The Rosenbaum Law Group is pleased to announce that attorney Aaron Reichenberger has been named a 2019 Oregon Rising Star by Super Lawyers. This is an honor limited to just 2.5% of attorneys within Oregon and represents that Aaron has demonstrated repeated excellence in the practice of personal injury law. Aaron represents injured people and families in their personal injury or wrongful death claims against insurance companies and wrongdoers.
If you have been injured in a car crash, you may decide to navigate the insurance claim process yourself and negotiate your own settlement. However, there are a number of things to consider before doing so. Most importantly, your focus should be on your medical treatment and recovery from your injuries, not dealing with the insurance companies. Furthermore, chances are you will receive a greater settlement if you hire a personal injury lawyer.
(Note: this article originally appeared in The Multnomah Lawyer, February 2019 issue and was co-written with Ben Cox.)
In the December issue of the Multnomah Lawyer (“One Extra Dollar: The Impact of Attorney Fee Awards in Small Claims”), the author took issue with a fee-shifting statute that hundreds of Oregon lawyers regularly utilize in comparatively modest claims to achieve fair outcomes against insurance companies. As two such lawyers, we are writing to share our perspectives.
In claims seeking no more than $10,000 in damages to person or property, ORS 20.080 states that when a plaintiff makes a properly-supported pre-filing demand and provides at least 30 days to respond, if the case can’t be settled and the plaintiff eventually recovers more in litigation than the best pre-filing offer, the plaintiff will be entitled to her reasonable attorneys’ fees, as well as her damages.
The author correctly notes that, “ORS 20.080 was passed in 1947 to address the problem of small tort claims [...] Insurers in particular had discovered they could simply defend against every claim, and since the legal cost of prosecution was likely to exceed the claim’s economic value, there was no practical way for a claimant to ever collect.” This is as true today as it was in 1947. In fact, the insurance companies that defend these claims have become more aggressive with low-balling tactics than at any point in recent memory, and regular Oregonians with modest tort claims need the protection of this law more than ever before.
In pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death case, it is important to understand all of the available claims a victim may have. When workers are injured or killed on the job in Oregon, more than one legal option may be available to them. It is typical for the worker to have a workers compensation claim (which is processed through the employer’s worker’s comp insurance carrier). If the worker’s employer or coworker is solely responsible for the worker’s injury or death, then a worker’s compensation insurance claim will likely be the only legal option available to the worker. This is what’s known as “worker’s comp exclusivity.” In this situation, the injured worker (or a deceased worker’s family) would be well served by calling a competent worker’s comp attorney to discuss their claim. However, if someone other than the employee’s direct employer or coworker is responsible for the worker’s injury or death—or if the employer did not offer worker’s compensation insurance—the injured or killed employee may have a claim under Oregon’s Employer Liability Law.
Below are a few of the frequent questions we hear after our clients are injured in an auto collision. Our team is always available to answer any questions you may have if you or someone you know is injured in an automobile collision.
1) I just got in an auto collision—what do I do?
Exchange information with the other driver. Take a picture of their license and insurance card, their license plate, and take photos of both vehicles. Get the name and phone number of any witnesses. If you feel any pain or stiffness, or know you are injured, go see a doctor. If you can’t get into your primary care doctor, go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care. Report the claim to your insurance company (this is called “opening up a PIP claim”). You will also need to fill out the Oregon DMV Traffic Accident & Insurance Report within seventy-two hours. Call and consult an attorney.
Do not give any statements to the other driver’s insurance company and do not attempt to call them directly. You are not required to sign a medical release from the other driver’s insurance company. This is a frequently used tactic and can hurt your claim. Do not sign any documents the other driver’s insurer sends you.
The Oregon Legislature recently passed, and Governor Kate Brown signed into law, a bill that dramatically improves the landscape for Oregon victims injured in motor-vehicle collisions. The bill has two components: a change to Oregon Underinsured Motorist (UIM) law and a change to Oregon’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law. These changes go into effect for all policies renewed or created from January 1, 2016 forward. In other words, if you are injured in a collision on January 1, 2016, but your policy was renewed on December 31, 2015, you will not be able to take advantage of the following beneficial changes to the law. Because of this, all insured Oregon drivers should contact their insurer and ask that their policy renewal take place on January 1, 2016.