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Personal Injury

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Ralph Wiser, Attorney at Law, specializes in representing people who have suffered personal injury due to another party’s actions or neglect.

Wiser has extensive experience and knowledge in this particularly complex area of the law. He is highly motivated and absolutely devoted to obtaining fair compensation and justice for the people he represents, particularly in cases of severe, devastating injuries such as head trauma.

What does “personal injury” mean?
Simply put, legally-speaking, a personal injury case centers upon a person who has sustained actual damage due to the actions or neglect of another party.

If your car was legally parked by the curb and a bus driver pulls in too close and side-swipes it, crushing the door and scraping the paint off, he could be held legally responsible for that property damage. On the other hand, if you were standing on the curb and a bus side-swiped you, or knocked a parked vehicle into you, the driver could be held liable for the personal injury you sustained. Or if the accident was caused by brake failure, the bus company or the mechanic who worked on the brakes could be held legally responsible for this personal injury to you.

Personal injury may include physical injuries, psychological and emotional damage, long-term impairment/disability and wrongful death. A personal injury case may entail damage such as a broken leg that will eventually heal if the injured party receives appropriate medical care and rehabilitation. Or a personal injury case may address permanent, devastating damage such as severe brain injuries.

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The primary purpose of a personal injury suit is to obtain justice, resolution, and fair compensation and relief for the injured party.

This may include covering the cost of medical expenses and replacing lost wages and other economic losses. The injured person may also be compensated for pain and suffering and other significant damage that may negatively impact the life of the person.

One purpose of obtaining justice in this respect is to recompense/assist/support the injured individual and to ameliorate the personal consequences of his or her injury. Additionally, when a person sustains damage of this nature, there is also, inevitably, a serious impact on the lives of his or her family members, and in the community at large. (Click here to read Why fair recompense is essential)

Who is responsible? How do insurance companies fit into the picture?
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In most cases, the at-fault party does not actually expect to pay directly for compensation and medical expenses for the injured person. Most public institutions, businesses, professional service providers and government agencies pay for liability insurance coverage as part of operating costs, which means that most on-the-job injuries, slip-and-fall cases and service-related personal injuries should be compensated by the insurance companies who have been paid to provide this service.

Likewise, most states require that all drivers — or, at least, vehicle-owners — purchase liability insurance, which is meant to provide compensation for injuries or damage caused by the driver.

While insurance companies are paid (paid well, in fact) to provide this coverage, it doesn’t follow that they are quick to step up and pay compensation, however fair and appropriate it may be. In fact, insurance providers have every reason to drag their heels, refuse to acknowledge fault and to do everything possible to pay out as little as possible in nearly every case. Unfortunately, Federal and state laws often contribute to this problem. (Click here to read: Like a good neighbor?)

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Why is personal injury law so complex and confusing?
Most areas of the law are fairly complicated, but personal injury law is exceptionally complex and often overwhelming, even to lawyers unless they make a point to stay on top of the field. As mentioned previously, the insurance industry and its powerful lobbyists have had, and continue to have, a great deal of influence in promoting, creating and passing legislation that makes it challenging for injured parties to obtain fair compensation. (Click here to read: Like a good neighbor?)

This input, and that of other special interest groups is the primary reason that Federal and state laws, regulations and administrative rules are constantly changing and evolving. This is why it is invaluable to have legal representation by an attorney who is up-to-date and experienced with the many facets of these laws. Ralph Wiser is just such an attorney, who has dedicated his life-long practice to obtaining justice and fairness under the law for his clients.

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An experienced personal injury attorney can help you ensure that you are able to get timely medical services, compensation while you are not able to work, and full compensation from the at-fault party. If you have the time and expertise to do this yourself, you are way ahead of most injured parties. Even lawyers must stay abreast of constant changes in the law, mostly as a result of legal cases, statutory changes, and changing administrative rules.

Car crashes and other vehicle collisions

It goes without saying that even if you operate your car in a safe and prudent manner, you can easily be the victim of the unsafe driver next to you, turning in front of you, failing to observe a traffic signal light, or a stop or yield sign. This is true of other drivers who are completely sober. It is compounded when the other driver is under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, using a cell phone or other listening device, or is otherwise impaired or distracted. Weather issues can exacerbate the typical challenges of driving safely and defensively. Blinding sunlight, driving rain, and wind or snow, require that drivers exercise more caution.

In Oregon, the general rule is that the negligent driver is at-fault for the injuries of his or her unfortunate victim. The law provides that the injured driver or passenger must be viewed as he or she was at the time of the accident or collision, i.e., if an injured person has a bad back, a previous brain injury, or other condition, the new or increased injury is deserving of compensation. A prior orthopedic or joint problem made worse by the other driver’s negligence can cause significant problems in the victim’s personal work and recreational life. It is fair and just that the victim of another person’s negligence is fairly compensated for all of his or her losses.

