Do I Need an Attorney to Settle my Case?
You may not need an attorney for your accident. If you have minor injuries, you are not in bankruptcy, all of your medical bills have been paid by PIP, and the insurance company treats you respectfully and truthfully, you may be better off settling your lawsuit directly with the insurance company.
It is usually difficult to find lawyers to take clients with minor injuries, so you may have no choice in the matter. There is an exception to this, though, in Oregon.
How to get a lawyer for a small case – ORS 20.080
You can get a lawyer for any case you want—if you are willing to pay $300 or more per hour. But if you want a lawyer to work on a contingency basis, meaning that you pay nothing up front or out of pocket, and the lawyer takes a percentage of whatever he or she can get for you, it can be very hard to find a lawyer for a small case.
The insurance companies figured this out a long time ago and refused to pay more than a few hundred dollars on smaller cases, because they knew injured people could never get lawyers for those cases. Eventually, the Oregon Legislature figured out that insurance companies were not playing fair, and the Legislature enacted Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 20.080.
ORS 20.080 makes it possible to find a lawyer for a case worth $10,000 or less. Under this law, if the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable offer within 30 days of receiving a certain type of demand letter, the insurance company can be made to pay your damages AND your attorney fees! This is basically a law meant to discourage insurance companies from taking advantage of people.
This law is complicated. ORS 20.080 can be incredibly helpful if you’ve suffered injuries (but they do not make your case worth more than $10,000). Typically, this means that you did not break any bones, or suffer any permanent damage. Cases of whiplash that heal within a few months often fall into this category.