Premises Liability on Public Property

Here in Oregon we love spending time outdoors: crabbing on the Oregon coast, hunting  and backpacking in the Oregon Wilderness, snowboarding, sea kayaking— we love it all. But what happens when there is an accident on public land? If you fall down a ravine while hiking, or break a leg snowboarding, do you have to bear the costs alone?

Premises Liability.

The general rule is that all property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition so that people entering on the property will not get hurt. The legal theory for this rule is called “premises liability.” Premises liability makes property owners responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their premises.

It applies to private as well as public properties.

When it comes to determining when, and to what extent, a property owner is responsible for injuries that occurred on his property, the law divides the people entering on the property into different classes:

  • Licensee —someone who is present for his own purposes, but enters with permission of the owner.
  • Social guest—is someone that is a guest, present with the owner’s permission.
  • Business Invitee—someone who enters the property at the invitation, and for the benefit of the owner— like a customer. This invitation usually implies that the owner has taken reasonable steps to make the property safe.
  • Trespasser— someone who enters the premises without permission and has no right to be on the property.

A property owner’s liability for injuries is determined by the laws and procedures of the state in which the injury occurred. Some states look only at the status of the injured person (social guest, licensee etc.) to decide liability. Other states look at the injured person’s status, his actions on the property, the condition of the property, and the owner’s actions. Knowing what factors the court in your state will apply is why it is important for you to consult with knowledgeable personal injury attorneys.

Oregon’s Recreational Use Statute.

In 1995, Oregon enacted its recreational use statute, which encourages landowners to make their land available to the public for recreational purposes. Oregon’s recreational use statute provides that an owner of land who makes it available for recreational use is not liable for injuries occurring on the land to people making use of it for those specific recreational purposes. That immunity does not apply, however, if the landowner charged the injured party to use the land.

Public Lands.

When it comes to public lands, it may be difficult to hold the government responsible for injuries because most government agencies enjoy “government immunity.”

Consult Competent Counsel.

If injury has put the skids on your outdoor activities, we may be able to help. We are Oregon attorneys. We provide free consultations. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.

Why You Should Know About Social Host Liability

 

It’s the morning after, and you’ve got…a horrible…

Lawsuit.

Social Host Laws.

Social host liability laws are laws that impose liability on social hosts for alcohol-related injuries that occur to minors, and in some states, to anyone who was allowed to drink to excess and who was injured or killed, or caused another’s injury or death. Social hosts are generally private individuals who serve alcohol in non-commercial settings.

Social host laws make a host liable for property damage related to these kinds of accidents. In most states, to be held liable, the social host must be aware that his guest was intoxicated and should not have been served more alcohol. These laws don’t just apply to alcohol – they can also include other intoxicating substances.

While many social host laws are aimed at reducing alcohol-related deaths and injuries suffered by or caused by minors, some states, like Oregon, have social host laws that apply to guests of all ages.

What Social Host Laws Mean to You.

Liability for personal injury cases generally encompasses economic and non-economic damages. 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.

While social host laws are limited to economic damages only, such money damages can still be significant. When you consider that Oregon  have social host laws that impose a duty of care of a party host to any guest, and then consider that most accidents caused by intoxicated adult guests are drunk driving incidents, the serious consequences of one’s duty becomes obvious.

Talk to a Lawyer!

It’s important that you know your legal duties as well as your rights. If you think you may be liable under the social host laws, or believe someone else is, talk to us. We are experienced attorneys with offices in Salem, Medford, Bend, Portland, Albany, Eugene 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.

What Damages Cap Means For Your Lawsuit

When you are injured by the negligence of someone else, you could end up with a mountain of medical bills, significant pain, suffering, property damage, emotional distress, lost wages or more. Generally, you (the plaintiff) file a lawsuit against the party that injured you (the defendant) to make him pay —both literally and figuratively— for the damage he caused you. You are usually looking for money damages to compensate you for the harm you have suffered.

Economic and Non-economic Damages.

Money damages come in two flavors: economic and non-economic. 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.

Not surprisingly, the costs of a serious accident, injury, or medical malpractice case or an incident where a death ensues, can skyrocket into the millions pretty quickly.

So, can a seriously injured person recover the full amount of her or his claim?

No, not in Oregon

Caps on Damages.

Damages caps are laws that limit the amount of non-economic damages that a plaintiff can recover. Each state has its own damages cap. To find out what the cap on non-economic damages are in the states of Oregon, consult with knowledgeable personal injury attorneys.

Damage caps are an issue of public policy.  I have personally seen how they can effect people with catastrophic and life changing injuries.

What a damages cap means to your lawsuit is that you may be limited in the amount of money you can recover for your pain and suffering or mental and emotional damages.

What do if you are facing a serious, catastrophic injury

Every case is different.  Developing a good legal strategy to deal with the caps and maximize your settlement is paramount. 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.

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.