Written by attorney Kathleen M. Baker

Think Your Case Is Too Small To Hire An Attorney?

Individuals with relatively small contract or injury claims are often hesitant to hire an attorney because they know their attorney's fees could easily be higher than the damages they hope to recover. Fortunately, ORS 20.080 (attorney's fees for certain small tort claims) and ORS 20.082 (attorney's fees for small contract claims) allow plaintiffs to recover their attorney's fees in court under certain circumstances.

Under ORS 20.080, an injured party must make a written demand on the at-fault party and their insurance company of up to $7,500 (recently increased from $5,500). The demand must comply with ORS 20.080 and include evidence of damages (such as medical bills, medical records, etc.) and must give the other party 30 days to settle. If the at-fault party does not respond or settle and the injured party goes to court and wins, they are entitled to their attorney's fees. If the at-fault party and their insurance company make an offer to settle which the injured party does not accept, the injured party must "beat" that offer in order to be awarded attorney's fees under ORS 20.080.

ORS 20.082 similarly provides for recovery of attorney's fees in small contract claims (limited to $10,000) under a similar procedure to ORS 20.080.

The risk of having to pay attorney's fees in addition to damages means that people take demands udner ORS 20.080 and ORS 20.082 very seriously. It also provides an incentive to attorneys to take on these small cases, which might otherwise go unprosecuted.

ORS 20.080 and ORS 20.082 is an effective way to hire an attorney for a small case which might not otherwise be worth the time and cost. Close attention should be paid to the statutes' requirements; thus, it is important to contact an attorney to make sure you can reap the benefits of thses statutes.

Additional resources provided by the author

Oregon Revised Statutes 20.080 and 20.082

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