Motor Vehicle Personal Injury FAQ
How can I pay for an attorney?
I handle all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. That means that you do not owe me any legal fee unless I recover money for you. Once I have successfully completed your case, I will take a percentage of the fee recovered.
I have been injured in an automobile collision, who will pay my medical bills?
There are many different insurance coverage issues that are involved in automobile collisions. If you or any family members in your household have an auto insurance policy, more likely then not, you will be covered under Personal Injury Protection benefits. Another source for coverage is your own health insurance.
I have not been able to work for a couple of weeks due to my injuries; can I recover some of my lost income?
If you miss more than 2 weeks of work due to crash related injuries, your PIP will pay you 70% of your wage loss or up to $3,000.00 a month, whichever is less. The wage loss benefit will not exceed $15,000.00 or more than 52 weeks. If you have missed less than 2 weeks, then you will have to wait until your case is resolved to be reimbursed.If you do not have auto insurance, but someone in your household does, then their auto insurance policy may be responsible for your lost wages.
Can I recover even when the liable party had no insurance?
Yes, you can recover if you have uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage. All insurance policies come with Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage, unless you specifically sign an election to not have this coverage. UM is on your policy and protects you when you are hit by someone driving without insurance. You will need to open a UM claim through your own insurance company. I strongly recommend retaining an injury lawyer to do this for you because now your own insurance company is your adversary. They will revert back to their desire to pay as little as possible. I also encourage you to review the amount of your UM coverage. Most people do not carry enough to protect their families from a serious injury crash. I see a lot of families that are driving around with 100/300 UM coverage. If a family of 4 is in a substantial crash and there is hospitalization involved, the policy will only pay up to $100K for any individual, but if there are 4 people involved with injuries, the policy will not pay more than $300K for the entire family. With both past and future medical bills, lost wages, lost enjoyment of life, tutors, any vocational rehabilitation, this $300K very quickly becomes grossly inadequate.
How long does it take to resolve an auto collision case?
In Oregon, there is a two year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit. If the liable party is a governmental entity, then the injured party must file a tort claims notice within six months. Resolving a case properly, depends upon the injuries suffered and the treatment course required. Once a case gets filed, it can take over a year for a trial date. That means it could take three years before a case is resolved. Most cases resolve within 18 months, depending on the injuries. Smaller claims can be resolved within a few days of acquiring all of the medical records. Remember, it is in the client's best interest to wait until they are medically stationary before resolving a claim.
What if I don't want to go to trial?
When the time is right, I meet with all of my clients to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit. Unless we are up against the statute of limitations, I never file without the consent of my clients.
Keep in mind that your leverage against an insurance company is your right to take your case to a jury. Sometimes it is necessary to exercise that leverage in order to get the insurance companies to take your claim seriously.
Why do I need an attorney who is just going to take a percentage of my case?
When you deal directly with an insurance company or any defendant, you are dealing with an adversary. The party on the other end of the telephone is trained at minimizing your claim. Right away they will ask you to sign a medical release and give a taped statement just in case you get an attorney later. They will sound sympathetic to your plight, but in the end, they will do what they can to settle your case as quickly and cheaply as possible. By representing yourself, you are giving up your only leverage, your right to sue. Why would an insurance company fear being sued if you do not even have an attorney? They will not take your claim seriously unless you are represented.
Being a victim is hard enough. Most people that are injured prefer to focus on recovery and not on insurance claims. Why not give your headache to a professional who understands how to deal with the quagmire of litigation.
How soon after I have been injured should I contact an attorney?
You should hire an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help with any investigation.
Do photographs need to be taken? The insurance company might send over an adjuster to take pictures that do not show the full extent of the damage to a vehicle. Are there witnesses to get statements from?
Once you have an attorney, the insurance companies can no longer contact you. I can help get your medical bills paid. I also help clients get through the property loss portion of a case.
I was just in a motor vehicle collision, what am I required to do legally?
In Oregon you must stay at the scene of the collision and exchange names, addresses and insurance information with the other party involved. If there is a severe injury, then you are required to provide reasonable aid to the injured persons until police and or emergency services arrive. You are required to file an accident report within 72 hours with the Department of Motor Vehicles even if the police made a report. If you are the victim of a hit-and-run or a party involved is uninsured, then you must file a police report within 72 hours. Click on Oregon DMV for your responsibilities after a motor vehicle collision. Click to download the Oregon DMV Accident Report Form.
What should I do if I was just involved in a car crash?
