Every driver in Oregon is required to have liability insurance. Liability insurance is meant to protect you if you are legally responsible for an automobile accident. It is also a possible source of compensation in a wrongful death case resulting from a car crash because the deceased person’s family can bring a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability coverage through the auto insurance policy. This policy, however, is not the only possible source of compensation.
If a person is driving and hurts or kills someone, the driver’s liability insurance will provide the driver with a lawyer, and will pay a settlement of whatever amount the plaintiff is entitled to, up to the driver’s “policy limit,” if the driver is found to be liable. The driver will not need to pay this attorney – the insurance company will pay the defense attorney’s fees, from the premiums the driver (and all the other drivers) have already been paying. This is one of the benefits that a driver gets from the premiums they pay to their insurer over the years.
The liability insurance contract allows the insurer to control the litigation. Sometimes they may make litigation decisions the driver does not agree with. They have the right to do that.
The law says that a person’s liability insurance has to take good care of the insured person. The insurance company has to look out for the insured person and his/her interests. For example, if someone is threatening to sue a driver for $400,000, and the driver’s policy limit is $100,000, the insurer has a responsibility to do what it can to try to settle the case for only $100,000. This is so the driver does not have to pay the extra $300,000 out of his or her own pocket.
When a liability insurer does not take good care of the person they are insuring, that person sometimes sues his or her own liability insurer. That is called a “bad faith” claim, because the person believes that the insurance company did not treat him or her honestly and fairly (in “good faith”).
It is similar with homeowners insurance, and with other liability insurances, such as business insurance, umbrella policies, or the myriad other types of liability insurance available. Most homeowners also have homeowners insurance (in addition to auto insurance) both because it’s a good idea, and because banks require it before giving a mortgage.