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Personal Injury Liability: How Fault Is Determined

Posted on December 29, 2020 in

Whether you suffer injuries in a car accident or slip on an unattended puddle at the grocery store, you will need to identify a liable party if you wish to pursue legal action. Personal injury liability, or the concept of being legally responsible for someone’s injuries, provides the foundation for personal injury claims.

If you are seeking compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to understand how to prove fault and which factors can influence your settlement.

Proving Negligence in Oregon

Negligence is the legal concept that courts use to determine whether or not a defendant is liable in a personal injury claim. To act in negligence, a defendant must fail to behave with a level of care that another reasonably prudent person would have exercised under the same circumstances.

If you are filing a personal injury lawsuit against another person, you will need to prove his or her negligence in order to establish his or her liability. To prove negligence, you and your attorney must gather sufficient evidence to prove four elements.

  • Duty of care: The defendant must owe a duty of care to you at the time of the accident. This duty will depend on the circumstances surrounding your claim. For example, drivers owe a duty of care to drive safely and follow traffic laws, while doctors have a responsibility to uphold industry-accepted standards of patient care.
  • Breach of duty: The defendant must breach his or her duty of care through a negligent act or omission. For example, a driver who is under the influence of alcohol breaches his or her duty of care when he or she gets behind the wheel.
  • Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty must directly cause your injuries and subsequent damages. For example, if a drunk driver crashes into you while making an unsafe lane change, surveillance footage, medical records, and police reports can prove that he or she caused the accident and was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.
  • Damages: Finally, you must experience damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence that you can claim compensation for. These may include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. Your attorney will help you gather the necessary evidence to prove your losses.

Oregon’s Modified Comparative Negligence Rule

Although you may establish evidence proving the defendant’s liability, the court may have reason to believe that you were partially responsible for the accident. In these situations, Oregon’s modified comparative negligence rules will apply.

The court will reduce your verdict by the amount of liability it believes you hold, and if you share more than 50% of the fault, you will not be eligible to recover any compensation at all.

For example, if you are in an accident with a driver who runs through a stop sign but the police find that you were under the influence at the time of the crash, the court may assign 40% of the liability to you. If you ask for $40,000 in compensation, you will only receive $24,000. If the court assigned 55% of the liability to you, you would receive $0.

Liability in personal injury cases can be very complex, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. If you are planning to file a lawsuit, contact an Portland personal injury attorney for assistance. Your lawyer can provide valuable benefits to your case, from investigating and gathering evidence to protecting your interests from comparative negligence rules.