It is an unfortunate fact that almost 1 in 10 drivers on the roads and highways of Portland are uninsured. It is even more unfortunate that many more drivers are underinsured, meaning that if they cause a crash their insurance policy will be insufficient to provide reasonable compensation to the injured victim. In Oregon, the minimum bodily injury liability limit for auto insurance has been set at $25,000.
Oregon has low minimum bodily injury liability insurance limits
This relatively low minimum insurance policy limit in Oregon leaves drivers in Portland financially vulnerable every time they step into their vehicles. This is because even if you are catastrophically injured, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, the most you can likely recover from the at-fault driver’s insurance company is this low minimum policy limit.
Car accident claims with uninsured or underinsured drivers are incredibly frustrating and they require special considerations in Oregon. Separate insurance claims have to be established and coordinated with the same insurance company. Due diligence must be performed on the at-fault driver to ensure that there are no umbrella policies or other means of recovery available that exceed the underinsured motorist insurance coverage.
Speak to an Attorney First
Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist claims are complicated mazes to navigate, and there is no reason to do it alone. The attorneys at Kroll & Johnson, P.C. have handled many underinsured motorist insurance claims, and they stand ready to fight the insurance companies until they reasonably compensate you for your injuries. Because underinsured motorist claims are more difficult than the typical auto accident claim, it is highly advisable to seek out an experience attorney before you talk with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and before you open an underinsured motorist claim with your insurance company.
How can you protect yourself from underinsured drivers?
The only way to protect yourself and your future from a car accident in Portland is to request adequate underinsured motorist coverage from your insurance agent. This is often abbreviated as UIM Coverage. Many argue that a policy limit of $100K/$300K in underinsured motorist coverage is inadequate. The car accident attorneys at Kroll & Johnson recommend that Portland drivers carry no less than $250K/$500K in underinsured motorist coverage. If you do not know what your underinsured motorist coverage is, call your insurance agent and ask. While carrying additional underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage does increase your insurance premiums, it is money well spent if you get in a serious car accident.
I have underinsured motorist coverage, what do I do?
Even if adequate underinsured motorist coverage is carried, a person injured in a car accident still must make an underinsured motorist claim and force their own insurance company to reasonably compensate them. Underinsured motorist claims are governed by special rules because they are based in contract law, rather than liability (fault) law.
When a claim is made for bodily injury under an underinsured motorist policy, the person is essentially suing their own insurance company. In other words, if the driver who injured you has an insufficient policy, your own insurance company must step into the shoes of the actual at-fault motorist.
What if the insurance company is unreasonable?
Surprisingly (or perhaps not, given the normal practices of insurance companies), your own insurance will often fight back and try to avoid paying out the policy that you have purchased! Frankly, this is ridiculous, but in Oregon, many insurance companies do this very thing.
The car accident attorneys at Kroll & Johnson expect insurance companies to be unreasonable when underinsured motorist claims are made. The insurance claim represents a large potential financial liability for the insurance company. It is often necessary to either file a lawsuit against the insurance company or demand binding 3-panel arbitration under the terms of the underinsured motorist policy. In Oregon, it is possible to recover attorney fees in underinsured motorist claims if the insurance company is unreasonable or does not comply with certain statutory requirements.