Car accidents are such a nuisance. First, there’s the damage to your vehicle itself, and then there’s the often contentious question of who caused the crash? That question can be difficult to answer at the best of times, even when one driver was clearly at fault. Their version of the events leading up to the crash will undoubtedly vary quite significantly from your own.
When people are injured in traffic accidents, things go from bad to worse, and lawsuits are often the only way to gain justice and satisfaction for the injured victim, and compensation from the person who caused the accident. Because this can be a time-consuming and costly process, a number of states have introduced mandatory no-fault insurance systems.
The no-fault system varies from traditional insurance policies in that, regardless of who was to blame for the crash, each person’s insurer pays their own medical expenses, lost wages and other costs. This system was introduced in the 1970’s by legislators who felt insurance claims were becoming too expensive and taking too long to settle, as well as tying up court time. The brought in no-fault legislation as a means to:
- Speed up the claims process
- Avoid small or petty claims litigation
- Lower insurance premiums
What if I’ve been badly injured?
This is where the lines between no-fault and standard insurance policies blurs a bit. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), existing no-fault insurance regulations actually do allow motorists to sue at-fault drivers for severe injuries, and to get compensation for pain and suffering, but only if their cases and the extent and severity of their injuries meet very strict criteria.
Some no-fault states place limitations–or thresholds–on non-monetary damages. These thresholds are expressed in two different ways. They can be either the dollar amount spent on medical bills, or the threshold can be expressed “verbally.” The latter refers to certain injuries or levels of disability which will be specifically spelled out in the state with no-fault insurance in place.
For example, if your medical bills exceed $1,000 in Kentucky (one of the no-fault states), you could sue the at-fault driver for anything exceeding that amount. In Minnesota, the threshold is $4,000.
Is Oregon a no fault state?
If you’re looking for a one-word answer to the question of whether or not Oregon is a no-fault state, then that word would have to be “no.” However, like many things in law, the total explanation is a bit more complicated.
Oregon insurance policies, by law, must have a no-fault “provision” built-in. All car insurance policies in the state must have personal injury protection included. Under these provisions, car insurance companies must provide personal injury protection to pay for “injuries resulting from the use, maintenance or ownership of an automobile,” according to the III. This provision applies regardless of who was at fault, or in cases of being injured by an uninsured or under-insured driver.
This does not, however, make Oregon a true no-fault state, because injured victims in Oregon can sue–without any financial or verbal thresholds–the at-fault driver for their medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.
At the moment, only 12 of the 50 states (plus Puerto Rico) have no-fault insurance laws in force. They are:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
What’s the difference between no-fault and traditional policies, exactly?
In the 38 states without no-fault policies, an adversarial system exists to determine the key factors surrounding a crash, particularly one where someone was injured. The two parties involved, including the insurance company of one or both drivers, must determine between them:
- Who caused the accident, or if both were to blame, who was mostly at fault and what percentage of the blame should be allocated to each driver
- What’s a reasonable amount of money to cover your medical expenses
- Are you entitled to nonmonetary damages and if so, how much?
- Which of the two companies is going to pay all these costs?
In states with traditional insurance laws, like Oregon, if the two parties can’t agree on damages and blame, it’s the right of one or both drivers to sue the other in a court of law through a personal injury attorney.
In no-fault states, the insurance companies will pay out regardless of who was at fault, but they will still investigate the accident. They do this in order to increase the premium of the at-fault driver, or so they can recover your deductible for damages paid under your collision coverage.
What does my Oregon personal injury protection policy cover?
Policies vary, but in general, personal injury protection will cover your medical expenses and lost wages, in addition to providing other benefits. If you’re in any doubt, check your policy’s provisions carefully. You should be covered for things like:
- Medical mileage, which covers your transportation costs to and from doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics. You’ll need to keep a detailed record of your mileage, or receipts for taxis and buses if you don’t drive, and submit them to the insurer with your medical bills.
- Household replacement services, or the cost of hiring someone else to do the things you can’t do as a result of your injury. These can include things like housekeeping, lawn and car maintenance, child care and driving other family members to school and appointments
- Attendant care costs can be recovered if you were seriously injured in a crash and require monitoring or supervision for safety purposes to do things like administer medication, bathe, use the toilet, lifting, attending wounds, etc.
Always bear in mind that if you intend to make a claim for personal injury protection benefits, very strict statutes of limitation (depending on the type of accident) apply in Oregon. Make the claim as quickly as possible, and if you’re in any doubt about time limits or how to proceed, get the advice of an attorney.
The debate about the benefits of no-fault insurance has been raging for more than 40 years now. For the time being, Oregon is not a no-fault state, even though they have no-fault provisions built into every car insurance policy sold in the state.
What is protected in Oregon is the right of an injured victim to sue the at-fault driver and to recover not just medical expenses, but to be compensated for things like lost wages, the potential loss of future income, a reduction in quality of life and for pain and suffering.
If you’ve been injured through someone else’s negligence, you owe it to yourself and your family to find out how to make the best of a bad situation. Speak to an experienced Portland personal injury lawyer who will clearly explain all your options. They can outline your rights and give you a good idea of what kind of compensation you can expect to receive.