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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

Should I Sign a Release Given to Me by an Insurance Company?

Question: Should I sign a release form given to me by an insurance company?

Answer: Never sign a release without the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Insurance companies train their claims adjusters to settle claims quickly and inexpensively. They believe that the longer a claim remains open, the more money it will cost them to close it. It is for this reason that a claims adjuster will be in direct contact with you within 24 hours of your involvement and reporting of a motor vehicle accident.

The first thing the insurance adjuster will do is attempt to obtain your recorded statement. He wants to get your statement as soon as possible so that he can nail you down on specific facts, such as injuries. He will ask you if you were injured and if you went to see your doctor. Insurance adjusters are aware that some injuries take a few days to manifest themselves symptomatically so they want to get your recorded statement and possibly even settle the claim before you realize the nature and extent of your injuries.

During this initial contact, the adjuster may promise to pay your medical bills and make a nominal settlement offer to you. He will ask you to sign a release as part of that agreement. What he won’t tell is how you are affecting your legal rights to recover damages by signing the release.

Once you sign a release, you give up the right to recover any additional damages incurred by you after the date on the release. Although the insurance adjuster has offered to pay your medical bills, if you sign the release, the insurance company does not have to pay any bills you incur after the date on the release. Furthermore, your own insurance company may deny you Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits because you have prejudiced their rights to recover the money they paid on your behalf from the third party by signing the release.

It is very important that you have a full understanding of the insurance claims process before signing any document that affects your legal rights to recover damages when you are in a motor vehicle accident. This is why we recommend that if you are injured in an accident, you call us right away. As personal injury lawyers in Lake Oswego and West Linn, James F. O’Rourke Jr. & Associates have vast experience helping our clients understand the insurance claims process and maximizing their recovery. If you are injured in an automobile accident, call James F. O’Rourke Jr. & Associates at 503-772-4032.

Why does my insurance company have to pay my medical bills when I am in an accident that is the other person’s fault?

Question: Why does my insurance company have to pay my medical bills when I am in an accident that is the other person’s fault?

Answer: Because it is required by law. Oregon law (O.R.S. 742.520) requires that every automobile policy carry a minimum of $15,000 of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.

PIP Coverage

PIP coverage is a “no-fault” coverage that is required by law in the State of Oregon. If you are injured in a car accident, the insurance company that covers the vehicle in which you were traveling will pay your medical bills regardless of whose fault the accident was. The minimum amount of PIP coverage required by law in Oregon is $15,000. Given the high cost of health care, many drivers opt for higher PIP limits to protect themselves from having to pay substantial medical expenses out of pocket.

The purpose of requiring PIP coverage is to ensure that the injured party’s medical bills get paid as they are incurred instead of waiting until settlement with the third party, which could take months or years. Without PIP coverage, the potential exists that the injured party will be financially unable to pay his or her accident related medical bills. This could result in bills being sent to collections and have an adverse effect on the injured party’s credit rating. PIP coverage provides the insured with the peace of mind that his or her medical bills will be paid.

The way PIP coverage works is to provide the insured with medical benefits for up to one year or the dollar limit of the policy, whichever occurs first. To qualify for payment under PIP coverage, the medical expense must be “reasonable, necessary, and related” to the accident. Your insurance company will recover the benefits paid from the at fault party after your case is settled.

PIP coverage also provides a wage loss benefit. If you are disabled from work as a result of the accident for a period of at least 14 days, your insurance carrier will pay you wage loss benefits totaling 70% of your gross monthly wages or $3,000, whichever is smaller, for up to one year.

If the insurance company suspects that your medical treatment is no longer “reasonable, necessary and related” to the accident, they have the right to request that you attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME). Depending upon the outcome of the IME, or if you refuse to attend, the insurance company can deny payment under your PIP coverage.

The laws and regulations governing auto insurance are complicated. This is why we recommend that if you are injured in an accident, you call us right away. As personal injury lawyers in Tigard and Tualatin, James F. O’Rourke Jr. & Associates have vast experience helping our clients ensure that their medical bills are paid under their PIP coverage. If you are injured in an automobile accident, call James F. O’Rourke Jr. & Associates.

What is the Difference Between UM and UIM Coverage on my Auto Policy?

Question: What is the difference between UM and UIM coverage on my automobile policy?

Answer: Everyone knows that the law requires that you purchase automobile liability insurance if you want to drive legally on public roadways. However, many people do not know exactly what they are buying when they write that check to the insurance company. The following is an explanation of UM and UIM coverages on your auto policy which are required by law:

UM Coverage

UM (Uninsured Motorist) coverage protects you in the event that you are injured by a negligent uninsured motorist.

