Oregon Wrongful Death Claims FAQs

What is an Oregon wrongful death claim?

Oregon wrongful death statutes state “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another, the personal representative of the decedent for the benefit of the decedent’s surviving … [family], may maintain an action against the wrongdoer, if the decedent might have maintained an action had the decedent lived, against the wrongdoer for an injury done by the same act or omission.”This is a legalistic way of saying if a person dies as a result of a wrongful act or omission of another, such as a drunk driving fatality or an employer not properly guarding an automated machine, then the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may bring a lawsuit against the wrongdoer for the benefit of the surviving family or the decedent’s estate. A wrongful death action is designed to compensate family members for their losses associated with the death of a loved one.

What are the most common causes of Oregon wrongful death cases?

The causes of Oregon wrongful death accidents can be traced to 5 key types of accidents:

  • Motor vehicle accidents — accidental deaths involving car crashes, pedestrian accidents, bicycle injuries, motorcycle accidents, and large trucks.
  • Medical malpractice — medical and healthcare professionals have a “duty of care” to provide treatments in accordance with medical standards of practice. Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare professionals negligently fail to deliver treatment and the patient subsequently dies. Wrongful death lawsuits can be brought against doctors, hospitals, and others responsible for negligently treating patients.
  • Workplace accidents — when an accidental death occurs in the workplace, employers may be held liable for damages.  There are many instances where you may be able to recover money damages, even if you are excluded from recovering from your employer by Oregon workers’ compensation laws. For example, if you were injured by a defective product such as a machine or manufacturing process, including:
    • Exposure to a toxic substance
    • Employer’s intentional or egregious conduct
    • Employer’s failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance
    • Actions of a third party (not you or your employer)

Accidents where the fault lies not with you or your employer, but with a third party, where they have provided defective equipment, improper installation or maintenance, or an unsafe operating environment, are situations where you need to seek the advice of an experienced Portland industrial accident attorney.

  • Defective Products — If your injury was the result of an unsafe design, improper installation, defective product or unsafe operating procedures, then the manufacturer of the equipment may be held liable for your injuries.
  • Criminal acts — A person who commits a criminal act, such as vehicular manslaughter, is subject to both criminal and civil prosecution. Civil cases are brought on behalf of the deceased’s family or legal representatives.

Who can file an Oregon wrongful death action?

Oregon law § 30.020 states “when the death of a person [the decedent] is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another, the personal representative of the decedent, for the benefit of the decedent surviving spouse, surviving children, surviving parents, and other individuals … [stepchild or step parent] … may maintain an action against the wrongdoer.” Typically the personal representative is an immediate family member such as the decedent’s surviving spouse or children.

How is the settlement distributed?

Upon a settlement of a claim, or recovery of judgment in an action, the amount of damages will be distributed in the following manner:

  • Reimbursement for costs expenses and fees incurred in the prosecution or enforcement of the claim, action or judgment.
  • Reimbursement for charges incurred for doctor, hospital, nursing, or other medical services, burial services at memorial services rendered for the deceased.
  • Reimbursement of an apportionment amount of the recovery to each beneficiary.
  • The remainder of damages recovered shall be distributed to the beneficiaries in proportions according to the decedent’s will, or if no will as defined under Oregon’s laws of intestate succession, or as agreed by the beneficiaries.

What is the time period allowed for filing an Oregon Wrongful death claim?

Simply stated, most Oregon wrongful death actions must be filed within three years from the date the injury occurred that resulted in the person’s death, as opposed to three years from the date of death.  This is referred to as the statute of limitations.  Exceptions to the three-year guideline on the statute of limitations are numerous and vary according to the cause of death.  For example, the three-year statute may be significantly reduced (to as low as 180 days) if alcohol was involved in the cause of death, or when a public entity is involved, or in product liability claims.  The only way to clearly understand the impact of time limitations is to review your case with an experienced Oregon wrongful death attorney.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation and case evaluation.  At Mayor Law, LLC, we fight for justice for injury victims of Oregon car accidents, and we fight to win! You pay nothing up front and nothing unless you win your car accident case. See answers to other frequently asked questions relating to accidents and personal injuries, and learn how we can help you today.