I frequently have victims of an accident call me regarding bodily injury or property damage claims who feel they are not being dealt with fairly by the insurance company. Victims who feel forced to accept low offers to settle their claims.
But there is a tool that gives victims some leverage in negotiations. ORS 20.080 – and this post is a brief primer on how the statute works.
ORS 20.080 provides that in claims for less than $10,000 if a thirty-day demand letter is set to the responsible party and is not paid, and the victim gets a lawyer and files a lawsuit, the responsible party has to pay the amount originally owed plus attorney fees and costs.
Insurance companies usually respond to these claims quickly, because if the victim has to hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit and wins the case, then the amount awarded for attorney fees and costs may exceed the amount owed in the first place.
I usually recommend that the demand letter and all associated documents be sent to both the at fault driver and the insurance company in two ways: by first class mail and also by certified mail, return receipt requested. The demand letter should mention ORS 20.080, allow 30 days for a response with the threat of a lawsuit at that time, and explain that attorney fees may be awarded if the jury gives a higher verdict than the offer made within 30 days. Often times taking full advantage of this letter is achieved by having an attorney at every stage in the process.
Even if you have a smaller case, you should speak with a lawyer to help you determine if you need an attorney. Because I work on a contingency fee, I do not take cases unless I think we can win and I try to provide honest evaluations. ORS 20.080 claims can get much more complicated, so if you have questions and think I can help, please call.
Below is a link to the statutory provision in its entirety. http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/20.080