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Auto Accidents In Oregon

Oregon has over 4.1 million registered vehicles, and 3.1 million drivers. From a combination of wet and rainy weather, and regular congestion on the busy Portland roads or the tightly-packed coastal route 101, accidents are bound to happen. 

Unexpected, overwhelming, and capable of immediately changing your day, month, or even your life, an automobile accident is an incredibly serious and unfortunately common occurrence in the US. In the first half of 2022 alone, 20,175 people died in traffic accidents. While that statistic is down from 2020, it still paints a picture of how common these accidents are and how severe they can be. 

In the event of an injury, the costs of hospitals, doctors, ambulances and other medical needs can mount rapidly. Sometimes, a person injured in an auto accident will require rehabilitation, nursing, home care, and other services. 

Before you reach out to a legal professional to help with your case, it’s essential to understand the ins and outs of an auto accident personal injury claim in the state of Oregon. 

What To Do After an Auto Accident 

The moments right after an auto accident can be harrowing. You’ll likely be scared, startled, confused, and, possibly, injured. Of course, at the moment, it may be difficult to think clearly and decide what to do. If you’re reading this after the accident has already occurred, skip ahead here. If you’re reading this as a proactive measure, keep reading. 


These tips aren’t just best practices; they’re actually part of Oregon Revised Statutes 811.700 and 811.705. These post-accident reporting laws are essential in the event of property damage, injuries, or wrongful death. 

  • Stop – Stop the car where it is safe to do so while remaining close to the scene. Get out of immediate traffic, pulling into a parking lot or onto the road shoulder. 
  • Assist – Help the injured parties. If the injuries are serious enough, see that they can either be brought to a hospital or that an ambulance is en route. 
  • Communicate – Speak with the other party. Give them your name, address, and your insurance information. This includes the policy number and phone number. 
    • If you’re not the owner of the vehicle, include the name and address of the owner. If other occupants were present, provide their information too, especially if they were injured. 
  • Call for help – Even in the event of a minor accident, it may be wise to call in help from the police. As well, seeking a professional medical opinion is a smart move, as there may be slow-developing signs of injury after a car accident.

After the Accident 

Here is what you should do after a car crash: 

  • Collect evidence – Take photos of the accident scene and any damages to yourself, any surrounding property, and any cars involved – including the other person’s if you’re able. If you’re able to, take a photo of the area where the crash happened. Do this as soon as possible so that accident reconstructionists can properly recreate the scene if needed. 
    • As well, speak with eyewitnesses, recording their responses if possible.
  • Notify your insurance company – Once information has been exchanged, injuries are being seen to, and evidence is collected, notify your insurance company. This is crucial to ensuring they’ll be able to cover your claim. If possible, do it that same day, if not immediately. 
  • Contact an attorney – If you think you’ll want to bring your Oregon car accident to a lawsuit, contact a knowledgeable, experienced auto accident attorney. Nelson MacNeil Rayfield provides free consultations, where we can answer your questions and get you on the right path. 

How Long Do I Have To File An Auto Accident Lawsuit in Oregon? 

Across the country, every state has its own statutes of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit following a car accident. In Oregon, per ORS § 12.110, when a car accident has led to a physical injury, the statute for filing is two years from the date of the accident. Filing after that mark will bar the case from being investigated, and prevent the defendant from recovering damages. 

The exception arises when the accident instead results in death in accordance with statute ORS § 30.020. In that case, a family member is able to file a wrongful death lawsuit within three years. Wrongful death suits can sometimes overlap with auto accident cases, so it’s imperative that potential defendants collect and preserve evidence carefully. 

Another exception is in the case of property damage without accompanying physical injury. Here, the filing time limit is 6 years, as outlined in ORS § 12.080. 

Proving Fault in an Oregon Auto Accident 

In any state, proving fault after an auto accident can be extremely difficult. You may firmly believe that the other party was entirely responsible for the accident, but your opinion will only get you so far. This is just as true in the case of Oregon auto accidents as it is in the rest of the country. Oregon runs on a fault-based insurance claim system. 

