In the July 2017 legislative session, the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 308 (SB 308) which raised the minimum limits of liability for operating a vehicle in Nevada. The minimum limits for automobile insurance had not changed since the 1980’s. Prior to July 1, 2018, the minimum limits every vehicle on the road was required to carry was $15,000/$30,000/$10,000. Interpreted, this means each vehicle had to maintain liability limits for bodily injury to cover any individual to whom you caused injury in a car accident up to $15,000.00. Additionally, it had to cover all individuals injured in the amount of $30,000.00. Property damage caused by a vehicle had to be covered up to $10,000.00.
Why Has Car Insurance Increased For Henderson, Nevada Residents?While the insurance limits did not change during those decades, the cost of medical care following a car accident, along with the expenses associated with vehicle repair and replacement have increased dramatically. In many accidents where a person was taken to the hospital by an ambulance from the scene the medical billings alone would total close to $15,000.00. This meant there was no coverage for any additional or follow up treatment and nothing to compensate for pain and suffering. Based upon the increased value of vehicles on the road many individuals had their cars totaled by the insurance company but would not receive enough to pay off the outstanding loan on their vehicle. Individuals who did not maintain “gap” insurance (insurance which covers the difference between the value of the car and the amount owed on the car), they were left making payments on a car which they no longer had. The low limits caused significant problems for innocent victims of automobile accidents both in getting compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering and repairing/replacing their vehicles.
With the passage of SB 308 the limits have increased to $25,000/$50,000/$20,000. While this may not be enough to cover an individual injured by the negligence of another, it is a vast improvement from the prior limits. These limits are sufficient in many cases, but can be insufficient in many severe auto accidents. As a result, you should absolutely seek out uninsured or underinsured coverage as well as considering medical payments coverage. There are many drivers who ignore the law and do not carry any insurance or who will opt to maintain the new minimum coverages which can be woefully insufficient. For example, if a negligent driver causes a serious accident or an accident involving multiple vehicles (which is incredibly common), the limits can be exhausted within a few days leaving you without proper medical care and potentially without a vehicle. You should consult with an attorney or an insurance professional to determine how best to protect your assets and yourself as you enter the roadways in Nevada. This change in the law is a great time to evaluate your coverages and make sure you are adequately insured.
In the end, SB 308 is a slight improvement over the prior minimum liability limits. However, the most important reason to obtain insurance is to protect you and those you care about. Don’t insure everyone in the world except yourself and your family. Make sure you purchase UM/UIM coverage and look into medical payments coverage. This is especially true if you do not have health insurance to cover the bills after an accident.
Accepting Policy Limits In A Henderson Car Accident
One question that I have received numerous times from clients over the years is, “Can we go after the personal assets of the person who hit me?” This question usually comes up when we are discussing a policy limits offer from the insurance company of the negligent driver. In this situation, one of two scenarios is playing out: 1) The policy limits are insufficient to fully compensate the client; and/or 2) We are preparing to make a claim against my client’s Underinsured Motorist Policy (“UIM Policy”). My clients usually feel (and rightly so), that it is unfair that their injuries are not covered by the policy of the other driver. As a result, they will inevitably ask if we can pursue the other driver’s personal assets. Over more than a quarter of a century of practice, the answer to that question has always been an emphatic, “No.” There are several good reasons for this.
First, in the vast majority of cases in which there is insufficient insurance, the negligent driver maintains the state minimum limits of insurance. This usually indicates the negligent driver has no assets to protect and likely lives paycheck to paycheck. That being the case, it would require years of wage garnishment to fully compensate the client. This would require “chasing” the negligent driver from job to job and place to place as they try (as they almost certainly would), to avoid paying the judgment and having their wages garnished. Additionally, unless alcohol was involved, a judgment of this type is dischargeable in bankruptcy. This means that the full amount of the judgment, less the insurance policy amount, would essentially disappear once the bankruptcy was completed.
