It’s different when you suffer harm because someone else was careless, unsafe, or chose to break the rules. When someone gets severely injured or dies because of preventable mistake or negligence, then there is a complex process of laws, insurance claims, investigators, and adjusters that piles on top of the challenges a person has in getting the medical care and treatment they need. Fortunately, injured people and grieving family members have legal rights that can help them heal and get back to a life they recognize. For example, you have the right to make the responsible person pay your medical bills and income loss. This is just one example of many.

Unfortunately, there are countless ways for a person to be seriously injured, killed, or lose valuable property through no fault of their own. Below are just a few examples of catastrophic incidents that may give rise to a legal right to recover what was lost.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car Collisions, Tractor Trailer Crashes, Motorcycle v. Automobile

In the United States, the most common way to get hurt is while we’re in a motor vehicle. The police officers and state troopers I work with frequently talk to me about the frightening number of people who get hurt when driving and riding as passengers on our roads, freeways, and highways. Every day, Oregonians travelling in Oregon and California suffer serious personal injuries in car collisions, motorcycle accidents, and semi and tractor-trailer crashes.

Auto vs. Pedestrians

Law abiding pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers, and walkers are especially exposed to catastrophic injury from even a slow traveling motor vehicle.

Drunk Drivers

Oregon law allows juries to award punitive damages to punish drunk drivers and deter them from going back out on our roads under the influence. I’ve successfully added punitive damages to several cases where the other driver is drunk. In one instance, the court allowed me to plead punitive damages against a driver who blacked out at the wheel after driving on a suspended driver’s license and knowing he had a prior history of blacking out while driving. Currently, one of the “hot button” issues is cell phone usage while driving, which raises serious public health concerns for all Oregonians.

Work Related Incidents

On-the-Job Accidents

When workplace safety rules aren’t followed, devastating and fatal accidents can happen suddenly and needlessly. In my years of experience handling workplace injury cases, I’ve found that on-the-job injuries are usually preventable if basic safety precautions were taken. Pursuant to Oregon law, employees are given special protection under the Employer Liability Law (ELL). Over the years, I’ve consulted with safety experts who are available to testify in the right case regarding OR-OSHA violations, federal safety regulations, and breaches in the industry standard of care. In one case I handled, I discovered that the large corporate employer was violating their own safety rules—the expert agreed and the parties settled.

Household and Consumer Related Losses

Product Liability – Food Safety, Drug and Pharmaceutical Risks, Car Safety, Toy Dangers, etc.

As consumers, we have a natural tendency to put a lot of trust in what’s on the shelves in our grocery stores, pharmacies, car dealerships, and toy stores. However, competition among the largest corporations can be fierce and the big corporations are always looking for ways to trim costs, especially in this economy. But consumer safety should not be compromised. Unfortunately, we’ve seen toy makers put children at risk for dangerous levels of lead exposure, large scale industrial farming corporations put everyone at our dinner tables in jeopardy, and international car makers choose profits over safety. If you or a loved one has been hurt by a dangerous product, you’re not alone in the fight.

Premises Liability

Big businesses know what it takes to keep their customers and tenants safe when they walk through their doors. When they choose to cut corners, big business must take personal responsibility for their full share of the harm they cause.

Dog Attacks

Dog owners who know their dogs bite need to take common-sense precautions to guard against attack. Otherwise, not only do owners put people at needless risk, they also put their dog at risk of being put to sleep should an attack occur.

Health Related Errors

Medical Errors

The effects of medical errors can be devastating and costly to patients, doctors, hospitals, and the public at large.  As a lawyer, I have worked closely with the medical community to help make patient care better and safer.

Medication Mistakes

When a patient receives the wrong prescription medication, tragic and permanent injury can result after just one wrong dose. Under Oregon law, there are ways to hold careless pharmacies accountable.

Nursing Home Abuse

One of the most vulnerable segments of Oregon’s population lives in nursing homes. Sadly, too many nursing homes are understaffed and under-trained by choice. The choice is made by the corporate leadership to increase their profits by subjecting the elderly to abuse and neglect by people who should not be taking care of vulnerable adults. Under Oregon law, there are special statutes designed to protect the elderly and punish the abusers.

Health Insurance Fraud and Bad Faith

“Claim Denied”. I hear about those words being told to more and more people trying to get medically necessary treatment paid for by their health insurance company—treatment that a highly qualified medical doctor authorized. This shouldn’t be tolerated by our civil justice system. There are legal means to stop fraudulent and bad faith practices.

“First Party” Car Insurance Claims

When you pay your insurance bill every month, you are paying to have coverage in case of a car accident. “First party” insurance refers to that insurance company you pay your premiums to every month. Under Oregon law, when you’re hurt in a car accident, you are entitled to recover “first party” insurance benefits that you paid for when you paid your bill. Those benefits may include medical expenses, wage loss, household services, and “pain and suffering” benefits. Typically, the benefits a driver pays their insurance company for every month include at least the following:

Uninsured Motorist (UM)

Statistics on the number of motorists driving on Oregon roads with no insurance are frightening. In my experience, clients who buy Uninsured Motorist (“UM”) coverage from their own insurance company are better protected against loss from uninsured drivers. I frequently recommend that people buy as much UM benefits as they can afford because it usually only costs a few more dollars to buy many thousands of dollars in higher protection for your family. Then, if you’re one of the unlucky people hit and seriously injured or killed by a driver with no insurance, then you or your family can still recover compensation for the loss directly from your own insurance company under the UM coverage. Because you pay your hard-earned cash to buy UM coverage from your insurance company, you should not be discouraged by your insurance company from making a claim for benefits if needed.

Underinsured Motorist (UIM)

Even when bad drivers buy liability insurance, they often don’t buy enough to pay for the harm they cause. Under Oregon law, every driver must buy only $25,000 in liability insurance coverage to pay for the harm they cause. Although Oregon drivers can buy higher liability limits, many do not. Given the high cost of medical care, $25,000 doesn’t go very far to pay for ambulance, hospital, doctors, and surgery. Therefore, I frequently recommend that all drivers buy Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage directly from their own insurance company. That way, if you are hurt by an underinsured driver, you can recover for your full losses from you own insurance company.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Bad Faith

Under Oregon law, consumers of car insurance (and that’s all of us who drive in Oregon) must be given medical benefits by their insurance company. This means if you’re injured in a car accident, then your insurance company must pay for at least $15,000 in “reasonable and necessary” medical benefits under the Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) coverage mandated by the Oregon Legislature.

Property Loss

When property is lost of damaged due to someone else’s carelessness, the property owner has a right to reimbursement.  Sometimes this means personal property, such as an automobile, that is totaled or needs significant repairs after an accident.  Under Oregon law, not only do automobile owners have a right to recover the fair market value of their loss, but Oregonians also have a right to reimbursement for the diminished value to their automobiles as a result of sustaining damage.  Let’s face it, car buyers are less likely to pay “top dollar” for an otherwise good vehicle after the vehicle has undergone substantial repairs at an auto body shop.

In addition to personal property recovery, individuals are legally entitled to reimbursement for loss or damage involving real property (e.g., a house) and land (e.g., soil, trees, shrubs, etc.).  Not only does common law negligence create a right of action, but in many circumstances property owners can recover double and even triple damages under Oregon statute for losses on their land.

Harm to Reputation

There’s an old saying that, “Reputation is everything”.  Oregon’s founding institutions understood this and, as a result, there is a longstanding tradition in Oregon to protect individual and business reputation from harm.  The Law of Defamation is a powerful tool for protecting reputation.