Oregon Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws



If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of Oregon, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we'll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Oregon statutes in each section.

Here are the Oregon car accident and traffic laws we'll cover:

Pedestrian Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk, or in any of the following locations:

  • In the lane in which the driver's vehicle is traveling
  • In a lane adjacent to the lane in which the driver's vehicle is traveling
  • In the lane into which the driver's vehicle is turning
  • In a lane adjacent to the lane into which the driver's vehicle is turning, if the driver is making a turn at an intersection that does not have a traffic control device
  • Less than six (6) feet from the lane into which the driver's vehicle is turning, if the driver is making a turn at an intersection that has a traffic control device
Section 811.028

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words "Walk" or "Don't Walk" or the symbols of a walking person or an upraised palm are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  1. Walk or Walking Person. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  2. Don't Walk or Upraised Palm. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian's crossing on the Walk or Walking Person signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don't Walk or Upraised Palm signal is showing.
  3. Pedestrians shall obey instructions on any traffic-control device specifically applicable, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
Section 814.010

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the shoulder of the roadway edge.
Section 814.070

Pedestrians' Right of Way on Sidewalks

The driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk.
Sections 811.025 and 811.505

Drivers to Exercise Due Care

The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care concerning pedestrians.
Section 811.005

Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Section 811.265

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:

  • When passing another driver in the same direction
  • When there is an obstruction in the right lane
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
  • Upon a roadway with three (3) or more marked lanes for traffic
Section 811.295

Passing On the Left

Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane.

Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Section 811.410

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible, and the overtaking driver is not driving on a curve, on a grade, or at an intersection or rail crossing.
Section 811.305

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
  • On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Section 811.415

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is "reasonable and prudent", having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.

A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Section 811.485

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while using a mobile communication device, except for the sole purpose of calling for emergency assistance. Drivers who are eighteen (18) years of age or older are allowed to use a hands-free communication device that allows them to keep two hands on the steering wheel.
Section 811.507

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Section 811.275

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Section 811.350

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other drivers on the roadway to be crossed.
Section 811.285

Bicycling Laws

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws. Drivers must yield to a bicycle in a bike lane or on a sidewalk.
Sections 811.050 and 811.055
Section 814.400

Motorcycling Laws

Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Section 811.385
Section 814.250

"Lane Splitting"

Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as "lane splitting," motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
Section 814.240

Helmet Law

All motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Section 814.275

Motorcycles and Headlights

Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have no more than two (2) lighted headlights turned on at all times.
Section 811.515
Section 814.320

Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements

Careless Driving

A driver commits the offense of careless driving if they drive any vehicle in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.
Section 811.135

Reckless Driving

A driver who is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Section 811.140

Alcohol and Minors

A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway after drinking any amount of alcohol.
Section 813.130

Driver's Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give to the other driver or passenger the name and address of the driver, the registration number of the vehicle, and the name and address of any other occupants of the vehicle.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Section 811.705

Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give to the other driver or passenger the name and address of the driver, the registration number of the vehicle, and the name and address of any other occupants of the vehicle.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Section 811.705

Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car which is driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has given to the other driver or passenger the name and address of the driver, the registration number of the vehicle that the driver is driving, and the name and address of any other occupants of the vehicle.
Section 811.700

Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property

A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.

Once located the driver who caused the accident must give to the other driver the name and address of the driver and the registration number of the vehicle.

If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle, and the registration number of the vehicle.
Section 811.700

Driver's Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to all property resulting in $1,500 or more must give notice to the Department of Transportation with seventy-two (72) hours and must give notice to a police office by the quickest means available.
Sections 811.720, 811.725, and 811.748

For more information about accident reporting, see the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Accident Report Forms

To obtain accident reports, see the Oregon Department of Transportation website.

Open Alcohol Container Law

A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on Oregon roadways.

An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle or in a location not normally occupied by a person. It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment. Passengers of a motor home or a hired vehicle can consume and possess an opened container.
Section 811.170

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways. In Oregon, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or higher.
Section 813.010

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant may be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver's driving privileges during the pendency of the driver's probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver's body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Sections 813.600 and 813.602

Liability Laws

Oregon Dram Shop Law

Oregon has a Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.

Under Oregon law, it is illegal for a social host or a commercial establishment to serve alcohol to a minor or an intoxicated person, and the social host or commercial establishment is liable for the actions of the minor or intoxicated person.
Sections 471.565 and 471.567

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of Oregon, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • At least $25,000 per person
  • At least $50,000 for two (2) or more people
  • $20,000 per occurrence for property damage
Sections 806.010 and 806.070

Oregon Insurance Information

For information about the insurance requirements in Oregon, see the State of Oregon website.

Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

In Oregon, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim's liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.

If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident.

If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Section 31.600

Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie's lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson's car crashed into Melanie's. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

The verdict stated Jackson's negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.

In the event the jury had found Jackson's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.

Comparative Negligence: Section 31.600
Right of Way: Section 811.350
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 811.507

Oregon's No Fault Car Insurance

In Oregon, the driver who was legally at fault for the accident and the driver's car insurance company are liable to pay for property damages or injuries. In addition, a victim can also file a lawsuit against the other driver before their own personal insurance protection (PIP) insurance limits have been exhausted.
Section 742.504 (9a-c)

Statute of Limitations

Oregon has a six (6) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim file a lawsuit within the six (6) year period following the accident.
Section 12.080

Small Claims Courts

In Oregon, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $10,000.

To submit a claim in small claims court, visit the Oregon Judiciary Department website.

For more information, see visit the Washington County web page of the Oregon Judiciary Department website.

Oregon Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity

In Oregon, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.

If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
Sections 30.260, 30.265, 30.271 and 30.275

Example

If Melissa, an engineer with the Portland Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Portland would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.

If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Portland can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.

Oregon does place a cap on the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees. For personal injury and death, the following list details the maximum amounts for which the state is liable:

  • $1.5 million, for causes of action arising on or after December 28, 2007, and before July 1, 2010.
  • $1.6 million, for causes of action arising on or after July 1, 2010, and before July 1, 2011.
  • $1.7 million, for causes of action arising on or after July 1, 2011, and before July 1, 2012.
  • $1.8 million, for causes of action arising on or after July 1, 2012, and before July 1, 2013.
  • $1.9 million, for causes of action arising on or after July 1, 2013, and before July 1, 2014.
  • $2 million, for causes of action arising on or after July 1, 2014, and before July 1, 2015.

For property damage, the following list details the maximum amounts for which a public body is liable:

  • $100,000 for any single claimant
  • $500,000 for all claimants

A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within two (2) years after the accident.
Sections 30.260, 30.265, 30.271 and 30.275
NCSL

Sources

State Government of Oregon

Oregon Department of Transportation

Oregon State Legislature

Oregon Department of Public Safety

Governors Highway Safety Association

Oregon Bar Association

National Conference on State Legislature

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