Portland Traffic Accident Lawyer
“As an attorney Mr. Rizk did an outstanding job for me I had an auto accident and was able to not worry about my case after I turned it over to him. All the phone calls and mail stopped, from insurance Companies, etc. I simply informed them that Mr. Rizk was my attorney and handling all correspondence. He took care of everything so I could heal without the headache. I would definitely recommend him to anyone with injuries from an auto accident.”
Have you been injured in an auto accident and don’t know where to turn? You are not alone. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people find themselves in the same situation, needing help to resolve the medical and legal ramifications of an auto accident.
With so much at stake, you can bet that insurance companies concentrate their resources on paying out as little as possible on claims. Insurance companies have a right to investigate potential losses. However, they train their claims examiners to ask threshold questions that will limit or even disqualify a claim – without you even realizing it.
Before you call the other party’s insurance company to make a statement, contact me. As an attorney, I was trained by insurance companies and their law firms, and I know the common traps they set to lower their responsibilities. Let my knowledge of the other side help you maximize your claim, in as little time as possible.
Dealing with a Traffic Accident
Before you contact me, there are several ways you can help ensure that you are in the best position to get the most from your claim starting at the scene of the accident. For your convenience, you can also download and print the following advice by clicking here
Here’s what you should do:
A. Stop in a safe area near the accident.
Once an accident has occurred, pull over to a safe spot, out of traffic’s way if possible.
B. Assess the accident scene and get safe.
Don’t stay in an area where you could get hurt. Other cars, leaking gas, and angry drivers are all potential hazards. Be aware and use common sense to protect yourself and those around you. If you or others are injured, address those injuries or get help.
C. Exchange information.
You should at least exchange names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and insurance information with the other party.
D. Get professional medical attention right away.
Do not delay seeking medical care. Not all injuries are obvious, so report all symptoms and follow your doctor’s orders, making all required appointments. Call Richard Rizk should you need a medical or chiropractic referral.
E. Investigate at the scene of the accident.
A picture is truly worth a thousand words. After safety of all has been secured, take photos and/or movies of the accident scene, points of impact, identifying information (such as license plates), vehicles involved, and visible injuries. Get names and contact information of all witnesses, and write down a description of the events before and following the accident. In the world of claims, “what is not documented did not happen.” So document, document, document.
F. File an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report form with Oregon DMV within 72 hours if:
- Damage to your vehicle is over $1,500, or
- Damage to any vehicle is over $1,500 and any vehicle is towed from the scene as a result of damages from the accident, or
- Injury or death resulted from the accident, or
- Damage to any one person’s property other than a vehicle involved in the accident is over $1,500.
G. Contact your insurance agent.
Immediately call, then fax your insurance agent to notify of the loss. Give just the basic facts: where, when, who, and how. The fax will confirm your notice to the agent.
H. Hire an attorney with insurance experience.
Richard Rizk worked for Nationwide Insurance for a decade, then with Oregon’s largest insurance law firms, and closely with those at the highest levels of the insurance business. Richard now represents persons who present insurance claims.
Here’s what you shouldn’t do:
A. Don’t give a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company without first seeking legal advice from a qualified attorney.
Insurance companies try to pay as little as possible for each claim. Claims examiners are trained to ask threshold questions that will limit or bar your claim, without you even realizing it. Richard Rizk was trained by insurance companies, and he is aware of common traps. Call him before calling the other insurance company.
B. Don’t try to settle your claim before you know your damages.
Insurance companies know that claims generally get more expensive with time; so they offer small dollars right away to limit their exposure, causing you to settle short. Your claim is not a race — wait until you know the extent of your injuries before discussing settlement. Richard Rizk will help you maximize your claim. Call him at 503-245-5677 or email him at email@example.com today.
C. Don’t leave the scene of an accident without exchanging vital information.
Before leaving the scene of an accident, exchange with the other driver names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and insurance company information. Also get the name of any responding police officers and agencies.
D. Don’t move anyone who is injured.
Moving an injured person can cause further injury, especially where spinal injury has occurred. Only move a person who is clearly in harm’s way.
E. Don’t be chatty.
Even if the accident is your fault, try to be careful what you say. It can sometimes be very difficult to assess blame while traumatized by impact, and anything you say could be misheard or misinterpreted and used against you later in a lawsuit.
F. Don’t get angry.
Instead, be calm. Answer police officers directly and respectfully. Remember, your actions at the crash site may later be an issue, should the auto accident be litigated.
G. Don’t offer to pay anyone anything.
Instead, as soon as you can, call your insurer. Report the claim and get a claim number.
