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Uninsured Driver

Advocating For Cyclists Injured By Uninsured Drivers

All too often, serious accidents are caused by drivers without insurance coverage. Oregon law makes it illegal to drive without insurance. If you are injured by a driver without insurance, you may have coverage on your bicycle from your automobile insurance policy.

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There are two types of important insurance coverage contained in every Oregon automobile insurance policy; many riders do not know that they have been paying for these types of insurance for years. There are also rules that the insurance companies must follow in communicating with citizens; knowing these rules may help you in your next encounter with the insurance system.

1. Personal Injury Protection

Every Oregon motorist’s insurance policy contains Personal Injury Protection (also known as “PIP”). PIP provides certain minimum coverages and can be “stacked,” meaning that when more than one policy is applicable the benefits accumulate for the benefit of the claimant. The Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) contain certain statutory minimums for PIP coverage which include up to $15,000.00 for medical expenses and one year of wage loss up to $1,250 per month. PIP is "no-fault," in that an injured party may make a claim against the policy regardless of who was at fault in the accident.

2. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

The second type is uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage, providing all sums the injured person “shall be legally entitled to recover as damages for bodily injury or death.” (ORS 742.500) UM or UIM coverage provides coverage as if the uninsured driver had a liability insurance policy. The injured person makes a claim against his or her own insurance policy for their damages. In the case of a serious accident caused by an uninsured driver/underinsured driver, UM or UIM coverage is the best protection for an injured rider. While the Oregon statutory minimum is $25,000.00, with today’s high medical costs it is advisable to have at least four times that amount. As with most insurance purchases, the higher ranges of insurance coverage provide more insurance for fewer dollars above the statutory minimum, so higher limit policies are usually a very good deal for the dollar. UM and UIM coverage apply to bicyclists, so long as an accident is the fault of the uninsured or underinsured driver.

The legal relationship between the various types of coverage in a serious accident is quite complex. In some instances, coverage may be denied or limited depending upon policy language and benefit amounts. Seek professional assistance from a lawyer knowledgeable about insurance claims before you accept any representations about whether an accident is covered by a particular insurance policy.

Frequently, serious accidents are caused by uninsured or underinsured drivers. Even if an accident is caused by the bicyclist, PIP coverage (which is no-fault) will apply to provide some benefits. Bicyclists would be well advised to purchase UM or UIM policies with high policy limits to protect themselves from major injuries caused by financially irresponsible drivers.

Personal Injury

Will the Insurance Policy Limits be Enough Money to Pay My Damages?

Is there enough insurance to pay all of your damages for personal injury after a wreck? Fairness requires that you be given an honest answer about how much insurance there is to pay for your injuries. But insurance companies are not required by law to tell you how much the responsible party has in insurance coverage. And for all you know there may be a million dollars of coverage as part of a comprehensive Auto/Personal Liability Umbrella policy package, or as little as $25,000 which is the Oregon minimum bodily injury insurance limit that is required by law. But $25,000 barely pays for an overnight stay in the hospital. If you ask an insurance adjuster for the policy limit available to pay your damages the usual answer you will receive is a vague reference to whether it is a small limit policy or something like “The policy limit should be adequate to pay your damages.” Well what does this mean? If you press for an answer you are usually told that this information may only be released with the consent of the insured party. If you say to ask the insured to release the limit information in the majority of cases the information is still not released. In our office we tell the claims adjuster that when this happens we cannot advise our client to settle without knowing what sums are available to pay damages. We always succeed in forcing the insurance company to release policy limits information because we tell the insurance company to tell their insured that if the policy limit is not voluntarily disclosed we will file a lawsuit, likely for an amount above the policy limit, and force disclosure because the Oregon Rules Of Civil Procedure (ORCP 36(B)(2) requires disclosure of insurance limits available to pay the damages claimed in a filed lawsuit. We tell the insurance company that by failing to persuade the insured to voluntarily disclose the policy limits they exposed their insured to a possible “excess verdict” above the limits of their insurance. After hearing this analysis it has never been our experience that the policy limits were held back. Knowing the policy limits in advance of negotiation gives us the information we need to properly evaluate the amount of “skin in the game” this insurance company has, and to give us advance warning that insurance limits may be insufficient to cover the full damages and that we need to conduct an asset investigation of the at fault party to find out if they have the financial ability to contribute funds or assets to any settlement

Should I give a statement to an insurance company after I was hurt in a collision?

