This web site provides information about accident cases. If your accident case has
- an insured defendant who is clearly at fault,
- a reasonable insurance adjuster for the defendant,
- a specific amount of damages that will satisfy you, and
- the amount of money damages is not a large number,
then you may want to handle your claim by yourself without hiring an attorney. This can save you the money that would go for the attorney fee, usually about one-third of the amount recovered.
For example, a car accident may result in the other driver (but not you) being given a traffic citation for breaking a traffic law. This implies that the other driver was negligent. If the other driver who broke the law caused the accident, then the other driver’s insurance company may be prepared to go ahead and pay what you show is a fair amount.
Nolo Press publishes a book about the do-it-yourself approach to a claim. The title is How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Joseph Matthews. This book is available on Amazon.com, and has good reviews, or directly from Nolo Press.
Chapter 1 of the book gives some considerations about when you can go ahead by yourself, and when you should get an attorney.
“With basic information about how the accident claims process works, a bit of organization, and a little patience, you can handle your own injury claim without a lawyer – and without the insurance company unfairly denying or reducing your compensation.” From Chapter 1, under the topic “Why You Often Can Handle Your Own Claim”.
If you want to try to handle your claim by yourself, then I recommend that you get the book and read it to help you understand the process.
Oregon law allows attorney fees for negligence cases up to $10,000
There is a major advantage to the injured person for a small case in Oregon. If you have an Oregon case that is worth $10,000 or less ($7,500 or less before January 1, 2012), there is a statute that gives to the injured party but not to the defendant’s insurance company, attorney fees if you win.
Below is the law effective January 1, 2012:
Oregon Revised Statutes section 20.080. (1) In any action for damages for an injury or wrong to the person or property, or both, of another where the amount pleaded is $10,000 or less, and the plaintiff prevails in the action, there shall be taxed and allowed to the plaintiff, at trial and on appeal, a reasonable amount to be fixed by the court as attorney fees for the prosecution of the action, if the court finds that written demand for the payment of such claim was made on the defendant, and on the defendant’s insurer, if known to the plaintiff, not less than 30 days before the commencement of the action or the filing of a formal complaint under ORS 46.465, or not more than 30 days after the transfer of the action under ORS 46.461. However, no attorney fees shall be allowed to the plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant tendered to the plaintiff, prior to the commencement of the action or the filing of a formal complaint under ORS 46.465, or not more than 30 days after the transfer of the action under ORS 46.461, an amount not less than the damages awarded to the plaintiff.
(2) If the defendant pleads a counterclaim, not to exceed $10,000, and the defendant prevails in the action, there shall be taxed and allowed to the defendant, at trial and on appeal, a reasonable amount to be fixed by the court as attorney fees for the prosecution of the counterclaim.
(3) A written demand for the payment of damages under this section must include the following information, if the information is in the plaintiff’s possession or reasonably available to the plaintiff at the time the demand is made:
(a) In an action for an injury or wrong to a person, a copy of medical records and bills for medical treatment adequate to reasonably inform the person receiving the written demand of the nature and scope of the injury claimed; or
(b) In an action for damage to property, documentation of the repair of the property, a written estimate for the repair of the property or a written estimate of the difference in the value of the property before the damage and the value of the property after the damage.
(4) If after making a demand under this section, and before commencing an action, a plaintiff acquires any additional information described in subsection (3) of this section that was not provided with the demand, the plaintiff must provide that information to the defendant, and to the defendant’s insurer, if known to the plaintiff, as soon as possible after the information becomes available to the plaintiff.
(5) A plaintiff may not recover attorney fees under this section if the plaintiff does not comply with the requirements of subsections (3) and (4) of this section.
(6) The provisions of this section do not apply to any action based on contract.
As a result of this law, you can usually get an attorney to take a smaller case, even when a share of the recovery would not justify all the legal work required, especially if the case goes to trial.
Although I do not generally do these cases, I would be happy to refer you to another attorney who does.
Another consequence of the Oregon Revised Statutes section 20.080 law is that a rational defendant will probably settle, once the proper demand letter is sent by an attorney. Otherwise the defendant would be taking a chance on losing not only the small original amount, but also your lawyer’s big fee for all the work of preparing the case and presenting it at trial.
When you need an attorney
If your case is
- liability was denied by defendant’s insurance company; or
- a fair damages award is a large amount of money
then the case will be agressively defended. As a result, you will need an agressive plaintiff’s lawyer, who is used to handling defense strategies and tactics. Examples of cases that require a personal injury lawyer would include a case with major injuries (for example medical bills over $50,000), or death, or multiple parties.
What to do next
For a straightforward case, you can get organized and try to resolve the claim yourself. If so, I recommend that you get the book referred to above.
For a difficult case or a big case, you will want your case presented by an experienced personal injury attorney. If you like the information on this website, you can contact us and get more information by a telephone call or by an office conference.