How should I choose my criminal defense attorney?

A:  It is imperative to find a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. You want an attorney that has actually tried cases to juries. Preferably, you also want an attorney who is familiar with the jurisdiction in which you are charged and/or knows some of the prosecutors or judges around – that can help a lot. Finally, I always tell people who call me that if the unfortunate happens and you are charged with a crime, this is not the time to try to save money. In other words, like many other things, but especially with criminal defense, you get what you pay for. Most people can’t afford the most expensive criminal defense attorneys in town, but you don’t want to retain the cheapest either. The attorneys out there charging way less than everyone else are probably doing so for a reason – they are either desperate for business and/or are inexperienced and haven’t really tried any cases. This is a recipe for disaster with your criminal defense case.

What is ORS 20.080?

A:  ORS 20.080 is a very old statute in Oregon that was passed to help people who only had small claims. The big and bad insurance companies (or other corporations) felt comfortable ignoring those with small claims because even if they sued and prevailed – their claims were small and the payouts were also small. In fact, many of these claimants could not even get an experienced personal injury attorney to help them because the attorney’s fees were usually contingent and a percentage of a small number is a really small number. And, many of these claimants could not afford to pay an experienced personal injury attorney by the hour. So, they would be ignored by the insurance companies and corporations and would be unable to get help from experienced personal injury attorneys.

In comes ORS 20.080. It essentially can make a small case attractive to an experienced personal injury attorney because they can get their fees paid by the other side. It is complicated but essentially, you send a demand to the responsible party. The demand cannot be for more than $10,000 and must accompany documentation to prove your claim, like medical records and bills. Whatever the other side offers you becomes the “number to beat” in litigation so to speak. In other words, if you beat that offer at trial or in arbitration, you also win your attorney’s fees. Sometimes that number to beat is $0.00 which makes it a pretty easy decision. If they do make an offer, you need to have a very serious and lengthy discussion with your experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether to accept that offer or file suit. As I said, it is complicated, but this is a rough outline.

One of the most important things is deciding whether to accept the offer (if one is even made) or file suit. This is where an experienced personal injury attorney can help you to understand the risks and rewards of either choice so you make an intelligent and rational decision that is in your best interest. Bottom line is that it is a great statute and the best way to gain some leverage as the little guy in the David v. Goliath battle with the massive insurance companies and corporations.

What areas do you service?

A:  I am licensed to practice law in state and federal courts in Oregon and Washington. I began my career in Portland working almost exclusively in Multnomah County as a criminal defense attorney.

Years ago when I added civil litigation to my practice, while still practicing a lot in Portland and Multnomah County, I also added other areas to my practice including those around the Portland Metropolitan area. As I gained my employer’s trust, I got assigned to cases all over the state from as far east as Pendleton and Hermiston to as far south as Ashland and Medford and everywhere in between including Bend, Salem, and Eugene. My practice has continued to be primarily in the Portland metro area including close-in neighborhoods like Lake Oswego, Tigard, Milwaukee, Oregon City, Beaverton, St. Helens, Gladstone, Forest Grove, Skyline, Sylvan and SW Portland.

Not long after that, I was admitted to practice in Washington. I then began working all over that state as far north as Seattle/Tacoma and as far east as Spokane. Again, my practice usually concentrated in Vancouver and in and around Clark County but I have appeared in many places like Chehalis, Goldendale, Klickitat County, Olympia and on and on.

Since I became self-employed, I have continued to concentrate in and around the metropolitan areas of Portland and Vancouver, I have spent a lot of time in the courtrooms for Clackamas, Washington, and Columbia counties in addition to Multnomah and Clark counties. And, in the last four years I have done so both as an experienced criminal defense attorney and as a personal injury lawyer.

Should I accept the offer that the insurance company has given me?

A:  This question really depends on what the offer is before you but, as an experienced personal injury attorney, I can say that the insurance companies rarely offer you full value for your claim if you are not represented. I would suggest never taking an offer from an insurance company without at least seeking consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney who can explain what their offer represents, what to expect by rejecting the offer, and how the procedure of negotiating a pre-litigation settlement with an experienced personal injury attorney works as well as what to expect and how litigation works should you decide to reject that offer and file suit.

I offer free consultations and am happy to discuss your situation with you whether you have an offer from the insurance company or not. Do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your situation.

What type of fees do you charge for your services?

