Oregon Auto Accident FAQs

When you are injured in an Oregon auto accident your insurance and the other driver's insurance should cover your medical bills, lost wages, and compensation for pain, suffering, and any impairment. If you have auto insurance, it will protect you when you are a pedestrian, bicycle rider, and motorcycle rider.

Q1: How do I get my medical bills paid?

All Oregon auto insurance policies, except commercial policies, have Personal Injury Protection coverage. This is no fault insurance that covers the first $15,000 of your medical bills. Any amounts over your Personal Injury Protection should be covered by your healthcare insurance. If you do not have healthcare insurance, you will likely be personally liable for any amounts in excess of your Personal Injury Protection insurance.

This insurance coverage is mandatory for all auto insurance, but not motorcycle insurance. It is possible to have PIP benefits for a motorcycle but you would have to specifically ask your insurer for the PIP coverage and pay for the additional coverage.

Q2: How do I get my lost wages paid?

Your Personal Injury Protection insurance starts paying your lost wages after you are out of work for 14 consecutive days. They will pay up to 70% of your lost wages, with the maximum being $3,000 a month.

Q3: Will my Personal Injury Protection pay for doctors outside of my healthcare plan?

Yes. Your Personal Injury Protection insurance is not tied to your preferred providers list that you may have. You Personal Injury Protection insurance should cover all of your medical expenses (up to $15,000) that are reasonable and related to the accident. If you have Kaiser, or another healthcare provider that is difficult to work with, you can choose the doctor that is best for you and you are not stuck using their doctors.

Q4: How do I make a claim against the other driver's insurance?

If you are hurt in an accident and it is not your fault, the other driver's insurance company owes you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Your Personal Injury Protection insurance will cover some or all of your medical bills and lost wages, but they will not pay you for your pain and suffering. You need to make a claim against the other driver's insurance for pain and suffering and any other losses not covered by your Personal Injury Protection. You make this claim by sending them documentation for your medical bills, lost wages, as well as copies of your medical records that show your injuries.

Q5: How do I know how much my Oregon personal injury claim is worth?

There is no magic formula for determining a fair amount for pain, suffering, and impairment. Every case is different. The only way to really get a good idea of the value of your case is to talk to an Oregon Personal Injury Attorney who actually tries cases to a jury and knows what they are worth. In a few minutes over the phone I can usually give you a pretty good ballpark value for your case.

Q6: How do I find out the other driver's insurance policy limits?

Insurance companies will rarely tell you. The only way to find out their limits is to file a lawsuit. Once a lawsuit is filed, they are required to provide your lawyer with a copy of their policy limits.

Oregon Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist

Q7: What if the at-fault driver is uninsured?

There are a lot of uninsured drivers in Oregon. Many of my clients are injured by drivers with little or no auto insurance. Oregon auto insurance laws require that every driver carry a minimum of $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. If that at-fault driver does not have insurance, then you make a claim against your own insurance carrier for you personal injuries, medical expenses, and lost wages. Strangely, if you have adequate insurance coverage, I think you are in a better position to make a claim if you are struck by an uninsured driver. If you are forced to sue your insurance company for an uninsured motorist claim, the jury knows you are suing and insurance company and I believe that they are more likely to give you a higher award than if you were suing another person, as the jury cannot be told whether or not the person you are suing has insurance coverage. Additionally, most insurance companies agree to binding arbitration in uninsured motorist claims. This is much quicker and cheaper than filing a lawsuit and oftentimes results in very fair awards.

Q8: What if the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to cover my personal injury claim?

Oregon auto insurance laws require that every driver carry a minimum of $25,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage would apply if the at-fault driver had less than $25,000 in insurance coverage. Unfortunately this coverage does not "stack". What this means is that if you have a personal injury claim against a driver with the same insurance coverage as your underinsured coverage, you do not receive any benefits under your underinsured motorist coverage. An example of this would be if you incurred $50,000 in medical expenses and the at-fault driver had a $25,000 policy and your underinsured motorist coverage was $25,000, the most you could recover is $25,000. This is not very fair, as you paid for $25,000 in coverage but in reality received zero coverage. This area of law is very unsettled right now, as there is a very recent Oregon Supreme Court case that I believe may challenge the insurance companies' position that this coverage does not "stack".