Evaluate whether anyone in your vehicle needs immediate medical attention. If they do, call for an ambulance. Assuming nobody needs an ambulance, exchange insurance information, drivers license info, and license plate numbers. If it is safe and you are physically capable, take photos of the vehicles involved, as well as any skid marks from the crash. If there are nonemergency injuries, go to urgent care or to your primary care physician and get your injuries evaluated. Once you are physically capable, interview and hire a personal injury attorney you feel good about.
I do not have health insurance, how can I get treated by a doctor if I can’t afford it?
In Oregon all personal auto insurance policies have Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP will pay for reasonably related treatment up to a year or $15,000.00 in medical payments, whichever comes first. You can increase the amount by paying for more than the minimum of $15,000.00, which I recommend.
In Washington, you can elect to not purchase PIP. If you do not have PIP as part of your policy and you have no health insurance, you are probably going to have to find a provider that will allow you to make payments until the case resolves.
If you are in a crash, you should contact your own insurance company and open up a PIP claim even though the crash is the other driver’s fault. Your insurance company will give you a PIP claim number. For all of your treatment you should give the medical provider your PIP claim number as the primary source for billing.
Do I need to give a statement or sign any medical releases from an insurance company?
Do not give another party’s insurance company a statement. They are only interested in protecting themselves and will try and find ways to deny or minimize your case. They will also send you a release and other paperwork hoping you will sign off your right to privacy. Do not sign anything from another party’s insurance company without an attorney looking it over.
If you are injured your insurance company will require you to fill out a PIP Application and sign a medical release. They may also require you to give a taped statement. Part of your contract with your insurance company requires you to cooperate with them. If you want PIP benefits, you will need to cooperate and fill out the application and give the taped statement. I typically like to listen in on my client’s taped statement via a conference call. I also review all of my client’s PIP applications prior to submitting them.
What do I do if the at fault driver does not have enough insurance coverage to cover my losses?
A good injury attorney is going to review the case carefully and make sure that anyone else at fault will be held accountable. Assuming there are no other parties involved, we need to look at your Under Insured Motorist (UIM) coverage on your policy. In Oregon, if the at fault driver has the minimum $25K in coverage and you have $100K on your UIM, you can only get $75K from your own policy because of a horrifically bad law that lets insurance companies off the hook for paying the $100K you paid for. This is another reason to review your policy and make sure you have adequate UIM limits to protect yourself and your family from drivers that have minimal policies.
I was hit by a car and injured while on my bike or crossing a street as a pedestrian. Can I still recover for my bills and losses?
If you are on your bike, you are treated as a pedestrian by the law. If you have an auto insurance policy or you live with family that has one, you can get PIP benefits. First try and get your bills paid by your own PIP or a family member; then try your health insurance for your bills; if you fall into the situation where you have no PIP and no Health Insurance, pedestrians (cyclists) can make a PIP claim from the at fault driver’s auto insurance. Once you are medically stationary, we will pursue a case against the at fault driver’s insurance company for all of your harms and losses.
What happens if I use all of my PIP benefit or I need to treat longer than a year?
Hopefully you have health insurance that will step in and cover your treatment. If you do not have any health insurance, my office will try to work with your treating physicians to set up a lien so that you can continue treating with the promise that the medical providers will be paid out any recovery.
How do I handle my property damage?
If you have property damage coverage you can take your car to any shop you want. Call your insurance company and let them know where your car is at and they will inspect the vehicle. If they decide to total out your vehicle, they need to give you in writing comparable vehicles that they based their value on. If you had spent some money on the car recently, show the adjuster the receipts and that may increase the value of the vehicle.
If you do not have property damage coverage or do not want to pay your deductible, then you are at the mercy of the other insurance company and their time frame. They might decide that you have a percentage of fault and reduce their offer by that amount. If you have your own property damage coverage it is better to see if you can recover the deductible from them later as part of your settlement.
I only help with property damage cases for my injury clients. I do not take on property damage only cases. I do not take a fee for any of the property damage portion of the case unless we sued under an attorney fee statute.
Will my insurance rates go up by making a PIP claim, property damage claim, or uninsured/under insured motorist claim?
While private insurance companies are allowed to do what they want in terms of raising rates, I have had several conversations with insurance agents from major carriers who tell me that their companies only raise rates if their insured was at fault for the crash.
I was a passenger in a car crash, who should I look to for recovery?
We look at the facts of the case and try and determine who is responsible for the crash. If the driver of car you were a passenger in is even a small percentage at fault, then we will look to both drivers to take responsibility for your damages If they do not have adequate coverage between them, we will look to see if there is any UIM coverage available.