By: Travis Mayor, Mayor Law, LLC
There was a time when insurance companies often refused to pay more than a few hundred dollars on small personal injury cases or minor accident claims because they figured injured people would not be able to find a lawyer who would take such a small personal injury case. They also bet on the idea that most injured victims would not be able to afford an attorney’s hourly fees out-of-pocket. However, the Oregon legislature realized insurance companies weren’t playing fair and enacted Oregon Revised Statutes 20.080 (ORS 20.080) to help victims with a small personal injury case negotiate with at-fault parties and their insurance companies on an equal footing.
How Can ORS 20.080 Be Used to Settle My Small Personal Injury Case?
Basically, the statute provides a process where injured parties with a small personal injury case may seek compensation, up to $10,000, under the threat that the at-fault party will be required to pay court costs and attorneys’ fees in addition to the awarded damages, if the injured party prevails and obtains a settlement or award higher than what was offered by the at-fault party (or their insurance company). As defined in ORS 20.080, a personal injury claimant can make a simple written demand for economic and non-economic damages, up to $10,000, on the at-fault person and the at-fault person’s insurance company. The demand must cite ORS 20.080, include proof of damages (i.e., medical records, medical expenses, bills, etc.), and provide the at-fault party thirty days to settle. If after thirty days the person who caused the accident does not respond (counted as an offer of $0), or refuses to settle (also counted as an offer of $0), or responds with an offer to settle that is less than what was demanded, the personal injury claimant may then file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. Then, if the injured person recovers anything above the pre-lawsuit offer (even one dollar), the at-fault party must pay the amount awarded by the arbitrator or jury as well as the injured party’s court costs and attorney’s fees.
It is the risk of having to pay the injured person’s court costs and attorney’s fees in addition to the damage award that makes insurance companies and their insured’s take claims made under ORS 20.080 seriously.
Example of How to Settle a Small Personal Injury Case Using ORS 20.080
I represented a client in a disputed liability auto accident outside of Oregon City. Both my client and the other driver were claiming each other was at fault. My analysis the facts supported my client’s version. My client suffered whiplash injuries and a concussion, but nothing was broken and he did not need surgery. These factors made this small personal injury case a perfect example for utilizing ORS 20.080 to reach a settlement. I made the written demand for $10,000 on the other driver and his insurance company – as is required by the statute. Thirty days later his insurance company denied the demand. They did not offer my client a dime, making it a zero offer. Under the ORS 20.080 statute, if I filed a lawsuit and my client was awarded even as little as $1, the other driver’s insurance company would have to pay the amount awarded plus attorney fees and court costs.
The small personal injury case was filed, and went to court mandated arbitration. The case was then appealed from arbitration to a jury trial in Clackamas County Circuit Court. After a three day trial the jury found for my client and awarded him $10,000, the maximum amount allowed. The jury also found my client 30% at fault, so his award was reduced by 30% to $7,000. Regardless, the net jury verdict of $7,000 beat the other driver’s zero dollar offer entitling my client to attorney fees and court costs. This included all of my attorney fees for time spent prior to filing the lawsuit, time spent during the litigation and trial, and time spent after trial researching, drafting and arguing the attorney fee petition. In the end, the judge mandated the at-fault party to pay all court costs and awarded $64,552.50 in attorney fees, the entire amount sought for legal expenses.
Successful Results Achieved in Settling a Small Personal Injury Case Using the Power of ORS 20.080
This case is a great example of how to apply the power of ORS 20.080 and reach an equitable settlement in a small personal injury case. The client received the maximum allowable settlement, with no legal expenses, and received the vindication of winning in a court of law. The at-fault party and their insurance company were duly punished for not taking the case seriously and failing to offering a fair settlement in this small personal injury case. Instead they chose to bully my client and for that they paid the price. Normally a case worth $10,000 or less would not justify the resources and time it takes to litigate the case. However, the attorney fee component creates an economic incentive for attorneys to take these small personal injury cases and provide quality legal representation. However, most claims made under ORS 20.080 do not go this far. Due to the attorney fee exposure for the insurance company, most of these cases are settled within the 30 days demand window, shortly after the case is filed, or after court mandated arbitration. The risk to the at-fault person and their insurance company is simply too great to fight meritorious claims. This recent Clackamas County case is proof.
You can read more about effectively using ORS 20.080 to reach a settlement in your small personal injury case by visiting our Small Personal Injury Case Practice Area, our FAQ’s on settling Small Personal Injury Cases, and additional articles “The Power of ORS 20.080” and “Oregon Personal Injury Clients Seek $10,000 and their Attorney Fees under ORS 20.080 Effective January 1, 2012.”
If you were injured in any kind of accident, including a car accident, motorcycle or bicycle accident, or pedestrian accident caused by another person’s negligence, and received soft tissue injures or whiplash, your case might be perfect for ORS 20.080. You may have a better case than you realize!
Even if you have a smaller case, you should speak with a lawyer to help you determine if you need an attorney. Because I work on contingency fee (meaning: I don’t get paid unless you do), I do not take cases unless I think we can win and I provide honest evaluations. My initial consultations are always free, so call me at (503) 444.2825, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Travis Mayor, Oregon Personal Injury Attorney
I represent accident victims in the Portland Metropolitan Area, Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington Counties, and throughout the state of Oregon. I provide this Blog as an educational and informational service for Oregon residents – it is not intended to be legal advice, as every case is unique and should be accurately evaluated. If you or a family member have been in an accident and would like a FREE professional consultation with an attorney, call me at (503) 444-2825, or email at email@example.com to learn more about your legal rights.
Learn more at: www.mayorlaw.com