Insurance companies are necessary part of a Oregon’s financial landscape. Many at-fault parties lack the necessary resources to fully compensate a victim of his or her negligence. Insurance helps to seek to provide resources to address that problem. Currently, the minimum limits of liability coverage required by Oregon law is only $25,000. Sometimes this provides enough insurance to fully compensate the injured party; at other times, as if often the case, it doesn’t…If the at-fault driver lacks enough insurance, an party may be able to seek additional compensation from his or her under-insured or uninsured motorist coverage, if those limits are higher than the at-fault driver’s liability insurance limits.

Despite television, radio and internet advertising to the contrary, insurance companies cannot be accurately described as the good hands people, a good neighbor, or someone you can count on in a time of need. Insurance companies are in the business of insuring against a risk of loss, but operate to maximize profit. They are thus compromised in their mission. In my experience, insurance companies are in the business of accepting premiums on the one hand, and denying and/or minimizing claims, on the other. This enables the insurance company to invest premium dollars in the financial and other markets, real estate, and other financial enterprises, to amass wealth, often at the expense of the injured party arid the insured party as well. This wealth, in turn, provides the insurance companies the financial ability to lobby Congress and state legislatures for favorable legislation which reduces their liability, to pay for advertisement and media coverage and articles which falsely states that deserving injured parties are not deserving of compensation, and for continuing their advertising for repeat and renewed customers to achieve their financial aims.

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The end result is that if the insurance company refuses to pay fair compensation to an injured party, the injured party is forced to sue the at-fault driver, seeking full and fair compensation as provided by law. In Oregon, in the typical auto crash case, the law prohibits the injured party from suing the insurance company directly, except in certain, well-recognized legal exceptions to that general rule. Thus, most cases identify the injured party (plaintiff) as an individual (e.g., Robert Smith), and the at-fault party as an individual (e.g., Patricia Jones), even though the at-fault party is insured and the insurance companies policy, not the at-fault’s party individual assets will serve to pay the judgment or recovery. By the same token, in most cases Oregon law prohibits a jury from learning the limits of the liability policy (e.g., $25,000, $100,000, $1,000,000, $5,000,000). Apparently the concern is that if jurors knew that an insurance company was involved and could pay the full amount of the judgment, the jury would hesitate to award full compensation to the injured party. if, on the other hand, the judgment is against an individual, not an insurance company, that fiction might operate to reduce the amount of the judgment, thus depriving the injured party from a judgment for full compensation.

Another interesting aspect of Oregon law, and generally of the law in other states, is that the law generally prohibits the injured party’s lawyer from arguing to the jury the most basic lesson that most of us learned as children-that we should, do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Stated another way, we should treat the injured party’s injuries and losses as though they were our own. This is known universally as the “Golden Rule.” The fear or theory is that if jurors were to do this they will insure that the victim receives full compensation, the amount of compensation a juror believes fair and just to fully compensate him or her for their losses.

In most situations involving a claim for injury, there are “Rules of the Road” which serve to guide or define the proper conduct of the at-fault party. For instance, in motor vehicle and other collisions, the statutes regulating the safe and proper operation of a motor vehicle are the Rules of the Road. In a slip and fall case, building codes and general prudence-a genuine concern for the safety of others and common sense, are the Rules of the Road. In building security cases, the same is true. The law is concerned about seeking to describe and ensuring that individuals conduct themselves in a way that promotes the safety of themselves and others.

When an at-fault party and his insurance company do not accept responsibility, are not accountable for their actions and the harm they have caused the victim, our system provides that the matter will be presented to and decided by the jury. In this way the jury acts as the “conscience of the community.” The jury, then, is, in our system, a sacred body, and those who serve on juries, heroes of our community. Together, the jury is typically far more intelligent, fair and just, than any single or team of lawyers, or a judge.

Finally, it is important to remember that the young, healthy, robust person who was significantly injured in a car crash, a slip and fall, or other situation, and who nevertheless received timely and appropriate medical attention and rehabilitation therapy and returned to work or resumption of normal life., might have been an elderly person or child who is forever impaired or scarred. We must as citizens or members of a jury insure that we act in a way in a way to protect and compensate the injured party deserving of compensation because of injury due to another person’s negligence, but also protect our parents and grandparents, children, colleagues, neighbors and other loved ones who share our community and to whom we owe a duty of loyalty.

My practice emphasizes personal injury. I could address issues of personal injury in a much longer writing than this introductory explanation address other issues in the Articles section of this site.