Portland Legal Services - Joanne Reisman, Attorney at Law
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Consumer Protection

New Oregon Law improves UM UIM Auto Insurance Coverage IF your policy is issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2016!

Very Very Important - All Oregonians will want to make sure their automobile policy is technically renewed or issued as close to January 1, 2016 as they can get it done.  Why?  

Well there was a new law passed this year that goes into effect as of January 1, 2016.   Known as Oregon Senate Bill 411, or referred to by us attorneys as the "UIM stacking legislation", this new law will actually improve your auto insurance coverage if your policy is  issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2016.   The law specifically increases the protection you have if you are in an accident where the other driver is at fault and the other driver's insurance is less then your insurance coverage or the other driver doesn't have insurance.

By law all auto insurance policies issued in Oregon have always been required to include a minimum amount of coverage called UM/UIM which is what pays your personal injury damages when the other driver has no insurance of lower insurance coverage limits. (Think of UM/ UIM as "under-insured" or "uninsured motorist protection") Currently all Oregon Auto Insurance policies must contain coverage of at least $25,000 per person/ $50,000 per accident.  (This means all policies will pay up to $25,000 to each individual that makes a claim but no more then a total of $50,000 for all payments made to all persons involved in the same accident.)  

Prior to this new law, the mandatory UM/UIM insurance, included in your automobile policy, usually did not pay you the full amount that the policy said it would pay.  This is because the law as, previously written, allowed your insurance company to first consider how much insurance the other driver had available to pay you, and count that insurance first, and then only pay you the difference. 

For example, if your UM/UIM coverage, that you had paid premiums to have, was say, $100,000.00, and you were in an accident where the at fault driver had $50,000 of liability coverage, you might think that you can expect both the $50,000, plus the $100,000, a total of $150,000, to be the total amount of funds to pay your damages.  (Assuming your injuries were such that you deserved that level of damages.)  But under the current law, your insurance company would tell you that you only have a maximum of $100,000 available consisting of the $50,000 from the other driver's insurance plus $50,000 more from your policy.  You don't get the full $100,000 you paid for on your policy because they treat the total amount as a guarantee of the amount you will get, including what you get from the other driver, so they don't have to pay you what you can get from the other driver.

This all changes as of January 1, 2016.  You will now legally be entitled to get, under the above example situation,  both the $50,000 from the at fault driver plus your full limit of $100,000 for a total of $150,000.   (Again, you have to still prove that your injuries are worth the full $150,000, but assuming you can do that, you have a larger fund to draw from.)   THE CATCH IS: The new law will not apply to you until your policy is actually renewed or newly issued in 2016!  So don't wait for your actual renewal date sometime later in 2016.  Call you insurance agent and find out what you can do to trigger an earlier renewal.


Why you need a lawyer to help you settle your Personal Injury Claim

In most accidents, like when you are rear ended, it is not going to be an argument about who is at fault.  The argument is going to be about the amount of damages.  Insurance companies have a deliberate and carefully orchestrated plan to minimize how much they will pay out and it starts with the adjuster from the insurance company for the other driver car calling you and saying she or he is so sorry to hear about your injuries and they will take care of you - all you need to do is give them a recorded statement and sign some documents so they can view your medical records.  This is a trap designed to carefully document your post accident progress in a way that most favors the adverse insurance company (for the other driver).  Their goal is to pay you as little as possible.  They play on your emotions so you think they are being helpful and you will cooperate with whatever they ask for.  They will act so nice and even start talking about paying you money - all so you won't hire your own attorney.

Every case they can lowball means more profits for their company.  They can then throw up statistics at attorneys like myself to tell us our future cases aren't worth anything.  In the early 1980's I used to get offers of $10,000 pretty regularly to settle soft tissue injury cases like yours.  Now 30 years later I am lucky if I can offers of more than $1,500 to $3,000 and the insurance companies will battle like crazy to avoid paying a dime more.  They will spend far more to avoid paying out a claim then the amount they are arguing about not paying.   It is no longer about the cost of settling the case or the fairness of the damages paid.  It is about lulling accident victims into taking law ball offers when they don't know any better and making cases that are handled by attorneys as difficult and unprofitable as possible so that future claims can be settled as cheaply as possible.

