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Understanding A Personal Injury Case in Oregon 

Meeting with a personal injury lawyer in Oregon can introduce someone to a heap of complex legalese and processes. It can be challenging to parse, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the details of the law. 

If you have been injured due to another person’s negligence and are evaluating your legal rights, you are not alone. While exact numbers are not available, statisticians in the past have estimated that more than 300,000 personal injury cases are filed each year. 

Further, this statistic doesn’t consider the thousands of cases that are settled before a lawsuit is filed.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to approach your Oregon personal injury suit, and hopefully answer some of your questions about the process. 

How is a Personal Injury Settlement Structured?

Most businesses and industries have complexities that are not fully understood by those working outside the particular industry being discussed.

For example, a doctor will not likely to appreciate the minutiae involved in commercial property development. By the same token, the property developer almost certainly would not know how to diagnose a complicated medical condition.

Similarly, the process for resolving legal disputes has its own intricacies. Unless a person has been involved in an accident and resolved a personal injury claim, they likely do not fully understand all the ins and outs of the legal process and what it takes to finalize the resolution of a case. Thus, it is completely understandable that many litigants ask how their personal injury settlement will be structured.

In fact, not all personal injury settlements are structured the same way. Keep reading to learn some of the different circumstances and outcomes a personal injury settlement may entail.

Approximate Personal Injury Case Timeline in the State of Oregon

If you’ve decided that it’s time to seek out a personal injury attorney in Oregon, you might be curious as to the timeline of a personal injury case. Here’s a rough timeline of what you can expect.


Personal injury is a broad category, and can encapsulate many different factors. The most straightforward, and devastating, part of your case, the accident is where it all begins. At the time of the accident, be sure to take plenty of photos and video where possible. Obtain the names and contact information of witnesses, other victims, and who you assume to be the at-fault party, and take the steps you can to capture this moment as it happened.

In cases of severe injury, seek medical attention immediately.

Medical Treatment

If you’re hurt, even if you only suspect that you are, it’s best that you or any other injured persons seek medical treatment. A healthcare provider can properly assess your current state. Keep records of what is said and done, and hang on to any invoices or bills from this. If an injury impacts your quality of life, be sure to keep note of in what ways.

Know that a hospital lien can impact your case and recovery; if the injured party doesn’t have insurance or enough money to pay for treatment, a hospital lien may be put in place and taken from the final settlement amount to cover the bill.


Next, you or the injured party will want to consult an Oregon personal injury attorney if you feel someone else might be legally responsible. Here, you will need to present all of your evidence and records, ask plenty of questions (as we’ll discuss later) and get help deciding if you need to go to trial to achieve compensation for your losses.

Investigation and Discovery

After your consultation, if your attorney has decided that your case should go to trial, an interview will be conducted at a personal injury law firm. Here, an Oregon personal injury lawyer will attempt to get every single piece of information they can about the incident that led to the injury, as well as circumstances of lost wages, possible punitive damages, and medical expenses. They’ll do their best to put together the best case for you.

An investigator or accident reconstructionist might be hired to take a deeper look at the circumstances of a personal injury case. They might track down surveillance footage, visit the scene of the incident, and seek out additional helpful evidence you might have missed.

Trial and Settlement 

This element will take quite a while. Trials, retrials, and the intricacies of working with defense lawyers and insurance companies can be exceptionally complicated. Here, you may need to appear in court, meet with other party’s attornies, and communicate often with your own. 

Eventually, a ruling will be made. Judgments must be made concerning the intricacies of strict liability, negligence, intentional torts, and other complex factors. 

Personal Injury Settlement vs. Jury Verdict: Which is Better?

While most personal injury claims are ultimately settled, statistics also show that thousands of cases go to trial every year. Thus, it is unsurprising that we are constantly asked why some cases are settled while others continue to trial – and whether one outcome is better. 

What is the difference between a trial verdict and a settlement?

To put things into legal terms, a settlement is an enforceable contract that resolves the parties’ legal dispute. In other words, the parties agree to various contractual terms, including the amount of money paid to the injured plaintiff. In return, the compensated party agrees that the case is final and that no further requests for payment will be made. A settlement agreement can be negotiated before or after a lawsuit is filed.

Conversely, a verdict is a decision issued by the jury after considering all the evidence, law, and argument presented to them at a trial. The jury determines if the defendant is liable for damages, and if so, the amount of the damages. If the court accepts the verdict (which it usually does), it will issue a judgment based upon the verdict.

The benefits of settling a personal injury case

There are a number of benefits that are often associated with settlement, as discussed below.

