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Oregon Accident Victims: Protecting Your Rights After a Collision

Author: Scott F. Kocher (Portland, Oregon), J.D., Harvard Law School 2001

After a motorcycle, truck, bus, car or any other motor vehicle accident, you should take several steps to preserve your rights and protect yourself: First, if you have suffered any impact or injury, you should immediately seek medical attention. It is common for crash victims not to realize that they have suffered a significant injury for hours or days after a collision. Head, spine, neck, hearing/tinnitus, and connective tissue injuries are particularly likely to cause delayed symptoms. Undetected injuries could affect your ability to work and otherwise affect your life. As treatment progresses, it is essential for crash victims to follow the treatment recommendations of their doctor or other medical provider. Second, report the crash. Oregon law requires you to report the vehicle accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 72 hours. The accident report form can be found on the DMV web site. Third, do not give any recorded statement or make any statements to the other driver or his or her insurance company unless you have consulted with a lawyer. Although insurance company representatives may be highly courteous, keep in mind that their primary responsibility is to minimize the amount that the company pays on each claim. Insurance companies often lead victims to settle early, which may be before the extent of their injuries is known. Once you settle, you cannot later obtain any money from the insurance company. Fourth, you will likely need to file an application for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) with your own insurance company to recover certain lost wages and medical expenses. Keep in mind that PIP coverage in Oregon is limited in amount (often $15,000) and duration (often one year), and may provide only a small portion of the expenses you have incurred. Additionally, in the event your collision involved an uninsured or underinsured driver, you will need to file a “proof of loss" with your insurance company. Fifth, even if it appears that the bad driver's insurance company should or will accept responsibility, preserve the evidence that may be needed for your case. Keep a record of your injuries, lost wages and other damages. Save all documents related to your case. Take and save photographs of all visible injuries, vehicle and property damage. Take additional photos of visible injuries periodically as they heal. Digital photographs are preferred, in the event it is necessary to use them as exhibits. Understandably, crash victims often don't think of collecting this information. However, good documentation helps us to prove to the insurance company or, if necessary a jury, the full extent of your injuries and your claim to recover for them.

Protect Your Rights

We encourage crash victims to contact our firm early to ensure that evidence and claims are preserved. This is important even though an insurance company representative may have told you that their company will accept responsibility, or that your statute of limitations to pursue a claim is not urgent. In some situations it is essential for us to obtain expert reports from a private investigator, consulting doctor, accident reconstructionist, vocational rehabilitation specialist, economist, or life care planner early in the process.

In addition, deadlines are often shorter than expected. For example, in Oregon, many claims involving vehicles operated by public employees (including police, fire and other emergency vehicles), are subject to a 180-day deadline. Certain claims involving drunk drivers can also expire in 180 days.

We can respond to inquiries to www.vangelisti.com or by telephone at 503-445-2100 or toll-free 1-800-800-1004.

Special Note: Drunk Driving Victims in Oregon

If you are a victim of a drunk driver in Oregon, extremely short statutes of limitations may apply to some of your claims. Notably, in Oregon, bars, restaurants or others who serve alcohol to patrons who are “visibly intoxicated" and become drunk drivers can be held liable for injury or death caused by the drunk driver. However, the deadline for asserting a claim against the server may be as short as 180 days. This is often called the "Dram Shop Act" deadline.

Additional resources provided by the author

If you have been injured, it is important to have an attorney in your state evaluate any claim you may have before potential deadlines expire. Our Portland, Oregon-based attorneys are available to evaluate Oregon and Washington claims promptly and without charge. Please visit www.vangelisti.com or call 503-445-2100 or toll free 1-800-800-1004.

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