Car Injures Three Motorcyclists; Insurance Limits Recovered

A Camry being driven southbound on Prairie Road in Eugene suddenly took a left turn at Maxwell directly in front of three northbound motorcycles, causing a crash that injured three motorcyclists.  Eyewitnesses confirmed that the motorcycles had a green light and therefore had the right of way as they were heading north on the road.  One of the motorcyclists, “Steve,”* asked us to represent him after he suffered injuries to his lower leg, a pneumothorax with acute respiratory failure, and three rib fractures.

There are often common themes and issues in motorcycle cases.  A motorcyclist has almost nothing but air between themself and a colliding car or the pavement.  As a result, motorcyclists tend to suffer more severe injuries in crashes.  In this crash, the Camry driver walked away without any known injuries.  The motorcyclist, Steve, was in the hospital for 6 days.

Because motorcyclists tend to be hurt more seriously in crashes, there often is not nearly enough insurance to help cover their losses.  Oregon’s minimum auto liability insurance requirement has not been adjusted since it was set at just $25,000 for any one injured person (and a total of $50,000 for all persons injured in a crash), an amount that can be used up in the first hours at the hospital.  Here, the problem was made worse by the number of injured people who needed to look to the same limited auto insurance on the Camry for help.

When we get auto insurance, it automatically includes at least some “personal injury protection” to help cover initial medical bills and certain other expenses.  Motorcycle insurance does not automatically include that coverage, and many motorcyclists face more financial pressures from medical bills than auto drivers do.

Motorcyclists often drive together for safety.  Still, a shocking number of times, the car driver says that they did not even see the motorcycle.  In this case, there were three oncoming motorcycles with their headlights on, seemingly impossible not to see.  The Camry driver here said he thought that the motorcycles were stopped, which made no sense.

In Steve’s case, we successfully recovered the full amount available to him from the insurance company for the Camry driver, and the full amount available to Steve from his own underinsured motorist coverage.  While that was the best that could be done under the circumstances, we wonder why Oregon has not raised its auto insurance minimum limits since 1995, when the legal minimum amount of auto liability required was $25,000 per person, up to a total of $50,000 per crash.  Just to keep up with general inflation, those numbers should now be over $50,000 per person, up to a total of over $100,000.  But medical care costs have gone up more than general inflation, so to keep up with medical cost inflation, those numbers would now be over $62,000 per person, up to a total of over $124,000 per crash.

*We don’t use his real name, to protect his privacy.

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