This article looks at a few key Oregon laws related to car accident claims and settlements, including time limits for filing a lawsuit, and how your claim might be affected if you’re found to be partially at fault for causing the accident. Read on for the details.
Note: If you’re looking for more general information on car accident settlements and valuing a claim, visit our Car Accident Settlements section.
Oregon, like every other state, has laws that limit the timeframe in which you may file a lawsuit. These restrictions are called “statutes of limitations,” and they vary based on the type of case you're filing. The relevant deadlines for car accident lawsuits in Oregon are:
Keep in mind that these time limits apply to bringing a lawsuit, not to filing a claim with a car insurance carrier (yours or the other driver's). Take a look at your policy to understand the claim filing procedure and any requirements related to getting the claim process started. But the deadlines discussed above should inform your course of action when you negotiate with an insurance company. If you still have the option to file suit, you will have more leverage in negotiations. If you do not have this option, the insurance company does not have any reason to give you anything. With Oregon's generous deadlines, it's unlikely you'll run out of time to file a lawsuit, but it's something to remember.
Finally, if your car accident involved the government in any way (a city bus rear-ended you, or the accident happened on government property, for example), then the ordinary statutes of limitations are usually inapplicable. You'll likely need to file an administrative claim over the incident, and you'll need to act quickly to preserve your right.
States have different ways of dealing with situations in which more than one party is at least partially at fault for an accident (this is called "comparative fault").
In legalese, Oregon is a “modified comparative negligence" state. This means that in Oregon, you can recover against any party that is more at-fault than yourself, but your recovery will be reduced based on your share of liability for the car accident.
This rule applies to judge or jury awards in civil lawsuits (if you have to take your case to court), but it will also be a serious consideration with an insurance claims adjuster. Claims adjusters have to keep an eye toward what would happen if the case went to trial, so the comparative fault rules are important to them in valuing a claim. Of course, there is no precise way to empirically apportion fault -- it may come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster (or convince a judge or jury).
An example will illustrate how Oregon's “modified comparative negligence” rule applies in real life. Let’s say that you are going a few miles over the speed limit when another driver cuts in front of you to make a left turn. You cannot slow down quickly enough, so you collide with him. Your losses (medical bills, vehicle damage, etc.) are $10,000. A jury (or adjuster) may find that the other driver is primarily at fault -- 80% responsible -- but you are still at fault because you were speeding -- we’ll say 20%. This means that your potential $10,000 award or settlement would be reduced to $8,000 (the original $10,000 in damages minus $2,000 that is attributable to your own liability.)
Finally, if your liability is greater than 50%, you will not be able to recover anything at all from other at-fault parties under Oregon's rules.
Oregon laws on car insurance may also come into play after a car accident. For everything you need to know about car insurance in Oregon -- including the minimum amounts of coverage required for registered vehicles in operation in the state -- check out our companion article Car Insurance Laws in Oregon.