Oregon Car Accident Laws

Even if you file a police report, you’ll need to independently report an accident to the DMV.
Written by Cassandra Hamilton
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Car accidents in
need to be reported to law enforcement, your insurance company, and the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services (DMV). You need to do this to file a
car insurance claim
or personal injury lawsuit.
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What to do after a crash: Oregon car accident reporting laws

Your first priority
after a car accident
should be checking that you and your passengers are safe. You’re also responsible for moving your vehicle out of traffic, if possible, so you don’t cause another accident. Don’t forget to call 911 to report the accident and get help for anyone who was injured.
You’ll also need to document the crash so you have accurate information once the immediate memory starts to fade. Be sure to take photographs of the damage and record your statement on the event in a note or voice memo. It can even be helpful to draw a diagram. Don’t forget to exchange insurance and vehicle information with the other parties, including details like their car’s make, model, and license plate — a lack of documentation could be the reason your insurance claim gets denied.
You need to report a crash three times in Oregon:
  • To emergency services
  • To the DMV
  • To your insurance company

When to report an accident to the police

You need to notify the police as quickly as possible after an accident—this usually means via cell phone. You need to report an accident to the police if:
  • Property damage exceeds $2,500 
  • If there is property damage to something other than an involved vehicle
  • If a vehicle is towed from the scene
  • Anyone was injured or killed
When you report an accident quickly, you can greatly speed the process up. This especially applies if you end up needing to file a lawsuit.

When to report an accident to the DMV

Even though you’re filing a police report, you still need to report accidents to the Oregon DMV within 72 hours of the accident. You’re required to file with the DMV if:
  • Damage to any vehicle involved exceeds $2,500
  • Anyone was injured or killed
  • Property damage to anything other than the vehicles involved exceeds $2,500
  • Any vehicle is towed from the scene
If you can’t file the form within 72 hours, do it as soon as possible. You can
download the form
and send it via email or mail to the DMV, but not both:
1905 Lana Ave NE
Salem, Oregon 97314
The DMV cannot provide a copy of the report once you have submitted it, so make a copy before you send it in.
Double-check that you have all the information the state requires, like your driver’s license number, vehicle information, and insurance company name and
policy number

Financial responsibility and coverage minimums: Oregon’s insurance laws

If you get into
an accident in Oregon without insurance
, your
license will be suspended
for one year. You will have to submit an
SR-22 certificate
to get your license reinstated, and every year after that for three years.

Claiming damages after an accident: Oregon’s personal injury laws

What happens if you get the insurance payout and it’s not enough to cover your costs? You might need to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to finish paying your bills. You’re eligible to claim both economic and non-economic damages when you file a lawsuit:
  • Economic damages are straightforward: medical bills, lost wages, lost employment or business opportunities, loss of property, or burial expenses.
  • Non-economic damages are a little more convoluted: pain and suffering, inconvenience, or emotional distress.
You have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit in Oregon, and six years to file a property damage lawsuit.

Exceptions to Oregon’s personal injury laws

There are exceptions to Oregon’s statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits. The first applies if the injured person is under 18 or has been declared mentally incompetent. Then the “clock” for filing the lawsuit doesn’t start until that person turns 18 or has been declared competent. 
After the injured person becomes eligible to file a lawsuit, they must do so within one year of becoming eligible, or within five years of the injury, whichever is sooner. That means if a person is injured at age 11, they will have to file the lawsuit by the time they turn 16.
The other exception occurs when the person who caused the injuries moves to another state or conceals themself in some way. In these instances, the statute of limitations wouldn’t go into effect until that person returns to Oregon or ends the concealment.

Who’s to blame: Oregon’s modified comparative negligence law

One of the biggest questions after a car accident is who is at fault. Sometimes it’s not so clear-cut. If Emily stops suddenly for no reason and is rear-ended by Taylor, who was following too closely, whose fault was it?
Oregon has a
modified comparative negligence law
, which means you can only claim damages in an accident if your fault percentage does not exceed 50%.
In this example, Taylor is found to be 80% responsible and Emily is 20% responsible. This means Taylor cannot claim any damages, while Emily can recoup 80% of her expenses. But, Emily is still responsible for 20% of her costs due to her fault percentage.
With comparative negligence laws like Oregon’s, you should strive to drive as safely as possible and incur as little fault as possible after an accident. If you get into an accident outside of Oregon, you’ll have to follow that state’s laws on comparative negligence

How to save money on car insurance in Oregon

The bad news is that if you’re found at fault after a car accident in Oregon,
your insurance rates could go up by 35% to 80%
. But you don’t have to pay the maximum, even after an accident, when you use
As a
licensed broker
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