Plaintiff’s Duty To Mitigate

Personal injury cases can get complicated pretty quick. Not only do they involve a lot of factors that can be difficult to prove —like a defendant’s duty, breach, causation and damages—but even when those hurdles have been met, a plaintiff, has obligations of his (or her) own that must be met. Even an innocent plaintiff who has been injured by someone else’s negligence must mitigate—or reduce— as much as possible, his damages.

The Duty to Mitigate.

The “duty to mitigate” (or “mitigation”) refers to the legal concept that requires a plaintiff who has been injured to reduce the damage that has been inflicted on him.

What?

Does that mean that someone who has been injured through no fault of his own has a duty to reduce the damage the other person caused him to suffer?

Yes, it does.

Every plaintiff has the obligation to take reasonable steps to avoid further loss and to minimize the consequences of the injury. In the context of a personal injury case, that means, for example, that you (as a plaintiff) have an obligation to seek medical attention, undergo surgery if recommended, or to seek other employment or re-train if necessary, or undertake any other reasonable steps necessary to mitigate as much as possible, the damage that was caused to you.

Why?

Because if you do not, the rule of mitigation of damages allows the judge or jury to reduce your right to recover that portion of your damages which the judge or jury finds you could have reasonably avoided.

How the Duty to Mitigate Works

It may be easiest to understand the way the duty to mitigate works by looking at an example. Let’s say that you are in a car accident and you break your leg. If your doctor recommends surgery as the only way to repair the break, and says you must stay off the leg for 6 months, and you refuse to have surgery and don’t stay off the leg for 6 months, you cannot later claim damages for the conditions that resulted from your refusal to have surgery and stay off the leg. If a reasonably prudent person would have followed the doctor’s advice, your damages will be reduced by the amount your failure to follow the doctor’s advice resulted in a lack of improvement in your leg, or aggravation of the break.

We Are Personal Injury Attorneys.

If you have been injured, we can help. We are personal injury attorneys with offices throughout Oregon. We have offices in Salem, Medford, Bend, Portland, Eugene, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. You can call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.To set up an appointment, contact us here.

Understanding Discovery

Have you ever wondered how attorneys come up with those surprise questions at trial that make the witness cry on the witness stand? You know, like the way they do it in movies: Mr. Attorney suddenly turns on the sweet little old lady witness who has been giving the most damming evidence against his client until now, and says in a deep, booming voice, “isn’t it true, Mrs. Witness, that you didn’t see the light at all…because you are legally blind!” and everyone gasps in surprise and the witness crumples, dissolving into tears. Or, where plaintiff is losing her case, and her attorney suddenly says, “I call my next witness, Mr. Whosit!” and the courtroom doors swing open and to everyone’s astonishment, Mr. Whosit, who everyone thought was long dead, comes swinging in and takes the witness stand. How do attorneys work all those astonishing surprises into a litigation?

Well, they don’t.

Civil Discovery.

While it makes for good television, in real life, civil cases (like personal injury, car accident cases, toxic torts, breach of contract cases etc.) have a set of legal procedures, called “discovery,” that are designed to prevent surprise at trial.

Why?

Because our legal system is designed to foster fairness in litigation and promote early settlement. The discovery procedures allow each side to find out as much as possible before trial, of the strengths and weaknesses of the other side’s case, and his own.

What’s the point of that?

Well, the more you know about how strong or weak your case is, and how strong or weak the other side’s case is, the more likely both sides will be willing to settle their differences instead of going to trial. Trial is time-consuming, emotionally exhausting, and costly. If both sides have a realistic view of their case and the other side’s, they can very often reach a settlement that is fair to both sides without having to resort to trying their case before a judge and jury.

Written and Oral Discovery. 

Civil discovery is a thorny, sometimes burdensome, but very important part of litigation. Briefly, discovery allows you to obtain information about the other side’s case (including who they intend to call as witnesses at trial) in both written and oral form.

Written discovery generally consists of written questions (called “interrogatories”) that the other side must answer in writing, under oath, and document demands (“requests for production of documents”). A document demand requires the opposing party to produce documents to support his or her case.

Oral discovery generally refers to depositions. Depositions, while not as formal as in-courtroom testimony, are nevertheless sworn testimony subject to punishment for perjury. Depositions allow each party to interrogate the plaintiff or defendant, witnesses, and expert witnesses, under oath, before trial. These sessions are recorded and transcribed by a court reporter and can often be videotaped as well.

