Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Trial can be cost prohibitive for smaller cases. Here’s a law that can help.
For smaller cases, it can be very tough to go to trial due to the time and effort involved. The relatively low value of the case can mean that going to trial simply doesn’t pencil out economically. Because of this, insurance companies could just make really low offers, or even no offer, on smaller cases, knowing you probably can’t afford to do anything about it. Therefore, a law known as ORS 20.080 was created so that if an insurance company tries to lowball you on a small case, you and your lawyer can still afford to seek justice at trial.
This law was enacted to encourage fast and fair settlements of smaller claims against insurance companies. It does this by exposing the insurer to attorney fees if they lowball a case and later lose at trial. It works this way: if you offer to settle your case within the maximum amount allowed under the statute, which currently is $10,000, the other person’s insurance company has 30 days to then give you their best offer to settle the claim. If the offer is too low and you beat that offer at trial, the insurance company must pay your attorney fees in addition to the amount that you win at trial. So why is this important?
First, you normally cannot charge the other side for your attorney’s fees even if you win your case, unless there is a law that specifically says you can. Without such a law, each side pays its own attorney fees, which is what normally happens in injury and property damage cases. But in Oregon, if the amount claimed is within the amount allowed under ORS 20.080, you can also get your lawyer’s fees paid if you meet the conditions I described earlier. The key is, your claim and any subsequent lawsuit must be for a dollar amount that does not exceed the maximum amount allowed under this law, which again, currently stands at $10,000. There are other technical requirements needed to make this work, but the point of this video is to explain why your lawyer may suggest that you consider making a 20.080 claim.
Now that is a simplified explanation of the law, and there are a lot of other legal issues involved in making these types of cases. Plus, what I just said may not apply to your particular situation. Therefore, talk to a lawyer if you think this statute could help your case, and to get proper advice for your specific legal matter.