Dylan is sitting at a red light in downtown Portland when behind him a truck comes up to the red light too fast, hits the car waiting behind Dylan, and pushes that car into Dylan’s car, causing a chain reaction car accident.
Dylan feels immediate neck and back pain as soon as the collision occurs. The police come, give the truck driver a ticket for failure to yield, and call an ambulance for Dylan. X-rays at the hospital are negative, and so the doctor refers Dylan to his general practitioner. Dylan sees his doctor, who tells him to rest for a while. After a week, Dylan is no better, so he sees a chiropractor. The chiropractor sees him for a couple of weeks, but Dylan still isn’t improving.
Finally, Dylan sees an orthopedist, who takes repeat x-rays, and then an MRI. The MRI shows two bulging discs in Dylan’s cervical region (the neck and upper back). The orthopedist says that the car accident caused those discs to bulge. He recommends intensive physical therapy and home exercises if Dylan wants to avoid surgery.
Dylan spends the next four months in physical therapy two to four times a week. He does home exercises every day. Finally, eight months post-accident, Dylan is feeling about 70% better. The orthopedist says that Dylan might get a little better, but that he should not expect to fully recover. Dylan is a lawyer. He did not come into work for five weeks. He worked part time from home during that time. His firm paid him for part time work, and he received five weeks of private short term disability.
Dylan needs to be aware of Oregon’s statute of limitations for car accidents, which gives him two years to get any lawsuit filed over the crash.
If you have not settled the case, and you don’t file a lawsuit within this two-year time period, your case is over unless you fall within one of the very limited exceptions that might stop the clock. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you can’t settle your case well before the statute of limitations expires, it may be time to contact an Oregon car accident lawyer. Learn more about Oregon Car Accident Laws that could affect your case.
As Dylan is recovering from his car accident injuries, he should keep both adjusters informed of his progress.
You want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the medical and financial documentation that supports your claim for damages. You also want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the information necessary to evaluate who was at fault in the accident. That is important in any case, even a case like Dylan’s, where liability will be pretty straightforward given that it was a rear-end collision and the trucker got a ticket.
In Oregon, under the state's "comparative fault" rule, if you are found at all negligent with respect to your injury, your award of damages is diminished in proportion to your fault, up to a certain point. If, for example, you were awarded $200,000 in damages, but were found 30% at fault, your damages would be reduced to $140,000. However, if you were found to be more than 50% at fault, you would receive no damages whatsoever.
In order to maximize your potential recovery, you want to make absolutely sure that the defendant’s adjuster knows that you did nothing wrong. (Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
It's important to note that the other driver may carry only the minimum amount of liability insurance required under Oregon car insurance laws. If your medical bills and other damages exceed those minimums, but the other driver carries no additional coverage, then an insurance settlement may not cover your losses. In that situation, you may want to talk to an attorney about your other options.
In Dylan’s case, his out-of-pocket (compensatory) damages total $28,500. The breakdown looks like this:
Dylan also received $2,500 in short term disability benefits. By the terms of his disability insurance contract, he must repay the disability insurer out of the proceeds of his settlement.
Dylan and his attorney decide that another $100,000 in damages is appropriate to compensate for Dylan’s pain and suffering in connection with the accident, and they make an initial demand of $125,000 to settle the claim with the trucker. He does not make a claim against the other driver. After negotiating with the insurance adjuster, Dylan accepts $95,000 as a final settlement.
As mentioned above, you want to settle your claim or file a lawsuit (or at least turn the case over to a lawyer) well before the statute of limitations time period runs out. But you also don’t want to settle it too early -- meaning before you are either fully recovered or are as good as you are going to get. This is known as reaching "maximum medical improvement" or MMI. In Dylan’s case, he was at MMI, and so he was ready to settle. Learn more about Settling a Car Accident Case.