We Are Here To Help You.

If you are a witness, have been sued, or are thinking of bringing a lawsuit, you will be required to participate in discovery. We can help you through it. We have offices in Salem, Medford, Bend, Portland, Eugene, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

What is a Subrogation Action?

 

If you are in a car accident, “subrogation” is a term you need to become familiar with.

Why?

Because a subrogation action by your insurance company can impact your claim Subrogation is not a term that many people hear about. That’s because it is generally a matter that is between insurance companies.

So let’s see what it is and why it’s important.

What is Subrogation?

Subrogation is one of the ways in which car insurance companies recover money they have paid out in claims to drivers that they have insured.

Subrogation is the act of one party claiming legal rights of another that it has reimbursed for losses. Subrogation usually occurs in personal injury or casualty cases where one insurance company pays its insured damages and then brings its own claim against other parties or their insurance companies who caused or contributed to the loss, for reimbursement.

To make this clearer, let’s say you are in a car accident. Generally, you will submit a claim to your insurance company for the damages you incurred (medical bills, damage to your car) related to that accident. Your insurance company will conduct an investigation of the accident, and based on its conclusions, will reimburse you some amount for your damages. Let’s say that your insurance company determines that that accident was entirely the fault of the other driver, so it pays all of your expenses. Your insurance company will then seek reimbursement for what it paid to you from the other driver’s carrier. Your insurer is “subrogated” to the rights of your policy and can “step into your shoes,” which means that your insurance company can recover what it paid to you, its insured, from the other insurance carrier.

Why is Subrogation Important to You?

You may be wondering why subrogation is important to the consumer if it’s just a matter of reimbursement that occurs between insurance companies. There are two main reasons why understanding how subrogation works is important:

  1. If your insurance company decides to pursue subrogation to recover its costs, they are required to try to recover the costs of your deductible as part of their subrogation claim. If they recover the costs of your deductible, they are required to refund that money to you.
  2. If your insurance company is not able to recover the money it paid directly from the other company, it may have a lien on your settlement. There may be issues to attack the validity of the lien. If you find yourself in this situation, you should have legal counsel assisting you in the matter.
  3. While it is rare, a subrogation claims might possibly limit your ability to make agreements with third parties regarding liability. Your insurance policy will very likely require you to cooperate with any subrogation attempts they make. This means that you may not be allowed to sign waivers that release the other driver from responsibility.

To fully understand subrogation and how it impacts you, you should discuss it with a personal injury attorney.

Talk to an Attorney.

If you have been in an accident, consult a personal injury attorney about your rights. We have offices in Salem, Medford, Bend, Portland, Eugene Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. You can call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

Toxic Torts and Personal Injury

Those of us who love the outdoors, fresh air, clean water, and pesticide-free fruits and vegetables, are usually very aware of the danger of exposure to toxins or dangerous chemicals. And so we may do a number of things to reduce our risk of exposure. But sometimes, we have no control over whether we are exposed to dangerous chemicals. For example, John Travolta’s 1999 movie, A Civil Action was based on the true story of 8 Woburn, Massachusetts families whose children and spouses contracted and died of leukemia after the local water was contaminated by  W.R. Grace Co. Similarly, the movie, Erin Brockovich told the story of a legal assistant’s discovery that Pacific Gas & Electric had been poisoning the water supply in the town of Hinkley, California for 40 years. And, although it was never made into a movie, the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred off the coast of Alaska in 1989, dumped about 11 million gallons of oil into the water and devastated fishing communities.

The people who were exposed to these man-made disasters were severely injured or died.

Toxic Tort Litigation.

With the exception of claims covered exclusively by worker’s compensation, people who are exposed to and injured by toxins can seek redress through litigation and can usually recover damages through a personal injury case. These types of personal injury actions are called “toxic torts.” A toxic tort is a legal claim for harm caused by exposure to a dangerous substance like pesticides, asbestos, pharmaceutical drugs, black mold, oil spills, groundwater contamination, or any number of things.

What Happens if You Didn’t Realize You Were Exposed to Toxins?

A common issue in many toxic tort cases is that the injury (often in the form of a disease) doesn’t show up right away. For example, someone may be exposed to pesticide drift due to crop spraying, and may develop cancer, but it might not show up until 10 years after the initial event took place. Because most personal injury cases must be brought within 2  or 3 years (depending on your state’s statute of limitations) someone who does not find out until years later that he was exposed to a toxin which caused his injury, would not be able to sue the responsible party. To prevent this unfair result, the courts have developed a “discovery” principle. This principle prevents a plaintiff’s time to sue from starting to run until the plaintiff knew or should have known of his injury.

