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Personal injury cases are more complex than people realize. Beyond the negotiations, motions and legal context, there is one main complicating factor: the number of parties involved.

In general, personal injury law seeks to make injured people whole again. The court’s role is to facilitate this process by discovering, among other things, who is responsible for the losses.

The adversarial process

The civil court system in Oregon is adversarial. The Cornell Legal Information Institute defines this as a procedural format in which competing parties argue their cases in front of a judge or neutral person.

Basically, when people start personal injury cases, they place themselves against all other parties involved. The interests of one party compete with the others’. This is relatively straightforward in theory, but more complicated in practice. For example, a car accident, especially one involving commercial vehicles, could have multiple parties to the case, including:

  • Parts manufacturers
  • Maintenance companies
  • The state
  • Transportation companies

The negligence factor

The injured person — or the person who brings the case, such as a plaintiff whose loved one suffered a debilitating brain injury — and all other parties would need to determine who was at fault. In Oregon, the jury typically decides how much each party’s negligence contributed to the accident. That percentage usually determines how much each party should pay.

For example, if a truck driver had 80% of the fault for a motorist’s injuries and the motorist had 20%, the trucker would likely pay 80%. The private driver would likely be responsible for covering the remainder. When more people get involved, this formula becomes significantly more complex.

This multi-party dynamic could have an effect on many aspects of a case: who pays who, the advantage of settlements and the ability of a plaintiff to collect. Understanding everyone’s role and competing interests is often essential for success.