Uninsured / Underinsured Motorists

In both Oregon and Washington -- just like almost all states -- driving without insurance is not allowed. Nevertheless, a 2021 study from the Insurance Research Council -- which looked at the prevalence of drivers driving without insurance -- found that more than one out of every eight (12.6%) drivers on the road in 2019 was uninsured. Washington was among the states where it was most common (21.7%.) Even though Oregon was below the national average, more than one out of every 10 drivers (10.7%) was uninsured.

The law in Oregon requires insurers to include uninsured motorist coverage in every insurance policy issued in this state. Compensation that is potentially available through an insurance claim includes both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include things like medical expenses and lost earnings. Noneconomic damages include things like pain and suffering.

Oregon law has something called a "comprehensive model" that dictates what insurers can and cannot do in writing uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage terms. If an insurance policy's UM/UIM coverage has any terms that are less favorable than what the law lays out in the model, then the courts will deem that term (or terms) to be unenforceable.

Uninsured Motorist Claims

UM coverage potentially can help in more accident scenarios than you might have thought. For example, if you were a pedestrian or a bicyclist who was struck and injured by an uninsured driver, you may be able to obtain compensation through a UM claim filed on your auto insurance policy. Even if you don't have auto insurance, you may still have options, such as filing a UM claim on the auto insurance policy of a family member with whom you live. Another situation where UM coverage potentially can help is a hit-and-run accident. If you are not able to discover the identity of the hit-and-run driver, you may be able to secure compensation through your UM coverage. If you were hurt in an accident like one of those, it is extremely important to check your coverage.

Underinsured Motorist Claims

A lot of people carry only the legal minimum when it comes to auto insurance coverage. In both Oregon and Washington, the law only requires drivers to purchase liability coverage of $25,000. As anyone who has been to the hospital or dealt with the healthcare system knows, $25,000 often doesn't go very far if you've endured a serious accident or something that requires specialized treatment (or treatment over an extended period of time.) And that's before factoring in other losses like lost income and/or pain and suffering.

This is where a UIM claim can help. If your UM/UIM coverage has a limit of $100,000 per person and the driver who hit and injured you carried only the legal minimum of $25,000 per person, then you can pursue claims against both policies. Oregon law forbids insurers from enforcing "anti-stacking" policy provisions, so you could potentially be entitled to $25,000 from the at-fault driver's insurer, and as much as $100,000 from your own insurance company.

Auto insurance policies are often sold with 2 limits. When someone says that an auto policy has "100/300" coverage, that means $100,000 is the most one person can get and $300,000 is the most that the insurance company will pay for the entire incident. So if you are driving with your family of 5 and are hit by a UM/UIM driver, the most your insurer will cover is $100,000 for any individual and $300,000 for all 5 people. That is highly concerning if anyone is significantly injured.

Options if the Insurer Doesn't Pay

Of course, many insurers will fight aggressively to avoid paying claims... or pay as little as they can get away with. If you believe that your UM/UIM insurer (or an at-fault driver's insurer) is wrongfully refusing to pay (or pay an appropriate amount,) you can take action against them. One option is arbitration, which is a process where you and the insurance policy resolve the disagreement in a setting that does not require a full litigation process and trial.) The result of an arbitration proceeding is final and is binding on both you and the insurance company.

You don't have to arbitrate, however. Your dispute only goes to arbitration if both you and the insurer agree to use that process. Otherwise, you can sue in civil court and you have the right to a jury trial.

The injury accident attorneys at Kaplan Law, LLC are here to help you if you've been hit and injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. The insurance companies are powerful and well-versed in ways to avoid paying. Whether you need to even the odds against a recalcitrant insurance company or just have questions, we have the experience necessary to provide you with the effective advice and advocacy you deserve.


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