TO UNREPRESENTED VICTIMS AND FAMILIES OF THE OREGON TOUR BUS CRASH:
First of all, our sincere condolences to the victims and their families of the December 30, 2012 tour bus crash in Oregon. This tragic incident took the lives of nine people and injured many more. I hope those affected by this tragic incident find the information below helpful in coping with their loss and injuries.
1. What do I do now?
a. Funeral arrangement and bills
For those of you who lost their loved ones from this tragic incident, you will need to find reliable funeral services. Websites such as www.usafuneralhomesonline.com
provide an extensive directory of funeral homes in different states. Washington Funeral Directors Association (www.wsfda.org
) and Oregon Funeral Directors Association (www.ofda.org
) can also answer questions regarding making funeral arrangements, grief resources, and other pertinent information. Please note some funeral homes may withhold billing the funeral expenses directly to the victims’ families as this tragedy was not caused by the victims themselves. However, other funeral homes may require the families to pay the expenses up front and to be reimbursed by the insurance companies later. In that case, you should check your own auto insurance policy to see if you have Personal Injury Protection coverage which provides limited coverage for funeral expenses (usually up to $2,000).
b. Medical treatment and bills
For those of you who have been injured from this incident, you will need to be examined and treated by medical providers to ensure recovery from your injury. Medical providers may require you to pay up front for your treatment. However, if you have health insurance or auto insurance with Personal Injury Protection coverage, your own insurance company will pay for your treatments up to the limits allowed under your insurance policy. In addition, sometimes ICBC, the insurance carrier for the tour bus company, will pay the medical bills up front. Finally, sometimes the healthcare providers will hold the medical bills until you settle your claim with the at-fault party or parties.
c. Do’s and dont’s
1. Do not give any statements to the tour bus company nor its insurance company or representatives.
2. Start keeping a written diary of your aches, pain and misery caused by the accident.
3. Create a videotape of your injury, condition, and any limitations you have. Do an update every three to four months.
4. Do not sign anything dealing with your claim until you have an attorney, except for medical treatment, etc.
2. Do I have to hire an attorney now?
No. After a tragedy such as this, you should allow yourself a period of mourning and grief. You should not rush into hiring an attorney right away thinking that will help your or your family’s claim. The laws set out a specific time period or deadline for lawsuits to be filed. Such time period is called the Statute of Limitations. In Washington, the statute of limitations is three years; in Oregon, it is two years. However, the two-year Oregon Statute of Limitations will apply to your claim. Filing a lawsuit within weeks of the incident does not mean that such claims will receive more compensation than others that are filed at a later date. Considering the number of victims involved, the compensation for any claim in this incident will need to be considered in relation to the rest of the victims involved. If the tour bus insurance carrier pays out its insurance policy limits to the first claims filed, then by law it will still have to pay the other claims. Furthermore, the investigation is on-going. The Oregon State Police and the U.S. Department of Transportation will do a thorough investigation, and the evidence will be preserved regardless of whether the victims and their families have retained attorneys or not. This is not to say do not hire an attorney. It is obvious that you should hire an attorney as soon as feasible.
I understand this information may not answer all the questions for those affected by this tragic incident. My prayers are with you in this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
BUCKLEY & ASSOCIATES