Oregon Vehicle Insurance Limits Need Updating

We often hear people say after a crash, “but I bought full coverage.” Many people do not understand that when they buy auto insurance, their coverage is anything but “full.”  Oregon’s minimum auto insurance laws have not been updated in almost two decades.  Oregon statutes require only a “25/50″ liability policy for personal injury: a maximum of $25,000 for any one injured person, up to a total of $50,000 for multiple people injured in the same incident.  That kind of coverage can be used up on hospital bills on just the first day of a collision.

The obsolete insurance laws are especially hard on motorcyclists, who tend to be more seriously hurt in crashes.  There is often not nearly enough insurance to help cover their losses. When people get auto insurance, that 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 injured motorcyclists face more financial pressures from medical bills than auto drivers do.

Oregon has not raised its motor vehicle minimum insurance limits since 1995, when the auto liability minimum amount was set at $25,000 per person ($50,000 maximum 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 per crash.  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.

Most of us are busy working and taking care of our families; we have no real idea what amount of auto insurance is truly needed, so it’s easy to just get the insurance the law requires.  The Oregon Legislature should step in and adjust the minimum limits to at least account for inflation over the past two decades. 

Whether or not the Legislature takes care of these outdated insurance minimums, you can ask for higher limits when you buy or renew an insurance policy.  Many of the people we represent do exactly that after they have had an injury and learned how inadequate their insurance really was. 

Once they learn more about this, many people are happy to get higher limits for their uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.  When someone is hurt because of the negligence of the driver of another vehicle, their underinsured motorist coverage can be available to help cover losses beyond what the other driver’s insurance covers.   Higher underinsured motorist coverage limits directly benefit the buyer and their family, and  surprisingly don’t cost that much more.     

Similarly, especially for people who don’t have health insurance, it can be a good idea to get higher Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) limits.  The basic statutory minimum is only $15,000 for medical bills, which can be used up in the first hours after a crash.  Higher PIP limits are available, but you have to ask for them.