We frequently get calls from persons injured by uninsured drivers in Oregon. It’s a stressful situation for most people because they don’t understand what happens when an uninsured driver hits you. Who will pay for your medical bills? Can I still get pain and suffering (known as non-economic damages in legal parlance).
First, if you’re driving a vehicle insured in Oregon your policy must contain a minimum of $15,000 in Personal Injury Protection benefits that pays for your medical bills. This aspect of an accident with an uninsured driver is no different than an accident with an insured driver. Regardless of whether the driver is insured or not, your own car insurance is the primary insurance for your medical bills.
So what happens next? You should open a claim with your own insurance for uninsured motorist benefits. Under ORS 742.502(1) every car insurance policy issued for delivery in Oregon “shall provide” uninsured motorist benefits in an amount equal to or greater than the amount of coverage under the same policy for liability for bodily injury. For example, the minimum liability coverage in Oregon is $25,000/$50,000. That means that if you injure someone in a car accident in Oregon you have insurance coverage of $25,000 per person for bodily injury with total coverage for the accident of $50,000. Therefore, under ORS 742.502, your policy must also provide coverage of $25,000/$50,000 for uninsured motorist coverage.
There is a limited exception to this requirement. Your car insurance can have coverage limits less than the liability limits for bodily injury unless you elect lower limits in writing. We rarely see lower limits, but it’s important for you to know that it’s possible.
Now that we understand how it works, what happens next? Your uninsured motorist policy steps into the shoes of the person who injured you. This means that your insurance company acts as if they are the insurance company for the person who injured you and pays you what you would have been entitled to recover from an insured driver.
There are other steps that should be taken along the way in your uninsured motorist claim that are too in depth for a blog post. Your insurance company will send you letters that are supposed to contain specific terms and commitments. Insurance companies routinely send the incorrect letters or use incorrect terms that can help your claim in the long run. You should always have an attorney review the letters from your insurance company and advise you on your rights.