For example, if you are in a car accident with another driver who has no insurance and is at fault for the accident, your insurance company with pay you for damages due to bodily injury under the UM coverage of your policy. These damages include, but are not limited to, medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering.

The amount that the insurance company will pay is limited by the amount of coverage purchased. The minimum amount of coverage required by law is $25,000 per person, per occurrence and $50,000 aggregate per occurrence. This means that the maximum UM benefit for any one person is $25,000 per occurrence. The $50,000 limit represents the maximum UM benefit for damages for all persons due to bodily injury for any one occurrence. Higher limits may be purchased to protect yourself from damages caused by an uninsured motorist.

UM coverage applies to liability for injuries only, not property damage. If you want to protect your vehicle from damages from an uninsured motorist, you must purchase a separate coverage.

UIM Coverage

UIM (Under Insured Motorist) coverage protects you in the event that you are injured by a negligent party who does not have sufficient liability insurance to fully indemnify you for damages due to bodily injury. These damages include, but are not limited to, medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering.

For example, if you are injured in a car accident and have damages totaling $30,000 and the negligent party has a liability limit of $25,000, the negligent party does not have sufficient coverage to fully indemnify you. Therefore, the negligent party is under insured, and your under insured motorist coverage will pay the rest of your claim up to the limit of the UIM coverage.

In order to qualify for Under Insured Motorist benefits under your own policy, your UIM limits must be higher than the liability limits of the negligent party. In the same example as above, if you carried 25/50 UIM coverage and the negligent party carried 25/50 liability coverage, you would not qualify for Under Insured Motorist benefits. However, if you carried 50/100 UIM limits, you would qualify for UIM benefits.

The amount of UIM benefits available is derived from the difference between your UIM limits and the negligent party’s liability limits. In the above example in which you carried UIM limits of 50/100 and the negligent party carried liability limits of 25/50, you would qualify for up to $25,000 of additional benefit under the UIM coverage of your policy.

Given the high costs of medical care these days, it is a good idea to carry high UM and UIM limits to protect yourself in the event you are in an accident with an uninsured or under insured motorist.

As Gresham and Oregon City personal injury lawyers, we have vast experience helping our clients pursue UM and UIM claims. If you are injured in an automobile accident, call James F. O’Rourke Jr. & Associates.

 

Statements to Insurance Companies

Question: After an automobile accident, should I provide a statement to the other driver’s insurance company?

Answer: No.

If you are injured in an automobile accident, the adjuster for the other driver’s insurance company will call you and ask you to give a recorded statement.

The adjuster will try to get you to commit to a certain version of how the accident happened and the extent of your injuries. Adjusters know that many injuries do not become symptomatic for up to 14 days. They also know that many people who are injured in automobile accidents do not know exactly how the accident happened.

The adjuster will not try to help you make an accurate statement. They will not help you correct any mistakes you make.

Later, when you try to settle or go to trial on your claim, the adjuster and the insurance company lawyers will try to use your recorded statement to manipulate the facts to place you at fault for the collision or to limit your recovery to the injuries you mentioned in the statement. Consider this example:

You are rear ended by another driver and do not feel any immediate pain. The next morning you feel some stiffness in your back and decide that you will wait and see if the stiffness goes away before you see a doctor. Later that same day, the insurance adjuster from the other driver’s company calls and asks you for a recorded statement. As part of that statement she asks you if you were injured. You respond that you have had a little bit of back stiffness but have not yet seen a doctor. She asks if you have any other injuries and you say no because the only symptom you have had so far is back stiffness.

The next day you wake up with the same back stiffness, but you also feel some stiffness in your neck and some tingling in your arm or hand. After waiting for a few days to see if the stiffness and pain will resolve itself, you realize that you should probably see a doctor.

After six weeks of physical therapy, you still have neck pain and tingling. The doctor decides to do an MRI and discovers that you have a herniated disc in your neck that was caused by the motor vehicle accident. You have surgery to repair the disc and undergo painful rehabilitation.

Then, when the time comes to resolve your case in settlement negotiations or at trial, the insurance company will argue that your neck injury was not caused by the automobile accident because in your recorded statement taken the day after the accident you only mentioned back pain and said nothing about your neck. They will use your own statement against you to try and discredit you.
Insurance companies take recorded statements for their benefit, not yours. Do not give a recorded statement after an automobile accident without the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Portland Personal Injury Lawyer James F. O’Rourke has over 35 years experience representing clients who have been injured in automobile accidents. He knows how to talk to insurance adjusters and gets excellent results. If you are injured in an automobile accident, call James F. O’Rourke & Associates before providing a recorded statement to an insurance company.