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What Insurance Coverage Do I Need?

In the April article, I wrote about how much insurance coverage the at-fault party may have and how that plays a role in your claim. While you can’t control how much insurance those around you have purchased, you can control what you purchase. So what are some of your choices and what might you want to consider as part of your auto insurance coverage?

First, the phrase “Full Coverage” is at best vague and at worst misleading. One insurance agent’s website describes it as “coverage for your car, not just the other driver’s car.” For the purpose of this article and using that definition, “Full Coverage” gives a false sense of security because the term implies you have purchased all available coverages you can get. But that is not accurate.

Why would you be satisfied with only adding coverage for your car? What about the people in your car? What about you, your loved ones, and your friends? You spend all that money each month buying protection (insurance) for total strangers…why would you not spend some money protecting yourself and your passengers? So what other coverage might you consider talking to your agent about?

Uninsured/Underinsured coverage is generally defined as insurance protection that kicks in to help cover injuries and damage caused by a driver who is at fault but who is carrying coverage limits too low (Underinsured) – or has no insurance at all (Uninsured) – to cover those things you are entitled to recover when you are injured in an auto accident. You may see these coverages called UM/UIM or something of a similar nature.

Another product you can look into is MedPay which covers the medical payments of all passengers in your vehicle if they are injured in an accident. Think of it this way: At Craig P. Kenny & Associates we work hard to get you the best possible settlement/resolution we can, but when your case is done, part of those settlement dollars is used to pay your medical bills and is thus taken out of your pocket. When you have MedPay your medical bills – potentially up to the amount of coverage limits you have – are paid under that coverage, leaving the settlement dollars available to you.

A common concern our clients have is that if they use such coverage they will see an increase in their premium. There is no need to worry about that. If you use such coverage, your insurer can’t penalize you by canceling your policy or raising your rates. In Nevada, so long as you were not at fault for the accident you are protected by law against such actions by an insurance company. NRS 687B.385 tells us that:

An insurer shall not refuse to issue, cancel, refuse to renew or increase the premium for renewal of a policy of motor vehicle insurance covering private passenger cars or commercial vehicles as a result of any:

    1. Claims made under any policy of insurance with respect to which the insured was not at fault…

It is also important to note that, generally speaking, if you have these coverages you can use them even if you are just a passenger in someone else’s vehicle or even if you are involved in an auto related accident where you are a pedestrian or riding a bicycle.

Give some thought to protecting yourself and those in your car. Other drivers may not be doing enough – if anything – to ensure you escape financially unscathed if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident. Ask yourself if you really trust other drivers to take the steps necessary to protect you and your passengers and then talk to your agent about these – and other – additional coverages that are available to you. “Full Coverage” may be an ambiguous term, but taking these steps and purchasing these types of coverage will certainly move you in the right direction toward a more meaningful definition of “Full Coverage” for you and your family.

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Is There Enough Insurance?

At Craig P. Kenny & Associates we provide outstanding legal representation and you can count on us achieving the best possible results for you. However, there are sometimes limits to what we can accomplish – policy limits to be specific!

When you purchase automobile insurance you must decide not only how much coverage to purchase, but also which coverage to purchase. While you get to make the decision as to how much coverage you need to protect yourself, you are unfortunately at the mercy of those you share the roads with as to how much insurance they buy…insurance designed to protect you. Fortunately there are minimum requirements that, in 2018, were increased from 15/30/10 or $15,000 for bodily injury per person, $30,000 for all persons for bodily injury per crash and $10,000 for property damage per crash to the new minimums of 25/50/20 or $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 for all persons for bodily injury per crash and $20,000 for property damage per crash. For a more detailed discussion of that change please see Larry Mittin’s December 2018 article, “The Pros & Cons of increased minimum car insurance limits.”

Despite the increased minimum limits, you may find that the other party simply does not have enough coverage to cover the costs of medical care associated with your injuries – or your related general damages (generically referred to as “pain and suffering”). Worse yet, you may not know if the other party had enough insurance until you are well into your treatment.

First, a brief – and cursory – history. Prior to 2015 injured parties or their counsel were required to disclose to insurance companies updates on their medical condition, treatment, and bills. In turn, insurance companies were required to disclose the policy limits of the driver responsible for the accident. This process was mandated under Nevada Revised Statute 690B.042. Under the provisions of that statute an injured party did not need to guess what insurance was available to protect them.

