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Your Eugene Personal Injury Case: The Basics

It's a crisp autumn morning. You think you can squeeze in a run before the football game. After lacing up your Nikes, you're on your way. Normally it's a pleasure running through the Emerald Valley, but today there's a Rottweiler on the loose. You manage to run at Prefontaine's pace to avoid a dog bite, only to be hit by a car while you cross the street.

If you have a bit of bad luck and suffer a personal injury, the law is a great tool to help you recover. At the same time, if you are accused of being negligent, the law works to protect you from another's excessive demands. Learn the basics of personal injury law or you might find yourself figuratively and literally running into more bad luck.

Prove or Disprove a Plaintiff's Case

The party initiating the lawsuit, which is generally the party suffering from an injury, is the plaintiff. The other party is known as the defendant. To win a personal injury case, a plaintiff often must show that the defendant engaged in some bad conduct that was intentionally harmful and/or negligent. It should be noted that a plaintiff may be successful in a limited set of cases even if he/she can show no wrongdoing on the defendant's part, but the law is complicated and it may be best to see an attorney for more details.

Contingent Fee Agreements for Plaintiffs

As mentioned above, there are many scenarios in which it is helpful to have an attorney. Many personal injury plaintiffs are burdened with medical bills and lost earnings which make it difficult to hire a lawyer. Many plaintiffs' attorneys, however, work under contingent fee agreements. These arrangements allow a client to pay the attorney a percentage of the money received as part of a settlement or judgment received in the course of litigation. An attorney must first explain the agreement in plain language, and you will still have 24 hours after signing to reconsider.

Insurance for Defendants

If you are being sued in a personal injury case, you should contact your auto, home, or business insurance provider. In many cases, your policy may cover your legal liability.

Time Limit to File: Statute of Limitation

If you've been injured recently, you need to be aware that there are time limits for taking legal action, known as statutes of limitation. In a personal injury case, you generally have only two years to file suit, counting from the time that you discovered (or should have discovered) your injury. There are exceptions to the rule that may increase the amount of time you have, so do not give up on your claim before talking to an attorney.

File a Suit with the Lane County Clerk

To formally begin your case, file a complaint with the Lane County Clerk. The Office of the Trial Court Administrator receives and processes your documents on the 2nd floor of the Lane County Courthouse at E. 8th Ave.

You may have the option of going through the court system in a simplified manner by choosing to file a Small Claims case. To be eligible, you must be seeking no more than $10,000 and the incident must have occurred in Lane County. For more information about going to court, see FindLaw's page on Eugene courthouses.

Recover Economic and Noneconomic Damages

When you've been hurt, you generally have a right to recover economic damages-objectively verifiable monetary losses. The law explains that these include losses from necessary medical care, loss of income, loss of earning capacity, necessary domestic services, and more. You are limited, however, in your right to recover noneconomic damages-subjective nonmonetary losses due to pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, humiliation, and other forms of loss not readily verifiable. Oregon Revised Statute § 31.710 limits noneconomic damages to $500,000.

A Plaintiff's Negligence May Reduce an Award

The State of Oregon has a comparative negligencee system. This means that if a plaintiff sues on a negligence theory, a judge or jury will determine each party's percentage of fault, factoring in nonparties as well. The court will then reduce the plaintiff's award by his/her percentage of fault. If it happens that a plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, the plaintiff may not recover anything.

If you plan to file a lawsuit for your injuries, it is important that you preserve the evidence of your own responsible conduct. Furthermore, seek medical attention in a timely fashion so that your award is not reduced by allegations that you were negligent in receiving care. And last, but not least, you may want to consider talking to a personal injury attorney for specific information about your circumstances.

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