Second, the client assumes the insurance company will pay out the policy limits immediately, allowing them to then pursue the negligent driver. Insurers carry two duties: the duty to indemnify (pay a judgment or claim), and the duty to defend (pay for an attorney to defend you if you are sued). Unless the insurance company receives an executed Release of All Claims, they will not (and cannot) settle the case. This means the client will have to proceed to trial and obtain a judgment. Only then can the insurance company pay out the policy limits. Going to trial and litigating the case will almost always require incurring significant costs. Likewise, the negotiated contingency fee usually goes up once suit is filed and/or the case goes to trial. It is very likely the client could end up with less money than they would have had they accepted the policy limits initially.
In the event there is UIM coverage, it makes no sense not to accept the policy limits from the negligent driver and proceed to collect against the client’s own insurance company. Clients are so hesitant to make a claim against their own insurance company. They always assume their premiums will go up. As I have discussed in a prior blog post, this is not the case. Nevada law precludes an insurer from raising premiums solely for making a claim when there is no fault on the part of their insured. Not using UIM benefits is like paying for health insurance and insisting on paying cash rather then allowing a doctor’s office or hospital to bill their insurance. No one would even consider doing this. However, the insurance industry has done a masterful job of scaring people into believing they have to pay exorbitant premiums without ever using the coverage. This is why it is critical that you have an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you throughout the claim and litigation process.
If you have UIM coverage but choose to pursue the negligent driver above and beyond their policy limits, you may not be able to access your UIM benefits unless and until you have collected the full amount of the judgment against the negligent driver. You may also have an offset in that amount which means you may not be able to obtain your own policy limits which could have fully compensated you for the injury you sustained.
How To Find Out How Much Insurance The Negligent Dirver Has Following A Henderson Car Accident
There may be a time to pursue a negligent party’s personal assets. However, that would be a very rare case. Always seek out an experienced personal injury attorney to help you navigate your automobile accident claim. Let Jones Wilson’s experience help you get the maximum recovery possible on your claim.
You or a loved one could suffer catastrophic injuries in a car accident at one of Henderson’s most dangerous intersections, such as Southeastern Ave. and St. Rose Parkway, or on your way for a fun night at the casino in nearby Las Vegas. When a negligent driver is the cause of your wreck, you expect his insurance company to treat you fairly. Unfortunately, you may find reality to be the opposite of this, and you may have to fight just to get basic information from the insurance adjuster—like the amount of insurance coverage the driver has.
Why Do You Need to Know How Much Liability Insurance the Other Driver Has?In Nevada, a negligent driver is fully responsible for compensating the victims of an accident he causes. However, the practical reality is that most people do not have sufficient assets other than their auto liability insurance coverage to pay a victim what is owed. In addition, the insurance company is only responsible for paying up to the policy limits purchased by the negligent driver.
You need to know the insurance policy limits so that you are certain that you receive the maximum possible settlement. In addition, once you know this information, you can make a decision on whether you need to file an underinsured motorist or collision claim under your own policy if you purchased these coverages.
What If the Insurance Adjuster Won’t Provide Liability Coverage Information?Why won’t the insurance adjuster tell you how much liability coverage there is to compensate you for your injuries? He may refuse to give you this information to wear you down and try to get you to forget pursuing your claim or to accept less than you are owed. Don’t make the mistake of falling for this tactic. Take these steps to find out yourself:
Ask The Driver
Unless his insurance adjuster instructed him not to tell you this, he may voluntarily give you this information.
Write the insurance company a letter and demand this information.
Be sure to keep a copy of this letter for your records.
Ask your insurance company for help.
If you are filing a claim under your collision or car rental coverage, your insurance adjuster may need to contact the negligent party’s adjuster anyway and may be willing to do so on your behalf.
Retain an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
He can take over communications with the insurance adjuster, try to obtain the liability coverage amount, negotiate your settlement, and file a lawsuit if necessary.
It’s not Double Dipping When Making Multiple Claims In A Car AccidentIn most instances, if you are injured while a passenger in a car being driven a family member or friend, you are normally limited to making a claim under the Bodily Injury (BI) coverage. As a passenger in the vehicle you also become an insured under the policy of insurance entitling you to all applicable coverages under the policy. However, even if your injuries are so severe that the coverage limits are insufficient to make you whole, the language in the insurance policy do not allow you to make a claim under the Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage when making a claim against another person who is also deemed an “insured” under the policy. To do so would violate what is known as the “anti-stacking” provisions under Nevada insurance law. However, the Nevada Supreme Court carved out an exception to this rule in cases in which there are two or more separate drivers who are found to be concurrently negligent. Delgado v. American Family Insurance Company, 125 Nev. 564, 217 P.3d 563(2009).
