Frequently Asked Questions about Automobile Accidents from a Portland, Oregon Attorney:
How did Jennie Clark, Attorney at Law become interested in auto accidents? I was rear-ended three times in one year by at-fault drivers and underwent my own recovery process. I hired an attorney and he committed malpractice on my case and he was sanctioned by the Oregon State Bar. I later contacted the Professional Liability Fund in order to receive compensation for my injuries and unpaid bills. Thus, I know what it is like to be injured and have my entire life and ability to work affected. I also know what it is like not to be adequately represented. Naturally, I do my best to give my clients far better understanding and representation than I have received when I was injured in an auto accident.
What should I do after an auto accident?
Be polite and find out if anyone needs emergency assistance.
Take photos of the vehicles with your cell phone prior to moving them.
Obtain contact information including names, addresses and phone numbers for any witnesses.
Notify DMV and your insurance company of the accident.
Photograph visible injuries and property damage to your vehicle.
Promptly obtain reasonable medical care.
Contact an attorney and keep an injury diary for attorney/client communication.
What if my case is not worth a whole lot; is it worth it for me to hire an attorney or should I go to small claims court? There are attorney fee provisions under some statutes such as ORS 20.080. These attorney fee provisions help maximize value for cases worth $10,000.00 or less. If the case is filed after a 30-day demand letter and arbitrated and the arbitration award is higher than what the insurance company offered, then attorney fees and costs are awarded.
What are the chances of my case going to trial? All cases in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington county filed for under $50,000.00 must go to mandatory arbitration. If either side appeals the arbitration award, they must better their position at trial or risk paying the other parties attorney fees and expenses. Thus, most cases that are filed for under $50,000.00 are resolved at the arbitration level rather than risk incurring the other side’s attorney fees if a better result is not obtained by a jury. About 1/2 of my cases settle without ever filing a lawsuit. Many cases settle after a lawsuit is filed. About 10 – 20% of cases go to arbitration or jury trial. All cases in most counties filed for over $50,000.00 go to jury trial, unless the case is successfully mediated.
What are the hard costs other than attorney’s fees for litigating a case? (Note: these estimates are subject to change and not controlled by the attorney.)
Postage, photocopies, parking, mileage
Medical Records (Most medical providers charge $30.00 for the first page and .25 cents thereafter, as these are the maximum limits under ORS 192.521.
Investigative fees. Some, but not all cases, require investigative fees. Most investigators charge around $50.00 – $75.00hour.
Filing fee is currently $137.00 for cases under $10,000.00 and the fees increase depending on the amount of money that you are demanding and the number of people you are filing a lawsuit against.
Service of process is generally $60.00 at minimum for local service on each defendant but can increase with last minute service, service at more than one location or service in another state, which can sometimes exceed $100.00.
Deposition fees: This depends on how long the deposition lasts and whether or not we want transcripts of the deposition.
Arbitration fees: These are generally $500.00 per party for arbitrators that are willing to hear court-mandated arbitrations but can be more for some arbitrators.
Trial fees for state court: These are usually over $200.00/day.
Expert witness fees: These, of course, depend on the expert witness. Most expert medical providers in the Portland area charge $3,000.00 – $10,000.00 or more to testify trial. In order to justify paying this kind of expense, the case usually should be worth at minimum $75,000.00 and preferably worth $100,000.00 in light of the risks of litigation. Otherwise, I recommend reducing the demand to $50,000.00 to avoid such high litigation costs and risks. Most cases involving injury require medical testimony in order to prove that the medical expenses were reasonable, necessary and accident related.
What is the statute of limitations on an auto accident case? Unfortunately, sometimes I have to turn down cases due to statute of limitations issues. On most injury claims, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the date of the injury. See ORS 12.110 for limited exceptions. If your claim involves a governmental agency, you must have tort claim notice filed within 180 days under ORS 30.275. This includes, but is not limited to, claims against Tri-met.
If I don’t like my arbitration or trial award, how long do I have to appeal? If you are unhappy with your arbitration award, you have 20 days to appeal once the judgment is entered under UTCR 13.250. If you are unhappy with your trial award and if the judge abused her/his discretion during trial you have 30 days to file an appeal under ORAP 2.05. These statutes deadlines are subject to change by the legislature.
Why should I obtain an attorney sooner, rather than later, after an automobile accident that wasn’t my fault? While my office generally doesn’t send out a demand letter until after you have finished treating, I usually give my clients much needed advice so that they maximize the value of their claim, rather than diminish the value of their claim. Naturally, if you wait until shortly before the statute of limitations to try to resolve your claim, many attorney’s will not accept your case for filing on a last minute basis due to the liability involved.