We PI lawyers fight vigorously to stop the trend of low ball offers, unfair tactics, and cost prohibitive legal maneuvers.   We are willing to take cases up on appeal when necessary to protect the legal rights of consumers like yourself.  We fight for new laws that protect your rights by hiring lobbyists and going head to head with the well paid insurance lobbies every legislative session.

So by hiring a PI lawyer, preferably on that is a member of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (just ask), you will not only get a better settlement then you would on your own, even after paying a percentage as attorney fees, you will also stand up for your rights and the rights of other accident victims to get a fair and full settlement.

Understand that you have PIP coverage under your own Oregon insurance policy.  This is a mandatory no-fault additional coverage in all Oregon Auto Insurance policies.  What the other driver's insurance company does with yor claim doesn’t effect your right to this coverage nor will using it effect your insurance rates. This will pay for your medical treatment up to $15,000 and will pay for up to a year of treatment.  If you need to take time off of work, you may qualify for the lost wages that PIP will pay in addition to your medical bills.  (You need to be off work a certain amount of time to qualify.)   Your PI lawyer will see to it that you are able to take full advantage of your PIP coverage, so you can get the treatment you need and your lost wages while you recover.  You should not even consider settling your case until your injuries resolve.  You have up to two years before your case would need to be filed in the court so this is usually enough time to allow yourself to recover with time to spare that attempts can be made to settle the case.  Your chances of getting a fair settlement are much better if you first heal from your injuries and a demand package with complete information as to your treatment and medical bills is sent to the other driver's insurance company.  Your PI attorney will handle all of this for you.

As for car damages, if you have full coverage you can address the car repair or replacement by using your full coverage.  If you have a deductible you may need to pay it but it will be reimbursed later on.  If you don't have full coverage, a fairly new law (lobbied for by OTLA), now requires that the other driver's insurance company make you a fair offer immediately for the amount of your repairs or the replacement value of your car.  Your PI attorney can help you facilitate this.  Just don't be deceived that the other insurance companies willingness to settle your car damages is due to anything other then the fact that they are now obligated to do this under Oregon Law.  It is not a sign that your case will be settled easily without legal representation.  In fact, if they try to total your car they will still play all sorts of games trying to argue that your car isn't worth much. Your PI lawyer should be able to help you establish the fair market value of your car if it is totaled.

There are simply many advantages in hiring an experienced Personal Injury Lawyer as soon as you are able to contact one.  Most lawyer will talk to you about your case at no charge and will take your case on a contingency so there is no up front cost to you.  The professional experience they will bring to bare in handling your case against well funded insurance companies who will be doing everything they can to minimize your claim is invaluable.

Scam Calls and Emails - how to avoid being a Victim!!

To avoid becoming a scam victim regard any call or email that asks any personal, business or financial  information including a request to verify information as a possible scam!

Any legitimate callers or emailers will be willing to assist you in verifying that their calls or emails are legitimate.  If they are pushy,  anxious, evasive, or demanding when you ask questions or don't want to help you verify their identity or business legitimacy - they are scammers!

Here are the steps you need to take right from the start. 

