Uninsured Motorist Claims
Although Oregon law requires all drivers to have motor vehicle liability insurance, many people either cannot afford, or chose not to buy car insurance. When someone else who is covered by their own policy is injured due to the negligence of an uninsured driver, they can (and should) assert an “uninsured motorist” claim against their own insurance policy.
All Oregon car insurance policies are required to include at least $25,000 in coverage (per accident) for uninsured motorist accidents. (TIP: we have worked on dozens of claims where individuals have sustained permanent, life-changing injuries in accidents caused by uninsured motorists, i.e. they incur tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care expenses and/or cannot return to work in their chosen line of work and experience a very large loss of income as a result, and so we recommend purchasing a significantly higher coverage limit for uninsured motorist accidents, i.e. $250,000 or $500,000 per accident).
When someone submits a claim for uninsured motorist benefits to their own car insurance company, their insurer “steps into the shoes” of the at-fault driver; meaning that the insurance company is supposed to handle, and pay on the claim as though it was insuring the at-fault driver1. Unfortunately, but very predictably, when one asserts an uninsured motorist claim to their own insurer, the insurance company inevitably employs an adversarial approach in handling and paying on the claim; one more reason why you need legal counsel from the beginning in such a case.
If your insurance company refuses to offer you fair compensation for your uninsured motorist claim, you can resolve the claim via binding arbitration, or by filing suit. Depending on the circumstances, if one is forced to file a lawsuit against their own car insurance company in such a case, they may be entitled to include a claim for recovery of attorney fees2.
TIP: Be aware that under Oregon law – ORS §742.510 – coverage for uninsured motorist caused property damage claims is NOT mandatory under Oregon law, although insurers must offer that coverage. This coverage would apply in cases where an uninsured driver caused damage to your car, recreational vehicle, etc. We thus suggest that you check your policy or contact your agent to determine whether you have this coverage (the premium increase to add it should be very, very modest).
We have worked on hundreds of uninsured motorist claims in Oregon. Give us a call or send us an e-mail inquiry to schedule a meeting to discuss your claim in detail; at no cost.
1 There is an exception to this rule of law – in an uninsured motorist claim one cannot seek compensation for “punitive damages” (a type of claim intended to punish someone and deter others from similar conduct) if the uninsured driver was intoxicated or impaired when they caused the accident, even though they would have been entitled to assert such a claim against the at-fault driver if the other driver had been insured.
2 See ORS §742.061
- ORS §742.061 – Recovery of attorney fees in action on policy or contractors bond
- ORS §742.502 – Uninsured motorist coverage
- ORS §742.504 – Required provisions of uninsured motorist coverage
- ORS §742.510 – Property damage coverage for damage to vehicle