Injured In An Auto Accident by An Underinsured Driver? Help Is On The Way

Portland attorney Robert Harris

By: Robert Harris
No one wants to deal with the aftermath of a car accident, but with the number of cars on the road, accidents happen. The important thing is to know what to do if you’re involved in a collision and what your rights are when the accident that is not your fault. Most people know to exchange information with the other driver and let the insurance companies know that there has been a collision for which you want your damages covered. Most people also know that they can be compensated by the at-fault driver’s insurance company for their medical bills, lost wages, travel costs, and other damages.

But what if the at-fault driver has a policy whose limits are less than your damages?

Under Oregon law, every motor vehicle bodily injury policy must have an uninsured and underinsured motorist policy, which includes coverage for situations where the at-fault driver is “uninsured or underinsured.” Basically, if the at-fault driver has no insurance, or the insurance is insufficient to cover all your losses then your uninsured or underinsured policy coverage provides additional coverage for your damages.

Historically in Oregon the law required your underinsured motorist coverage be equal to the uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy MINUS the amount recovered from the underinsured driver’s liability insurance policy. So if the at-fault driver’s has a $25,000.00 policy (the state minimum) and you have a $25,000.00 uninsured driver policy, your underinsured motorist coverage would be $0.

Oregon’s New law for Auto Accident Victims

But this year Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 411, which changes the way Oregon insurance policies are handled in underinsured motorist cases.

You Paid for Insurance, you should be covered

The new law will allow for “stacking” of the underinsured motorist policy with the liability policy of the at-fault driver. Now, instead of $0 for the above mentioned scenario, your underinsured motorist coverage would be an additional $25,000.00 on top of the at fault drivers coverage, for a total amount of $50,000.00 of coverage for the accident. You get to “stack” the two coverages.

PIP Coverage extended and improved

Oregon law requires that every auto policy issued in Oregon provide Personal Injury Protection benefits, also known as PIP, of at least $15,000 in coverage. PIP covers medical costs and some lost wages. There were two important changes in PIP coverage:

First, Under prior law, PIP only covered these losses for one year. The law change this year has extended the coverage time for Personal Injury Protection Benefits from one to two years for medical treatment.

Second, the Legislature changed how your insurance gets reimbursed for the PIP benefits they provide to you, paying your medical bills and partial wage loss compensation. Formerly, your insurance company could make a demand on your settlement money to recover the money they paid to the extent that the payments paid exceeded your economic damages but excluded your non-economic damages (pain and suffering). In other words, before the law change, your own insurance company could recover money it paid out under PIP from your paid and suffering recovery. Even though you had paid for the PIP coverage. This unfair practice has been changed. Now for policies bought or renewed after January 1, 2016, the PIP provider will be allowed to recover payments it made only to the extent that those payments exceed all of your damages, not just your economic damages. No longer will your insurance company be allowed to make a claim for money that you recover from the at-fault driver until you have received all the money to which you are entitled.

Recovering from a car accident can be stressful, especially when you’ve sustained some serious injuries. With this new legislation, which goes into effect for insurance policies bought or renewed after January 1, 2016, many persons injured in car accidents will have more coverage and protection from the insurance companies they pay to protect them.

If you have questions regarding your insurance policy and what it covers, call an attorney to help you make sure you have the coverage you need. If you have been in a car accident and sustained injuries, contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.

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