculate how the jury came to its decision.
- However, there clearly was no overlap here, as there was no “wage loss” awarded by the jury, and the amount at issue is for PIP payment of wage loss benefits. PIP does not cover impairment of earning capacity, and thus, could not have made those payments. Thus there can be no PIP offset in our case for lost wages.
Given the clear summary of law above, we strongly suspected that the defense would agree with our position, and that will be the end of the story. As it turns out, they did just that.
We always scrap for every cent owed to cour clients, almost always getting exactly what we want.
Our client was driving his truck and intended to make a left turn. He stopped his truck to wait for traffic to clear so he could safely make the turn. As he was waiting, another motorist crashed into the back of his truck, causing significant damage. Our client felt immediate pain and after exchanging driver information sought medical attention for his accident related injuries. His injuries included bulging discs at C5-6 and L5-S1, with pain radiating down his left arm into his left hand. He also experienced left sided shoulder pain and back pain that radiated down his left leg.
As a result of his injuries, our client was unable to work and his doctor released him from work. He was unsure of how to proceed. He needed money immediately to pay his bills and live while he was recovering from his injuries.
When We Were Called
He called Dwyer Williams Dretke Attorneys, PC to represent him. The first thing we did was to establish a PIP (Personal Injury Protection) claim with his own insurance company. We used the work release from his doctor along with evidence of his prior wages to make a wage claim under his own policy. His insurance company began paying his wage loss, initially. After several months, his insurance company stopped paying his wage loss. We advised our client to see his doctor again and get an updated off work slip, which he did. Thereafter, the insurance company resumed paying his wage loss.
Our client’s insurance policy, like most policies in Oregon, allowed him to claim his lost wages for 52 weeks. His doctors continued to keep him off work for the full 52 weeks and with the help of Dwyer Williams Dretke Attorneys, PC he received all of benefit he was entitled to under the insurance contract.
How We Helped
As a result of our client receiving wage loss benefits, he was able to stay off work and focus on healing. His injuries got better with treatment and time off from working. When he was ready to settle his claim, we sent a demand package to the adverse carrier. The demand sought compensation for the medical bills already incurred, the portion of lost wages not covered by PIP (PIP only covers 70% of a claimant’s wage loss up to a maximum of $3,000 per month), future medical expenses for treatment his doctor recommended, and an amount to compensate him for his pain and suffering.
Ultimately the case was resolved for a substantial sum without the need for protracted litigation. All of our client’s medical providers were paid and his own insurance company was reimbursed for money they paid out on his claim. We were also able to get him the additional 30% of lost wages not covered by PIP, money for future recommended medical care, and a fair amount for his pain and suffering. He was very pleased with the result.
Call us today for a free consultation on how we can help you (541) 617-0555.