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Law Offices of James F. O'Rourke Jr. and Associates

503-221-1425 - Portland Office

James F. O'Rourke Jr. and Associates duii defense attorneys

Legislature Raises Liability Limit for the State and Local Public Bodies

The 2009 Legislature, acting on the recommendations of a review task force set up in 2008, adjusted liability limits for the state and local public bodies for lawsuits against them for personal injury and property damage.

Since 1967, the Oregon Tort Claims Act has governed lawsuits against the state and other public bodies.  In addition to special notice requirements, the Act set limits for the amounts a person could recover for injuries caused by the negligence of a person employed by a public body.  Prior to 2009, a person was limited to a claim of $100,000 and up to $200,000 under certain circumstances.

The 2009 Legislature recognized that these limits had not been adjusted for inflation and they needed to be increased in order to provide fair compensation for persons injured by the negligence of a public body.

The new limits are different for the state and local public bodies.  Now, for lawsuits against the state for injuries caused between December of 2007 and July 1, 2010 the limit is  $1,500,000 for a single claimant and up to $3,000,000 for injuries to multiple people in a single event.  For local public bodies, like cities and counties, the limit is now $500,000 for a single claimant and up to $1,000,000 for injuries to multiple people in a single event.  The property damage limit was raised from $50,000 to $100,000.

The good news is that the Legislature set incremental increases in the limits for both the state and local public bodies over the next five years.  After that, the limits will increase annually according to inflation, as determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

This is a significant step to ensure fairness for persons injured through the negligence of a public entity.  As an Oregon Personal Injury Attorney, James F.  O’Rourke, Jr. aggressively pursues claims on behalf of those injured by the negligence of the state or other public bodies.

Oregon Legislature Ends Reduced Coverage of Family Members

Until 2007, insurance companies routinely provided an “exclusion” for coverage of family members how were injured in accidents in which another family member was at fault.

Essentially, insurance companies would sell a policy with, for example, $100,000 of coverage for bodily injuries caused by the insured persons negligence.  However, these policies contained an “exclusion” that provided no bodily injury coverage for other persons who were also insured under the same policy.  In cases where the insured person was at fault and involved in an accident that caused injury to a family member who was a passenger, that family member was, technically, also an insured person under the policy.  The only saving grace for this exclusion was that it didn’t affect the mandatory minimum coverage required under Oregon law: $25,000 of coverage per person and $50,000 per accident.  So, in this scenario, a family member injured by another family member in an accident would have only $25,000 in coverage available instead of $100,000.

Most people didn’t discover this hidden exclusion until they tried to collect the full amount of the coverage, since this language was buried in the policy fine print.

In 1991, the Oregon Supreme Court, in the case of Collins v. Farmers Insurance, held that this type of exclusion was allowed under Oregon law.

In 2007, the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association successfully lobbied the legislature to put an end to this practice.  House Bill 3086 expressly amended Oregon law to forbid insurance companies from sneaking in liability limitations for family members.  That law has been in effect for all policies issued after the law went into effect.

As an Oregon Personal Injury Lawyer, James F. O’Rourke, Jr. helps defend injured people from unfair and deceptive practices by insurance companies.  We aggressively pursue all available insurance policies in seeking fair compensation for our clients.