Oregon Small Value Personal Injury Case FAQs
What information is included in a Oregon small value personal injury Demand Letter?
Answer: A Demand Letter written to satisfy the requirements of Oregon Revised Statute ORS 20.080, for Oregon small value personal injury cases, will need to address the following:
1. Specifically reference and identify the following:
- Identify specific accident information – date of the accident, name and address of the at-fault person, name and address of the at-fault persons insurance company, and your name and address
- Establish that you are pursuing this claim under provisions of ORS 20.080;
- Demand a response within 30 days;
- Indicate that this claim is in addition to PIP and/or medical cost reimbursement call acted to rectally from the at-fault persons insurance company;
- Indicate that you will pursue a lawsuit if the demand settlement is not met;
- Explain that attorney fees may be awarded if the jury gives a higher verdict than the offer made within 30 days.
2. Provide supporting documentation to adequately inform the at-fault party and their insurance company as to the nature of the claim, injuries, and damage suffered, and the extent of the expenses incurred. The obligation to provide this information continues even after making a demand through the time period prior to commencing any legal action and can result in the denial of legal fees if all information is not provided. In specific the statute states:
- “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;”
- “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.”
3. Copies of the Demand Letter and supporting documentation must be sent to the at-fault person and their insurance company by certified mail with return receipt requested. Note that there may be additional notification requirements if the at-fault party is a public entity.
What happens after submitting a Demand Letter in an Oregon small value personal injury case, using ORS 20.080?
Answer: After you’ve submitted the Demand Letter the other party and their insurance company have 30 days in which to respond to the demand. Generally the insurance company will respond in one of three ways: a) no response (this is the same as a $0 settlement offer); or b) an offer to settle the case at a value less than the value defined in the demand letter; or c) accept your offer to settle at the value defined in the demand letter. If you received “no response” or a lesser offer, you can accept their offer, or reject their offer and proceed to file a lawsuit. If you elect to proceed with a lawsuit, and you successfully prevail and obtain a settlement, either through arbitration or a jury award, that is higher than what was last offered, then your legal expenses and court costs will be paid by the insurance company.
What type of accidents or Oregon small value personal injury cases, are good candidates for settlement under ORS 20.080?
Answer: Most car accidents do not result in major injuries, in fact, about 50% of all reported accidents involved property damage only. For accidents involving injuries, only 4.4% result in major injuries that lead to costly medical recoveries and potential lawsuits. This means that most accidents do not require expensive litigation efforts to resolve a settlement. In most instances your PIP insurance will pay for cars to be repaired, and your medical insurance will cover reasonable medical costs. But what happens when the parties cannot agree on who was at fault, what medical expenses should be reimbursed, whether or not someone should be compensated for pain and suffering, and whether you should be compensated for the diminished value of your vehicle or bicycle after it has been an accident. Add further complications from insurance company adjusters who are attempting to reduce payouts, share fault, and negotiate better settlements for their company, and you have a good candidate for settling your Oregon small value personal injury case using Oregon Revised Statutes § ORS 20.080. In a specific, the statute limits settlement recovery to $10,000.00 or less, and provides specific time frames for responding. Typical examples include:
- A rear end auto accident that results in whiplash (soft tissue injury) but no permanent or major injury requiring surgery. The whiplash injury would be treated with chiropractic services over a six month period of time resulting in full recovery.
- A bicyclist hit by a motorist making a right hand turn and failing to yield to the cyclist. Typical injuries might include a broken bone, bruising, and lacerations, but with proper medical treatment would result in a full recovery.
- A car accident where the parties cannot agree on who was at fault, with the insurance company refusing to negotiate any settlement whatsoever.
What type of damages can I recover using ORS 20.080 for Oregon small value personal injury cases?
Answer: Oregon small value personal injury claims allow you to recover three types of damages: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Practically speaking, there are only a few cases where punitive damages make sense, and these cases generally require extensive litigation which doesn’t make them suitable for settlement under ORS 20.080. Economic damages refer to compensation for quantifiable expenses associated with the accident or your case. For example, typical economic damages might include the repair of your car, medical bills, and reimbursement for household services that you cannot perform because of your injuries, and lost income resulting from your inability to work because of your injuries. Non-economic damages refer to more intangible damages such as physical and emotional distress, pain and suffering, physical impairment, disfigurement, and loss of the enjoyment of life caused by the accident. Because ORS 20.080 limits the amount of damages you can seek to $10,000, as a practical matter would not make sense to seek non-economic damages for physical impairment or disfigurement with a $10,000 cap. In most cases clients are simply trying to be treated fairly and compensated for expenses they incurred through no fault of their actions. Most Oregon small value personal injury claims focus on the following types of damages that have not been previously reimbursed by insurance:
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses;
- Property damage and repair costs;
- Lost wages or income resulting from the inability to work because of injuries;
- Diminished value of property damaged as a result of the accident;
- Physical and emotional distress caused by the accident; and
- Expenses incurred as a result of the accident for which insurance coverage is not available.
Can I pursue making a settlement demand on my own using ORS 20.080 without a lawyer?
Answer: The simple answer is yes. Nothing is preventing you from generating a Demand Letter and supporting documentation and submitting it to the at-fault party and their insurance company. This may be a viable alternative, but before I would endeavor to take this path, I would review my case with an experienced Portland Personal Injury Attorney. There are simply too many potential complications that an experienced attorney can spot and provide guidance to improve your chances of being successful. The only time you absolutely require an attorney is if you do not accept their settlement offer and elect to proceed with filing a lawsuit. Having said this, if you want your claim to be taken seriously by the insurance company and improve your chances of receiving an acceptable settlement offer, I would recommend working with an attorney experienced in dealing with small claim cases.
If I have received insurance benefits from PIP or my medical insurance provider, do I have to repay these monies from what I recover in my settlement?
If you received insurance benefits from your PIP insurance coverage, or if your medical insurance provider paid for medical treatments for your injuries sustained in an accident caused by someone else, then both PIP and your medical insurer have a right to get repaid the expenses they have incurred for your treatments. Usually, your PIP insurance provider or medical Insurance provider will collect directly from the insurance company of the person who was at-fault, but they do have the right to potentially collect from you. Hence when developing the settlement amount you need to take into account whether or not this amount contains cost reimbursement expenses for your PIP or medical insurance provider.