In Delgado, Dionicia Delgado was injured in an automobile accident while riding as a passenger in a car owned and operated by Eunice Marcelino. Marcelino attempted to turn left across the northbound lanes of traffic on Nellis Boulevard in Las Vegas. A northbound car, owned and operated by Toquanda Dean, struck Marcelino's car, severely injuring Delgado. Marcelino was insured by American Family Insurance Group for liability up to $50,000 per person, and had underinsured motorist coverage up to $25,000 per person. Dean carried an insurance policy with a $15,000 liability limitation.
In Certain Instantances You Can Make Multiple Claims In A Car Accident CaseDelgado made a claim against both at-fault drivers’ insurance policies and recovered the liability limits under both of those policies. She alleged her damages exceeded the limits of both liability policies, and submitted a first-party UIM claim against Marcelino’s American Family policy. American Family denied her first party claim based on its position that, under Nevada law, an insured who is covered under a liability policy cannot also recover under the underinsured motorist provision of the same policy. American Family asserted such a recovery amounted to impermissible “stacking” of the policies. After Delgado filed suit against American Family, a district court granted American Family summary judgment. Delgado appealed the district court’s ruling.
American Family argued two prior cases decided by the Nevada Supreme Court in which an insured party was precluded from claiming recovery under both the liability and the UIM coverages. The Nevada Supreme Court distinguished these cases on the bases that they both involved claims against a single driver who was also deemed an insured under the policy. The reasoning of the Court was that since the drivers of the two vehicles which caused Delgado’s injuries were both concurrently negligent, arguably the driver of the other vehicle was the “under insured” rather than the driver of the vehicle in which she was a passenger. Under that rationale, Delgado was entitled to recover both parties’ bodily injury liability limits, as well as make a claim under the UIM policy.
Why Nevada’s Minimum Insurance Coverage May Not Compensate You in Your Car Accident CaseIf a negligent driver hit you in a car wreck, you may have been relieved to learn that he has an automobile insurance policy that could cover your medical bills and reimburse you for your lost wages. However, if he only has Nevada’s required minimum insurance coverage, it may not fully compensate you even for a “minor” whiplash or back injury. But, you may have other options for seeking compensation if you find yourself in this situation.
What Are Nevada’s Minimum Insurance Coverage Requirements?Nevada is an “at fault” state in terms of liability for a vehicle accident. This means the negligent driver is liable for compensating the victims of the crash. However, like many states, Nevada only requires drivers to carry minimal coverage that includes the following:
- $15,000 when one person is injured in an accident
- $30,000 when more than one person is injured in an accident
- $10,000 in property damage coverage per accident
With how expensive medical treatments are, $15,000 in liability coverage may only cover a fraction of your medical bills—with no money left over for the wages you lost. In addition, if your vehicle was seriously damaged or totaled, $10,000 may not cover the cost to fix or replace it.
How Uninsured and Underinsured Insurance Coverage Could HelpWhen a negligent driver has the minimal or no insurance coverage in your crash, you still have a possible avenue for compensation for your injuries—your own insurance policy. At the time you purchased it, you would have been given the option of purchasing uninsured and underinsured insurance coverage. Hopefully you did this. If so, you could make a claim under your own insurance policy. Uninsured coverage will cover you if the driver had no insurance, and underinsured coverage will pay your additional losses above the insurance coverage the other driver had.
You Still Have Options If the At-Fault Driver Has No Insurance
Even though Nevada law requires all motorists to have automobile insurance, many motorists drive without having it. If you are injured in a car accident with one of these drivers, you might feel hopeless about obtaining compensation for your mounting medical bills, the wages you lost while you recovered, and your pain and suffering. However, you could still have options for obtaining the recovery you are entitled to.