The point of fault is going to come down to determining that a party was negligent – or, that someone else did not act in a way they were meant to by common reason within the law. 

Typically, figuring out that negligence comes down to establishing three things: 

  • The other driver owed you a duty to exercise reasonable care; 
  • That duty was breached; 
  • You were injured due to that breach of duty. 

There may be cases where an accident is not the fault of another driver, as much as it is outside factors. In some cases, poorly maintained roads, parking lots or parking garages may result in an accident. For these unusual circumstances, Oregon premises liability laws may come into play instead. 

Other times, the car itself may be to blame. Here, an attorney may turn to the manufacturers in the case of a defective part within the car itself. In these cases, the manufacturer may ultimately be found liable if they had not previously issued a recall about this part. 

How is fault determined?

It should come as no surprise that each liability insurer would prefer to blame fault on the opposing driver. Proving negligence or negligence per se can involve long battles of testimony, evidence, and discussion. Determining fault in the context of an Oregon auto accident often comes from insurance companies, trial juries, and legal representation. 

Through Insurance Companies

Oregon law requires liability insurance coverage on all automobiles. However, a liability insurer must only pay this coverage if its insured is at fault for the accident. 

First, the insurance companies involved will assign adjusters to the case. These adjusters will examine the facts of the accident. This usually includes a thorough examination of the damaged vehicles, a review of the police report, and an examination of the accident scene, if warranted. This is where the collection of evidence, as referenced earlier in this blog post, can become a crucial piece of the puzzle surrounding your Oregon car accident case. 

Adjusters usually take numerous photographs, attempt to interview witnesses and obtain statements, and ultimately compare the physical evidence with the statements to draw conclusions. This time can be stressful – it is key to remember that these steps are all necessary for determining fault. 

The more serious the accident, the more intense the investigation will be. For example, the insurance company may seek the assistance of an accident reconstruction expert, who measures skid marks and considers various factors to estimate the speed and movement of the vehicles.

As a note of caution, remember that the opposing driver’s insurer does not have your best interest at heart. Therefore, you should consult your attorney before speaking with the other driver’s insurance company. 

Through a Trial Jury

 While drivers, insurance adjusters, and lawyers may all have their opinions, they may not be able to agree with one another in assigning fault, especially if one party is not being wholly truthful. If the parties and their insurance companies cannot settle, we turn to the legal system and impartial juries. 

An attorney who is representing you in this case will have presented evidence and made a claim toward your position in the case that the jury will use to ultimately land upon a verdict. 

The Passenger’s Rights in an Automobile Accident 

Automobile passengers who suffer personal injuries in motor vehicle accidents have the same rights to be compensated for their injuries as anyone else. Passengers are often in the best position to prove their right to recover. 

Assume a passenger is riding in a car that has a crash with another automobile or tractor-trailer truck. The drivers of both vehicles and the associated automobile passengers all suffer serious injuries. Who can recover against whom? What is the proper procedure in such a case? 

Regarding the drivers, the determination of liability may prevent one of the drivers from recovering. However, a passenger is rarely responsible for an accident. Therefore, the passenger is free to sue either or both drivers. Thus, while the driver’s negligence may limit their recovery, the passenger typically will not face such a limitation.

Indeed, there are rare instances where a passenger takes action, such as grabbing the steering wheel or distracting the driver, that may be considered negligent and affect recovery. Still, these are the exception and not the rule.

Discomfort Over Suing a Driver

Sometimes, the negligent driver is actually the passenger’s friend or family member, and we understand that the idea of suing such a person is unpleasant. We cannot tell you that you should or should not sue another driver, but be advised that in some cases, it is the best course of action in terms of recovering economic damages. 

Ultimately, we recommend speaking with a licensed Oregon auto accident attorney. They can answer your questions about your rights as a passenger in an auto accident, and what you should do to potentially file a claim. 

Oregon Auto Insurance Claims 

As we have previously discussed, Oregon law requires every automobile driver to carry certain minimum coverages. This includes personal injury protection (“PIP”), which provides coverage regardless of fault, and uninsured motorist coverage, which applies when the liable party does not have insurance or has an insufficient amount of coverage.

