Sometimes it’s best to handle your claim without a lawyer. If there are no injuries, for example, you can probably handle a fender bender on your own. In other cases, however, a car accident lawyer is an absolute necessity. In a third category of cases, hiring a lawyer is a good idea, even if not absolutely necessary.
Read on for a discussion of just a few of the red flags that indicate you should at least consider hiring a Portland car accident lawyer.
When at least two parties share liability for an accident, Oregon’s comparative negligence law kicks in. In court (if your claim makes it that far), the court will assign each party a percentage of fault, from 1% to 99%.
In Oregon, there is a huge difference between 50% and 51%. Anyone with a percentage of fault above 50% receives nothing, while anyone with a percentage of fault below 51% must accept a deduction from their compensation equal to their percentage of fault. If you were 25% at fault, for example, a court would deduct 25% from your damages.
Children (under 18) and mentally incompetent people cannot file lawsuits in their own name. A court-appointed guardian, usually a relative, must file the claim on their behalf. Any lawyer you hire for such a case will represent the child’s interests, not yours.
Serious injuries mean serious money, and serious money means serious opposition from the other side. How much will the other side be willing to pay a lawyer, for example, to avoid a claim of $250,000? If the other side is using a lawyer, you’re probably going to need one too.
Pain and suffering is an intangible component of a personal injury claim. How much money is your respiratory distress worth? How about the pain of a broken leg? The assistance of a persuasive lawyer can make a big difference here.
In Oregon, only the executor of the deceased victim’s probate estate can file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased victim did not name an executor in their will, the court will appoint an executor, usually a close relative.
Since a probate estate, being a fictional legal entity, cannot represent itself, it’s going to need a lawyer. Even without this restriction, hiring a lawyer would be a very good idea.
Insurance companies absolutely love car accident victims who represent themselves. Just ask them–they’ll be happy to tell you that you don’t need a lawyer. The truth is that, in most cases, it is the insurance company, not you, who doesn’t need to have a lawyer.
The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which you must file a lawsuit. If you miss it, your claim’s value drops to zero immediately. In Oregon, the statute of limitations deadline is usually two years for personal injury. For a wrongful death claim, it is usually three years after the victim’s date of death.
You might need the event data recorder from a car or truck, for example, to reconstruct the accident. If you file a lawsuit, you can use the pretrial discovery procedure to demand this item (and others) from the opposing party. They can make similar demands on you. A court can sanction an uncooperative party.
If the opposing party refuses all reasonable settlement offers, sometimes the mere act of hiring an attorney and notifying the opposing party of the same will be enough to generate a reasonable settlement offer.
It can’t hurt to talk about your case with a lawyer, as your financial risk is zero. Almost any personal injury lawyer will offer you a free initial case consultation.