NRS 690B.042 was repealed in 2015, leaving injured parties with no sure way to determine what coverage might be available through the responsible driver. While private vendors sprang into action to fill this void, the information they provided was not (and is not) always 100% dependable.

Fast forward to 2019 when new legislation was enacted to address the pitfallsm of uncertainty – to both the insurance companies (who could no longer rely on timely disclosure of injury related information) and to injured parties, who could no longer count on knowing the amount of available coverage. Under the new law, which went into effect on October 1, 2019, if an insurance company requests an authorization to gather an injured party’s medical records and if that authorization is signed and returned to the insurance company by the injured party, then the insurance company must disclose the policy limits.

Again, however, the statute is relatively new and the attorneys and insurance companies are still trying to work out its details, meaning, and application. As such, there is still some uncertainty as well as vendors offering to determine the available coverage when it is not disclosed by the insurance company.

The above leads to the inevitable conclusion that it is in your – and your family’s – best interest to take matters into your own hands and purchase additional insurance to protect you and your family. Such coverage includes MedPay and UM/UIM – but that is a discussion for another day and another article. Until then, talk to your agent and get the skinny on those two types of coverage.

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But the Officer Said…

You’ve been in an accident and the responding police officer concluded that the other driver was at fault and issued them a citation. Unfortunately, you were injured, but at least you know you will be successful in making a claim for your injuries because the officer already determined the other driver was at fault.

Not so fast. It can be a bitter pill to swallow but the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that the police report and the traffic citation are not, generally, admissible to show the other driver was at fault. In other words, and again, generally speaking, a jury is never going to see or hear about the citation the other driver received or what the police officer concluded happened.

In Frias v. Valle, 698 P.2d 875 (Nev. 1985), the Nevada Supreme Court held that evidence showing that a party received a traffic citation is inadmissible in a civil action. The Court further held that the traffic accident report, as to statements of third parties and/or the officer’s conclusions as to fault, are not admissible. Understandably, the Court ruled that the trier of fact (Judge, Jury, or Arbitrator), not the officer, is responsible for determining who was at fault for the accident.

If the officer her or himself personally witnessed the accident and the accident summary found in the report is based on her/his personal observations, the report may well see the light of day. Likewise, things like measurements, road conditions, and other things personally observed/measured by the officer will likely make it to the trier of fact. Otherwise, it is up to us, as your attorneys, to prove your case and establish the damages you are entitled to receive – but we can’t rely on the traffic accident report nor any citation that may have been issued.

But a little more about that citation. First, a tiny bit of background found in the Nevada Revised Statutes. NRS 41.133 reads that “If an offender has been convicted of the crime which resulted in the injury to the victim, the judgment of conviction is conclusive evidence of all facts necessary to impose civil liability for the injury..” Since a moving violation is generally a misdemeanor “crime,” one would think that a conviction of the “crime” would lead to a finding of fault or “impose civil liability.”

So you ask “If the other party actually paid the fine without fighting it, that’s a conviction and thus a finding of fault under NRS 41.133, right?” The answer is still no. In Mendez v. Brinkerhoff, 771 P.2d 163 (Nev. 1989) the Nevada Supreme Court held that evidence of payment of a misdemeanor traffic citation does not amount to an admission of fault. As such, the payment is not admissible. Understandably, the Court felt that there could be many reasons why a person would just pay their citation such as convenience or the cost of fighting the ticket. The Court felt the evidentiary value of payment of the citation was, at best, ambiguous and was therefore inadmissable as evidence of fault.

What happens if, instead of just paying the fine, the other driver goes to court and enters a plea of nolo contendre or “no contest?” It is still inadmissable. In Langon v. Matamoros, 111 P.3d 1077 (Nev. 2005) the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor citation is not a judgment of conviction of a crime that triggers the NRS 41.133 consequence of establishing civil liability.

But what happens if the other driver contests the ticket, goes to trial, and is convicted after trial? NOW the requirements for NRS 41.133 have been met and the other driver is deemed to have at least partially caused the accident, though comparative fault remains in play. But that is a subject for another day.

Not to be lost in the above is what you already know: we at Craig P. Kenny &  Associates handle traffic citations. If you have received a citation where there  was an accident and feel you are fully fault-free, your gut reaction may be to fight the citation and take it to trial. But considering the above, it may well be in your best interest to have us try to negotiate the citation down to a lesser charge such as illegal parking so that you do not inadvertently run afoul of NRS 41.133 and be deemed legally at fault for the accident before your claim even starts.