  1. Just don't respond to any emails that request personal or business info.  Legitimate businesses that need your info will have a phone number and a person you can contact.  Just don't respond to any requests for information by email ever.  It is far too easy for people running international scams to send you emails with fake looking business logos and even fake return addresses.  Also when you respond you signal that they have contacted a real person and you become a live fish on the hook for them to play with.  You may also encourage them to further use your email address for spam.  If you have to respond, do so only to request their contact information.  But if you can tell who the business is from the original email, go to the next steps and don't reply.
  2. When contacted by phone, do not start answering questions or giving out information or any type - you start asking questions.
  3. Ask the caller to give you their full name, the name of the company they work for, the location and name of the office they are calling from, a working number that you can all them back on, and any extension you need to dial to get them back on the line.  At this point most scammers will hang up but not always.
  4. Politely say you will call them back and hang up.
  5. Next use an independent means to verify the business and to verify that this call is legitimately related to a department in that business.  Don't call the number you were just given.  Instead use reliable independent sources of information you already have to contact the business.  Remember that most billing statements have names, addresses and contact numbers so check your old statements for this info.  If it's a bank, call your local branch.   Once you have a good reliable number then call this number and  ask to speak to the appropriate department depending on what the initial call was about.   Discuss with someone in that department the call you received, who it was from, and the information you were given and what the caller wanted from you.  Verify that the call and the request for information is for a legitimate reason related to the business.
  6. If the call is verified as legitimate - don't hang up and go back to calling the original caller.  Instead ask to be routed internally to the call center where the person you need to talk to is located.  Scammers can mimic legitimate calls and even give you correct information and ask questions that a real department employee would ask you.  The problem is that there could be both legitimate calls and scam calls going on at the same time and asking the same questions.  By asking to be routed internally from an office inside the correct business, you can be sure that you get to a legitimate department or call center and that you don't accidentally release info to a scammer the is convincingly mimicking a real call.
  7. If you don't have a number for the business from prior contact, then it may be necessary to research the business on the internet to get the proper contact number.  This will only work for well known major businesses like American Express, or Bank of America.  If it's a business you have never heard of before then even the website you find could be phoney.
  8. Still not sure?  Then don't cooperate and give out any information.  If there is truly a legitimate business need for you info you will probably get something mailed to you at an address that your previously gave to the legitimate business.
  9. Check for scam alerts.  Below you will find information how to contact either the Oregon Department of Justice of the Federal Trade Commission to find out if the type of contact you have just gotten is a known scam.  You can also try typing in the language from an email into your Google browser.  The more common scams tend to use the same language over and over again and you will probably get a web page where your language is being reported and discussed by other consumers that have already spotted the scam. 
  10. Don't get involved in scam baiting.  There are even some consumers that will not only report the scam but will play along with the scammer and update their reports for you to read on various web pages.  This is called scam baiting.  I don't recommend playing this game because some of these scammers are real pirates with real guns and real bullets.  They may be in some foreign country but they could have friends or relatives in the US and you could end up in a life threatening situation.  So you can Google scam baiting if you want to read more about it but stick to just reading about it.

Other steps you can take:

Contact the Oregon Department of Justice.  (DOJ) They should be able to tell you if the type of call you got is part of a scam they are already aware of.  Sometimes the scammer may already be under investigation.
If you have a question about a consumer-related issue or would like to file a complaint against a business please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-877-877-9392 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or complete an online Consumer Complaint Form anytime.
Some of the services and additional information on the DOJ website include:
Oregon Scam Alert Network   Here you can read about current scams and submit your email so you can be notified of scams alerts as they are released.  There are also links to other helpful pages:


Go to the  Federal Trade Commission website and read about the various consumer fraud and identity theft problems that this website discusses.  There is also advice on steps to take to protect yourself and what to do after you have become a victim to minimize your damages:


FTC on
Under this topic you will find info on:
Limiting Unwanted Calls & Emails Some phone calls and emails are important, some can be annoying, and others are just plain illegal. Learn how to reduce the number of unwanted messages you get by phone and online.
Computer Security The internet offers access to a world of products and services, entertainment and information. At the same time, it creates opportunities for scammers, hackers, and identity thieves. Learn how to protect your computer, your information, and your online files.
Kids' Online Safety The opportunities kids have to socialize online come with benefits and risks. Adults can help reduce the risks by talking to kids about making safe and responsible decisions.
Protecting Your Identity Keeping your important papers secure, shredding documents with sensitive information before you put them in the trash, and limiting the personal information you carry with you are among the ways you can protect your identity. Find additional tips to reduce your risk of identity theft, including how and when to order your free credit report.
Repairing Identity TheftIf you suspect someone has stolen your identity, acting quickly to limit the damage is key. Take a deep breath, and then place a fraud alert on your credit file, order your credit reports, and call the FTC to report the crime.

