Oregon 51% Bar Rule - If I am 50% at fault, why can't I collect?
September 12, 2016 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I was found 50% at fault for a recent vehicle sideswipe. My insurance company is stating they did me a favor in awarding me this percentage, as it was a he said-she said situation where no one could be proven completely at fault. I do not have collision coverage, so I don't expect payment from that. However, when I asked about receiving payment for damages to my car from the other drivers liability coverage, I was told that I would not receive anything due to Oregon's modified comparative negligence law.

I forget the insurer's exact wording, but it was something to the affect of "50% means you're not 'at fault', but you don't get anything in return". I researched the state law and it appears that Oregon's threshold for negligence is 51%: "Oregon law has a modified comparative negligence law where the plaintiff can still collect as long as the fault attributed to him or her doesn’t exceed 51% of the total fault."

I'd like to know if I'm missing something big, or if I need to push back on my insurer. This seems like a pretty major fact they should know, but their explanation and the state law seem to be at odds.
posted by riverandstars to Law & Government (4 answers total)
There are two different things going on here: whether you can collect, and how much you are entitled to collect.

Did you experience more damage than the other party? If not, and you're 50% liable, you (or your insurer) would owe them, not the other way around.

If this is confusing, try fiddling around with made up numbers until it makes sense.

This is separate from Oregon law which states that if you were more than 51% at fault, you wouldn't be able to collect anything even if your damages so far exceeded the other party's that they would otherwise have owed you money (despite being less at fault).

I have never looked at Oregon law so this is just an informed guess, but I do not immediately see any kind of contradiction here.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:48 PM on September 12, 2016

Call the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation. They can't represent you but they can give you accurate information.
posted by praemunire at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2016

@Rock 'em Sock em': My understanding is that the percentage should correspond to both: amount of fault and amount I am expected to receive/pay. All examples I see online break it out that way. X% (up to and including 50%) at fault, I would receive 1-X% in damages. I don't believe the fault has to do with amount of damage (unfortunately). I definitely received much more damage than the other car, am (only) 50% at fault (which does not exceed the 51% threshold of the state, and so I am eligible to collect), yet I don't get anything?

I appreciate the feedback though - I will look into the difference (if any) between percent at fault and percent I should receive in damages.

@praemunire: Thanks very much for the link - I'll ask them the questions that the other poster brought up!
posted by riverandstars at 4:57 PM on September 12, 2016


I think you are reading the law correctly. Insurance companies and their representatives deal with lots of different cases over lots of jurisdictions (usually), so it could be that the rep is confused (and understandably so--this stuff is not particularly user-friendly). If they represent both sides, they may be incentivized to sweep this under the rug. Alternatively, you may actually have been more at fault, but they "fought for you" so you wouldn't have to pay anything.
posted by China Grover at 5:31 PM on September 12, 2016

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