Whether you blame it on the rain, or something else, there’s no denying that Oregon suffers from lots of crashes. The stats don’t lie—in 2020 alone there were 38,141 motor vehicle accidents, 460 of those include fatalities. With numbers that high, anyone living and driving in that area should familiarize themselves with Oregon car accident laws.
Knowing what to do in case of collision means being ready to act when the unfortunate happens. Oregon has specific laws governing how accidents are reported, deadlines, and how to determine fault.
Not sure what those rules of the road entail? Keep reading! Our Oregon car accident law guide spells out all the information you need right now.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident in Oregon?
First, it’s state law that you must stop the vehicle at the accident scene, or as close as safely possible. These statutes also instruct all parties involved in a crash to try not to obstruct traffic. Move your car to the side of the road if necessary.
If you refuse to stop during an accident and flee from the scene, this is considered a hit and run in Oregon. Hit and runs may be a felony depending on the damages sustained in the accident.
Drivers are also required to stay at the scene and to render aid to anyone who has injuries when possible. In Oregon car accident law, that also means you’re responsible for calling medical help (call 911). If it’s obviously necessary, or if they ask, that may even mean transporting them to a hospital yourself.
However, keep in mind it’s always better to wait for professional emergency services and law enforcement if possible. You don’t want to make an injury worse by moving someone who’s in bad shape.
What Information Should You Share at the Scene?
Oregon car accident laws require you to give the following info to the other driver and injured passengers:
- Driver’s name and address
- Car owner’s name and address
- Name and address of any occupants or passengers in the vehicle
- The motor vehicle’s registration number
- Insurance carrier name and phone number
- Insurance policy number
You must also be willing to show your driver’s license—or other paperwork indicating you have driving privileges—upon request.
If you accidentally hit an unoccupied vehicle, Oregon law requires you to still leave the above information for the owner. Place a written explanation note with your name and number in a conspicuous spot on the unattended car.
Why You Should NEVER Talk to the Insurance Company Without a Lawyer
Failure to comply with any of the above statutes is a misdemeanor or felony in Oregon. So don’t skip these steps if you’re in an accident. You don’t want to add insult to injury by tacking on a prison sentence too.
Another “don’t” is talking to an insurance company—yours or the other driver’s—without legal representation. Also, avoid admitting fault or apologizing at the scene. These actions can get you in trouble down the road, and potentially prevent you from ever seeing a decent settlement.
To support your case, collect evidence at the accident site, including taking photos of the damages, injuries, and surroundings. Anything you can later share with a lawyer will be helpful.
One of the most useful tools to have during a car accident settlement is a police report. This provides an objective point-of-view of the crash for your lawyer to support your case. Proving liability is incredibly important because it can sway the decision between giving you a lower or higher settlement.
How to Report a Car Accident in Oregon
Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle Services requires anyone in a motor vehicle crash to report it within 72 hours. This is true in collisions resulting in any of the following:
- Damage to any vehicle over $2,500
- Damage to any vehicle over $2,500 with a vehicle that requires towing
- There are injuries or death resulting from the accident
- Damages to any property other than the vehicle over $2,500 as a result of the accident
Failing to report a crash to the DMV in any of the above cases will lead to mandatory license suspension.
The easiest way to file this report is to download the Oregon Traffic Report and Insurance Form from the DMV. Save the form to your computer, fill it out, and then email it back to the DMV. Individuals without online capability can also call the Oregon DMV customer service line at 503-945-5000 to request a form. Or they can pick one up in-person at their local DMV office.
Additionally, you must immediately notify the police if the accident meets the above criteria, but use a non-emergency phone number.
Is Oregon a No-Fault State?
Oregon is not a “no-fault” state. However, it’s also not a “this person is guilty, and this person is the victim” state either. That’s because Oregon functions under a modified comparative negligence system for distributing fault in an accident, according to ORS § 31.600.
Modified comparative negligence means that both parties may share some responsibility for an accident. A percentage of fault will fall to each driver depending on how each side proves fault in a case.
However, the catch is that to be eligible for damages, a driver cannot be more than 50% responsible. Otherwise, they’ll be the “mostly at-fault driver” and ineligible for any compensation.
Also, if one driver hopes to recover damages from the other driver(s), that individual must be a smaller percentage at-fault. And, whatever their liability percentage, it will reduce the damages they may collect by that amount.
