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Don Jacobs
Don Jacobs
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Uninsured motorist deadlines

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The day of most lawyers is driven by deadlines. Deadlines exist in almost all areas of the law. There are time limits for just about every action. All lawsuits must be filed by a certain deadline. Different types of lawsuits have different deadlines. To make matters worse, the rules are constantly changing. New exceptions apply every year. Every new state legislative session creates even more deadlines. Private parties are free to establish deadlines in any contracts they create. So what happens if you miss one of these deadlines? For the consumer, missing a deadline can mean they no longer have a case. They can lose any legal rights they had before the deadline. If the consumer was represented by a lawyer at the time, missing a deadline typically means malpractice occurred. Malpractice can expose the lawyer to personal responsibility for any losses suffered by the client. Practicing law in a border region, such as the Portland/Vancouver area, means a lawyer must be aware of the deadlines in force in both states. Even if a lawyer limits his or her practice to handling cases in one state only, the legal problems of the client can result in loss of rights if the lawyer is unaware of how deadlines in other states might affect the case. An example and a real problem area is the uninsured or underinsured motorist case. If a consumer is involved in an auto accident in Washington, it makes sense to get a Washington lawyer. After all, if a lawsuit has to be filed, only a lawyer with a license in that state can file the case. For the typical auto case in Washington, a consumer has up to three years to file a lawsuit before missing any deadlines. But what if it turns out the driver who caused the collision didn’t have insurance, or maybe didn’t have enough insurance to cover all the damages. In this situation, consumers can turn to their own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to collect what the uninsured or underinsured driver failed to pay them. But what happens if the consumer involved in the accident described above is an Oregon resident? True, since the accident happened in Washington, the law of the state of Washington applies to any lawsuit filed over the collision. But as an Oregon resident, laws governing the insurance policy come from the state of residence. Oregon currently has a two year deadline for filing uninsured or underinsured motorist claims. Meaning if the driver above went beyond two years before making a claim they’d lose all right to recover any damages from their uninsured or underinsured insurance coverage. Many lawyers who practice law solely in Washington are unaware of this Oregon insurance deadline. Many fall into the trap of thinking they still have three years to do something since the collision happened in Washington. Without a thorough knowledge of the insurance and tort law of both states, it’s easy for a lawyer to get caught in this trap.