A:  Criminal defense and personal injury cases are handled very differently as far as fees go. First, let me start out by saying that any number of alternative types of agreements are possible so you should never hesitate to contact me because of your preconceived notions about pricing.

For personal injury cases, most of them are handled on a contingency fee basis. What does that mean? That means you do not pay me up front for my services. My payment comes out of the settlement or verdict we obtain on your behalf. If we do not obtain any compensation for you, then we are not paid either.

For criminal defense cases, we usually provide two methods of payment and can discuss the pluses and minuses of either arrangement. Briefly, there are either flat fee agreements or hourly arrangements. The flat fee agreements are usually tiered so there is one price to handle your matter up until trial. If we are able to resolve your case short of trial, then yo do not owe the second amount which is payment for the trial preparation and trial itself. The flat fee agreement is a total payment so you are not paying me for my time and do not have to be concerned about the “meter running” every time we meet or talk. However, sometimes it makes more sense for an hourly arrangement. Again, these are things that would get discussed in-depth during your free consultation so do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your situation and what I would charge to handle it for you.

Can I get compensation when the other driver is uninsured?

A:  Yes, especially in Oregon. Oregon requires what is called uninsured motorist coverage (or, “UM”). This means that even if the other driver or whomever caused your injuries is uninsured, you can access your own UM policy which provides coverage for these incidents especially when the at-fault party has no available assets to cover your losses. Essentially, your insurance “steps into the shoes” of the uninsured driver. In Washington, the same is available but it is legal to opt out of this coverage in writing with your insurer. While many do not recommend that, if it is something you have done, you may have a harder time recovering in this situation.

These instances require the experience of a qualified personal injury attorney whether it is due to car accident or some other injury incident. Never assume you are not covered for a loss or cannot access some insurance for an injury – ALWAYS TALK TO AN EXPERIENCED PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY AND LET THEM EVALUATE YOUR SITUATION!

Should I enter diversion?

A:  Diversion in Oregon and Washington are very different. If you are charged with a DUII in either state, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, even before your arrest if possible.

In Washington, many of the DUII diversion options are limited to serious or repeat offenders who have alcohol or other addiction issues. In Oregon, the DUII diversion program is right for many first-time offenders but it is impossible to know without consulting with a criminal defense attorney who knows what they are doing. Do not ever agree to enter diversion without seeing your police reports. If you give up your right to trial (which is what you do when you enter diversion), without knowing your available defenses, you may be giving up your right to defend yourself and potentially win at trial. Consult with a good criminal defense attorney first. Never listen to an attorney who tells you to enter diversion without seeing the discovery from the state first.

Bottom line, entering diversion, especially in Oregon, is often the right thing to do if you are first time offender but you need to consult with an attorney first to find out if it is the right decision for you. Never enter diversion without representation – if something goes wrong, you have no one there protecting your rights!

What if the other driver’s insurance is not enough?

A:  Similar to uninsured motorist coverage (UM), most people have underinsured motorist coverage (called “UIM”). In fact, in Oregon, it is required by law. In Washington, you can opt out of it but you must do so in writing with your insurer. Regardless, just like with UM coverage, UIM coverage makes up for the differences between your damages and the available policy from the at-fault party. If the at-fault party does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, then you may be able to access your UIM policy to get additional compensation for your injuries or damages. You should discuss this with your personal injury attorney early on in your representation to determine if you have this as an option. In most cases, you can find out what the limits of the at-fault’s policy are and then put your insurer on notice that you may have an UIM claim. This is usually easier than trying to access the at-fault party’s assets and covers you when that person doesn’t have assets to go after to compensate you for your damages.

Should I challenge my license suspension?

A:  YES! If you have recently been arrested for a DUII you have a short window to challenge your license suspension. First, you should know that under the law, this is considered an administrative suspension for refusing or failing a breath/blood test. Second, you should know that these suspensions are rarely overturned. However, for the benefit of your case, an experienced DUII attorney can learn a lot from these suspension hearings. So, worst case scenario the suspension is upheld and your criminal defense attorney learns something about your arrest that may not be contained in the police reports which may help later on in your case. Best case scenario, your attorney learns that the officer did something wrong in stopping you or administering the breath or blood tests and your suspension is overturned by the administrative law judge!

You really have nothing to lose except that, in Oregon anyway, you only have ten days from the breath or blood test failure to request a hearing. If you do not request the hearing, you waive that and nothing can be done. While this may not hurt your case, it can be a missed opportunity to either help you case or even beat the suspension. (Please keep in mind that this administrative suspension for failing a blood or breath test is separate and distinct from any suspension you may get from a DUII conviction.)

