Everyone in Oregon must have auto insurance on their car, but a lot of drivers do not. Being an accident victim is hard enough, but when an uninsured driver is at fault, you face are even more challenges. Oregon insurance law provides an often overlooked option.
First, a lesson on automobile insurance law in Oregon. Oregon law requires a minimum amount coverage for auto liability insurance. All Oregon drivers must maintain a minimum of $25,000.00 liability coverage. This is the insurance coverage that pays for medical bills, lost wages and compensation for the harm a negligent driver causes to another. The required coverage amounts, also called policy limits, have not changed in a long, long time. As a result there are a lot of people driving around with minimal liability coverage, or with no coverage at all. This is where uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage (also called "UM") can help.
What is it? Basically, it's insurance against the uninsured, or the under-insured. Let's start with an uninsured driver. If you are injured because of the negligence of an uninsured driver, your insurance company should provide you with coverage for any claims that you may have against the negligent uninsured driver. This includes medical expense, lost wages, and compensation for the harm to your health. The amount of coverage must equal your liability insurance coverage. For example, if your insurance policy covers you for up to $50,000.00 for any liability you may have from an accident, it should also provide uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage for the same amount. Why is this important?
Its' important because we all know medical care costs a lot of money. An ambulance bill can exceed $500.00. Physical therapy for a month or so can easily top $1,000.00. And if you need to get an MRI to investigate a potentially serious neck or back injury, you may pay $2,000.00. After it up and you can see what I mean.
Uninsured motorist coverage can protect you from under-insured negligent motorists as well. Let me give you an example. Let's say you are injured by a negligent motorist who has insurance, but only the minimum, which is $25.000.00. If you suffer a pretty serious injury, and you are out of work after a hospital stay, there is a good chance that this $25,000.00 is not going to cover medical expenses and lost wages. That is when under-insured motorist coverage comes in.
Uninsured motorist coverage allows you to make a claim against your own insurance carrier for any losses exceeding the negligent driver's coverage. The only catch is that you coverage amounts or policy limits must be greater than the negligent driver's policy limits. So, in our example above, you would have to have a higher policy limit in order to make such a claim. For example, if you had a $50,000.00 policy limit for uninsured motorist coverage, you could make a claim for the difference between your coverage and the negligent driver's coverage, which works out to $25,000.00. In this example, you are covered up to $50,000.00 for your losses, instead of $25,000.00.
All too often I am helping seriously injured clients beat back collection agencies and medical creditors, and in the end, not recovering what they truly deserve. For a few dollars, you can increase your uninsured motorist coverage, and protect yourself and your family from the uninsured driver.