The Gatti Law Firm believes that everyone should be able to access reliable legal representation and information after getting into a car accident. We do our part with providing great representation by offering our legal services to clients who need to negotiate with or litigate against auto insurance companies. People throughout Oregon know our car accident lawyers as the team they can trust when in a difficult spot due to insurance company interference or stubbornness.
We also want to do our part in helping educate our communities by sharing some of our legal knowledge, which is why we have compiled this helpful car accident frequently asked questions list. Be sure to give it a read if you have recently been in a car accident and have questions about what to expect now. If you have more questions or want to talk to an attorney about filing a claim, then please reach out to us by dialing (503) 543-1114 or filling out an online contact form.
Should I See the Doctor?
After any car accident, you should arrange to see a medical professional as soon as possible, preferably the same day. If you were seriously injured in the crash, then you have probably already been to urgent care and been treated and diagnosed. However, many people who have been car accidents do not feel any serious injuries right away. Instead, they feel soreness and aches, but write them off as an expected consequence of a crash.
Please do not make this same mistake. Even if you feel completely fine after your crash, you should arrange to see a doctor today. With a proper diagnosis, a doctor might discover underlying injuries that would not have been noticeable until days or weeks later as they got worse. Seeing a doctor also establishes when your injuries occurred through updated medical records, so it becomes much more difficult for an insurance company to try to argue that your injuries were preexisting. One way or the other, going to the doctor after any crash is a safe choice.
Should I Talk to the Other Insurance Company?
One of the first parties that try to talk to you after a car accident will probably be the insurance company representing the motorist that hit you. They will call you up in a friendly voice, ask if you are feeling okay, and then subtly try to dig into the details of your crash. While this might seem like a nice gesture and business-as-usual, the truth is that you do not need to talk to another insurance company after a crash – and you shouldn’t.
When the opposing insurance company calls you, they have one objective in mind: recording you saying something that will increase your liability for the accident. If you have hired an attorney, you can instruct the insurance company that they should be contacting them for inquiries first. This extra step in talking to help ensures that you do not have a slip of the tongue and say the wrong thing.
Should I Apologize for What Happened?
Speaking of saying something inadvertently, you should try to avoid apologizing to any party after being in a crash. As a kindhearted and courteous person, you probably have the instinct to say you are sorry to others, even when you have done nothing wrong and especially in serious situations like a car accident. However, saying “sorry” is all it takes for an insurance company to twist your words into an admission of guilt. It is yet another common strategy that insurance companies use to increase the claimant’s liability, which would mean they have to pay less to them when the claim is resolved.
When Do I Need to Report the Crash?
Oregon law requires you to report your crash within 72 hours after it occurs. You will need to file an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report, specifically. The information you disclose on this form is once again an opportunity for you to inadvertently say the wrong thing and possibly risk accepting liability for an accident you had no part in causing. As with interacting with the opposing insurance company, you can use an attorney’s help for filling out and filing this report.
What Damages Can I Get?
The purpose of any car accident claim is to recover compensation that pays for the damages you have experienced due to the other party’s negligence. What sort of damages could you claim for your case, though? Every case is unique, but, in general, a claim can demand damages to pay for medical bills, lost wages, vehicle repairs, pain, and emotional trauma. Oregon does not allow you to demand punitive damages, though, which means you cannot get additional pay simply to punish the defendant for wrongdoing.
Oregon is also an at-fault state for car accidents, which means that liability assignments matter. The more liability a driver is found to be, the more they – or their insurance company, rather – have to pay in damages.
Can I File a Claim If the Other Driver Left the Crash Scene?
Hit-and-run drivers add serious frustrations to an already tense and complicated situation. If the other driver leaves the scene before they can be identified or before they give insurance information, you might still be able to file a claim for damages. The key is whether or not you have purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance. This type of insurance policy will provide certain damages to you from your own auto insurance provider when the other driver has no insurance, does not have enough insurance, or cannot be identified, such as in a hit-and-run accident.
Are you not sure if you have UM/UIM insurance? We encourage you to contact your insurance provider to find out. If you can afford to add any amount of UM/UIM insurance to your policy, then it is probably worth it. After all, an estimated 10-to-12% of all drivers in America are believed to be uninsured, so the chances of getting into a crash with such a motorist are higher than you probably first thought.
Do Drunk Drivers Automatically Get Liability?
After being hit by a drunk driver, you might understandably think that your claim is essentially sealed before it has even begun. However, you should be aware that there is nothing in the law that guarantees a drunk driver will be assigned full liability for a crash. You will have to prove through evidence and arguments that you were not to blame for the accident because Oregon is an at-fault state.
The silver lining is that the state should be investigating the crash and the drunk driver. Any evidence that they collect can potentially help your claim, despite the criminal court being separate from the civil court. If the drunk driver is convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), then that conviction could be used as leverage for your claim by an experienced car accident attorney.
Will My Case End with a Settlement?
It is true that the majority of personal injury and car accident claims do not go to litigation. Instead, they end with a confidential settlement negotiated between the claimant and the insurance company. Yet there is nothing to promise that a settlement will be reached. When an insurer does not want to accept any responsibility for a crash their policyholder caused, the chances of reaching a fair settlement can be slim.
If you want to avoid litigation and reach a settlement, then one of the first steps you should do is hire a car accident attorney who is experienced and reputable in the community. They can carefully navigate from the beginning to try to work your case towards a fair settlement while also preparing for litigation just in case.
Does It Make Sense to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
With everything we have discussed in this FAQ, you can probably see how useful hiring a car accident attorney can be. From collecting evidence to use in your claim to negotiating with insurers, your lawyer can act on your behalf and for your best interest. Otherwise, you will have to go through the entire process on your own, which is exactly what insurance defense teams want you to do.
Don’t forget that The Gatti Law Firm can help you if you have additional questions or need representation. We love hearing from new and returning clients and seeing how we can be of assistance. Dial (503) 543-1114 now.