What is PIP (Personal Injury Protection)?

A:  Personal Injury Protection (or, “PIP”) is part of your auto insurance policy that kicks in if you have been injured through the use of an insured vehicle. Essentially, it pays for your medical treatment and a percentage of your wage loss due to an injury related to the use of an insured vehicle. This is what some people call “no-fault” coverage in that it is your insurance that is paying regardless of who is at fault for the injury.

In Oregon, just like UM and UIM coverage, it is required by law. The minimum that the PIP part of your policy will pay is usually $15,000 or the expiration of a year’s time from the date of loss (the day you were injured). These can be higher based on the policy you negotiate with your insurance company. In Washington, just like UM and UIM coverage, you can opt out of this coverage in writing.

If you are injured through the use of a car and it is your fault, your PIP policy will still cover your injuries though your insurance company can deny coverage creating a situation where you have to fight for coverage. An experienced personal injury attorney can handle these claims and you should consult one when you think this might occur or where it already has.

If you are injured through the use of a car and it is not your fault, your PIP policy will still cover your medical expenses and a percentage of your wage loss up until the policy is exhausted or the limit is reached. They will cover you until a fault determination is made. One important thing to understand is that they will attempt to get reimbursed for these benefits from the at-fault party or insurer. If you later make a claim against the at-fault party or insurer, they may join that action and have you obtain their reimbursement for them. This is typical but it is important to have a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney help you with this process. I do not charge for this service and am often able to get a discount from your insurance company on their reimbursement.

Finally, sometimes PIP will threaten to cut off your benefits or even cut your benefits off. At that point, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you get the benefits your deserve from your insurance policy – you paid your premiums, you deserve the coverage your contracted, bargained, and paid for! If they still will not cover you, an experienced personal injury attorney can sue your own PIP carrier and force them to cover you for accident-related treatment, expenses, and wage losses.

Should I talk to the police?

A:  The short answer to this question is NEVER!! This is an oversimplification as every case and situation is different but if you are under investigation or interrogation with the police, you have a right to remain silent! They say that for good reason because, as the Miranda warnings go, everything you say can and will be used against you. That is very true. Police officers and prosecutors are trained in the art of interrogation. They will get you to say something incriminating whether you are guilty or not. They will also intimidate, lie, and mislead you into talking when you have a right not to. Even if you do talk and say nothing incriminating, the police or prosecutor will twist your words to make it sound as incriminating as possible. Talking to any government official while under investigation is very, very dangerous especially without representation present.

Again, if you are under investigation or interrogation, police officers are not your friends. You need to consult with a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Even if you choose to speak with the police or a prosecutor, make sure you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer with you to protect you and your rights.

What is a deposition and will I have to go to one?

A:  A deposition occurs during litigation. In other words, if you are trying to negotiate a settlement before filing suit against whomever injured or damaged you, then, no, you will not have to go to a deposition.

However, if your attempts to settle your claim fail and you file suit, then you very well will be subject to a deposition. Do not fear, a deposition can be a little nerve-racking but your experienced personal injury attorney will be there with you throughout the entire process. If I represent you, we would have at least one, if not several, meetings and discussions about the deposition long before it occurs – what to expect, how it works, what questions you will be asked and strategies for effectively answering the questions in a way that helps your case.

The deposition is just a like a meeting. You would go to one of the attorney’s offices and to be asked and answer questions about the case. The only difference is that your answers are under oath and there is a court reporter taking down the questions and your answers. Your attorney is there with you during the process and can object to improper questions. This is NOT an interrogation. The deposition is important but with guidance from your experienced personal injury attorney, you can complete the process with flying colors.

Is pot really legal in Washington? What does that mean?

A:  Yes, pot is legal in Washington – Wow! The passage of Washington Initiative 502 in November 2012 said so, but it has been a long process rolling out the regulations so that the implementation of legalization is complete.

Legal possession went into effect in December 2012. But, with legal possession came the legislated DUII limits for pot. The ballot measure made clear and designated money (especially earned under the new legalization regime) specifically for prosecution of driving while intoxicated and other violations. The Washington police will be out prowling for people driving under the influence. The problem with this, as it always has been, is the testing for marijuana in your system is very inexact and one could have it in their system for weeks after ingestion when, certainly, their driving is no longer affected. If you want to take advantage of your new-found freedoms, be very careful about your driving. Should you get stopped, you may be subject to a test. If you fail that test, you are going to need a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. These new laws will be full of full of places for the state to try to take advantage of you, but will also be full of defenses for those experienced criminal defense attorneys.

