What is Liability?
When attorneys and insurers talk about liability in a personal injury case, they are really talking about who is at fault in causing the injury. Liability is one of the requirements to prove a personal injury negligence claim in Oregon. This is done by showing who was at fault.
The immediate example that comes to mind is the Oregon auto injury claim resulting from a rear end collision. Every driver has a responsibility to keep an eye on the road, and control their car to avoid colliding with somebody else. When somebody is looking at their cell phone or not looking ahead and rear ends another car, that driver is obviously at fault, and our client should not have much trouble proving liability.
The Common Law Claim
There are two ways to prove liability in an Oregon personal injury claim. First, Oregon courts have formulated general rules about how people should behave in the community. The very basic rule is that everyone must be reasonably safe in conducting their affairs. Oregon also defines common-law responsibility by looking at the relationship between the parties (doctor and patient, or attorney and client), the status of somebody (a train or bus passenger, or someone visiting a business).
Common Law: The Oregon Auto Injury Claim
In the Oregon auto injury claim, common-law standards require drivers to be reasonably safe when driving their car. Lawyers refer to these responsibilities as "common-law" standards. For example, every driver has a responsibility to keep a proper lookout for other cars out on the highway. Every driver has a responsibility to travel at a safe speed. Everyone has a responsibility to keep their car under control to avoid colliding with another car.
Common Law: The Oregon Injury Claim
Common law standards also apply to other injury claims, like a premises liability claim. The court have decided that business owners must be proactive to make their place of business safe for prospective customers. After all, business owners benefit when someone visits the place of business.
Doctors and lawyers have a special relationship with their patients and clients, and must act in their best interest. The law defines those responsibilities, and if the physician or lawyer does not live up to the standards, the patient or client may have a claim for the harm that resulted.
Sometimes, a common-law claim for negligence may be based on the violation of some kind of industry standard or rule. In some cases, a worker may suffer an injury because another contractor on a job site violated an OSHA safety rule or regulation. That injured worker may have an Employer Liability Law claim for compensation to make up for the harm suffered.
The Negligence Per Se Claim: Breaking the Rules
The other way to prove liability is through a "negligence per se" claim. This is a claim that the at fault party violated some provision of law that caused physical injury. When we include this kind of claim and our client's complaint, we refer to the statute the defendant violated. For example, Oregon requires all drivers to drive at a reasonable speed under the circumstances. This is referred to as "the basic rule." Careless Driving is another violation of the code making it illegal to drive in a manner that would likely injure others on the highway. Recent Oregon statutory amendments have stiffened the fines for operating a cell phone while behind the wheel, which unfortunately is a common cause of motor vehicle collision related injuries.
When Liability is Not Clear
Sometimes, proving liability can require a closer look. Intersection collisions are a good example. Each driver approaching an intersection in Oregon has a similar responsibility to keep a lookout for other drivers, and depending on how the intersection is set up, or who should have yielded the right-of-way, fault can be unclear, or even shared.. Interstate "chain reaction" collisions also present unique challenges. Often times, the key issue is who among the chain of cars involved in the collision, actually caused the chain reaction itself. If both drivers contributed to causing the collision, the issue of contributory fault comes into play, and could prevent you from making a claim even when the other driver was partially at fault in causing your injuries.
If you are injured, and you think someone should be held accountable but are not sure, contact us. We may be able to help you right away, or may recommend that you go deeper. Either way, its good to know where you stand.