Causation. The Battle Begins.

Because of the delay between the damaging event and the plaintiff’s injury, not surprisingly, the battleground in many toxic tort cases is the issue of “causation.” The toxic tort plaintiff has to prove that his injury or illness was caused by the specific chemical used, manufactured or distributed by the defendant (depending on whether plaintiff’s theory is one of negligence or product liability) and not from some other cause, like exposure to some other chemical or drug, or smoking cigarettes.

Like they say, “it’s complicated.” That’s why you need competent counsel to guide you if you have been exposed, or believe you have been exposed to toxic substances.

Toxic Tort Attorneys.

If you or someone you love has been exposed to toxic chemicals or injured by  pharmaceutical drugs, black mold  or other toxins, we are here for you. Our personal injury attorneys in Washington and Oregon offer free consultations. Contact us by phone or email  to  set up your free consultation.

Wrongful Death Explained

Some of the saddest situations we encounter concern wrongful death lawsuits.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When someone dies or is killed as the result of the negligence or actions of another—  including murder —the surviving members of the victim’s family can bring a civil lawsuit for “wrongful death.” Because wrongful death is a civil tort, and not Penal Code violation, the legal standard for proving that the defendant wrongfully caused the death of the victim is far less than that required in criminal cases. As a result, it makes it easier to prove, especially where the civil case is based on the criminal case, as in a murder situation.

On the other hand, even if the surviving members of the victim’s family prove their case against the defendant, the defendant will not go to jail. Instead, he will be required to pay the family damages (i.e., money). That is not to say that the person who commits murder or commits other crimes associated with the victim’s death cannot or will not be prosecuted criminally, either before or after the civil case. The point is only that in a civil lawsuit, the remedy is money damages. In a criminal case, it is incarceration and restitution.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit can only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. This type of lawsuit is the governed by statute. Each State has its own statutes governing wrongful death actions.

Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death.

Many wrongful death actions arise out of car accidents, fights, medical malpractice, job injuries, or criminal activity. Wrongful death actions allow the decedent’s representative to get money damages (for the estate) caused by the tort. In addition, decedent’s representative can recover for the pain and suffering that the victim endured before death. This is because the personal injury action survives the death of the person who suffered the injury. “Survival actions” as they are called, can be brought to get compensation for the pain and suffering the victim endured.

Personal Injury Attorneys.

If you or someone you love has been injured or died because of another’s negligence or willful misconduct, call us. We can help. We have offices in Washington and throughout Oregon. To set up your free consultation, give us a call or send us an email .

Medical Malpractice Basics

When doctors make mistakes, the impact on their patients can be catastrophic. While most doctors typically provide their patients with the highest standard of care, there are times when things go terribly wrong. Medical malpractice cases are a type of personal injury case where a patient sues his or her doctor (and sometimes the nurses too) for improper or negligent medical care. An act of medical malpractice can arise out of a medical practitioner’s misdiagnosis of a disease, a bungled surgery, misuse of a machine or instrument, or even treating a patient without the patient’s permission.

More Than Just Not Good Treatment.

To rise to the level of medical malpractice, however, the doctor’s actions must constitute more than just not good treatment or care. The patient must be able to prove that the doctor was negligent, in other words, that what the doctor did or failed to do, fell below the standard of care for the medical profession.

Expert Testimony.

In most cases, to prove that a doctor’s treatment fell below the acceptable standard of care for doctors in the community where the alleged malpractice occurred, expert testimony will be required. A medical expert (usually another doctor) qualified in the same area of medicine as the defendant doctor, will have to testify to establish not only what the proper standard of care was, but that the defendant doctor fell below that standard. It can very often be difficult to find a doctor who is willing to testify to another doctor’s negligence.

Problems Proving Medical Malpractice Cases.

In addition to getting expert testimony, there are other factors that make proving a medical malpractice case difficult. Establishing malpractice can be difficult because doctors are often the ones who write the medical reports that form the basis for the lawsuit. It is not unheard of for health care providers to frame their reports in such a way so as to protect someone who was negligent.

The law has legal principles designed to deal with these situations. Nevertheless, medical malpractice cases can often require careful investigation, preparation and planning to be successful.

Speak to an Attorney.