Q9: What can I do to protect myself against uninsured drivers?

Every year, I run into cases of clients with permanent, disabling injuries caused by drivers with little or no insurance. Oftentimes there is nothing I can do to help these people, as it is almost never a viable option to pursue the at-fault driver's personal assets. People with assets worth pursuing tend to have large policies and vice versa. I tell every client to buy as much uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance as they can afford. It is fairly inexpensive, with the difference between $50,000 and $300,000 being a few dollars a month. A $1,000,000 million dollar umbrella policy that includes uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage may be as cheap as $300 per year. You will never regret buying an umbrella policy if you are ever in a serious accident.

What you need to know about making a claim against a government entity.

Do I have to do anything different to make a claim against a government entity?

Yes. Oregon Tort Claims Act requires that you notify the government entity within six months of the date of the accident or you may not be able to make a claim. If you are injured as a result of an Oregon or any other government entity, notify them immediately and make them aware of your claim or you may not be able to pursue your claim.

What are the limits for making a claim against an Oregon government entity?

The Oregon Tort Claims Act limits the liability of any Oregon public body, its officers, employees or agents to $50,000 per claimant for property damage, $100,000 per claimant for non-economic damages (pain and suffering) and $100,000 per claimant for economic damages (lost wages, medical expense, etc.).

What you need to know about buying auto insurance.

How much Oregon auto insurance do I need?

Oregon requires that you purchase a minimum of $25,000 in auto liability insurance. This insurance also includes uninsured motorist coverage to protect you in the event you are injured by an uninsured driver. The minimum Oregon coverage is not nearly enough. Many of my client's medical expenses alone exceed $25,000. I recently testified before the Oregon State Legislature in support of a bill to raise this amount to $50,000 to keep up inflation. Unfortunately, the insurance lobby was able to defeat this bill and keep the minimum Oregon auto insurance requirement at $25,000.

Buy as much insurance as you can afford.

Every year I deal with a number of permanently injured people hurt by people with little or no auto insurance. You cannot count on the other driver to have adequate insurance. In order to protect yourself and your family, you need to buy as much uninsured motorist coverage as you can afford. It does not cost much more to go from a $50,000 policy to a $300,000 policy, but it can make all the difference in the world if you are badly injured.

Buy an umbrella policy.

Umbrella policies are insurance policies that provide coverage in addition to your Oregon auto and homeowners policies. The right umbrella policy can protect your personal assets if you are sued, but more importantly protects you if you are badly injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Do not buy an umbrella policy unless this policy includes uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Many of these policies are fairly inexpensive and an offer you over a million dollars in coverage for just a few hundred dollars a year.

Which insurance companies do you recommend?.

All Oregon auto insurance companies can be difficult to deal with and treat their customers poorly. The Oregon auto insurance companies that I have found to treat their customers the worst are Allstate, American Family, and Safeco insurance. I would not buy insurance from any of these companies.

Bicycle Insurance

Cyclists have unique needs for injury and income protection and most cyclists are not fully protected through their existing auto insurance policies. Cyclists are more vulnerable to personal injury, resulting in medical cost and lost time at work than non-cyclists. bicycleinsuranceportland.com was a Portland insurance company specifically focused on insurance for cyclists who didn't own a car.More insurance companies offering some type of bicycle insurance are emerging throughout the USA, especially with the fast growth of eBikes. Talk to your own insurance agent about what types of converage might be available for you specifically as a commuter cyclist, who may or may not own or drive a car in addition to their bicycle.

Oregon Insurance Commission Complaints Report

Consumers can review the complaints report which lists number of complaints filed against insurance companies, or file a complaint against an agent or company on the Oregon Insurance Division's Web site.

Free printed copies of the Oregon Insurance complaint are also available:
- by calling
(503) 947-7984 or 1-888-877-4894

- or by writing to:
Publications, Oregon Insurance Division
350 Winter St. NE, Room 440
Salem, OR 97301-3883.