As 2015 winds down we can look forward to many things in the New Year. Among them: a new law that will be an enormous boon to ordinary Oregonians. SB 411, which Governor Kate Brown signed last March, is slated to take effect on January 1. As that day approaches it is useful to pause and remind ourselves why this measure is so important. I wrote about this law last spring when the governor was considering whether or not to sign it and am pleased to offer this follow-up on the eve of its coming into force.
As summarized by the healthcare newsletter “The Lund Report”, SB 411 “takes two actions to bring Oregon auto insurance law in line with other states – it allows an injured person to receive the full benefit both of their own policy and the injury protection of the driver who caused the accident. It also requires the at-fault motorists’ insurance to pay the injured party’s claims first, before paying back money the other motorist’s insurance paid out for personal injury protection.”
That may sound like a fairly common-sense decision, but as Lund outlines, right now Oregon, unlike many other states, operates under a quite different system. “Current law requires the liable motorists’ injury coverage to be deducted from the non-liable party’s coverage for underinsurance, so that if each party is insured against injuries for $25,000, only $25,000 will be available for the injured person.” This bill, in other words, replaces a system designed to protect the bottom lines of insurance companies with one focused on helping injured Oregonians get the help they deserve.
It is important to note that while the law goes into effect on January 2 it will not alter existing policies. So, for example, if your car insurance is set to renew in March any accidents that take place in January or February would be adjudicated under the existing rules, SB 411 will only apply after the policy’s renewal date. New policies written on or after the first of the year will enjoy the benefits of the new law from Day One.
Oregon car accidents are a serious problem, which is why the regulation of the insurance industry is so important. During last winter’s debate over SB 411 opponents argued that the measure will raise insurance rates and lead, in turn, to an increase in uninsured drivers across the state. Supporters of the measure responded by pointing out that many other states already have similar rules and have not experienced those problems.
As a Portland car accident victims’ attorney I am excited to see this measure finally become law, bringing our state into line with practices in much of the rest of the country, and helping to ensure that ordinary Oregonians get the benefits they rightfully expect from the insurance premiums they pay.
The Lund Report: Senate Democrats Vote to Boost Injury Protection from Auto Insurance