If you or someone you love has been injured, misdiagnosed or treated without your permission, contact us. We are experienced personal injury attorneys and we can help. We have offices in Washington and throughout Oregon. We offer free consultations, reasonable fees, and are committed to our clients. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.

Dog Bites and Personal Injury

“Man’s best friend” can become your wallet’s worst enemy in a flash — of teeth. Liability for dog bites varies from state to state, however, in general, if you are the owner (or, “pet parent” if you prefer) harborer, or keeper of a dog that bites someone, you can be held liable for the injured person’s economic and in some cases, noneconomic (pain and suffering) damages.

In both Oregon and Washington where we practice, dog owners can be held liable for a dog bite victim’s economic damages. Economic damages can include: medical expenses, rehabilitative services, loss of income, and past and future impairment of earning capacity. Depending on how severe the bite is, things can get expensive pretty fast. Noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, may in some cases be more difficult to get, but they can be recovered as well.

Not So Free “One-Free” Bites.

Contrary to what many people may believe, you don’t get a free pass in life and in many states —– like Washington— your dog does not get one “free” bite. Fido bites, you pay. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter that the dog had never bitten anyone before or that the owner had no idea that the dog would bite someone.

In Oregon, the laws are a little less strict. But not much. The dog bite victim does not have to prove that the owner of the dog knew or should have known that the dog would bite in order to recover economic damages, and it is no defense to the owner that he couldn’t foresee that the dog would bite someone.

However, in Washington, unless the dog is a police dog, the owner is strictly liable for the dog’s actions, if the dog victim was attacked in a public place, or private place where he had a right to be. This “absolute” or “strict” liability means that, consistent with other personal injury claims, the owner of a dog that has bitten someone will be liable for whatever amount of money the jury, judge or arbitrator determines is fair to compensate the victim for his or her economic and noneconomic damages. That means that the dog owner will be responsible for paying the victim’s past and future medical bills, wage loss, impaired earnings, anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, pain, mental anguish, disfigurement and more.

In Oregon, it is a little more difficult for the bite victim to get noneconomic (pain and suffering) damages. Because dog owners are not held strictly liable if their dog bites someone, the victim would have to prove that the dog had known “dangerous propensities.”

We Are Here To Help!

If you are the victim of a dog bite or own a dog that has attacked someone, we can help. We are experienced attorneys with offices in Washington and throughout Oregon. We offer free consultations, reasonable fees, and are committed to getting our clients the relief they need. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.

Libel and Personal Injury

Great place, America. It’s the land of the free and home of the brave. We’ve got the right to bear arms, and to say anything we want to.

Well, almost.

While we do have a Constitutional right to free speech, others have personal rights too. And it’s not unusual for one person’s free speech rights to run up against another person’s right to protect his reputation. You take your speech too far, and you just might run into the laws of defamation.

Defamation: Libel and Slander.

“Defamation” is the broad term that covers the civil tort of making statements that injure another’s business or personal reputation. Written statements that damage another’s reputation are called “libel.” Spoken statements are called “slander.”  A person who has suffered (or thinks he has suffered) a defamatory statement can sue the person who made the statement.

To prove either type of defamation, a plaintiff must prove 4 elements:

  1. a false statement purporting to be fact
  2. publication or communication of that statement to a third person
  3. fault amounting to at least negligence, and
  4. damages orsome harm caused to the person or entity who is the subject of the statement.

Libel and Social Media

The prevalence of access to the internet, and social media in particular, has made it easier than ever to make defamatory statements about people or their companies. For example, internet services like Yelp! are specifically designed to allow people to review and comment on other people’s businesses. With social media services (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) you can instantly publish comments and it’s not unusual for people to publish disparaging comments. Yet a false and damaging Yelp! review, tweet, YouTube video, or Facebook update can become a defamatory statement (libel) that is actionable by the person or company you are writing about. And that means that you could very well end up defending yourself in a defamation lawsuit.

Defenses and Privileges.

Not every statement that is injurious to a person’s or company’s reputation is actionable, however. State laws vary, but there are defenses and privileges that prevent a statement from being actionable as libel or slander. For example, “truth” is an absolute defense to all defamation claims. To prove defamation, a plaintiff must prove that the statement was false, and must show that the defendant was at fault. There are also absolute and qualified privileges that serve as defenses against libel or slander claims.

Know Your Rights!

If you are facing a defamation lawsuit or believe you have been defamed, contact us. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. You can call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

When Can You Recover for Pain and Suffering?

