Both Oregon and Washington require drivers carry liability insurance to operate a vehicle on public roads. The liability coverage has to be at least $25,000 in amount. Often referred to as “full coverage” policies, this type of insurance is available to pay damages to anyone injured in a collision as a result of another driver’s negligence. The laws were enacted decades ago and the amounts haven’t changed to keep pace with inflation.
This is why it is so important to carry underinsured motorist coverage on your vehicle. With the high cost of medical care a $25,000 settlement might not go very far. If you were prudent and purchased underinsured motorist benefits, it could be used to cover the gap between the true value of the claim and what the other driver had in insurance. Smart drivers, at least in Washington, also carry “PIP” or “personal injury protection” coverage. When you or a passenger in your vehicle is injured, PIP coverage can be used to pay for medical bills, a portion of your lost income and some money to help hire assistance around the house while waiting to settle. The state of Oregon requires every consumer auto policy contain PIP coverage. Washington only requires it be offered and rejected in writing if declined. Both states have rules as to what happens if a dispute arises over the amount of medical care. Both allow the insurance company to send you off to one of their doctors to see if you really need any more care. Unfortunately, this is an area where problems often arise. The physicians who do these exams are regularly criticized as not being objective. They have a tendency to disagree with the treating physician as to how much care is necessary. Insurance companies are interested in cutting costs. They typically select doctors who don’t think things like physical or chiropractic therapy are really necessary beyond a short period of time. More often than not consumers find their insurance company cutting benefits after one of these exams. There is a dispute resolution process. Unfortunately, the cost to go through the process can sometimes be more than the amount in dispute. And if there is a pending claim against another driver, at least in Oregon, the PIP exam can be used to decrease the size of the settlement. Of course, you can decline to attend. But if you do, all of your PIP benefits will be quickly cut off, and your private medical coverage may not be willing to step in to pay the bills. Attorneys who work in this area are pretty unanimous on this topic. Anytime a PIP insurance company requests you attend one of these exams, get some legal advice.