If you’ve been in a car accident, you might ask yourself “what will a Portland, Oregon, car accident lawyer do for me?” A personal injury attorney can offer experienced and knowledgeable legal advice if you or a loved one have been in a car accident, including representing you in communications to your insurance company and the other party’s insurance company. A personal injury attorney provides legal representation for individuals who have been injured in an accident.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the uncertainties that come with medical bills, short- or long-term disability, and legal actions. In most situations, attorneys are paid a contingency fee in which they do not receive payment until there is a settlement awarded.
Warren Allan LLP has compiled this great guide to what a Portland, Oregon, car accident lawyer should do for your case:
Determine Fault in an Accident
Any motorist knows that any number of reasons can cause a car accident, like negligent drivers, unsafe road conditions, or vehicle defects. However, the at-fault party after a car accident can be difficult to determine. A personal injury attorney will thoroughly review the circumstances of the accident and analyze the evidence from police or incident reports. In addition, your attorney may procure witness statements as well as evidence such as property damage or surveillance footage.
Oregon follows a “fault”-based system, which means your attorney will work to determine the financial and legal responsibility of the other party and provide the necessary assistance when filing a personal injury lawsuit. To determine fault on part of another driver, it must be proven that the individual would have acted differently and thereby prevented the accident.
Some common examples of negligence include distracted driving, driving under the influence, or disobeying traffic laws. The person who is determined to be at fault must pay any losses, which can range from medical bills to lost income.
A personal injury attorney will help you obtain several important pieces of evidence such as photographs of the scene, accident or police reports, and witness interviews. Oftentimes, the attorney will visit the scene of the accident to note additional details for their findings. Documentation of your injuries can sometimes be challenging to acquire, but things like medical records and bills are essential in supporting your claim.
To be successful, two things must be demonstrated through medical documentation: specific diagnosis of injuries and that the cause of the injuries was caused by the other motorist. A lawyer will help ensure the physician notes their opinion on how the accident resulted in your injury, as well as a prognosis of temporary or permanent disability.
Negotiate with Insurance Companies
In Oregon, it is illegal to drive without liability coverage. According to Oregon Drivers & Motor Vehicle Services, drivers must have the following coverage:
- Bodily injury and property damage liability
- $25,000 per person;
- $50,000 per crash for bodily injury to others; and
- $20,000 per crash for damage to others’ property.
- Personal injury protection
- $15,000 per person.
- Uninsured motorist
- $25,000 per person; and
- $50,000 per crash for bodily injury.
When it comes to negotiating with insurance companies, most people have little to no experience. On the other hand, insurance companies settle auto accident cases on a continual basis, and their expertise far outweighs that of the average motorist. In theory, insurance plans are in place to protect individuals from excessive costs, but insurance adjusters do not represent injured parties, and if they provided maximum payouts for every claim, they would not be in business for very long.
Unfortunately, most insurers will do what they can to limit their payouts on auto insurance claims. Having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side will help ensure you receive fair compensation when in an automobile accident.
One of the primary goals insurance companies are tasked with is pushing you to settle your claim quickly and for the lowest possible amount, but it is important not to rush the settlement process. Once you accept an insurance company’s settlement offer, they will no longer be responsible for any future liability caused by your accident. If your injuries become more serious as time passes, you will have passed on the compensation you would have otherwise been due.
Overall, the negotiation process with the insurance company can take time. At the beginning stages of negotiation, your lawyer will work with you to determine how much you should receive as payment for your injuries. A personal injury attorney will examine all medical expenses, any lost wages, and any other expenses you may have accrued as a result of the accident. Once this amount has been determined, your attorney will put together a demand letter for the insurance company that details the compensation you are willing to settle for.
It is unlikely that the insurance company will agree to your initial request outright. Often, the insurance company will attempt to negotiate for less than you originally offered to settle for. This counteroffer can vary based on the insurance company’s policies. Some insurance companies may also request an independent medical examination to verify the injuries and how they may limit you now and in the future. When meeting with your lawyer, you will determine the lowest settlement offer you are willing to accept. The expertise and guidance of a personal injury lawyer will ensure you are receiving a fair amount based on your losses.
Representation at Trial
If you need to go to trial over your claim, you can certainly represent yourself, but the odds are not in your favor against an experienced defense attorney. Personal injury attorneys have years of knowing the ins and outs of the personal injury process and representation in court. In addition, having a personal injury attorney representing you in what is no doubt an emotional experience can benefit you with objective thinking and focus on the facts of your case.