Oregon Personal Injury Protection

Generous Insurance Settlement Reached Despite Low Policy Limits

The details of another successful Dwyer Williams Dretke PC car accident injury settlement are as follows: our client, a young and able-bodied Central Oregonian woman, was having trouble starting her car.  She popped the hood and manually opened it while waiting for another motorist to pull forward and help her jump-start the car.  This motorist accidentally stepped on the gas pedal, which caused his vehicle to lurch forward and pinned our client’s leg between the two cars.  As a result of this incident, our client was seriously injured and she sought immediate medical attention for her accident-related injuries.

The at-fault driver’s insurance provider offered to pay the full policy limit toward our client’s injuries, but unfortunately the at-fault driver was only insured for the minimum amount required under Oregon law.  Under Oregon law, all vehicle insurance policies must carry at least $15,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.  This meager amount was not enough to cover our client’s prohibitive medical bills.

Our client sought the help of Dwyer Williams Dretke PC because we are experienced auto accident injury lawyers with a track record of success throughout the state of Oregon.  She knew that she could entrust her legal situation with us and that we would secure her the fairest possible settlement given the facts and parties involved in this case.

After reaching out to the health providers that provided services to our client following her accident, we were able to get several to significantly reduce their bills.  We also convinced our client’s insurance provider to waive its lien on the $30,000 in medical expenses that it covered for our client.  Once these arrangements had been made, the case settled and all of our client’s accident-related medical expenses were taken care of.  Our client also received a reasonable settlement to compensate her for her pain and suffering.

Safety Precaution Recommendations for Motorcyclists

It is common knowledge that motorcycle drivers are at a heightened risk of accident-related injuries and death than drivers of cars, trucks, and other passenger vehicles.  Motorcycles generally travel at the same speeds as enclosed motorized vehicles, often overtaking those cars, yet motorcycle drivers and passengers have virtually none of the protections that drivers of enclosed vehicles possess.  Car’s frames and air bags protect drivers and passengers at the moment of impact during a car accident.  Motorcycles provide no such insulation to riders when they crash, skid, or collide with another vehicle.

In 2011 there were a whopping 17 percent more Oregon traffic crashes involving motorcycles than there were in 2010 and 95 percent of those accidents resulted in injury or death to the motorcyclist or to a motorcycle passenger.  Given the dangers inherent to riding, it is vitally important that Oregon’s motorcyclists know the rules of the road that apply to them (see my last post on the subject) as well as what safety precautions to take so that they may protect themselves while riding. Here are some general precautions that riders should take.

  1. Always wear a helmet.  Helmets are mandated under Oregon law and they really do save lives. Head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes.  Motorcyclists who fail to wear a helmet while riding are 40 percent more likely to die of a head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer nonfatal injuries than those who wear helmets.
  2. Never speed and slow down in poor weather.  A 2009 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute report found that 48 percent of motorcycle accident fatalities involved speeding.  Riding above the speed limit is reckless: speed limits were predetermined based on road conditions and general principles of safety.  Motorcyclists should also always reduce their speed and proceed with caution when visibility is limited due to inclement weather.  If you cannot see what you are riding into, then you cannot see who or what else might be on the roadway and you are asking for there to be a collision.  Furthermore, if visibility is poor because of fog, rain, or snow, then the road conditions may also be negatively affected.  Traveling at full speed on slick or icy roads will almost inevitably increase stopping time for vehicles in motion and it invites loss of control of your motorcycle.
  3. Never drink and ride.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers had blood alcohol concentrations above the legal limit of 0.8 percent in 42 percent of recent motorcycle deaths.  If you ride a motorcycle, you need to be alert and on the lookout for objects and vehicles on the roadway.  Any intoxication threatens your alertness and your ability to react to conditions and occurrences on your drive.
  4. Have Health and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance.  PIP provides medical benefits, loss of income, and essential service insurance of up a set amount for all automobile drivers involved in collisions.  Whether or not you are at fault in a collision, you can recover PIP benefits if you are injured as the result of a vehicle collision. The state of Oregon requires that PIP is included in all automobile insurance policies, but it makes no similar requirement for motorcycle insurance policies.  Protect yourself against financial disaster from accident-related medical expenses by paying for PIP benefits in addition to your health insurance.

A certain volume of motorcycle accidents will continue to occur despite riders’ and drivers’ best intentions and safe driving practices.  If you or a loved one is involved in a motorcycle accident in Oregon, you will have a much better chance at being fairly and fully compensated you if you retain an experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney.

How Much Auto Insurance Coverage Should I Have?

How much car insurance should you carry to be fully protected?

As a lawyer who has practiced both as an insurance defense attorney, and as a personal injury attorney, I’m often asked my opinion as to how much automobile insurance a person should have.  The quick answer is $100,000/$300,000 with $100,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.  I will explain in detail below.

Here is a great guide for selecting the right insurance company for your coverage.

The Minimum:

Oregon’s financial responsibility law requires that Oregon drivers carry a minimum of $25,000/$50,000 in automobile insurance.  Oregon law also requires that every automobile insurance policy issued in this state must come with $15,000 in PIP coverage (Most people do not even know they have PIP coverage).

PIP (see my PIP blog) provides medical benefits, wage loss benefits, funeral costs, and essential services in certain situations.  PIP is provided through your own insurance carrier and is primary.  This means it should cover medical treatment first, even before health insurance.

Insurance policies come in different forms.  You can buy a single limit i.e. a $100,000 single limit policy, or as I recommend, a $100,000/$300,000 policy.  The first number i.e. $100,000 means that is the most the insurance company will pay on any claim for any one person.  The second number i.e. $300,000 represents the most the insurance carrier will pay on any claim no matter how many people are involved.  So, if two people are equally injured in an auto accident and the at-fault driver has $100,000/$300,000, the most each could recover is $100,000, or $200,000 total.  If there are six people equally injured, the most the insurance carrier would pay could be $50,000 each, or $300,000 total.

Generally, insurance companies make the bulk of their money on the minimum coverage.  Interestingly enough, the cost to double or even quadruple your limits is surprisingly low.  If you have minimum coverage, call your insurance agent and ask how much the extra coverage would be.  Shocking huh?

Why Should I Carry Two or Four Times What Oregon Law Requires?

There are two main reasons to increase your automobile insurance coverage.  First, if you seriously injure someone, you could end up owing more than $25,000.  If you have any assets, the injured person could sue you and seek an excess judgment.  That means your insurance would pay the first $25,000 and you would be responsible for anything above that.

The second reason is that there are a lot of uninsured drivers out there.  Generally, you have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage on your car.  The limits that you can recover on uninsured/underinsured claims generally are the same as the liability insurance you purchased.  So, if you get hit by an uninsured driver and you only have the minimum of $25,000/$50,000, you will not be able to recover more than $25,000 from your own insurance carrier.  It makes no difference if your medical bills are more than this amount.  Insurance is a contract and you get what you pay for.

Following up on that example, let’s say a driver carrying the minimum policy limit hits you and you have $50,000 in medical bills.  If you took my advice and purchased $100,000 worth of automobile coverage, here is how it would play out.  You could recover $25,000 from the at-fault driver.  That would pay about half your medical bills.  Then you could make a claim for underinsured motorist benefits under your own policy.  Oregon law allows your automobile insurance carrier to get a credit for what you already received from the at-fault driver, leaving $75,000 available.  After the remaining $25,000 in medical bills are covered, you would be left with $50,000 that you could possibly recover from your insurance carrier.

$100,000 in PIP

PIP is particularly important if you do not have health insurance.  PIP is a no-fault type of insurance.  This means that even if you cause the automobile accident, PIP will pay your accident related medical expenses, up to the amount of benefits you purchased, so long as they are reasonable and necessary.  As you probably know, medical costs are pretty high nowadays.  A surgery or several nights stay in a hospital can lead to high medical bills.  If you have $15,000 minimum PIP coverage, you may be responsible for the outstanding medical expenses, out of pocket.

Another reason to increase your PIP limits is that PIP is primary.  Again, that means PIP pays before any other insurance, including health insurance.  Generally speaking, PIP covers all accident related medical treatment.  On the other hand, health insurance carriers often refuse to cover certain types of treatment and certain procedures.

Remember, it is up to you to make sure you and your family are adequately insured in case of an accident.  Oregon only requires that drivers carry $25,000/$50,000, which is often not enough to cover the damages.  You cannot count on the at-fault person to cover your losses.  First, you should assume that most at-fault drivers are underinsured.  Second, you should assume that they will not have enough assets to cover anything above what is provided by their insurance carrier.  Raise your limits today to protect yourself and your family.

What is PIP, what does PIP cover, and can I get it for my motorcycle?

PIP stands for personal injury protection. Oregon law requires all automobile insurance policies issued in Oregon to have PIP benefits. Generally, PIP provides no fault insurance for automobiles. This means your PIP benefits are available even if the accident is your fault. PIP benefits cover things like medical expenses, lost wages, essential services, and funeral costs associated with an injury or death involving the use of an automobile. PIP benefits are available to the named insured (you) and family members residing in the same household.

  • Medical Benefits: Every automobile insurance policy in Oregon has a minimum of $15,000 coverage for accident related medical expenses. The expenses can include a variety of treatment such as: (1) medical; (2) hospital; (3) dental; (4) surgical; (5) ambulance; and (6) prosthetic services. The expense must be incurred within 1 year of the automobile accident. It is possible to have more but you have to specifically request it (and pay for the additional coverage). If you don’t have health insurance, it would be a wise decision to increase your PIP medical benefits. I recommend carrying $100,000 in PIP benefits.
  • Wage Loss: PIP covers 70% of your lost income up to a maximum of $3,000 per month. To qualify for these benefits, a doctor must take you off work (or restrict the work you can do) for at least 14 days. An injured person may receive PIP wage loss for as many as 52 weeks.
  • Essential Services: For people not engaged in a remunerative occupation (one that pays money), PIP covers expenses reasonably incurred by the injured person for essential services that were performed by a person who is not related to or residing in the injured person’s household. The benefit is limited to $30 per day and may continue as long as 52 weeks.
  • Funeral Expenses: PIP will cover all reasonable and necessary funeral expenses incurred within 1 year after the date of the person’s injury, but not to exceed $5,000.

The Oregon statutes that require PIP for automobiles exclude motorcycles. This means that insurance carriers are not required by law to provide PIP benefits for a motorcycle. It is certainly possible to have PIP benefits for a motorcycle but you would have to specifically ask for it and of course, pay for the coverage. If you ride a motorcycle and do not have health insurance, I highly recommend paying for the addition of PIP benefits.

Click here for a free brochure on PIP –Personal Injury Protection