What Every Nevada Driver Should Know About Car Insurance
Nevada’s minimum policy limits are too low at $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $10,000 per accident for property damage. Although the policy limits don’t limit individual liability, the best way to protect yourself is to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, med pay coverage, and more than the minimum liability coverage.
By Zachariah B. Parry, attorney at Pickard Parry Pfau.
Every state but one requires licensed drivers to carry liability insurance. The only state that does not—New Hampshire—requires proof of financial responsibility, meaning, those wealthy enough to cover accident-related damages can in essence insure themselves.
Liability insurance can vary in its coverage, but generally covers the losses directly caused by the at-fault driver, including losses related to bodily injury (e.g., medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering) and property damage (e.g. auto repair or replacement). Every state sets its own lower boundaries for coverage. These minimum coverages always include the per-person bodily injury minimum, the aggregate per-accident bodily injury minimum, and the minimum coverage for property damage.
The per-person bodily injury limit ranges from a low of $10,000 (Florida and New Jersey) to a high of $50,000 (Alaska and Maine). Most state’s minimums are between $20,000 and $30,000. Nevada’s minimums are among the lowest as a driver only has to have $15,000 in per-person bodily injury coverage. NRS 485.185.
Per-accident bodily injury coverage minimums are almost always greater than the per-person minimums because it covers injuries suffered by more than one person in the same accident. These minimum coverages range from a low of $10,000 (New Jersey) to a high of $100,000 (Alaska and Maine). Most state’s minimums are between $40,000 and $60,000. Again, Nevada is near the low end with minimum coverage of $30,000.
Property damage minimums range from a low of $5,000 (California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) to a high of $25,000 (Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas). Nevada is once again near the bottom with minimum coverage requirements of $10,000.
If you have the minimum coverage, you have the legal minimum amounts, but that does not insulate you from risk. If you are to blame for an accident that causes more than the minimum coverages, you are personally responsible for the difference between the losses you cause and the coverage you’ve purchased.
There is also the flip side of the coin: if you are injured and/or suffer other loss as a result of another driver’s negligence, and they do not have more than the minimum coverage, you may be faced with the catch-22 of choosing between settling for the policy limits, which do not adequately compensate you for your losses, or paying an attorney to pursue the claim against the other driver personally. And most attorneys (if not all) will not agree to pursue the underinsured driver personally on a contingency, meaning you are stuck paying an hourly fee.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
To protect yourself against such an eventuality, your best bet is to purchase uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. UM coverage allows you to make a claim against your own insurance coverage if you are injured or suffer losses by someone who does not have insurance or if you are the victim of a hit-and-run driver. Similarly, UIM coverage applies where the other driver is insured, but has inadequate insurance to compensate you for your losses.
Only twenty-two states require UM coverage. Nevada is not one of them. Of those, fourteen also require that all drivers have UIM coverage.
Although not required in Nevada, there is good reason to purchase UM/UIM coverage. According to one report, about 1 in 9 motor vehicle accidents nationally involves a driver who flees the scene. That number is as high as 48% in Los Angeles. (Read more about what to do if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident here.) Additionally, according to another report by the Insurance Research Council, approximately 1 in 8 at-fault drivers in the nation is uninsured. In Nevada, it is estimated that 12.2% of drivers do not have insurance, a figure barely under the national average.
If you find yourself in an accident, knowing you have adequate UM and UIM coverage will provide great peace of mind because your compensation will not be dependent on the wisdom of the at-fault driver in deciding which coverages to purchase. Moreover, Nevada law prohibits insurers from increasing rate premiums on any coverages, including UM and UIM coverages, that are incurred as a result of an accident for which the insured was not at fault. NRS 687B.385. That means your rates will not go up if you end up needing your UIM or UM coverage.
Medical Payments Coverage
If you have liability insurance, you have purchased coverage for other people whose car-accident-related injuries are your fault. With UIM and UM coverage, you are covering yourself if you are not at fault and the other side is either uninsured or not adequately insured. Even with substantial liability, UM, and UIM coverage, there is a gap in coverage: you are not covered if you are injured as a result of your own negligence.
In other words, if you are the at-fault driver, your passengers, the other driver(s), and the other driver(s)’ passengers are all covered by your liability coverage. But you are not. That’s where medical payments, or med-pay, coverage comes in.
Med-pay coverage is typically fairly inexpensive and covers the medical bills of everyone in your car (including you) at the time of the accident, whether you caused the accident or someone else did.
Besides adding additional coverage for your passengers and yourself regardless of who is at fault, med pay coverage has at least one other big advantage: in Nevada there is no right of subrogation. In a scenario without med pay, if another driver is at fault, and your health insurance pays for your medical expenses, and then the at-fault driver pays you for your medical expenses, your health insurance has a right of subrogation, meaning it can require you to reimburse it for expenses it paid that should have been paid by the opposing party’s insurance. However, if your bills were first paid by your own med pay coverage, the compensation you receive from the at-fault driver is yours to keep. Nevada is one of only a few jurisdictions that have this law. See Maxwell v. Allstate Ins. Cos., 102 Nev. 502, 728 P.2d 812 (1986).
Other Rights Regarding Insurance
Nevada requires insurance companies to either pay or provide acknowledgment of receipt of a claim no later than 20 business days after they receive notice of the claim. NAC 686A.665. For first-party claims, meaning claims against your own insurance company (like in instances where you use UM, UIM, or med-pay coverage), you have a responsibility to provide evidence of loss (like medical bills, receipts from a body shop, etc.). Once you have sent those to your insurance company, they only have thirty days to make a decision as to whether they will accept or deny the claim. NAC 686A.675. Then, if they haven’t paid you within thirty days after that, interest begins to accrue on the payment at the statutory rate, which currently is 5.25%. NRS 99.040.
Driver Best Practices in Nevada
Because of the laws in Nevada, if you are a prudent driver you will purchase (1) more than the minimum liability coverage so as not to be held personally accountable for losses caused by your negligence, (2) UM and UIM coverage in case you are injured by a driver with minimum or no coverage, and (3) med pay coverage to protect yourself in case you are at fault and maximize your recovery (and your passengers’ recovery) if someone else is.
If you are in an accident and are not sure what coverages you have or how they might best be utilized, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney. And whether you’ve been in an accident or not, you should verify that you have the coverages discussed above so if you do get in an accident, you will not be at the mercy of another driver’s potentially poor insurance choices.
Zachariah B. Parry is a founding partner of the civil litigation law firm, Pickard Parry Pfau. He regularly litigates against parties with deep pockets like labor unions, racketeering enterprises and insurance companies. He has experienced success on both sides of the table, including multiple multi-million dollar judgments on behalf of plaintiffs in fraud cases and zero-dollar defense verdicts for his clients who were unjustly sued. In addition to litigating, Zach also teaches torts, contracts and Nevada practice and procedure at UNLV’s paralegal program.
Zach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 702-910-4300, or through his firm’s website at www.pickardparry.com.
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