Four Sources of Compensation You Might Not Know AboutUnder Nevada law, all motorists are required to have liability insurance of at least $15,000 per accident if one person is hurt, $30,000 if more than one person is injured, and $10,000 for property damage. Even if the driver who hit you had the required insurance, it could be too little to fully compensate you. Here are ways you could obtain compensation if the person had no insurance or was underinsured:
Your collision coverage.If the other driver has no insurance, your own collision coverage should cover the damage to your vehicle. However, you will need to pay the deductible.
Uninsured motorist coverage.When you purchased your automobile insurance policy, you had the option to add uninsured motorist coverage, which hopefully you took advantage of. If you have this, it could pay for your and your passenger’s injuries if the other driver had no insurance.
Underinsured motorist coverage.This is usually sold as a package with uninsured motorist coverage. This would be another way to obtain compensation if the driver had insurance, but it was not sufficient to cover your injuries.
Negligent driver.You could still sue the driver who hit you if he had no insurance. Unfortunately, you may have difficulty collecting the money he is ordered to pay if he is unemployed, has a low-paying job, or has few assets.
Do You Really Have Adequate Car Insurance Coverage?Most people spend days, even weeks, researching and looking at new cars, yet, they only spend 20 to 30 minutes selecting their auto insurance. Why? The reason is simple. Most people don't truly understand what their auto insurance actually covers, so they tend to simply look at how much they are paying per month.
Do You Have Enough Car Insurance Coverage?To an auto insurer you are a set of “risk factors”. These factors include:
- Whether you have ever been in a car accident
- Your age
- Whether you are a man or a woman
- Where do you live (Note: Living in the Las Vegas valley automatically increases your rates)
- Whether you are married or single
- What kind of car are you driving (Note: Sports cars are more expensive)
- When was your last ticket?
Each of these items are a risk factor that the auto insurance company evaluates to come up with your monthly rate. Research insurance companies. What kind of customer service to they reportedly provide? Are you going through an agent, or buying straight from their website? Evaluate what is important to you when it comes to what kind of insurance company you want covering you. Many people are so worried about how much they will pay per month, that they never appreciate what they are actually paying for.
What Is Medical Payment Coverage?Another critical insurance option is Medical Payments Coverage or Med Pay. Do not sign a Medical Payments coverage waiver. Med pay is designed to help you pay medical expenses after a car accident. It can help you breathe easy to know that you do not have to say no to the Emergency Room, or even an ambulance if you need one, because your Medical Payments coverage can pay those bills. Or in turn, can be used to help you recover money you may have spent on Health Insurance co-payments and deductibles. When you are involved in an auto accident, you do not want to have to immediately worry about who, or how, you are going to pay for medical care. When insured properly, you can take care of those concerns and properly evaluate your next step in the claims process, rather than feel rushed and pressured into anything out of fear of medical bill debts.
We have seen innocent accident victims accept unreasonable sums of money, offered by insurance companies looking to close the case through a quick settlement, before they can get the advice of an accident attorney. In each instance, the victim was so afraid of their hospital bill, or ambulance bill, that they acted against their best interest and just accepted the money quick settlement knowing that the money would at least pay for their ER visit. They only find out later that though these quick settlements do not actually cover their injuries, and they don’t cover the true extent of the damage that the accident caused. But the fear of “how am I going to be able to pay for this,” can often cause innocent victims to act against their best interest. It is only after they have accepted the money that they then come to us looking to “re-open” their case, which is usually almost impossible to do.
Protect yourself, and your family. Take the time to adequately research and select your auto insurance carrier, and never waive UM/UIM coverage, nor Medical Payments coverage. Get as much coverage as you can afford, knowing that when you need the coverage it will be one of the greatest decisions you ever made. Then, if you ever do get into a car accident, you know you are protected no matter what kind of insurance the other driver has. Then you can rest easy as you seek out an attorney experienced in car accident cases to assist you in evaluating your claim, and can help you get the full measure of damages that you are entitled to.
Have You Been Involved In A Henderson Or Las Vegas Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Henderson office directly at 702.405.6000 to schedule a free initial consultation.