  • Cost/efficiency: When parties are able and willing to settle a personal injury claim, the process is often more efficient and less costly. The parties can avoid paying expert witnesses to come to court and avoid other costs associated with trials. However, even with a settlement, it would be unusual for all of these costs to be avoided. For example, paying the necessary fees to obtain medical opinions is often necessary, even in cases of settlement, to convince insurance companies that serious damages are owed.
  • Stress reduction: Many litigants find the prospect of a trial to be quite stressful and seek to avoid that stress. We understand and attempt to resolve cases on behalf of our clients. Even if a trial becomes necessary, we attempt to shoulder the stress so that our clients don’t need to.
  • Maintaining control: Both parties maintain some amount of control of their own destinies when a settlement is reached. When a case goes to a jury, there can be unexpected results. Thus, settlement can help both parties shield themselves from the risk of the unknown.
  • Voluntary and immediate payment: Settlement negotiations usually result in the defendant (likely through his or her insurance company) paying the settlement amount promptly. Trials can delay this payment and result in drawn out appeals.

Are there times when a trial is preferred or necessary?

Absolutely. Every injury victim deserves to be fully compensated and made whole. On some occasions, the opposing party or insurance company simply refuses to pay a fair settlement. This can happen for lots of reasons that are no fault of the plaintiff. In those cases, a trial is necessary to fight for full compensation.

Additionally, there are some cases in which the parties simply disagree on the facts and a jury is needed to resolve the dispute. A perfect example is an intersection crash where both parties claim they had a green light.

When cases are settled, are they all handled the same way?

The short answer is “no.” For example, while the majority of cases are settled with lump sum cash payments, some settlements are structured with payouts over time. Moreover, even settlements that take the form of cash payments can be based on different types of damages. Following is a list of some typical types of damages that may or may not be involved in a particular personal injury lawsuit:

  • Ambulance expense
  • Property damage to car or the car’s contents
  • Hospital bills
  • Doctor’s bills
  • Lost wages
  • Medication expenses
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Physical therapy
  • Home nursing expenses
  • Future medical expenses and care
  • Pain and suffering

To settle a case, the parties have to consider the various types of damages and agree on a number that makes the injured victim whole. This is easier to accomplish when an injured person has a complete, or nearly complete, recovery.

For example, a victim who has a car crash and breaks her leg may fully recover after a period of time. In that case, after fully recovering, she knows there will be no more medical expenses or lost wages related to the accident. Knowing the precise expenses incurred by the victim makes it easier to settle the case and receive fair compensation.

What about people who suffer injuries that will never completely resolve? For example, consider a victim in a semi-truck or automobile accident who suffers a serious traumatic brain injury or other catastrophic injury.

Doctors state that the victim will need medical care for life and will not be able to return to work. Home nursing and other related expenses will never stop accruing. In such cases, the parties may reach a structured settlement which is designed to make payments to the injured party for life. Such settlements are usually accomplished with one or more annuities.

How Long Does a Personal Injury Case Take?

Every case is different; there is no definitive timeframe that anyone can promise as to how long a personal injury case will take in Oregon. At the very least, however, prepare for at least six months, but don’t be surprised if your settlement pushes over a year – or longer.

From insurance negotiations to complications regarding diagnosis, there are dozens of reasons why a personal injury settlement may feel like it’s taking too long. Keep up communication with your attorney if you’re worried, but know that if you have a knowledgeable lawyer on your side, they’re likely doing everything they can to keep your case moving forward.

Can I Handle My Own Personal Injury Case Without a Lawyer?

Americans have long prided themselves on being self-sufficient and independent. That attitude may resonate even more strongly in Oregon and across the west, where a DIY mentality has existed for a long time.

But with the advent of the internet and its free-flowing information on virtually any topic, the DIY movement has hit epic proportions. In fact, Inc. magazine cites research predicting that the DIY marketplace will be worth more than $13.9 billion by 2021, with much more growth in the future. People are attracted to DIY projects for many reasons, including stress release, creative expression, and saving money.

So, while taking on your landscaping or remodeling project may be worthwhile, what about representing yourself in a lawsuit? 

Not All Legal Cases Are the Same

First, let’s clarify that not all legal cases are identical. Certainly, people can, and do, represent themselves with reasonable effectiveness in small matters that have limited consequences.

For example, the cost may not justify an attorney for minor issues in traffic court or small claims court. Some people are able to negotiate effectively with insurance companies when there is slight property damage, no personal injury, and no real concern over a finding of fault. (However, mistakes in even these cases could have grave consequences if any person suffered harm from an accident).

