Getting everything that you’re owed after you’ve been seriously injured (or a loved one has been killed) in a vehicle accident can involve a long list of battles. Some of those battles may involve taking on your own auto insurer when they seek to avoid paying what they should. Whether you’re taking on an at-fault driver’s legal team or you’re taking on your insurance company, it pays to have an experienced Oregon auto accident lawyer on your side fighting these battles with you.
These battles can be especially important — and especially challenging — when your accident presents a need for a large sum in compensation.
A recent case involving several people injured in auto accidents — Batten v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance — makes for a good example of what we mean. One of those injured people, T.B., was severely hurt in a head-on crash. A different driver hit J.C. while he rode his bicycle, causing injuries that eventually killed him. Another driver hit the car in which L.C. was a passenger, causing severe injuries, and C.R. was a pedestrian severely injured when a fourth driver hit him.
All four of these people had some things in common. All were struck by uninsured motorists and all of them were insured under multiple State Farm auto insurance policies’ uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.
Another thing these four people had in common was that their damages were extensive. T.B.’s lawsuit sought roughly $5 million in damages. For J.C.’s case, the number was $500,000. L.C.’s was $3 million, and C.R.’s was $600,000.
State Farm tried to avoid paying out. In T.B.’s and J.C.’s cases, the highest single policy limit for UM/UIM coverage was $250,000. For L.C. and C.R., that highest policy limit was $100,000. Those were the amounts that the insurer sought to pay in each case. The Oregon Supreme Court, however, recently ruled against State Farm, delivering a huge win for people pursuing UM/UIM claims.
The Significance of Oregon’s Statutory ‘Comprehensive Model’
That outcome is a reflection of the way the law in Oregon works. This state has a specific statute that lays out all the things that Oregon requires of UM/UIM coverage. The statute includes a “comprehensive model” for what UM/UIM coverage terms should look like. If any aspect of an insurance policy’s UM/UIM coverage terms is less favorable than what the legislature crafted in the model, then that added term is unenforceable.
That, according to the Supreme Court, was what happened here. State Farm’s policies contained an “other coverage” term that said that the insurer was entitled to cap its payment at an amount equal to the largest single policy limit. The legislature’s model, however, says that “every motor vehicle liability policy” must provide UM/UIM coverage paid using a formula (which is also contained in the statute.)
By inserting a term that had the effect of yielding a smaller payout than what a policy that mirrored model would have, the added term for “other coverage” was less favorable than the model and was, therefore, unenforceable. That meant the injured insureds were entitled to collect on those additional coverages.
In Oregon, the issues related to obtaining recovery from an auto insurance company can be complex due to this state’s very specific laws that govern auto insurance policies, as well as some insurers’ reluctance to pay what they should. To make sure you are getting everything to which you’re entitled under the law, you need aggressive and knowledgeable legal representation. The experienced Oregon auto accident attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC are here to be that advocate for you. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation. You deserve to get a full recovery, and we’re here to help you do that.