Oregon follows a traditional "fault"-based system when it comes to financial responsibility for losses stemming from a car accident: injuries, lost income, vehicle damage, and so on. This means that the person who was at fault for causing the car accident is also responsible for any resulting harm (from a practical standpoint, the at-fault driver's insurance carrier will absorb these losses, up to policy limits).
In Oregon, getting compensation for injuries, vehicle damage, and other car accident-related losses usually means proceeding in one of three ways:
Note: While Oregon is not one of the mandatory no-fault car insurance states—in which claimants must turn to the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in their own car insurance policy for payment of medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses after an accident—PIP coverage is still required in the state. More on this below.
The required minimum amounts of car insurance in Oregon are:
So, what do these different coverage requirements mean, and who is covered?
Liability car insurance pays the medical bills, property damage bills, and other losses of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are injured or have their vehicle damaged in a car accident you cause, up to coverage limits.
You can (and in some situations should) carry more coverage to protect you in case a serious crash results in significant car accident injuries and vehicle damage. Once policy limits are exhausted, you're personally on the financial hook, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.
Coverage questions can arise if you loan someone your car and they get into an accident, and they already have their own car insurance coverage. But in general your liability coverage will kick in for any family member who is driving your vehicle, and for anyone else who has your permission to use your vehicle. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car.
Remember that liability coverage doesn't apply to your own injuries or vehicle damage after an Oregon car accident. You'll need different (additional) coverage for that if you're involved in a car accident and no one else's coverage applies to your losses. For example, collision coverage (optional in Oregon) can pay for repairs to (or replacement of) your damaged vehicle after a car accident. Note that collision or comprehensive might be required under the terms of a vehicle lease or financing agreement.
Personal injury protection coverage (or PIP) normally covers the policyholder and passengers in the policyholder's vehicle (unless they have their own coverage). Personal injury protection benefits in Oregon include:
The specifics of PIP benefits are laid out in detail at Oregon Rev. Stat. section 742.524. Your insurance company can also provide information on PIP benefits available under your policy.
Uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage protects you and your passengers if the at-fault driver has no insurance, or if you're injured in a hit-and-run accident. Keep in mind that UIM coverage will not apply to vehicle damage.
If you're asked to provide proof of car insurance to a law enforcement officer in Oregon (during a traffic stop or after a car accident, for example), you can always present a physical copy of your official insurance card (issued by the company).
Yes. You can show digital proof of car insurance in Oregon (and in neighboring Washington) by pulling up an official, company-issued electronic version of your insurance card or policy declaration page, or by providing other official digital documentation of your policy details.
If you get caught driving without insurance in Oregon, you could be fined, lose your driving privileges, or have your vehicle towed, depending on the circumstances of the offense.
If you're convicted of driving without insurance, you will have to file proof of insurance with the state's Driver & Motor Vehicle Services (DMV) for three years. If you are in an accident, and you are uninsured, your driving privileges will likely be suspended for one year.
Of course, these penalties will likely pale in comparison to the financial hit you could take if you're in a car accident and you don't have car insurance.
Another penalty related to driving without insurance has to do with your legal options if you end up getting injured in a car accident. Oregon is one of a dozen or so states that follow some version of a "no pay, no play" law.
Under this law (which can be found at Oregon Rev. Stat. 31.715), if you file a lawsuit for car accident injuries and it turns out you were driving without insurance at the time of the crash, you'll be barred from recovering "non-economic" damages in court even if you win your case. This is a big deal because non-economic damages include compensation for your physical and mental "pain and suffering" and other subjective effects of your injuries, and losses like these are often the biggest determinants of case value.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. You can still recover non-economic damages in court against the other driver if they:
For more details on car insurance in Oregon, check out the Division of Financial Regulation's Auto Insurance 101 page. You can also learn more about:
If you've been involved in a car accident, you may need more than just the basics on how car insurance works. Especially if you've been injured, it might make sense to discuss your situation, and your options, with an experienced legal professional.
Learn more about when you might need a car accident lawyer's help, and what to expect from your first meeting with a car accident attorney. And if you're ready to discuss your potential case now, you can use the features right on this page to connect with an Oregon car accident lawyer in your area.