Every Washington or Oregon auto injury claim is unique, but they involve similar issues. This article provides a brief summary of the common issues an injured person faces with their auto injury claim.
"Liability" is the issue of who is responsible for the collision. In some cases, liability is obvious. A common example is a rear end collision. All motorists have a responsibility to keep a proper lookout when driving, and not to follow too closely behind other cars and trucks.
However, sometimes the liability issue is not so clear. Intersection accidents are a good example. Each driver approaching an intersection has similar duties to ensure that they have the right away before turning into the intersection, or crossing through it. These cases often require investigation to determine the issue of liability.
If liability is disputed, and a case is filed in court, the defense may assert that the injured party was at least partially at fault in causing the accident. This is known as "comparative" or "contributory" fault or negligence. When a defendant raises the issue of contributory fault, the jury is then asked to assign percentages of fault to each party. A jury may find that one party is not at fault, or at least partially at fault.
In Oregon, if an injured plaintiff ("plaintiff" is the party that brings the lawsuit) is found more than 50% at fault, he or she is barred or prohibited from recovering any damages. However, in Washington, and injure plaintiff is not prohibited from recovering compensation even if they are more than 50% at fault.
"Damages" refers to the losses incurred by the injured party. In Oregon, "economic" damages are objectively verifiable losses, such as medical expense and income loss. "Non-economic" damages are losses that are not objectively verifiable, but nonetheless real. People often refer to "pain and suffering," but this only refers to one category of non-economic damages. These damages are intended to compensate an injured party for the loss of their health.
The law in Washington allows for the same recovery of damages. However, the objectively verifiable losses are called "special" damages, and the subjective, non-monetary losses are referred to as "general damages."
This is probably the most overlooked element of an injury claim. In order to recover damages, you must show that those damages are losses are a direct result of the negligent behavior. In other words, you have to prove there is a connection between the negligent behavior of the defendant, and the damages suffered.
In many cases, a defendant may concede that he or she was negligent, and may even agree that he or she caused some injury. However, the defendant may disagree on the extent of damage or harm caused by the negligent behavior. This is often true when an injured party is claiming permanent injury as a result of a defendant's negligent behavior. Medical opinions often play a pivotal role in sorting out this issue.
If you or a family member are facing these issues, and have questions, give us a call at 503-325-8600, We help people with these issues every day.