The Initial Report
Some injured persons are not aware of extent of injury until much later, when symptoms such as pain, stiffness, burning and reduced range of motion appear. You should get treatment before making statements about the nature and extent of injuries.
If you have Oregon auto insurance, you will have Person Injury Protection (PIP) coverage to pay for your reasonable and necessary treatment due to a motor vehicle accident. Provide your auto policy number or claim number to all medical providers to help prevent delay in payment.
Oregon No Fault Coverage is “PIP”
In Oregon, your auto insurance company is required to pay medical bills and certain other living expenses, such as ongoing lost wages, medication, and in home assistance care while you are recovering from a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who is at fault.
This “no-fault” coverage is known as Personal Injury Protection or PIP. Money paid for “reasonable and necessary” medical treatment under your PIP coverage is usually eventually reimbursed to your insurer by the insurer for the driver at fault.
Only reasonable and necessary medical is paid
Your Oregon no fault PIP insurance carrier is required to pay all of your medical expenses, within the first year, that is reasonable and related to the accident, up to your policy limit (usually $15,000). However, an insurer will deny medical bills it believes is not related to the accident or is excessive.
To get the evidence it needs to deny a medical service, an insurer will send you to an insurance company doctor for a so-called “Independent Medical Examination and Evaluation.” Sadly, insurance company doctors are rarely impartial or independent. Most insurance doctors will say that your treatment is not necessary, which explains why insurers use their own doctors rather than yours.
Wage loss is also covered
Your Oregon PIP no fault insurance carrier will pay at least 52 weeks of wage loss up to the maximum monthly amount of $1,250, assuming medical and wage loss verification satisfies the minimum off-work threshold.
When PIP refuses medical bills
If the accident was not your fault, you may pursue the at fault driver’s insurance company for your medical expenses as well as your pain and suffering. If you were at fault, suing your insurance company or requesting arbitration is your only option.
If medical expenses exceed PIP coverage
If you have health insurance, it usually pays additional amounts. If you do not have health insurance, you are responsible for amounts exceeding PIP coverage. Often, I am able to get the medical provider to hold off on requiring payment until case resolution.
Reimbursing your PIP insurance company
Whether you must pay back your PIP carrier depends on the recovery election made by the PIP carrier early in the case. Often, I force the PIP insurer to elect to pay me a fee to recover the medical expenses or waive recovery out of my client’s settlement or award. Since insurers wish to avoid paying a fee, many do not require PIP repayment by my clients.
What is a Safety Corridor | U.S 26. Mount. Hood Safety Corridor | Avoiding Crashes and Injuries to and from Mount Hood | US 26 Mount Hood Highway Safety and Preservation Project | OR 18/22 Safety Corridor to Oregon Coast | OR 99E Woodburn-Salem & Canby-Oregon City Safety Corridors | OR 34 I-5 to Corvallis Safety Corridor | Safety corridors continue to be the low-cost answer to lowering traffic accidents
What is a Safety Corridor?
A safety corridor is a stretch of state highway where the number of serious injury and fatal accidents is above the state average for similar roadways.
Safety corridors are segments of the state highway system that have a local three year average and serious injury crash rate that exceeds 110 percent of the statewide average for similar type of roadways.
Designating and maintaining a safety corridor involves a public-private partnership.
A Highway Safety Corridor designation involves a cooperative effort of concerned local citizens, legislators, state and local police, local public works agencies, emergency medical service representatives, and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) representatives to work together to identify these areas and take steps to reduce fatalities and serious injuries to motorists.
The Oregon Department of Transportation stresses “four E’s” in promoting highway safety through specially designated corridors.
- Education: raising safety awareness by educating drivers through signs, billboards, brochures, public awareness campaigns, events, and media within the community.
- Enforcement: funding increased law enforcement patrols and informing violators of serious safety concerns.
- Engineering: a required annual roadway engineering review to determine immediate engineering solutions to improve safety.
- Emergency Medical Services: coordinating and helping fund emergency responder services.
Oregon’s first safety corridor was created in 1989 at Highway 62 between Medford and Eagle Point.
Other safety corridors followed the OR 62 safety corridor. Due to the successful multi-disciplinary approach blending education, enforcement, engineering and emergency medical services, serious accidents along these roadways were reduced, so that several of these safety corridors, including OR 140W, were eventually decommissioned.
Safety corridor signs are posted to alert motorists of increased probability of serious injury or fatality on these stretches of roadway.