When the final touches go on the implementation of the regulation and sale of legal cannabis, these legal issues are only going to grow and became more complicated. If you find yourself in trouble over the legalization of marijuana or Initiative 502, make sure you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. I provide free consultations should you have questions or concerns – please do not hesitate to call me at 503.935.5450.

Should I give a recorded statement to the insurance company?

A:  Similar to the advice I give my criminal defense clients, I do not recommend letting an insurer take your recorded statement. There is nothing good to come of it for you. In other words, the insurance companies, like the police, are not your friends in the claim process. They want to get your story from you so that they can use something you say today against you later. And, while you think you will just tell the truth or not say anything damaging, words can be twisted and you would be surprised how.

This is my advice 100% of the time when it is another insurance company (not your own) requesting the recorded statement. You are not in a contract with another insurer and, therefore, have no obligation to them to cooperate with their investigation, or anything else for that matter. Now, keep in mind, sometimes cooperation is helpful towards getting a claim resolved but if you are going to cooperate with another insurer, I highly recommend that you consult with an experienced accident attorney first and then only cooperate at your attorney’s specific direction (if you retained them).

However, your own insurance company is different. Your contract of insurance is a bargain you have made with each other. If you pay your premiums, they agree to cover you for “covered” events. So, if your own insurance company asks for a recorded statement, then you are, arguably, under some obligation to cooperate with their investigation. Again, this is not 100% clear and I still recommend you, at the very least, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer for advice and direction. Any experienced attorney you retain can handle these requests directly with your insurer and either convince them not to take your recorded statement or help you through the process so that you do not do any unnecessary damage to your claim when you give the statement.

People always complain they can’t get in touch with their lawyer. Will you be available to help and answer my questions?

A:  Yes. I check my email at least once almost everyday.  I try to respond to incoming emails everyday even if it is a weekend.  If I get an email from you, you should hear back from me within 24 hours, if not before.  I don’t have anyone screening my email – an email to my email address goes directly to ME!  Unless I am somewhere where I do not have internet access, I make a point of returning emails 7 days a week, all hours of the day. Any legal issues can be stressful and I don’t want a client to lose sleep over a question I can easily answer.

How soon after I get injured should I contact a personal injury attorney?

A:  This is a difficult question to answer. Not everyone is comfortable making the decision to retain counsel right away. If that is you, take your time. Really, the most important thing you can do after being injured due to someone else’s negligence is to get yourself healthy, seek treatment if necessary, and follow your medical professional’s advice and direction.

Having said that, the earlier you retain counsel for an injury claim, the better. There is so much early investigation that an experienced injury attorney can do, they are at a great advantage if they are brought into the situation early on. Plus, an added bonus is that a good personal injury attorney will help you deal with a lot of the early insurance company wrangling that needs to occur especially to get treatment or other issues covered even by a no-fault part of a policy, like PIP. Having an attorney on-board early, only helps smooth the entire claims process while protecting your claim from any unknown damage you might do to it unknowingly. Remember, that may seem counter-intuitive. You might think, this is my claim, why would I damage it? Well, you will not do that on purpose or even know you are doing it, the insurance adjusters you deal with will manipulate you or the process causing damage to your claim while you don’t even know it is happening. Trust me, they are trained in the art of this while making nice with you at the same time so you are not aware or even suspect it is happening. Again, this is where an experienced personal injury attorney can help – they can protect your claim and be the buffer between you and the insurance companies leaving you to concentrate on getting healthy. Most of the time, you are paying them a percentage of your claim’s value anyway (when you retain an attorney) so why not get them on board early and put your experienced injury attorney to work!

How soon after I get arrested should I contact a criminal defense attorney?

A:  You should retain your experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Read the answer to the question above about insurance companies and think about the police and prosecutor as even worse manipulators of the system and your case. And, instead of money being involved, this is your life and liberty! You do not want to wait to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney and allow the prosecution or government to get the upper hand in your case. Run, do not walk, to a qualified criminal defense attorney and get them on board helping you handle your case in a way that is best for you. There is no one else in the criminal justice system or process looking out for you, your rights, and your future. You must have qualified counsel helping you or you will get steamrolled by the system.