Written by attorney Joanne Reisman

When should you contact a personal injury lawyer for legal help after an auto accident?

You should get a lawyer immediately - the sooner the better. Why? Because while insurance is good in concept, a way to spread the risk among all drivers so the few that are injured can get full compensation, there are other forces at work that often overshadow this principle. Insurance is a business and their goal is to make a profit. In order to do that they will try any and every tactic they legally can (hopefully they stay within the bounds of what is legal - but I have seen them push those limits too) to maximize their profits. The insurance agent you talk to is under pressure from his or her corporate bosses to settle claims for as little as possible and as quickly as possible to cut of the risk that the claim escalates in value. Someone will call you right after your accident with the nicest most sympathetic words and take your statement and reassure you that they are concerned and trying to help you by evaluating your claim. They are trying to evaluate your claim - but for their own purposes. If they can record you being apologetic and saying things like, "oh it's really not that bad, I think I will be fine" as many of us are prone to do since we don't want to sound like whiners, they will use that in court down the road, after you discover that your injury was a lot worse then you thought, to reduce your chances of getting proper compensation. An attorney can communicate your status to the adjuster without you being locked into any position if your condition worsens because what your attorney tells the adjuster is not admissible as evidence at a later trial. An attorney's first job is to get you compensation for your medical treatment and lost wages under the provisions of your own insurance policy which all Oregon drivers have by law, PIP (Personal Injury Protection). Currently (under Oregon Law for Oregon Insurance Policies) you can get up to $15,000.00 of your medical bills paid and 70% of your lost wages up to $3,000.00 a month without having to prove who was at fault. This gives you a chance to concentrate on your medical condition and see the full extent of your injuries which can take months if not years to ascertain. Your attorney will track the statute of limitations, which in Oregon is two years after the date of your accident and file your case if it is not resolved. Your attorney will know certain laws and procedures that can be used to motivate the insurance company to give you a fair settlement. Your attorney will advise you on how to document your case so that critical information is not lost during your convalescence that might be needed at trial years down the road. All the Oregon Personal Injury Attorneys I know will speak to you at no charge, and offer to take your case on a contingency once they establish that you have a viable claim. This means that you don't risk any money up front and they wait to get paid from the proceeds they collect when they settle your claim. I am an experienced Oregon PI attorney in practice for 29 years. I never set out to be an appellate attorney but thanks to insurance companies fighting with me to nickel and dime my clients I have had to fight three long hard appellate battles - each taking about three years - against insurance companies where the amount of money at risk was nominal for the insurance company. (I won all three cases.) So if an insurance company is willing to put an experienced attorney through three year appeals for a few thousand dollars, ask yourself - do you think they are going to do you any favors if you represent yourself? Oh yeah - they will settle your property damage claim quickly because Oregon law (lobbied for by Personal Injury Attorneys) now forces insurance companies to quickly settle property damage claims after an auto accident or risk sanctions. They didn't use to be so nice about doing this.

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