Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities After a Car Accident

Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities After a Car Accident

What are your legal rights and responsibilities after a car accident?

If you’re involved in a car accident, a lot is running through your mind. You’re worried about injuries to yourself and others, as well as wincing at the possible extent of your vehicle’s damage. 

Some accident victims are so rattled by the experience they have trouble forming coherent thoughts. Others are already thinking about their legal rights after a car accident

You do have specific rights after a car accident. However, you also have certain responsibilities, and ignoring these responsibilities may have an impact on your rights.

Your Rights After a Vehicle Accident

Oregon is an at-fault state that also follows modified comparative negligence rules. What does this mean for your legal rights? In most instances, these laws work in the favor of accident victims.

In an at-fault state, insurance adjusters assign blame. An adjuster from each involved driver’s insurance company reviews the evidence to determine who’s responsible for causing the accident. Sometimes, assigning blame is relatively straightforward.

For example, a driver runs a red light and hits your vehicle. In this instance, the driver barreling through the red light is the at-fault driver. This means their insurance company is responsible for covering the damages sustained in the collision.

Sometimes, more than one driver can be responsible for a vehicle accident. For instance, if one driver runs a red light but you’re making an illegal turn, modified comparative negligence rules typically apply.

Modified comparative negligence comes into play when more than one driver is assigned fault for the accident. You can still file a claim for your damages but your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of the blame.

There is a stipulation to Oregon’s modified comparative negligence rule. A driver can’t be more than 50% at fault. If you’re assigned 51% of the blame, the statute prevents you from filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance carrier. In other words, you must rely on your insurance to cover your damages.

Right to File for Non-Economic Damages

Accident claims usually ask for compensation to cover expenses dealing with economic damages. These damages typically include medical expenses, property repair, and replacement costs, along with lost income. You can usually include lost wages in an accident claim when your injuries are severe enough to prevent you from returning to work.

Along with economic damages, you may also be entitled to non-economic damages. These are damages like pain, suffering, and mental anguish. To claim non-economic damages, you must show that the accident and/or your injuries are responsible for your pain and suffering.

Right to Appeal a Denied Insurance Claim

Insurance companies can deny an accident claim for several reasons. The insurance adjuster may decide you’re more than 50% responsible for the accident. Remember, Oregon is a modified comparative negligence state. If you’re assigned more than 50% of the blame, your accident claim is usually automatically denied.

The insurance company can also deny a claim if the adjuster doesn’t feel you’ve adequately proven the other driver’s actions are negligent.

Regardless of the reason, you have the right to appeal an insurance company’s decision to deny your accident claim. This does mean filing an appeal in civil court, but it can force the insurance adjuster to reevaluate your case. 

However, even if you decide to file an appeal with the court, it doesn’t guarantee the insurance company will amend its initial decision.

Your Responsibilities After an Accident

After being involved in a motor vehicle accident, you have a few legal responsibilities. While ignoring these responsibilities doesn’t mean you lose your right to file a claim, it may make it a little more difficult to receive full compensation.

Report the Accident

Oregon law requires you to report a vehicle accident if injuries or fatalities occur. You also need to call the authorities if property damage exceeds $2,500. This statute applies even if your vehicle is the only one involved in the accident. 

If a vehicle requires towing, in other words, it’s undrivable after the accident you must alert law enforcement. Failure to report a vehicle accident can result in a leaving-the-scene charge which can come with hefty financial penalties.

Render Aid

Even though you’re not legally required to render aid after an accident, it’s the right thing to do. What is illegal is leaving the scene of an accident if injuries are present, and this also applies if a fatality occurs. 

If you do decide to drive off, you can be charged with a hit-and-run. If you can’t check on others involved in the accident, call 9-1-1 to request an ambulance.

Exchange Insurance Information

If your injuries are too severe or the other involved driver’s emotions are running high, don’t worry about exchanging information. You can get these details from your accident report. However, if possible, grab your driver’s license and auto insurance card.

You want to exchange contact information, including phone number and email address, with the other driver. Jot down their car insurance policy number, along with their license plate. You also want to get their driver’s license number, which you can find at the bottom of their driver’s license. Getting this information early makes it a little easier to get started immediately with your insurance claim.

File an Oregon Accident and Insurance Report

If the authorities are at the accident scene, they’ll take care of this step. All that’s left for you to do is pick up a copy of the accident when it’s ready. Most accident and insurance reports are ready for pickup in about seven to ten business days.

Why do you need a copy of the report? This is one of the first pieces of documentation the insurance adjuster will request. Your accident report shows the incident occurred, outlines the cause, and provides other details that can help support your claim.

Let an Attorney Help Protect Your Rights

You have legal rights after being involved in an auto accident, which often includes receiving compensation for your damages. However, Oregon law can be complicated, especially if you’re partially responsible for the accident. 

Let an experienced accident attorney handle the legal details so you can focus on making a full recovery, guaranteeing that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve.

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