If you have been in a car accident, the extent of the damage to your car is pretty obvious, but what about you? You not only have medical bills, but you are also suffering from the mental and emotional impact of the accident: you’re upset, you’re afraid to drive or be in a car again, or maybe you’re up all night because you can’t get it off your mind or the pain is keeping you awake. Is that something you can recover money for?

Yes, it is. Mental and emotional damage resulting from an accident or injury is compensable.

What is Pain and Suffering?

When someone files a civil lawsuit, they are generally looking for money to compensate them for the damage or injury done to them. Damages fall into two categories: (1) economic and (2) noneconomic.

Economic damages refer to money losses, like medical bills, car repair costs, lost wages, etc.

Noneconomic damages, however, refer to more intangible damages, like injury to reputation, mental distress, or humiliation. In the context of a personal injury action, “pain and suffering” generally refers to the noneconomic, mental or emotional damage you suffer as the result of an injury or accident.

How Much Can You Recover for Your Pain and Suffering?

It’s not easy to evaluate a person’s pain and suffering. As you might imagine, everyone is different, so there is no bright line for calculating pain and suffering damages. Calculating pain and suffering damages involves a balancing of many factors.

State laws put limits on the type of noneconomic damages you can recover for and how much you can recover for them. For example, Oregon law limits recovery for pain and suffering to $500,000. Washington State, on the other hand, limits the amount you can receive from the parents of a child under 18 who is living at home and may have willfully injured you, and uses a wage times life expectancy calculation to limit other noneconomic damages.

When Can You Recover for Pain and Suffering?

Noneconomic damages like pain and suffering are generally part of any personal injury or car accident litigation. However, just because the ability to recover such damages exists, that does not mean that the insurance company will automatically pay for them. You will need to prove the extent of your damages —including your pain and suffering— with evidence and testimony. Some documents you may need to provide are:

  • Prescription receipts.
  • Over-the-counter medication receipts.
  • Medical bills, if any, for therapy, ambulance costs, x-rays, emergency room visits,
  • Proof of lost wages or time off from school.
  • A log of all medical treatment, pain, and missed activities.
  • Photos of your injuries.

Hire a Personal Injury Attorney!

We can take the pain out of personal injury recovery. We offer free consultations, reasonable fees, and are committed to getting our clients the relief they need. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.

How to Move Forward After Bankruptcy

Going through a bankruptcy —– from decision to discharge— can be a long and stressful ordeal. Eventually, though, you get the breathing room you so desperately need. And after Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 comes the next chapter: putting your life and your credit back together.

How can you do that? A bankruptcy stays on your credit report forever, and you’ll never be able to get a mortgage or another credit card, right?

Wrong.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years; a Chapter 13 for 7. Maybe restoring your credit won’t be easy, and maybe it won’t be instant, but you can put your life and your credit back together after bankruptcy. We can help you figure out what strategies will work best for you. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. How quickly you recover from bankruptcy depends a lot on you and what you do after discharge. We can help you develop a sound approach to your fiscal recovery.

In the meantime, here’s a few tips to help you get started down the road to emotional and financial recovery.

Let it Go. Put it Behind You and Move on.

If you’ve recently gone through a bankruptcy, you might be feeling like a failure. You might feel like you are all alone or are some kind of financial outcast. Think again. According to the United States Courts, bankruptcy filings were down in 2017 but they still totaled a whopping 794,492.  You are definitely not alone. But you are the only one that you must forgive.

In order to rebuild your life and move forward, you need to be able to come to grips with the past. You need to take a look at what happened and why, so you can prevent it from happening again, if at all possible. You should look at the past, but you don’t have to live there. Think about what happened and how you can make sure things will be different from now on. Then forgive yourself, and move on. Make a plan to live a better, more responsible fiscal life, and start living that life!

Pay Your Bills on Time. Consider Getting a Secured Credit Card.

One of the best ways to get your financial life back on track is to make a plan and be diligent about paying your nondischargeable debts (taxes, child support, alimony etc.) on time. You can also consider getting a secured credit card. Unlike other credit cards, with a secured credit card, you deposit small amounts of money in your bank account and that becomes your credit line. However, not everyone qualifies for a secured credit card and they often come with high fees.

 Talk to a Lawyer!

Don’t know where to start? If you need help making a plan to rebuild your life after bankruptcy, or if you are considering filing bankruptcy, contact us. We can give you the help and guidance you need.