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Personal Injury

What if I am injured by an Uninsured (or Underinsured) Driver?

What is Uninsured Motorist insurance?
If you are an Oregon resident and have auto insurance, then you have uninsured motorist coverage. How do I know? Because, by law, it is required. Every auto insurance policy issued in Oregon comes with a minimum $25,000 for uninsured motorist provision. Consequently, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being hit by an uninsured motorist, you have at least $25,000 worth of coverage to pay for injuries you, or a passenger in your car, sustained. Why …at least…? You can request increased limits for a relatively low premium. Since many people drive without insurance, increasing these limits is, in my opinion, well worth the cost.

What if the other driver has insurance, but carries only state required minimums?
Oregon’s minimum for bodily injury auto insurance is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. In other words, a registered vehicle must have those limits to be legally operated. Sadly, with medical costs being what they are, those limits may prove utterly inadequate – particularly if there are multiple injured occupants in your car; the at-fault driver’s insurance company is obligated to pay only $50,000 – regardless of the number of people hurt.

In the event of you being hit by someone who carries low limits, you have underinsured protection as well – again, with a minimum limit of $25,000. Here comes the confusing part: Underinsured protection only pays for the portion above what the other driver has. Examples: a) A driver from Florida has a minimum requirement of $10,000 per person; your policy protects you up to $25,000 – which is, $15,000 above the Florida driver’s provision – all is good; b) A driver from Oregon with minimum limits injures you. Your medical bills are $50,000. Guess what? Your underinsured protection doesn’t really help you? Why not? Remember, your underinsured protection only pays above what the other driver has. That driver had $25,000 in limits, and your underinsured protection was exactly the same – $25,000. (This is why it’s a good idea to pay for increased limits of underinsured coverage.) The underinsured coverage does not stack on top of the liability of the other driver.

How do I make a claim against the other driver’s insurance?
If you have insurance and the other driver does as well, you turn the claim into your insurance agent, and/or company, and they will process the claim on your behalf. Hopefully, between both insurance policies, there will be adequate limits to pay for your injuries, and/or those of your passengers.

How do I make a claim if the other driver is uninsured?
Again, you collect information such as driver’s name, address, driver’s license number, vehicle license plate number, VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), and phone number. Notify your insurance agent and/or company to file a claim, and give them the information you collected.

Does my health insurance come into play?
Yes. Although auto insurance is the first to pay in the event of accident related injuries, health insurance comes in secondarily. Unfortunately, the lines can become blurry for what the health care insurance company will pay, thus potentially leading to problems. Ideally, you have been advised by your agent concerning adequate limits for accident related injuries.

Why would I need an personal injury attorney?
Insurance will offer to pay for the actual medical costs and loss of earnings (up to policy limits) but not for pain and suffering. Remember, the insurance companies are in business to make a profit – the less they are legally obligated to pay, the more they keep for that profit motive. Having an advocate on your side who understands how the system works, and can assess your circumstances, dramatically increases your chances of receiving a fair settlement for your injuries.