Who is at Fault in a Car Accident? Understanding Personal Injury Liability

As an “at-fault” or tort state, Oregon law requires identifying the party responsible for causing a vehicle collision. Establishing liability drives the outcomes of both insurance injury claims and legal action.

Damages from crashes may include economic and non-economic damages, including vehicle repair and replacement bills, medical care, lost wages from missed work, and pain or disabilities that may persist for years. State law allows car accident victims to claim these damages from negligent parties after establishing legal fault first.

Insurers similarly rely on evidence of responsibility to calculate appropriate settlements. Unclear or inaccurate fault judgment can cost victims dearly in unpaid bills, lost settlement money, and stress. Victims also risk having their claims dismissed when they lack guidance in applying Oregon negligence laws correctly.

Police Reports Are Not Always Definitive

In Oregon, official auto accident reports compile first-responder observations about visible contributing factors based on positions of rest, skid marks, injuries, and eyewitness accounts. However, reports rarely capture the whole story or fully address legal standards for determining liability.

For example, a report may indicate Driver A “failed to yield the right of way” by pulling into traffic despite Driver B approaching closely in that lane at the posted speed limit. Yet further investigation may reveal that Driver B was distracted or traveling above the speed limit before skidding before impact.

In this scenario, reporting officers followed protocol but did not have enough information to assign comparative fault percentages. As a result, victims should not overly rely upon police collision reports when seeking injury compensation. An experienced personal injury attorney gathers additional evidence to prove appropriate financial liability.

Insurers Also Perform Independent Investigations

After Oregon crashes, insurance companies deploy adjusters to analyze liability further. This scrutiny helps claims handlers decide what damages they may owe under the drivers’ policies.
Insurers consider official police reports, policyholder and witness interviews, medical reports, and vehicle scene data to determine fault.

However, insurer conclusions may align more with their financial interests than legal liability principles. During settlement negotiations, victims without knowledgeable legal counsel risk getting pressured into unsatisfactory settlements. Consult attorneys to determine your options before signing away your rights or admitting fault.

Hiring Seasoned Car Accident Attorneys is Essential

Given the financial complexities around accident fault, all injury victims should retain knowledgeable personal attorneys to help them maximize claim results. A lawyer’s experience negotiating with adjusters, understanding state statutes, and proving negligence in court provides the necessary perspectives that most crash victims lack.

Personal injury litigation involves substantial procedural compliance and strict filing deadlines. Most people struggle when proceeding individually against insurance defense lawyers hired to protect the insurer’s profits.

Key Evidence Attorneys Use to Prove Accident Fault

The following are examples of the types of evidence that attorneys and insurance companies may gather in order to determine liability/fault.

Police Reports and Witness Testimony

Secure accident reports immediately and gather independent witness statements before memories fade.

Video Footage

Obtain dash and traffic camera footage plus businesses’ security recordings to understand pre-crash conditions. Cell phone forensics may also help prove distraction.


Carefully photograph and measure skid marks, debris fields, vehicle damage patterns, crash positions, and more.

By leveraging the evidence, attorneys can strengthen your negligence claims.

Assess Fault Wisley After An Oregon Car Accident

Insurance companies often view the evidence in a way that favors the company. For this reason, partnering with our seasoned Oregon car accident attorneys can be invaluable. Before discussing settlement offers with insurers or accidentally admitting fault, contact Hess Injury Law in Hermiston for a free consultation.

Our team can help you hold the negligent party responsible for your harm and pursue just compensation for your claims.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional legal counsel.

Author Bio

Peter J. Hess grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. He is a 1996 graduate of Walla Walla High School and a 2000 graduate of the University of Washington, with a B.A. in Business Administration/Information Systems.

Peter graduated from Willamette University College of Law, with honors, in 2007. While at Willamette, he was an Associate Editor of the Willamette Law Review, he was a Teacher’s Assistant for a Legal Research and Writing professor, and he worked as a Personal Injury Law Clerk at Swanson, Lathen, Alexander & McCann in Salem, Oregon. After graduation from Willamette, Peter began working here at Hess Injury Law. In 2012, he became a partner in the firm. He is licensed to practice law in both Washington and Oregon.

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