Oregon requires the following insurance coverages:

Bodily Injury and Property Damage 

  • $25,000.00 bodily injury liability for a single person
  • $50,000.00 bodily injury liability for multiple people in a single accident
  • $20,000.00 property damage

Personal Injury Protection 

  • $15,000.00 per person 

Uninsured Motorist (UM)

  • $25,000.00 UM coverage per person
  • $50,000.00 UM coverage per crash

Keep in mind that multiple insurance policies may apply, including the passenger’s own insurance if one is involved. In some instances, the coverages “stack,” meaning that recovery is permitted under more than one policy. These determinations can be complicated, and the help of an experienced personal injury attorney is advisable.

What If I Don’t Have Insurance? 

In Oregon, carrying proof of insurance is required by law while operating a vehicle. While it is possible to navigate a claim without insurance, it can be much more difficult to recover your damages. Without insurance, you might be held personally responsible for any of the damages you’re determined to have caused. Additionally, if you’re found to be uninsured, you may be subject to a fine between $130 and $1,000, plus the suspension of your license for a year. 

Types of Insurance Applicable to an Auto Accident Claim

Liability Insurance

Every automobile liability insurance policy issued in Oregon provides liability coverage for the insured and each family member of the insured who resides in the insured’s household. Liability insurance protects a person who negligently causes injury to another.

Importantly, liability insurance provides important benefits to those who are injured via negligence. Additionally, insurance allows those who purchase it to protect their assets should they be held responsible for negligently causing harm to another person.

In some cases, your Oregon car accident may be more severe than what can be covered by minimum liability insurance. This is why we suggest purchasing additional insurance. 

Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Underinsured Motorist Coverage provides an insured with coverage for bodily injury or death from an accident when the responsible party either does not have insurance coverage, or has insufficient insurance coverage to fully cover the injured party’s losses.

Personal Injury Protection

Personal injury protection coverage is a no-fault form of insurance that pays the medical bills for anyone injured in a collision.

That means that it will pay the medical bills of any insured person covered under the policy, regardless of who is at fault for causing the accident. 

Oregon Revised Statutes Annotated § 742.520 provides that PIP benefits shall cover the insured; members of the insured’s family residing in the same household; children being reared by the insured in the insured’s household, even if not related to the insured by blood, marriage, or adoption; passengers in the motor vehicle; and pedestrians struck by the motor vehicle.

Comprehensive Coverage 

Comprehensive coverage is often offered by motor insurance companies as a way to ‘cover their bases.’ While this is not always needed within a car accident case, it will still provide coverage in cases of damage when it is not caused by a collision. This includes fire, falling objects, vandalism, and more. However, there may be cases where this applies to an auto accident. 

How do I Find An Oregon Car Accident Attorney? 

Navigating a personal injury auto accident case can be a massive challenge for anyone, and finding the right Oregon attorney is the key to making the process much easier. Even a free consultation can go a long way in getting you on the right track. 

An experienced Oregon car accident attorney can help you tackle the challenges of dealing with insurance companies, struggling to return to work, keeping track of appointments and medical bills, and much more. 

To find an Oregon auto accident attorney, the best way to know if they’re a good fit is to ask questions. Discuss your problem and your current options. A good attorney will be able to display a wealth of knowledge and experience while remaining compassionate and understanding. 

What can an attorney do?

Speaking with an attorney is not just about wanting to have a trial and go to court. Just because you get a consultation, doesn’t mean you’ll be obligated to go through with a time-consuming court case. The benefit of speaking with an auto accident attorney is that they have the necessary expertise to guide you through the complexities of your claim, including:

  • Understanding how and when to deal with insurance companies
  • Aiding you in the collection of medical evidence
  • Correctly and accurately documenting lost wages or earning capacity
  • Taking your case to trial – if necessary. It might not be in every instance. 

An attorney can’t guarantee a perfect outcome, but they can make sure you get the best possible care and counsel.

Contact Us

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we have decades of cumulative auto accident personal injury experience. Our knowledgeable, compassionate attornies are here to guide you through the process of getting back on track after an accident. Contact us today for a free consultation.