August 1, 2012

Suing the government is not easy. There are times, though, when a state agency is clearly liable for an accident or injury, and the victim has a right to compensation. Generally, states will cap the damage awards available to claimants, as Oregon does.

In Oregon, though, the scheme is a little more complex than it is in other states. The limit for claims against the state, a state employee or a state agency is $1.8 million if the injury occurs during fiscal year 2013. Claims against local government employees or agencies, though, are limited to $600,000 during this fiscal year. The caps adjust every year, so an award for an accident in August 2009 would be capped at $500,000.

Other states simply apply one number to an individual and another to any number of individuals injured in one accident. For the victims of an awful pileup on Interstate 75 this past January, the cap is just $200,000 for an individual and $300,000 for one incident. The problem, of course, is that 11 people died in the crashes and more than two dozen were injured.

We posted about the accidents in January. While it happened almost as far away from Oregon as you can get without leaving the Lower 48, the number of vehicles and victims — and the horrible particulars of the crashes — garnered national attention.

Almost right away, questions came up about why the state patrol had opened that stretch of road when smoke and fog had been such a problem throughout the evening. As it turns out, state investigators asked the same question, and they were not satisfied with the answer. They concluded that the state patrol was at fault.

For the victims, the report cleared one roadblock as they sought compensation for their losses. But others lay ahead.

To be continued.

Source: Herald Tribune, “State nixed I-75 crash settlement, lawyers say,” Nathan Crabbe and Jon Silman, Aug. 9, 2012

Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Portland car accident page.


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