Do Uninsured Drivers Retain Any Rights When Hurt by a Negligent Driver?
Sometimes a person who is driving without insurance is hurt in a car accident. What happens then? Many people believe that if they are driving without insurance any rights they may have are automatically taken away, but that's not accurate, at least not in many states, including Oregon.
At Angel Law, P.C. we do not in any way advocate driving without insurance. Ever. In fact, we strongly recommend purchasing more coverage than the minimum amount required by law. Even in our tough economic times, driving without insurance is not an option. If you find yourself unable to afford the minimum coverage required by law, you should find alternative ways to commute, like car pooling with a friend or using public transportation.
Still, sometimes an uninsured motorist is hurt in an accident that he or she did not cause. In the event of a car accident or motorcycle accident in Oregon, who pays in the end depends on fault. The person that caused the car accident is responsible for compensating anyone who was harmed. Even if you did not have mandatory insurance, you may still be able to recover for your losses if you were not at fault in causing the car accident.
Some people don't agree that this is fair. They feel that if you drove uninsured you should have no right to compensation. But many people understand that in a situation like this there are two parties who have made mistakes, the person driving uninsured and the person who caused the car accident. Oregon law holds both parties accountable for the specific mistake each made.
An uninsured motorist involved in an accident may be cited by police, will likely be fined for driving uninsured and will almost certainly have his driving privileges suspended. Those consequences are intended to deter and punish uninsured driving. But, in most cases, the at-fault driver will still have to compensate those he harms, even if the person harmed is uninsured. The question is usually how much compensation is an uninsured driver entitled to claim? Typically, a negligent driver must pay the other driver to repair the damage to his or her car, for medical bills, for lost wages from any missed work or even sick days used, for other reasonable losses, and an amount for pain and suffering. But in Oregon, often an uninsured driver is not entitled to recover money for pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering is a phrase that means many different things to many people. Most agree that it describes harm that someone suffers that is not readily quantified, that is, it's hard to measure. Pain and suffering may include many things like: actually experiencing pain in your body, the pain of broken bones and headaches, not being able to sleep, not being able to pick up your three year old child who wants to be held, the fear and anxiety of undergoing surgery, the inconvenience and pain of rehabilitation, the stress and worry of missing work, the disappointment of not being able to run or bike or garden or any other thing a person may have done for enjoyment. Typically when someone else's negligence has caused you harm, the law allows you to recover both your economic damages, like medical bills or car repairs and your non-economic damages like pain, inconvenience and the loss of enjoying your normal activities.
So, in Oregon, even if a driver was not insured at the time of a car accident, he or she can still be compensated for medical bills, car repairs, and lost wages if the other driver was at fault. However, the uninsured driver is generally not allowed to ask for pain and suffering compensation even if they didn't cause the car accident they were in. This is a significant penalty because many times an injured person recovers as much for pain and suffering as they do for medical bills and lost wages. But there are important exceptions to the rule against uninsured drivers recovering for pain and suffering. ORS 31.715 lays out several exceptions that drivers should be aware of; they include when the at-fault driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs or driving recklessly. Uninsured drivers may also claim their full damages against an at-fault driver if they were covered by an insurance policy in Oregon within 6 months of the car accident and had not driven uninsured for a year prior to the policy lapsing.
It's important to remember that even if you were driving without insurance and were injured in a car accident that you didn't cause, you may still have a claim to recover for harm you suffered. You are entitled to demand the at-fault driver, or his insurance company, pay for your medical bills, and lost wages. And if the other driver was driving under the influence or driving recklessly you may also be entitled to be compensated for your pain suffered. If you have questions about your particular situation, contact a Portland car accident attorney at Angel Law PC.