Each safety corridor has signs placed on both ends to inform travelers that they are entering areas where they need to pay extra attention and be careful to obey all traffic laws.
Law enforcement along safety corridors
Almost all safety corridors impose double fines on speeding drivers. Oregon State Police may also receive additional funding for law enforcement overtime hours in safety corridors.
ORS 811.483 imposes increased minimum penalties for non-speeding related offenses occurring in a safety corridor.
Driving offenses subject to increased minimum fines include:
- Failure to perform the duties of a driver when property or injury occurs
- Driving with a suspended or revoked license
- Evading the police
As of 2013, there are 14 stretches of roadway designated as safety corridors in Oregon.
- US Highway 26 “Mt. Hood Highway” (Sandy to Government Camp)
- OR Route 18 (from Sheridan to Grande Ronde)
- OR Route 22 (Salem – Willamette River Bridges to 99W)
- OR Route 99E (Canby to Oregon City)
- OR Route 99E (Woodburn to Salem)
- OR Route 34 (I-5 to Corvallis)
- OR Route 62 (I-5 to Medford)
- OR Route 62 (Medford to Eagle Point)
- OR Route 11 (Milton Freewater – last four miles to Washington border)
- US Highway 199 “Redwood Highway” (Grants Pass)
- US Highway 101 (Depoe Bay to Newport)
- US Highway 395 (Hermiston north to Highway 730)
- US Highway 20 (Corvallis to Newport)
- US Highway 730 (Irrigon to Umatilla)
The Mount Hood National Forest comprises over one million acres of forest and meadows.
The centerpiece of the forest is, of course, Mount Hood. Since Mount Hood and the recreational opportunities it offers is only about a one and a half hour drive from Portland, areas surrounding Mount Hood are popular weekend retreats for active, outdoor minded Portlanders. In fact, Mount Hood itself attracts about two million visitors annually, and up to five million folks visit the Mount Hood National Forest each year.
Due to lack of public transportation and limited expensive private bus service via the Central Oregon Breeze or Mount Hood Meadows shuttle, Portlanders almost always drive to the Mount Hood National Forest.
The crash rate on US 26 east of Gresham is twice that of other primary, rural non-freeway Oregon highways.
Between January 2003 and December 2008, 22 fatalities occurred on Oregon sections of US 26. Harsh driving conditions above the snowline cause most crashes, with après-ski activities combined with fatigue contributing factors.
Crowds flocking to Mount Hood never let up. Since Mount Hood is the only place in the USA to offer near year round skiing and snowboarding, spring and summer months attract skiers and snowboarders from across the nation. As a result, ski and snowboard camps operate in and around Government Camp during summer months. Mushroom and berry-picking are also popular summer and fall activities. December brings Christmas break vacationers and Christmas tree harvesters.
Congestion on US 26 is caused by more than recreationalists.
Over a thousand people live and work in small Mount Hood mountain villages and towns, such as Zig Zag, Welches, Rhododendron, Government Camp, Brightwood, Wemme and Parkdale. Others commute to mountain resorts from Sandy or Hood River.
The Oregon portion of US 26 was designed for 1950s traffic, not today’s. Between 1955 and 1978, a fifteen-mile segment of the route through southeast Portland was proposed to be moved from Powell Boulevard to create a “Mount Hood Freeway.” However, due to intense political pressure, Mount Hood Freeway never came to be.
Freight, recreational travel and commuting has dramatically increased on US 26 since the 1950s, when the Skiway tram shuttled skiers from Government Camp to Timberline for 75 cents.
Today, impatient snow riders speed by, often in the face of oncoming traffic, to pass commercial trucks that are forced to travel under the speed limit while climbing and descending roadway steeps. Inadequate parking at ski areas in Government Camp also increases congestion, by forcing motorists to circle, searching for available parking.
Warmer months open up other recreational activities, such as boating, biking, fishing and camping.
At the end of summer, the Hood to Coast relay running race occurs as mountain biking season ramps up. Sandy Ridge is a fairly new mountain bike trail system located about 13 miles east of Sandy, Oregon; and more new trails proposed at the Timberline Ski Area foreshadow increased traffic on I-84 and US 26.
The popular Mount Hood Scenic Loop starts just east of Portland on Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge.
This spectacular and distracting side tour passes through the Historic Columbia River Highway, then south on OR 35 to US 26 to Timberline Lodge and Government Camp. US 26 then continues back to Portland.
The Hood River County Fruit Loop is a 35-mile popular day trip through the Hood River Valley that connects over 30 farms between Hood River and Parkdale on OR 35. In the fall and late summer, motorists tour farms and pick and purchase fruit, while others enjoy wine tasting at Hood River Valley vineyards.
