Governor Kate Brown is considering whether or not to sign a bill improving protections for car drivers. The choice she faces is one between protecting consumers involved in Oregon car accidents and protecting the insurance industry.
The legislation, formally known as Senate Bill 411, is designed “to ensure that Oregon auto insurance consumers can actually use liability coverage they pay for every month,” according to a news release by the Oregon House Democratic Caucus. It closes a loophole in current law under which properly-insured drivers who suffer injuries at the hands of an underinsured motorist often find that “the at-fault driver’s insurance (a minimum of $25,000) is subtracted from the victim’s Underinsured Motorist Coverage – for a half-million Oregonians this means they’ll never be able to access the full coverage they’re paying for.”
According to the Oregon House majority’s news release, “SB 411 will allow injured motorists to add their uninsured motorist coverage on top of the at-fault driver’s liability coverage so injured consumers get the coverage they paid for. The bill also ensures that Personal Injury Protection policyholders are able to recover their total damages first, before the insurance company.”
This reform is long overdue and I hope Governor Brown will soon sign it into law. As an Oregon auto accident victims’ attorney I have often been shocked by the ease with which insurance companies can avoid paying the benefits that hard-working Oregonians believe they have paid for, sometimes over a period of many years. Policies ought to offer the coverage that a reasonable layperson believes he or she has paid for, and anything that makes it harder for companies to use technicalities to deny payment to deserving accident victims is to be welcomed.