The car accident wasn’t my fault, but I didn’t have car insurance

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Unfortunately, either for economic reasons or due to a mistake of some kind, people drive without insurance and they get into car accidents.   If you are the party not at fault, you should understand your rights.  The insurance companies give a lot of improper and wrong advice to people concerning this issue, and as a result people are not being offered proper settlements.

Oregon law does attempt to punish those who drive without insurance, even if they are the innocent party in the accident. The law has two main parts. The first part states generally that if you are the innocent party in an accident and you did not have proper insurance, you lose your right to seek money compensation for part of your claim.  The second part of the law lists a variety of exceptions to this limitation.   The insurance company rarely ever explains that many people qualify for one of the exceptions.  It is important to understand that Oregon law groups all damages into two categories: Economic Damages and Non-economic Damages.

Economic Damages include the following: medical bills, future medical bills, wage loss, future wage loss, car repair, property loss, impaired earnings capacity, diminished value of property, mileage expenses, and other losses that typically can be evaluated in a market society.    Non-economic damages include:  pain, discomfort, loss of physical enjoyment, loss of being able to do hobbies and other activities.   These lists are not exhaustive.   If you are involved in an accident as the innocent party, but you do not have car insurance, Oregon law says that you lose your right to seek compensation for non-economic damages.   You are still free to pursue compensation for any and all applicable Economic Damages.   This means, you still get your car paid for, you still get your lost wages, your medical expenses, and any other relevant economic losses.

Again, the insurance company is not eager to tell you this.  Often the insurance company will simply, and erroneously say, “I’m sorry, but you don’t have car insurance so you aren’t entitled to a settlement.”   Many people believe this and walk away and receive nothing for their economic loses.

Remember, the law also provides a number of exceptions. For instance, one of the exceptions indicates that if the uninsured driver had insurance within 180 days, (6 months) and has not received a ticket for driving uninsured before the accident within the year before the last time they had insurance, then that person does not lose their pain and suffering portion of the settlement.   The wording of this exception can be a little confusing.  To state it another way, the uninsured person is asked two questions.   First: did you have insurance anytime in the 6 months before the accident?  If the answer is “no”, then the exception doesn’t apply.  If the answer is, “yes,” then we must ask the second question.   “From the date that you last had insurance, in the 365 days before then had you ever driven uninsured?   If the answer is, “no,” then you qualify for the exception and you can get your full settlement.

This exception often applies because many people who are driving uninsured simply made a mistake in paying their insurance premium for a month, or they lost the bill, or they moved and didn’t get the bill.  These people all had insurance within the 6 months before the accident and will often meet the exception and still get their full settlement.

Another exception is when the at-fault driver was cited for reckless driving.  In this case, your settlement won’t be limited by the fact that you were uninsured.  Even if the driver was not actually cited for reckless driving, if you can prove to your jury that the bad driver’s conduct was reckless, this exception can still apply.

Another exception is when the at-fault driver was intoxicated.   In this situation, again the exception will apply and the uninsured innocent party to the accident will not have their settlement limited.

There are a few other exceptions that exist, but are less common.   So, the bottom line is, if you are the innocent party in an accident and you didn’t have car insurance, you should still contact an attorney.

Maintaining car insurance is extremely important for many reasons.   There are several benefits that are more easily obtained if you have insurance when you are in an accident.

 

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