What fantastic day you've had. You and a group of friends decided to take advantage of the amazing hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest. The natural wonders of the Fern Ridge Path were truly endless. You saw old growth forests, enchanting canyons, and even a rare carnivorous flower.
Yet, the day ended worse than you could have imagined. Just as you were leaving Green Hill Road, a car swerved right into you. You couldn't avoid him and now you've been in a serious accident.
Now what? Here's some information to help guide you through the process should you be in a car accident in Eugene.
Remain Calm and Stop
Car accidents are jarring experiences. Many people panic after they are involved in one and end up causing more harm. First, stop at the accident scene or as close as possible without needlessly blocking or endangering other traffic. Leaving the scene of an accident, or hit-and-run, is a serious traffic crime. Conviction will mean your driving privileges will be revoked or suspended. It doesn't matter what you hit -- a pedestrian, a moving car, a parked car or someone's property.
What if I hit an unoccupied car?
Excellent question. First, try to find the owner. If you can't find the owner, leave a note that identifies you as the person who hit the car and how to contact you. By law, you are required to write your name and address on the note, and a brief description of what happened. If you damage property other than a motor vehicle, you also must try to find the owner or someone in charge of the property to report the damage. It's also a good idea to call the Eugene Police Department and ask them to take a report.
Do I have to report the accident to the Oregon DMV?
Yes, you certainly do. After having had a traffic accident or collision you must submit an Accident and Insurance Report (Form 735-32) (PDF) to DMV within 72 hours if the accident meets certain criteria:
- Damage to the vehicle you were driving is over $1,500;
- Damage to any vehicle is over $1,500 and any vehicle is towed from the scene as a result of damages from this accident;
- Injury or death resulted from this accident; or
- Damages to any one person's property other than a vehicle involved in this accident is over $1,500.
Do I have to call the police?
Absolutely. The state of Oregon requires you to immediately notify law enforcement by the quickest means available if you are a driver involved in an accident meeting any of the same criteria required under DMV Accident Reporting Requirements.
Call the non-emergency contact number to notify the Eugene Police Department, Oregon State Police, or Lane County Sheriff. If the accident results in a serious injury or death, and you call 9-1-1, then no additional notification to law enforcement is required.
What if the other driver offers to pay for the accident if I don't report it to DMV?
This one is simple: Don't do it. If you agree to do this, you are breaking the law if the amount of damage is more than $1,500. Always remember to keep a copy of your report for your own records.
What if a police officer writes a report? Do I still have to report it to DMV?
Ah, another good question. YES, even if a police officer files a report. A police report does not satisfy or remove your requirement to file an accident report with DMV. You must do that yourself.
What information should I gather at the scene?
Be prepared to exchange information with the other driver-your name, address and driver's license number; the registration number of the car you were driving; and the name your insurance company. You may wish to collect contact information on:
- The other car's owner;
- Any passengers in the other car; and
- Any witnesses to the accident.
Oregon State Insurance Level Requirements
Oregon state law requires you to have liability insurance for all registered vehicles. Here are the state minimums:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury;
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury;
- $25,000 per accident for property damage.
Interested in reading the law for yourself? Here is the link to Oregon's Financial Responsibility Law (PDF).
How do I prove who was at fault?
If you were injured in an Eugene car accident, you have to prove the person responsible for the car accident injury was negligent to be entitled to compensation.
Determining who is at fault isn't always easy. Car accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, including driver negligence, defective vehicle parts, poorly maintained roads, or severe weather conditions.
If you were partially responsible for the car accident, the amount you recover depends how much at fault you are. Under Oregon's comparative negligence law, this is based on percentages.
If you were 51 percent or more at fault in an accident, you cannot recover damages. If you were less than 50 percent at fault, you can recover damages. Yet the amount you receive will be reduced depending on how much at fault you are.
What Damages Are Available?
If you have suffered harm from the accident, you can seek monetary damages for your loss. These damages may include lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Remember, you only have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. After that, you will be barred from any claims.
If you aren't sure what to do, an attorney may be able to help. Many lawyers take auto accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, you do not pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees if you lose the case. If you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the money you get. A settlement is considered a "win" and you'll have to pay attorney's fees out of that amount
If you do decide to sue, your attorney will provide details about where and when to appear in court. Here's a list of courthouses in the area.
Auto accidents can be stressful and unnerving. Knowing what to expect and remaining calm will make everything go more smoothly. If you or a loved one has been in a Eugene car accident, consider speaking with a lawyer.