If you live in Oregon, it’s important to understand the state’s various insurance laws and what’s required of you as a driver.
A no-fault insurance law generally means that, regardless of who is at fault for an accident, each driver’s insurance coverage will pay their own medical costs rather than the at-fault driver’s insurance covering all damages. No-fault states also require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) to cover their medical bills in an accident.
Oregon’s insurance laws are unique because they don’t necessarily fall under the at-fault or no-fault category. Like at-fault states, Oregon requires at-fault drivers to take responsibility for the damages they’ve caused, both property damage and bodily injury. However, like no-fault states, it also requires all drivers to carry PIP, which covers their own medical expenses in an accident.
How much a driver can recover after an accident depends on the state’s type of negligence laws. Comparative negligence allows accident victims to recover some money for injuries and damages, sometimes depending on their degree of fault. Contributory negligence, on the other hand, prevents victims from recovering anything if they acted negligently in any way.
Oregon has a modified comparative negligence law. Victims can recover losses as long as they don’t carry the majority of fault for the accident. The damages that someone can recover may be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to them.5 For example, if it’s found that someone is 25 percent at fault for the accident, their covered damages will be reduced by 25 percent.
As of 2019, about 11 percent of Oregon drivers are uninsured, meaning they don’t meet the state’s minimum insurance requirements.6 This rate is lower than the national average of 12 percent.
To protect insured drivers from financial losses, Oregon requires all drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage, which pays for their damages from an accident with an uninsured driver. Oregon allows drivers to stack their uninsured motorist coverage, meaning you can combine the limits from multiple policies to provide greater coverage after an accident.
Oregon takes driving under the influence very seriously. If your blood alcohol concentration reaches 0.15 percent, you’re considered to be under the influence.
A DUI requires a minimum fine of $2,000 and a license suspension of at least 90 days (with limited privileges after 30 days). All drivers found guilty of a DUI must have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for one year on a first offense and two years on subsequent offenses. A DUI in Oregon remains on your driving record for 10 years.
Seat Belt Laws
Like all other states, Oregon requires all drivers and passengers to wear a seat belt, regardless of their age or what seat they’re in. Oregon’s seat belt regulation is under primary enforcement, which means law enforcement can pull someone over and ticket them for not wearing a seat belt, whether or not they were committing any other offenses. This is different from a secondary state, where law enforcement can only write a ticket for a seat belt offense if there was also another citable offense.7
Distracted Driving Laws
States have begun cracking down on distracted driving, especially cell phone use. In Oregon, all drivers are prohibited from using handheld devices while driving. Only drivers under age 18 are prohibited from all cell phone use, meaning someone over 18 could drive while talking on a Bluetooth device.
Oregon also has a texting and driving ban that applies to all drivers.8 If you’re caught texting while driving, you could face a fine of up to $1,000 on the first offense, $2,000 on the second offense, and $2,500 with possible jail time on subsequent offenses.
Teen Driver Laws
Ohio allows drivers age 16 and older to get provisional driver’s licenses as long as they’ve held learner’s permits for at least six months and had 100 hours of driving experience supervised by an adult age 21 or older. Alternatively, drivers can complete traffic safety courses, along with 50 hours of supervised driving.
While holding provisional licenses, drivers can’t have passengers under the age of 20, except for immediate family. After the initial six months, teen drivers are barred from having more than three non-family passengers under the age of 20.
For the first year of holding their provisional licenses, teen drivers can’t drive between midnight and 5 a.m. except when driving between home and work or a school event, or with a licensed individual at least 25 years old.
Once a driver turns 18, they are no longer required to carry provisional licenses. At that point, they can get unrestricted driver’s licenses (i.e., full driving privileges).
Statute of Limitations for Claims
A statute of limitations is the amount of time after an accident that someone has to file a lawsuit or a claim with their insurance company. Drivers in Oregon have two years to file personal injury claims and six years to file property damage claims.9
Cancellation/Non-Renewal Notification Laws
Cancellation is when an auto insurance company cancels an existing policy in the middle of a term, while non-renewal is when a company chooses not to renew a policy at the end of its term. Generally, insurance companies can’t cancel policies that have been in effect for more than 60 days unless the insured hasn’t paid their premiums, has committed fraud or material misrepresentation, or has had their license revoked or suspended.
Oregon requires insurance companies to give you 30 days’ notice of a cancellation, or 10 days in the case of nonpayment. If a company chooses not to renew your policy, it must give you 30 days’ notice.
Some states allow drivers to self-insure, meaning they don’t purchase traditional car insurance. Oregon allows drivers to self-insure, but only if they have a fleet of more than 25 vehicles and are a public body or federal agency. To self-insure in Oregon, organizations must have retained minimum earnings of $100,000 to $3.1 million, depending on the number of vehicles they’re insuring.
Car Inspection Requirements
Oregon doesn’t have any statewide inspection or testing requirements, but residents of some of its highly populated metropolitan areas must submit to testing. Portland residents must have their vehicles inspected and registered if they are from 1975 or later. Medford has a testing requirement for all vehicles that are 20 years old or newer. Both communities offer exemptions for newer-model vehicles, vehicles legally registered outside of the testing boundaries, heavy-duty diesel vehicles, motorcycles, low-speed vehicles, and fully electric vehicles.
An SR-22 is a certificate that drivers in some states must carry to prove their liability insurance, above and beyond an insurance card. These certificates are generally required for drivers who have violated certain laws, such as driving without insurance, with a suspended license or registration, or unsafely. Oregon requires drivers to carry an SR-22 in the following circumstances:
- They’ve been convicted of driving without insurance.
- They own a vehicle that was uninsured at the time of an accident.
- They are trying to reinstate their suspended driving privileges.
- They are applying for a probationary or hardship permit.
Some states require drivers to take defensive driving courses, which teach them safe driving practices to avoid hazards. States may require these courses when a driver has a certain number of points on their license due to driving infractions. Oregon doesn’t currently require defensive driving courses in any situation, but drivers may choose to take them. Some insurance companies offer discounts for drivers who have taken these courses, so there may be a financial benefit.
Serious Injury and Monetary Thresholds
If you’re injured in an accident, you may have the right to sue the responsible party. Whether legal action is allowed generally depends on whether the accident is in an at-fault or no-fault state.
While Oregon has some characteristics of no-fault states, such as its PIP requirement, it’s actually an at-fault state, meaning there’s no injury or monetary threshold for legal action. Instead, each driver will pay for damages based on their percentage of fault in the accident.
Accident Reporting Requirements
Oregon requires you to file a police report for an accident that results in injury or death, more than $2,500 of damage to any vehicle, more than $2,500 of damage to property other than a vehicle, or a vehicle being towed from the scene. Drivers have up to 72 hours to report an accident; failure to do so could result in a fine up to $300.
It’s common for insurance companies to use factors such as your credit score or gender when setting car insurance rates. Some states have passed laws preventing price discrimination based on these factors.
Oregon prohibits insurance companies from declining your application and from canceling or failing to renew your policy based on your credit score. However, they may consider your credit score when setting your insurance premium. It is also legal for insurance companies in Oregon to consider a driver’s gender when setting insurance rates, so men pay more for car insurance there.
When Is a Car Declared a Total Loss?
In Oregon, a car is considered a total loss when the cost of damages exceeds 80 percent of the car’s actual cash value. The vehicle could also be a total loss if it can’t be repaired safely. If your car is declared a total loss, you should receive its full cash value from your insurance company, assuming you have the proper collision or comprehensive coverage.