To reduce injury crash consequences to and from Mount Hood:
Have a clear view.
Don’t start driving until you have removed snow and ice from your windshield and lights. Make sure windows are completely defogged before driving. In some conditions, hot air works best; at other times cool A/C air is better. Experiment with both. Consider professional anti-fogging treatment before your trip to the hill. If weather seriously impairs visibility, consider waiting until conditions improve. Keep sunglasses and driving glasses in the glove box
Don’t drive exhausted.
We all know not to drink and drive. After a long day biking, skiing or hiking, even the young and strong can become extremely tired. If you are bushed, consider finding a place to stay the night on the mountain or ask a rested passenger to drive.
If you must talk while driving, use a hands free set (it’s the law). Better yet, don’t talk on the phone. Even conversations with a passenger can become a dangerous distraction. Keep it light. Don’t eat while driving. Train kids to behave in the back seat. Keep music low enough so you can still hear other sounds. Pack away the smart phone.
Check mirrors and tires.
Car mirrors help little if not aligned properly. Adjust your car’s mirror before the trip. Maintain proper tire pressure, remembering that temperatures affect tire pressure. Have them checked before your trip.
Stuck behind a slow driver? Be patient. Never cross a solid yellow line, and only pass when you have a clear view. Head on collisions have caused many traffic fatalities on the highways to and from Mount Hood.
Low fuel level increases anxiety, and may lead to accidents. Always drive up to the mountain with a full tank.
Chain up right.
Chains slow driving, tear up roads and can get caught in wheel wells. While you should always carry chains when driving in the Cascades in winter months, don’t use them on dry pavement. Other vehicles will fly by as you chain up, so choose a safe area away from traffic. Remember, other vehicles also have a reduced stopping capacity in winter conditions.
First Aid and Safety
Keep a complete first aid kit, flares, shovel, flash light, water and food inside the vehicle. Have a charged mobile phone and camera in your vehicle. Place flares or a flashing LED light behind your vehicle if it becomes disabled.
Fun, fresh air, good food and drink, and distractions in the Mount Hood National Forest and Hood River Valley cause motorized travel within these areas to be dangerous. Even beautiful Mount Hood itself can be a distraction. Since the Mount Hood Highway runs east to west, sun glare impairs driving even in clear conditions, preventing drivers from seeing signaling vehicles ahead in time to avoid rear end impact.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is currently working on a project that will reduce severe crashes along a three-mile section east of Rhododendron, while preserving the scenic quality and character of the Mount Hood Highway scenic byway. Construction is scheduled to start early 2014.
The project includes:
- Installing median barriers
- Cutting back the rock slope to prevent rocks from falling into the roadway
- Extending the westbound passing lane for 1,400 feet to give passing drivers more space to return to a single lane of traffic
- Paving eight miles of US 26 between Rhododendron and OR 35
- Installing overhead curve-ahead warning signs
Possibility of danger always accompanies recreational opportunity in the Mount Hood National Forest. Your awareness and adherence to the rules of the road will help make your trip safer and more enjoyable.
The Salmon River Highway (Oregon route 18) and the Willamina-Salem Highway (Oregon route 22) serve as the main route between the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Coast.
The 1990s witnessed the opening of several major tourist attractions along Oregon’s Pacific coast, including the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the remodeled Hatfield Marine Sciences Center in Newport and a factory store outlet in Lincoln City.
By 1999, traffic had increased 75% from the 70s and 80s when these roads were built. Beginning in 1995, the Oregon 18/22 corridor began to experience a significant increase in traffic fatalities. The majority of these crashes were due to crossovers (crashes in which one vehicle crosses over the dividing line into oncoming traffic and strikes another vehicle head-on) and collisions at intersecting roads.
With limited state funding, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) began to look for low-cost ways to increase safety.
The money to build and maintain Oregon highways (aside from federal highway funds) comes from the state’s 24-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax. Oregon’s fuel tax rate, however, hasn’t increased in nearly a decade in proportion to inflation. Compounding the problem, the demand for gasoline is decreasing as vehicles become more fuel-efficient.
With bleak prospects for funding major projects along the OR 18/22 corridor, ODOT began looking for low-cost ways to increase safety, and went into the communities along the corridor to seek ideas for improving the highways
The Oregon Department of Transportation enlisted the support of local agencies, organizations, and citizens to secure funding and implement changes.