In other cases, mediation may be possible, and there are some benefits to this process – and limitations, as well. 

Handling Personal Injury Cases

The stakes are much higher in personal injury cases, and so are the consequences of making a mistake. Insurance companies become involved and will hire lawyers who fight hard to protect the insurance company’s financial interests.

Thus, it’s not a good idea to try and handle a personal injury case on your own.

We’ll discuss a few of the issues you will face if you decide to represent yourself (referred to as appearing “pro se” in legal terms).

Understanding Substantive Law

Do you know when the statute of limitations runs for your case? Is it the same for each cause of action? Is it tolled for some reason? Will you face any comparative negligence issues at trial? Are you up to date on federal and state statutory and regulatory law? In short, how well do you know personal injury law, especially as it regards your state?

Remember, federal laws can apply to certain types of cases, such as interstate trucking and nursing home malpractice cases. And what about insurance contract law? Do you know the legal ramifications related to different types of coverages, such as liability, no-fault, and uninsured motorist provisions? Are you prepared to litigate over a policy dispute?

Understanding Procedural Law

Do you know how to file a complaint and conduct discovery? Do you know or can you learn the rules of civil procedure? Will you know how to respond to a motion for summary judgment or a motion to dismiss? These motions are very technical, occur in many personal injury cases, and can result in the loss of the case before ever getting to trial.

Handling a Trial

If your case goes to trial, do you know the rules of evidence? You can have a great case but hit a roadblock if you don’t know how to get your evidence introduced in court. Do you know which experts you will need at trial and how to cross-examine the other party’s expert witnesses?

Miscellaneous Issues

Do you know whether or not you are required to talk to an insurance adjuster and give a recorded statement? Do you know what to expect if you do? Stating your position incorrectly can lead to disastrous results for your case. Are you entitled to punitive damages in cases of negligence or malicious intent? Can you be eligible for financial compensation in cases of emotional distress?

These are just a few considerations that should demonstrate that even the smartest of people should hire a trained and experienced Oregon personal injury attorney before taking on a personal injury lawsuit. It’s just too risky to try and go it alone.

How Does Delay in Hiring a Lawyer Harm Your Personal Injury Case?

Does your life sometimes feel like a never-ending checklist of items you just can’t quite complete? Our kids, spouses, jobs, pets, parents, homes, cars, and other responsibilities all want a piece of our time. It was once hoped that technology would give people more free time, but because it makes everyone so accessible, it seems to have done the opposite – adults are busier than ever.

As a result, it’s easy to put things off.

But sometimes, delay can be harmful. Failure to seek medical care for disease or illness is a perfect example. A circumstance that is perhaps less obvious is to put off hiring a lawyer after sustaining a personal injury due to the negligence of another.

There are a number of ways in which a delay in hiring an attorney can harm a personal injury victim.

Understanding Statutes of Limitation

There are time limits on how long a victim can wait to file a lawsuit. These limits are mostly outlined in a state’s statutory law and are called statutes of limitation. If you file your case after the running of the statute of limitations, it will likely be dismissed.

To make things more complicated, these limited time periods can vary for different causes of action. In most states, for example, the statute of limitations for personal injury is shorter than the statute of limitations for property damage. To add another twist, there are sometimes unique situations that “toll” the statute of limitations, meaning that a person may have additional time to file a lawsuit. By hiring a lawyer promptly, you can avoid a case-killing mistake.

Knowing What Evidence to Gather and Preserve

When a car crash or other type of accident occurs, the insured parties are obligated to notify their insurers. From the moment the negligent driver’s insurance company learns of the accident, it will start working to accumulate any kind of evidence it can find that might limit your claim. A delay in obtaining your own representation can give the negligent party a huge head start.

Making an Opposing Party Preserve and Disclose Evidence

As important as it is to gather your own evidence, it can be equally important (or even more important) to obtain evidence from the other party. For example, in a semi-truck accident, the trucking company may have all kinds of records related to the condition of the truck and the driver. They may even have evidence that the driver was speeding or negligent in other ways. It’s crucial that such evidence be preserved and not destroyed.

An experienced Oregon personal injury lawyer, such as those at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, knows how to obtain this evidence and to put the opposing party on notice that it is required to preserve such evidence.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Most personal injury cases involve insurance companies. The interplay between various coverages can be complicated. Plus, representatives of these companies will want to speak with you and likely will seek a recorded interview. Do you know the extent to which you should cooperate? Most people don’t. An experienced attorney can help you navigate these issues.

