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Your Portland Personal Injury Case: The Basics

Last updated: October 25, 2013

Picture this: you're biking to the food carts at 43rd and Belmont for lunch when a driver on a cell phone swerves into the bike lane, hitting your bike and causing you to swerve into the curb and fly head first onto the sidewalk. It can be incredibly frustrating to sustain an injury because of the negligent, reckless or wrongful act of another. Medical bills feel overwhelming, communications with insurance companies are confusing, and often the party at fault seems unwilling to take responsibility. It can be equally frustrating when you feel you've been unfairly accused of fault for someone else's injury.

Each state has personal injury laws to ensure that injured individuals are fairly compensated for losses they've incurred through an accident or injury caused by another. This guide has helpful information about Oregon personal injury law and things you should know about to your personal injury case in Portland.

First Steps After a Portland Accident

After you've seen to your health, there are certain steps you should take following an accident or injury in order to collect evidence that you may need later and preserve your right to bring a claim. Take a look at FindLaw's section First Steps After an Injury to see if there's anything more you can do to solidify your claim.

It may be some time after your injury before you're able to deal with a legal dispute. You may not even know the extent of your injuries until long after the accident occurred. However, you should keep in mind that Oregon laws, called statutes of limitations, restrict the amount of time you have to file different types of lawsuits.

In general, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Oregon is two years. This means that you have two years from the time that the accident or injury occurred to file a lawsuit. There are, however, exceptions for certain types of injuries or claims, such as injuries incurred through medical malpractice. Consult a Portland personal injury attorney for more information about the statute of limitations that applies to your case.

Who's liable in your Portland accident?

In most personal injury cases, the law of negligence determines who's liable for losses that occurred as a result of an accident or injury. Liability is based on fault. In the past, under the rule of contributory negligence, if an injured party was at fault for his injury even to the slightest degree, he would be unable to recover from another party at fault. Today, many states, including Oregon, employ a more fair system of comparative negligence to determine liability.  

In Portland, under Oregon's comparative negligence laws, an injured party who is partially at fault for his injury can still recover from other parties who are at fault, but only if the injured party's fault is not greater than the combined fault of the other parties involved. Bottom line: if you've been injured, as long as you are 50% or less at fault for your injury, you can recover money for your losses from others who are found to be at fault in the accident. Your recovery will, however, be reduced in proportion to your fault.

In some accidents, it's clear who's at fault. In others, proving fault can be more complex. For more information about how fault is determined in personal injury cases, read FindLaw's article about proving fault in accidents. If one or more parties involved in your accident are covered by insurance, take a look at FindLaw's section on Injury Claims and Insurance to cover all of your bases.

Filing your personal injury lawsuit in Portland

If your accident occurred in Portland, you'll file your personal injury case with the civil division of the Multnomah County Circuit Court at the Multnomah County Courthouse. If you haven't done so already, consider consulting a Portland personal injury attorney about your case. Injured parties who are represented by an attorney in their personal injury cases have a higher likelihood of maximizing their recovery.

After you've filed your claim and the opposing party or parties have formally answered your complaint, you'll most likely engage in discovery. Discovery is the process that both sides of a case use to obtain any records or evidence relevant to the claim. After discovery, settlement negotiations may follow.

If you're unable to reach a settlement or a pre-trial resolution, your case will proceed to trial. Anyone who files a civil claim for less than $50,000 with an Oregon circuit court is required to participate in Oregon's mandatory arbitration program (PDF) before the trial phase.

What might you be able to recover in your case?

In a personal injury case, an injured party can generally recover all losses he can prove he has incurred as a result of his injury. This court-awarded compensation is called damages. The Oregon legislature distinguishes between economic damages and non-economic damages in personal injury claims.

Economic damages are "objectively verifiable monetary losses" and include things like medical expenses, loss of past and future income, loss of services such as domestic services, and losses resulting from damage to property. In Oregon, there is no limit to the amount of economic damages a court may award to an injured party.

Non-economic damages are non-monetary losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of companionship. Under Oregon law, non-economic damages are capped at $500,000.

Now that you know a thing or two about your Portland personal injury case, learn more about personal injury law in FindLaw's section on Accidents and Injuries.