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Underinsured / Uninsured (UIM, UM)

1) I was injured by an Oregon driver without auto insurance. Now what?

About 6% of all Oregon motorists are uninsured. Don’t worry though. If you have an Oregon auto policy, you have some coverage. Auto policies sold in Oregon provide at least $25k coverage ($25k is also the minimum limit for liability insurance in Oregon).

TIP: If hit by an uninsured driver, don’t confront the other driver. Call police.

TIP: When safe, call your own auto insurance company. Make an “Uninsured Motorist(UM) claim and ask that an uninsured claims adjuster be assigned. Because the driver at fault has no auto insurance, the “UM” adjuster “plays the role” of the insurer for the driver at fault. If you were not the driver or owner of the vehicle involved, make the UIM claim with the insurer for your driver.

TIP: If the “at- fault” driver is uninsured, you still may sue the driver directly. Whether the fault driver has sufficient assets to pay the claim, is another matter. Consider hiring a private investigator to conduct an assets search so you know whether the suit directly against the at-fault driver will pencil out in the end.

2) I was struck by an Oregon driver without enough insurance. Now what?

If you were hit by a driver with insufficient limits to cover your losses, make an “Underinsured Motorist claim(UIM) with your own insurance company. An underinsured claim is similar to an uninsured claim which is discussed in the preceding answer.

TIP: Oregon law now allows “stacking” UIM coverage above the liability limits of the driver at fault. Stacking of UIM coverage is allowed only if the UIM policy was issued on or after January 1, 2016. Stacking allows the injured person to assert claims against the policy of the driver at fault and the UIM policy (usually the driver’s insurer).

EXAMPLE 1: Suppose injured Driver A incurs damage of $50k. Driver B, who is at fault, has a policy with $25k, the minimum required liability limits. The injured driver. Prior to January 1, 2016 the injured person could tap the $25k of the bad driver, but not the other $25k of the UIM policy. Total insurance available #25k as the two policies did not stack.

EXAMPLE 2: Same facts except injured person’s policy containing the UIM coverage was issued after January 1, 2016. Injured person can tap both the $25k of the driver plus the other $25k of UIM coverage in the injured person’s policy. Total insurance available $50k as the two policies do stack.

3) If I make a UIM or UM claim, must I repay medical and wage loss paid under PIP coverage?

Under Oregon law as amended by Senate Bill 411 on March 23, 2015, insurers providing personal injury protection (PIP) benefits are entitled to be repaid only to the extent paid PIP benefits exceed all damages of the injured person. The PIP insurer is not entitled to reimbursement of PIP benefits if the injured person’s damages exceed PIP benefits paid. See, ORS 742.544. This is known as the “make whole” doctrine. Washington State law also requires the injured person to be “made whole” before any insurer is repaid, not just PIP.

4) What should I do if my UIM or UM undervalues my claim?

Request a copy of your policy. Call Richard Rizk at (503) 245 5677 to discuss requesting arbitration under the policy. Most underinsured (UM) and uninsured (UIM) claims are arbitrated rather than tried because of an arbitration clause in auto insurance policies. Usually the insurer will pay the cost of this type of arbitration.

5) Am I bound by my insurer’s liability decision?

No. For purposes of its PIP reimbursement, your own auto insurer may take the position you were at fault. You also have a claims against the bad driver. In presenting your claims you are not bound by your insurer’s liability determination.

6) I was an uninsured driver when the crash occurred. Can I still recover pain & suffering damages from the driver at fault?

It depends. In Oregon, pain and suffering damages are not allowed for injured persons who did not have liability insurance sometime within 6 months before the accident. See ORS 31.715. Stated differently, a person who had no liability insurance on the date of the crash can still recover pain and suffering damages if he had insurance sometime within 6 months before the accident. Those who did not have insurance during that period may not recover pain and suffering damages. Id.

TIP: One who operates an Oregon registered motor vehicle without insurance commits the offense of driving uninsured. See ORS 806.010. If convicted you will be fined. Also, if convicted of driving uninsured your driver’s license will be suspended for one year and you will be required to provide proof of insurance to DMV for three years.

TIP: Carry proof of insurance in your vehicle or on your person. Failure to do so could result in a citation for failure to carry proof of insurance, which is also subject to a fine. Make sure the insurance card in your car is current.