Let’s consider a case where one driver was 65% responsible for the accident with $25,000 in damages. That driver will get nothing because they were more than 50% at-fault.
However, if the other driver was 35% responsible with $25,000 in damages, they may receive a maximum of $16,250. This is because their percentage of responsibility reduces their claim by their “at-fault” amount.
It can be very difficult to determine appropriate at-fault percentages, and there is no empirical way of calculating. Oftentimes it’s left to a judge and jury, and their decision may influence insurance claims as well. That’s why it’s vitally important to retain a skilled car accident attorney in states that utilize the comparative negligence model.
Oregon Auto Insurance Requirements
As you can see, if you end up the at-fault driver in an accident, you’re really going to need auto insurance. You may have no choice since Oregon car accident law requires all drivers to carry insurance minimums. Those who don’t comply risk fines and losing their driving privileges, per the Financial Responsibility Law ORS §806.010.
The basic insurance minimums that any Oregon driver must carry include:
- Liability coverage (bodily injury and property damage)
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per crash for bodily injury for two or more individuals
- $20,000 per crash for property damages
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
- $15,000 per person
- Uninsured motorist protection (UIM)
- $25,000 per person
- $50,000 per crash for bodily injury
Liability insurance covers damages to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians up to the limit if you’re at-fault. The PIP covers the policyholder and passengers for medical expenses and certain other out-of-pocket losses. And UIM insurance is meant to protect you and your passengers if the other driver has no insurance.
Remember that liability insurance and PIP do not cover damages to your own vehicle. As a result, many Oregon drivers will choose to add collision or comprehensive coverage to their policies as well.
Types of Damages for Oregon Car Accidents
Since Oregon is an at-fault state, you have two options to recover accident compensation: an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
If filing a lawsuit, you’ll need an attorney who can advise you about which damages to seek. But for learning purposes, here are some of the different types of car accident damages available in Oregon.
Economic damages are quantifiable losses that result from an accident. These are losses you can typically measure and they’re often monetary.
Examples of economic damages include:
- Medical bills
- Automobile repair costs
- Lost wages or employment
- Property damages
- Rehabilitation expenses
Non-economic damages are the non-objective, intangible losses that can occur in an accident. These types of losses can be harder to prove because they’re not something you can “add up” in a classical way. However, they’re just as harmful as fiscal losses, if not more so.
Examples of non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Diminishment of reputation
- Loss of consortium
- Physical impairment and disability
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Since these damages are less cut-and-dry than say “receipts for services,” make sure you keep personal records. Write down dates, examples, experiences, and more as potential evidence. Also note that there’s a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in Oregon, but that only applies in wrongful death suits.
When someone shows reckless negligence, such as in cases of drunk driving, the court may also award punitive damages. These are meant to punish the defendant for their bad behavior rather than make up for some loss.
Accordingly, if a judge allots punitive damages in your case, don’t expect to see much money. The state of Oregon will take up to 70% because these serve as a deterrent and not an “award.”
Statute of Limitations in Oregon Car Accident Law
If you decide to go the route of a personal injury lawsuit, it’s always better to file sooner than later. You want to make sure the details of the case are still fresh and that the evidence is relevant.
With that in mind, note that the statute of limitations for most car accident cases in Oregon is two years. This timeline starts from the date of the crash, per ORS §12.110. If a person misses those deadlines, then a court will likely automatically dismiss a case.
In the case of wrongful death, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the victim’s passing.
When the accident only results in property damages, you have six years from the date of the accident to file your suit.
Even if you think your case will settle through your car insurance, it’s important to keep an eye on these statutes. Especially if things don’t go your way and you need to consult with an attorney. You always want to make sure you have enough time to file a lawsuit if necessary.
Connect with an Expert Oregon Car Accident Lawyer with LegalASAP
Every car accident has variables that may affect a settlement. It’s hard to know what to expect even if you’ve been through car accident litigation before.
Oregon presents another set of challenges thanks to its modified comparative negligence laws. If you don’t get the right percentage of fault, you won’t get the maximum compensation you deserve.
Don’t let that happen. Allow us to connect you with a car accident attorney in your area free of charge. It won’t cost you a thing in advance but if you win your case, it may be raining money instead.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann