Monday, October 3, 2011

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Benefits - Neal Peton

Almost every automobile insurance policy sold in Oregon contains benefits known as Uninsured Motorist Benefits and Underinsured Motorist Benefits.  Uninsured Motorist benefits provide coverage when the person who hits you does not have insured, is a hit-and-run driver, or is something called a phantom driver.  Underinsured Motorist benefits provide coverage when the person who hits you has insurance, but does not have enough to cover all your injuries.  This second type of benefit is far more used than the first, and is what I will discuss more in this article. 
In the years I have been practicing as an attorney, I cannot remember how many times I have helped someone who was serious injured in an accident, and the at-fault driver’s insurance benefits were not enough to cover my client’s injuries.  In the last month I have dealt with several cases, where, sadly, the at-fault party did not have enough insurance to cover my clients’ injuries and my clients did not have enough underinsured benefits. 
Under Oregon law, to collect underinsured motorist benefits, you, the insured, need to have more coverage than the at-fault party.  Under a recent Oregon Supreme Court decision, Mid-Century Insurance v. Perkins,, in order to be eligible for underinsured benefits the person seeking underinsured benefits must have more insurance coverage than the at-fault person.  For example, if you have $100,000 in uninsured motorist benefits, and the person who hits you has $100,000 in liability limits, there cannot be an uninsured motorist claim.  You would have to have more than $100,000. 
Why is this all important?  Because if heaven forbid, you have a bad accident, you may be underinsured for you injuries, especially if you have a job that pays well and you miss a significant time of work, or even worse, if you can never go back to work again.  In cases like those $100,000 goes far too quickly, and you are left in a situation of not having enough to insurance benefits to cover everything.