Under this topic you will find info on:
  • Children’s Privacy The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives parents control over what information websites can collect from their kids.  The COPPA Rule — with new provisions in effect on July 1, 2013 —  puts additional protections in place and streamlines other procedures that companies covered by the rule need to follow.   If you run a website designed for kids or have a website geared to a general audience but collect information from someone you know is under 13, you must comply with COPPA’s requirements.  Questions?  Send them to CoppaHotLine@ftc.gov.
  • Consumer Privacy Think your company doesn't make any privacy claims? Think again — and reread your privacy policy to make sure you're honoring the promises you've pledged. Consumers care about the privacy of their personal information and savvy businesses understand the importance of being clear about what you do with their data.
  • Credit Reporting Does your business use consumer reports or credit reports to evaluate customers’ creditworthiness?  Do you consult reports when evaluating applications for jobs, leases, or insurance?  Here's information about your responsibilities under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other laws when using, reporting, and disposing of information in those reports.
  • Data Security Many companies keep sensitive personal information about customers or employees in their files or on their network.  Having a sound security plan in place to collect only what you need, keep it safe, and dispose of it securely can help you meet your legal obligations to protect that sensitive data.  The FTC has free resources for businesses of any size.
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requires financial institutions – companies that offer consumers financial products or services like loans, financial or investment advice, or insurance – to explain their information-sharing practices to their customers and to safeguard sensitive data.
  • Red Flags Rule The Red Flags Rule requires many businesses and organizations to implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program designed to detect the warning signs  – or red flags – of identity theft in their day-to-day operations.
  • U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework provides a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data outside the European Union in a way that's consistent with the EU Data Protection Directive.  To join the Safe Harbor, a company must self-certify to the Department of Commerce that it complies with EU standards.  The FTC enforces the promise that companies make when they certify that they participate in the Safe Harbor Framework.

Under this topic you will find information on:
  • Credit and Loans If you extend credit to consumers, are in the business of offering loans, or help companies that do, know your compliance responsibilities.  (Looking for information about credit reports or consumer reports?  Visit Credit Reporting.)
  • Debt If you market products or services promising to help consumers with their debts – or assist companies that do – are you up on the rules and laws that apply to your business?  (For resources related to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, visit Debt Collection.)
  • Debt Collection The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers from abusive or harassing treatment by debt collectors and establishes guidelines for the industry.  Is your company complying with the law?
  • Mortgages The FTC enforces laws that protect consumers from deceptive mortgage practices by certain kinds of lenders.  The FTC also takes action when companies use illegal tactics directed to people facing foreclosure.  If your company is within the jurisdiction of the FTC, are you complying with the law?
  • Payments and Billing  Under the law, businesses must take steps to ensure that charges to customers' credit cards, debit cards, phone bills, and other accounts are authorized.  Those principles also apply to mobile payments.  Does your company process payments for others?  There are compliance standard

Under this topic you will find information on:
  • Shopping & Saving Realistic budgeting is the key to maintaining a financial safety net and spending wisely. Whether you’re shopping for things you buy routinely — or saving for that occasional big ticket item — planning is key. These shopping tips can help you save money on everyday purchases, as well as on some products and services you buy once in a while.
  • Buying & Owning a Car Having a car can be an expensive proposition. Read tips on buying vs. leasing, negotiating the best deal, financing, getting the most out of warranties and service contracts, using gas efficiently, and avoiding repossession.
  • Credit and Loans Decisions about credit and loans involve lots of factors, including how much money you need, what terms you’re offered, and who is behind the offer. If you are choosing a credit card or wondering whether offers of credit and loans are on the up and up, these tips can help.
  • Dealing with Debt Debt collection, debt management, debt relief, debt settlement... Debt is a four-letter word that’s the subject of some complex laws. Learn how to exercise your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act — and how to recognize debt-related scams and frauds.
  • Resolving Consumer Problems Things don’t always go right. Sometimes you don’t get what you ordered; sometimes you get an item of the blue. What are your obligations? And by the way, are there advantages to using any particular method of payment in terms of consumer protections?
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