Whenever someone is hurt in a collision with an at fault insured driver there is a standard protocol automobile insurance companies follow in having a claim adjuster contact the parties and witnesses to find out what happened, usually just a few days after the collision. The purpose of the investigation is to attempt to determine fault and set the “reserves” on a personal injury case. What most folks are not told when they get one of these calls is what information from witnesses, other parties, or the police the insurance company has already collected. Further, before the call is made for an interview the insurance adjuster will usually examine the applicable legal requirements from the state traffic law. Thus, the “interview” is not an informed interview or one that is a fair and complete exchange of information. Instead it is a chance for the insurance company to subject the victim of a collision to a cross examination without the benefits of a full briefing of the applicable laws and legal issues in advance. While a person has a right to decline one of these interviews, most folks try to be cooperative and provide their side of the story.

It is our advice to follow the same applicable considerations experienced witnesses or participants in traumatic events are usually advised to obtain and consider before an interview:

Applicable Considerations Before An Interview

1. obtain a briefing on the applicable law before the interview

2. find out what other witnesses have said

3. review the police reports

4. do not give an interview when you are still in pain or upset from the wreck, and not when you are under the effects of any pain medication

5. find out whether you can delay the interview until after you have adequately prepared yourself

6. find out what happens if you decline to give an interview

In our experience after we find out about the applicable considerations we often decide that an interview of our client will not have an effect on the insurance company’s decision on liability as they have already concluded our client was mostly at fault. In that instance the interview only gives the insurance company another point of attack in a case they are not intending to settle any way. Other times, after reviewing the applicable considerations, we decide that our client can contribute to a favorable liability determination and we help to set up the interview. Even where we see a likely valid situation for an interview we usually agree to participate only on the condition that the interview not be recorded. Most insurance company interviewers do not tell the witness that the interview does not have to be recorded. Instead the insurance company interviewer can take notes and use those notes to summarize what the party says in a report to the company. This way the interview recording will not be later used against the witness in court.

And the interview process exists for the benefit of the insurance companies, not the injured parties. If it were otherwise then the insurance would not refuse to share their interviews of other witnesses and other parties with the person making an insurance claim. Our requests for witness interviews of others are almost always met with a “Work Product” based refusal to share. We are able to obtain any interviews of our own clients, but not other witnesses or other parties, even when we are not able to have access to the folks the insurance company has already interviewed.

The one exception is when the collision victim’s own insurance company conducts interviews of the injured person. Not only will the injured person’s company release their interview, but usually the insurance company for the hurt person will also release the interviews they conducted of others.

At the very least every person should have the benefit of a briefing of their rights and the applicable facts and laws before an insurance company interview.

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Uninsured Driver

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    get proper medical attention when I needed it in the form I needed, chiro/massage. You helped me deal with the complexity of bills and insurance companies. I could have never gotten through this without the three of you! I am very thankful and very much in awe that the fee came to so little, and that I will be able to either fix or repair my bicycle.

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    I’ve never thought of doing this and having a favorable result. It is because of your great support. Thank you very much indeed. To Amanda-san, I always appreciate your prompt reply and support. I am working at the law firm, but I have never done such things, so I wanted to clarify several things. Always, always, always Amanda-san replied me back promptly and helped me out. Thank you indeed. Hope it won’t happen again like this, but I will definitely ask you guys to help me out again.
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  • In an instant my life changed.
    My name is Jeff; an electrician by trade. What I thought to be just another ordinary work day changed in a split second. While working near the top portion of my eight foot ladder, a careless forklift driver backed through my ladder. The impact threw me onto the roof portion of the fork lift, then onto the cement floor dislocating my shoulder. While at the hospital, x-rays showed the seriousness of my injuries. It would take shoulder surgery along with extensive therapy to discover a partial permanent injury to my shoulder, one that would take my career as an electrician away. At fifty-five years old I was permanently injured, scared, frustrated, and out of work. What now? What was I going to do?

    By the grace of God my path crossed with Cynthia Newton an attorney with Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton, Attorneys at Law. Cynthia became my voice in a very difficult and vulnerable time in my life. Cynthia’s knowledge of the law along with her calm demeanor helped me and my wife through the frustration and mental fatigue of a lawsuit such as this. The attorneys that helped me with this accident were the reason I was able to win a fair settlement. Chris Frost handled the Worker’s Compensation portion of this lawsuit. Chris has knowledge of law that would impress anyone; her attention to detail while keeping me up to date with any changes made a difference with this case and made both my wife and I feel as comfortable as anyone can feel that is going through something like this. Kristin Kidd and Rosemary Anderson are two of the best paralegals a law office could have. Both helped me with questions and details again giving me peace of mind. Ray Thomas’s legal savvy and presence was an enormous influence with settling this case. My wife and I were very happy with the agreed settlement that we were able to receive. We would have never been able to receive what we did without the help from this fabulous legal team. When a person chooses the law firm of Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton they receive a complete team of professionals that are dedicated to their clients. I hope I never need to hire another attorney, but if the need should arise, I will use Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton again simply because my belief is that they are the best of the best.
    Jeff, Sherwood
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