Car accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, but the damage they cause can take you a lifetime to recover from. Pieces of broken glass, metal, and plastic become hurtling projectiles when your vehicle slams, spins, or falls to an immediate stop. Your flesh and bones are soft and squishy compared to these projectiles, and they do little to shield your body from the damage the accident caused. What’s worse, even the act of stopping so abruptly can cause significant trauma to your neck and back just on its own.
After an accident, when you are medically cleared or awaiting treatment, you may wonder how it all happened and who will be blamed. In Oregon, liability for a car accident and the negligence of the people involved go hand in hand. With our state’s modified comparative negligence laws, it becomes incredibly important to determine who was primarily at fault. Oregon aims to provide fair compensation to the parties that were most affected, so honest testimony is key.
In this article, we’ll discuss the elements that determine negligence and liability in most car accident cases and the process for filing a negligence claim. Finally, we’ll look at the potential issues or challenges you may encounter when trying to prove your side of the story. When you need experienced and passionate legal representation, call Zbinden & Curtis Attorneys At Law in Portland, OR, today. We’ll help you understand when suing someone for negligence is the right idea based on the specifics of your case.
The Elements of Negligence in Car Accident Cases
In Oregon, there are four elements of negligence that determine whether you can sue another driver. The first step is to acknowledge the other driver owes you what’s called a “duty of care.” The defendant (the person being sued) must have owed a duty of care to the plaintiff (the person suing).
In car accident cases, this simply translates to an expectation that both drivers follow traffic laws and drive safely. Oregon assumes that everyone who agrees to be a licensed driver in our state accepts this duty of care each time they get behind the wheel. You don’t really have to prove to the court that the other driver owed you a duty of care; you just have to acknowledge that they did before your case begins.
The next step is proving that the defendant breached that duty. This breach could be any action that violates the duty of care, such as speeding, running a red light, distracted driving, or driving under the influence. Once we prove that the other driver neglected the duty of care they owed you in some way, we can move on to the actual cause of the accident.
The defendant’s breach of duty must have directly caused the accident and your injuries. This is kind of the tricky part. It means showing that the accident wouldn’t have happened if the defendant had not been negligent in their duty of care. In other words, their negligent actions caused the accident, and we just have to prove it by connecting those actions to the accident in a way that the court will understand.
Finally, the plaintiff must have suffered actual damages as a result of the accident. This means physical injuries, property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering caused by the incident. If the accident didn’t cost you any money or cause you any trauma, there’s nothing for the court to help with. Your case will be successful when you connect the damages you suffered with the actions of the defendant.
How Do I File a Negligence Claim for a Car Accident in Oregon?
Filing a negligence claim for a car accident involves several steps, and you may encounter a few challenges and issues along the way. It’s helpful to collect evidence from the accident scene, like photos, witness statements, and police reports. Medical records and bills are extremely helpful when proving your injuries and damages in court.
It’s also important to consult with one of our personal injury attorneys who specializes in car accident cases. We can assess your situation, guide you through the process, and handle your legal troubles before they even begin.
Before filing a lawsuit, there’s often a negotiation phase where your attorney and the insurance company try to reach a settlement. If a reasonable settlement cannot be reached, the next step is to file a lawsuit in the appropriate court. This must be done within Oregon’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims, which is generally two years from the date of the accident.
After filing a lawsuit, both parties take part in the discovery phase and exchange the information and evidence relevant to the case. Sometimes, cases go through mediation or arbitration in an attempt to reach a settlement before going to trial. If the case is not settled, it will proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will decide the outcome based on the evidence you and your attorney present. Usually, a direct lawsuit is the final step when the usual legal avenues have failed to get you the compensation you deserve.
Common Challenges that Arise From Suing for Negligence
Successfully proving all elements of negligence can be challenging. For instance, demonstrating that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused your injuries usually involves several difficult steps. Insurance companies may try to minimize payouts or deny claims altogether, so careful negotiation is often required.
If accidents involve multiple drivers, determining liability becomes even more complicated. Oregon follows a “modified comparative negligence” rule, meaning if you are a certain percentage at fault, your compensation may be reduced by that percentage. If you are found to be 50% or more responsible, you may not be able to recover any compensation at all.
Zbinden & Curtis Attorneys At Law
Zbinden & Curtis Attorneys At Law have been helping Oregon victims of car accidents for over four decades. If you need advice on where to go next or assistance on how to present your case effectively, call our Portland office today at (503) 287-5000.