ODOT formed a public-private partnership with Polk, Lincoln, and Yamhill counties, the Oregon State Police, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community (owner of the Spirit Mountain Casino), the Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation (a citizen’s committee the advises the Oregon Transportation Commission) and the Highway 18/22 Transportation Safety Committee.
ODOT’s Transportation Safety Division, the Grand Ronde tribe and the counties provided funding. The District 3 maintenance office and the counties supplied equipment, materials and workers, the county sheriffs and the state police provided enforcement and the safety committee and MWACT provided support and direction.
Safety improvements to OR 18/22
Working together, the partnership has been able to make the following small, but significant safety improvements to OR 18/22:
- Installing turn lanes
- Widening intersection approaches and installing sight posts at county roads to improve sightlines
- Restriping and adjusting “No Passing” zones to improve visibility and safety
- Eliminating a three-mile section of shared passing lane
- Establishing a uniform speed limit of 45 miles per hour through the Grand Ronde area
- Building off-road “launching pads” (parking areas) for police patrol cars
- Installing an automatic “Traffic Stopped Ahead” sign at the crest of a hill that blocks visibility of an intersection
- Installing blinking warning lights near several high-crash intersections
- Installing oversize “Intersection Ahead” signs that include the name of the crossroad at all intersections of county roads and state highways
- Cutting rumble strips along the shoulders and, in some cases, the center stripe of the highway
Small investments returned dramatic dividends.
The Oregon route 18 segment of the corridor was fatality-free in 2000 after recording six fatalities in 1998 and eleven in 1999. The Oregon Route 22 segment, after recording four fatalities in 1998, dropped to one in 1999. There was only one fatal crash in 2000 in the areas where highway crews had made improvements.
The most expansive improvement, the Highway 22 and Highway 99W interchange, was completed in 2008, replacing a signal-controlled intersection that was the scene of many serious or fatal accidents.
Due to those efforts, crash rates plummeted. By 2010, the crash rate was 37% of the average of similar roadways, and the safety corridor was decommissioned.
ODOT now waits for funding of an interchange at Highway 22 and Highway 51 and installation of median barriers between Doaks Ferry and Greenwood roads.
Unfortunately, this project will be years away. Tragically, a March 2013 fatal accident occurred just west of the Highway 22 and Highway 51 intersection. This was the fifth fatal crash on the nine-mile stretch since 2002, and one that may have been prevented if center barriers had been extended into the area.
In 2002, the Oregon Department of Transportation designated 99E between Salem and Woodburn and between Canby and Oregon City safety corridors due to the high number of accidents in these sections.
From 1992 to 2001, 56 fatal or serious accidents along 99E between Salem and Woodburn led to 24 deaths. In 2001, the rate of serious or fatal crashes in the corridor exceeded the statewide average for a similar roadway by twelve percent, making it eligible for safety corridor designation.
Highway 99E is dotted with businesses and intersections, and numerous small roads feed into and from it, causing congestion. Although the speed limit is posted as 55mph, drivers, whether intoxicated or just careless, tend to make poor decisions such as turning against or across traffic, speeding, passing unsafely and following too closely.
With safety corridor designation, drivers between Salem and Woodburn are asked to turn on headlights to alert others as they enter this dangerous section of highway. Widened highway shoulders and rumble strips have also been added. In 2006, the Oregon State Police received grant funding to work 273 overtime hours during 2006, patrolling this section of highway.
The 1991 improvements to OR 34 west from Interstate 5 to Corvallis from a two-lane highway to a five-lane highway system increased traffic volume and speed, causing more accidents.
The construction included a new overpass at OR 99E, which allowed OR 34 traffic to avoid a stoplight at that intersection, so OR 34 traffic was essentially unrestricted without traffic control for ten miles on a five-lane highway. As traffic volumes and speeds increased, so did traffic accidents and the severity of those accidents.
In 1994, a project initiated by the Albany State Police Patrol Office led to the designation of OR 34 as a traffic safety corridor, and included:
- Variable message signs displaying “This is not a Freeway”
- Oversized speed signs
- Orange diamonds on all signs
- Flashing lights on intersection signs
- Additional illumination at selected intersections
- Stepped-up random police enforcement emphasis
- Mail-out brochures
- Realignment of Oakville Road intersection
- “Lights on for Safety” signs
- “Safety Corridor Next 10 Miles” signs
Safety corridors are a relatively inexpensive intermediate step that dramatically reduces crash rates while progress is made toward more permanent safety improvements, and are decommissioned when crash rates drop below a certain level. For this reason, drivers should always be watchful of the road and existing conditions.