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

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PORTLAND OREGON PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER - Blog

In this blog, Oregon Personal Injury Attorney James F. O’Rourke, Jr. will answer questions frequently posed to him by his clients and comment on changes in the statutory, regulatory and case law relating to personal injury cases.  It is the purpose of this blog to be informative and helpful.  As Oregon Personal Injury Lawyers we work hard to make sure that our clients receive all their rights under the law and insurance policies and to recover compensation for the people we represent for injuries and damages they suffer which were caused by the intentional, reckless or negligent acts of omissions of others.

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.

The Consequences of an Uninsured Oregon Automobile Accident

Many people who have an auto collision while uninsured experience a rude awakening when they make a claim for damages against the other party’s insurance. Since 1999, Oregon law has provided that an uninsured person who is injured through the negligence of another in an auto collision can only recover their economic loss from the at fault party. That means that such a person is barred from recovering damages for pain and suffering, which constitutes a significant portion of a personal injury claim.

There are exceptions to this rule limiting damages. If the at fault party was also uninsured, the limit does not apply. Also, if the at fault party was engaged in the commission of a felony, driving under the influence of intoxicants or driving recklessly at the time of the collision, there is no bar to recovery of pain and suffering.

The most significant exception is for people who have recently had insurance but allowed their insurance policy to lapse. If a person has been insured in the 180 days preceding the collision, and not been cited for driving without insurance for the year preceding the collision, there is no limitation on recovery.

James F. O’Rourke Jr. Is an experienced Portland Personal Injury Lawyer and explores every possible means of avoiding the damage limitation for our uninsured clients who are injured through the negligence of another in an automobile collision.

Oregon Supreme Court Settles Question about Limits of Underinsured Motorist Coverage

It is fair to say that most people have little understanding about how their Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage works in practical application.  UIM coverage is required under Oregon law as a protection against damages cause by an underinsured motorist.  In a way, it is the part of your insurance policy that you buy to protect yourself from those with inadequate insurance coverage.
However, until July of 2009 even Oregon personal injury attorneys were in the dark about how much the UIM policy had to pay in certain cases.

Typically, a person will have a minimum of $25,000.00 in UIM coverage as a part of a basic insurance policy, although smart drivers purchase more.  If a person gets in an accident with a driver with a $25,000.00 minimum liability policy and sustains over $25,000.00 in damages, he can pursue a UIM claim under his own policy.  Most people seeing the $25,000.00 in coverage would assume that they are entitled to up to an additional $25,000.00 under their own policy.

The Oregon Supreme Court has definitively said that assumption is wrong.

In Vogelin v. American Family Insurance, the high court said that UIM coverage works in a much different and more miserly way.  Ms. Vogelin was seriously injured in a car accident, suffering over $300,000.00 in damages.  The at fault driver had a minimum liability policy of $25,000.00.  Ms. Vogelin had UIM coverage of $100,000.00.  The Supreme Court held, in interpreting the statute governing UIM benefits, that Ms. Vogelin was entitled to recover only $75,000.00 from her UIM carrier, because the law required her to deduct the amount she had recovered from the at fault party from her policy limits.

Oregon’s statutory scheme governing auto insurance coverage is a byzantine maze of rules and regulations, most written by the insurance industry and slipped into the laws over time.  The law as a whole is filled with special considerations for the insurance industry so the result in Vogelin is hardly surprising.

But what of the consumer who finds out his “$100,000.00″ UIM policy is really not worth its face value and may be worth nothing at all?

The lesson is this: know your coverage and think ahead.  We handle many tragic cases where we have seriously injured persons who are entitled to substantial compensation, but there is only fraction of the just compensation available under the available insurance policies.  UIM insurance is the coverage you buy to help YOU if the unthinkable happens.  Insure yourself against other people’s negligence at least as well as you insure other people against your negligence.

As experienced Oregon Personal Injury Lawyers, we recommend to our clients that they carry at least $300,000 of Uninsured and Under-insured Motorist coverage.