Obtaining Timely Resolution

If you have a good case, it can be worth a lot of money. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, which means they don’t enjoy paying it out. An experienced lawyer can help keep your case moving so that you can recover sooner.

Avoiding Missteps

Personal injury victims with legitimate claims can make mistakes that really hurt their recoveries in the end. These missteps can include social media blunders, mistakes with medical treatment, and making inadvertent statements against interest to insurance adjusters and others. A lawyer can help you avoid these mistakes.

What Should You Bring to Your First Meeting with Your Personal Injury Attorney?

As your first meeting approaches, it’s completely normal to feel some apprehension. After all, most people are not accustomed to dealing with the legal system. But as with almost everything, preparation can reduce, or even eliminate, stress or anxiety.


1. Law Enforcement and Other Investigative Materials

In many personal injury cases, some type of investigation results. For example, law enforcement officers prepare accident reports after investigating traffic accidents. Insurance companies, grocery stores, and other businesses conduct investigations when people are injured on their property. In fact, the injured victim is sometimes asked to fill out a form.

You may or may not have access to these various documents. However, if you have copies of any such reports or any other materials related to the investigation of your accident, bring them with you.

2. Photographs and Video

We’ve heard all through our lives that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This can be especially true when recreating an accident scene or explaining damages to a jury. If you have photographs, videos, or other representations of an accident scene, damaged automobiles, injuries, parties, or anything else related to your case, bring them all to the meeting.

Even a photograph that you think is unimportant or of poor quality may reveal something that your attorney thinks is important.

And don’t shy away from photographs that you think are harmful to your case. It’s better that your attorney knows everything now. Plus, your attorney’s assessment of the photograph may be different than yours.

3. Medical Treatment and Diagnostic Information

Every medical diagnosis and all medical treatment notes are important. If you have notes or other information from hospitals, doctors, and other medical care providers, bring them. That way, your attorneys can start putting together your medical history as soon as possible.

Your prior medical records may also be relevant to the case. Therefore, you also need to bring any information you have concerning injuries or accidents that occurred before the accident you intend to discuss with your attorney.

In cases of wrongful death, bring any medical examiner or autopsy information associated with the accident victim to the law firm for your initial consultation.

4. Costs and Expenses Related to Injuries and Medical Treatment

Remember, when you are injured as a result of another’s negligence, you are entitled to recover all of your medical expenses and other costs related to the accident. Therefore, it’s important to bring all records of expenses you have incurred.

This can include hospital bills, doctor bills, prescription costs, nursing care, chiropractor bills, ambulance expenses, diagnostic expenses (such as x-rays, MRIs and CT scans) and any other similar expenses.

5. Wage Documentation

Personal injury victims are also entitled to recover for lost wages. Therefore, if you have missed work, it’s helpful to bring some recent pay stubs, tax returns, or other documentation of your earnings and salary. Also, bring any information you might possess that documents the amount of time you have missed from work.


6. Insurance Information

Bring copies of all correspondence from or with any insurer. Bring a copy of the declarations page of any insurance policy that you think might apply to your case, including your own auto and health policies. Sometimes, personal injury victims are surprised to learn that a variety of different insurance policies might be applicable to the case. Therefore, your lawyer will quiz you carefully in this regard.

If you have received any documentation from an insurer regarding the accident or your treatment, bring it. This includes any documents, questionnaires, or forms that your health or automobile insurer has asked you to complete.

7. Plenty Of Questions

Finally, when you arrive to your consultation with an Oregon personal injury lawyer, you should be armed with plenty of questions to ask. After all, that is what a consultation is all about. Before you leave, it would be wise to write down any questions you have as they pop into your head. Consider every angle of your situation, and every aspect of the personal injury suit process – what about it are you unclear on?

The consultant is there to help. Don’t be afraid that you’re bothering or wasting the time of your attorney by having a long list of questions. 

Tip: Need inspiration as to what questions to ask your lawyer during a consultation? Based on our decades of experience, Nelson MacNeil Rayfield has a blog post of what we feel are essential questions to ask.

 Call With Questions 

Settling complex personal injury cases can be an intimidating process for those who do not work in the legal industry. In addition to determining a fair amount of damages, the settlement may need to be structured to payout over time. Tax and other considerations may come into play.

We understand that if you have a personal injury case, you are likely to have many questions. We are here to answer them. The personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have settled countless personal injury cases. Please call us for a free consultation. We believe it is essential to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions so that all of society can be made safer.