In Oregon, as in every state, car insurance is sure to play a big part in any claim brought after a traffic accident. And Oregon, like most states, requires vehicle owners and drivers to maintain certain types and amounts of insurance coverage. Read on for the details of Oregon's auto insurance rules, how coverage is likely to affect a car accident case, and the kinds of penalties you can expect if you drive without insurance in the state.
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, a person who suffers any kind of injury or damage due to an auto accident usually can proceed 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?
Liability coverage pays the medical bills, property damage bills, and other costs 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 are personally on the financial hook, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.
Your liability coverage will kick in if any family member is driving your vehicle, or if you've given someone else permission to use it. 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 a 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) usually pays medical expenses and certain other out-of-pocket losses after an accident. It normally covers the policyholder and passengers in the policyholder's vehicle (unless they have their own coverage).
Uninsured motorist (UM) 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 UM coverage will not apply to vehicle damage.
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 are convicted of driving without insurance, you will have to file proof of insurance with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (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.