Oregon Auto Accident Liability: What You Need to Know

There are situations where one person is entirely and clearly at fault for an automobile accident or another’s injury. However, these circumstances are not always common. Instead, many accidents are the fault of more than one person, including the injured victim. In those situations, determining liability may be difficult because each party shares a portion of the blame.

Oregon, like many states, has comparative negligence laws. These laws split the percentage of fault between the parties involved so that the damages are assessed properly when it comes to compensation.

Pure and Modified Comparative Negligence

There are two types of comparative negligence: pure and modified. Pure comparative negligence means that the plaintiff, or injured victim, can collect compensation for their injuries and related losses even if they are 99% at fault for the accident. In those cases, the defendant must still pay for his or her one percentage of the blame.

In modified comparative negligence states, including Oregon, a plaintiff can only collect if he or she is less than or equal to 50% at fault for the accident. That means that in Oregon, even if you are 50% at fault, you can still collect compensation from the other driver involved in the crash.

Fault Among Defendants

Some situations involve more than just two parties. There may be three or more parties involved that contributed to the accident. In those situations, each party will have to pay a portion of the compensation in relation to their relative fault.

Consider this example. Imagine that there were three parties involved in an accident. The jury determines that you, as the plaintiff/victim, were responsible for 20% of the damages. The total value of your damages was $100,000. The jury also decides that the two defendants are each 40% at fault. Based on Oregon’s modified contributory negligence statutes, you could collect a total of $80,000 from them, with $40,000 from each defendant. You cannot, however, receive the other 20% (or $20,000) of the damages, because that was the portion of your own fault.

Contribution Among Defendants

In Oregon, parties are generally only severally and not jointly liable for damages, and only under limited circumstances can a party be responsible for another’s percentage of damages. This is in contrast to a true joint and several liability jurisdiction, in which a party 1% at fault can be forced to pay 100% of the damages. It is also in contrast to a true comparative responsibility jurisdiction, in which a party is never liable for anything more than his or her allocated percentage of the damages.

Oregon uses a type of proportionate reallocation system, in which, under some circumstances, if a defendant is unable to pay the damages, the plaintiff can ask the court to reallocate the uncollectable percentage proportionally to the remaining defendants.

Getting Legal Help

Issues regarding fault can be complicated, particularly when there may be more than one defendant. Our personal injury lawyers can help you build your case against all defendants in a way that will maximize your chances of recovery. Contact us for more information.

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Written by Clarke Griffin