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Underinsured Motorist Coverage

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Underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage can make a real difference for drivers in Nevada. No one chooses to be involved in a road traffic accident, particularly an accident in which they are injured or their vehicle is damaged. For those who have the misfortune to end up in an accident or collision on Nevada’s roads, making an insurance claim is often the next step. If the guilty party’s insurance does not cover your damages, underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage can make up the difference.

However, this type of insurance does not provide guaranteed protection for drivers involved in an accident. There may still be obstacles to overcome, and drivers and other road users may need additional legal assistance as they navigate their cases. This is where the services of an uninsured or underinsured motorist lawyer may prove necessary. Read on to learn more as we explore this in greater detail.

What is underinsured motorist coverage?

Underinsured motorist coverage is an insurance policy that can provide some protection if you are involved in an accident that is not your fault. At a fundamental level, if the accident is not found to be the result of your own actions — and you suffer injuries or incur damages — the other party should pay for the expenses. This is why insurance is mandatory in the state of Nevada. While this is the case in theory, it doesn’t always work in practice.

Why is this? Because of underinsured motorists.

Underinsured motorists

Under Nevadan law, all drivers need to have 25/50/20 insurance. This means they are insured for up to $25,000 for bodily injury per person and up to a total of $50,000 (or two people) per accident. On top of this, they are insured for up to $20,000 for property damage, including damage to other vehicles that may be involved in the accident.

While this certainly provides some coverage, it might not be enough. This is what is meant by an underinsured motorist.

So, let’s say you are driving in Nevada and are involved in a car accident with another party. The accident was not your fault, and you and two of your passengers suffered bodily injuries as a result. However, the other party is only insured up to the minimum requirement, so their insurance provider can only offer $25,000 per person for up to two people. The coverage does not stretch to all three injured parties.

To look at another example, what happens if you are driving alone and are rear-ended by someone who has just run through a stop sign? If the guilty party has the required 25/50/20 insurance, you’ll be covered up to $25,000 for bodily injury, and the $50,000 multi-person limit won’t apply. But the damage to your vehicle is worth almost $20,000, and the impact also destroyed a $5,000 laptop, pushing your total beyond the $20,000 limit. Again, the minimal 25/50/20 requirement won’t cover all of the damages.

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Making up the difference with underinsured motorist coverage

In the above examples, the accident was not your fault. Therefore, neither you nor any of the injured and blameless parties should have to pay anything out of their own pocket. At the same time, your insurance provider may not want to pay either, as your 25/50/20 insurance — or even a more comprehensive policy — is not designed to include third parties who have not taken out the proper insurance.

So, what do you do? You could hire an underinsured motorist lawyer and take the guilty party to court. By suing this motorist, you could receive the damages you are entitled to. However, this is not the simplest solution. Ideally, you would use your uninsured motorist coverage to cover the difference. This insurance is specifically designed for the purpose of ensuring blameless drivers and road users do not end up out of pocket.

What is uninsured motorist coverage?

An uninsured motorist is very similar to an underinsured motorist. Both do not have enough insurance to cover the damages sustained by another party after an accident that was their fault. However, in the case of the uninsured motorist, they do not simply have a shortfall in coverage — they have no coverage at all.

It is illegal for drivers to operate vehicles in the state of Nevada without at least the minimum level of coverage stated above. Any driver who uses a vehicle in this manner, even for a short trip, is breaking the law, and criminal charges may be brought against them if this is found to be the case. However, this does not necessarily help a driver or another road user who experiences an injury, property damage, or related expenses as the result of a car accident involving a driver who does not have insurance. The criminal process may be long and drawn out, and the blameless party may still find themselves out of pocket.

Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to provide some protection in this instance. If you have been involved in an accident that was not your fault and the other driver does not have insurance, you may be able to make a claim on your UIM policy in order to recoup the damages you have experienced.

UM/UIM Cover

The Status

Under Nevada Law

How can uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protect drivers in the state of Nevada? And, perhaps more importantly, what do drivers need to be aware of if they wish to take out a UM/UIM policy or make a claim on this insurance? Let’s take a look at the legal status of these policies in Nevada and examine some of the key aspects to bear in mind for drivers and other road users.

Unified coverage

In the state of Nevada, uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage are generally offered together as part of the same policy. As far as the blameless party is concerned, the situation is the same — they have experienced damages or personal injury, and the guilty party’s insurance is not sufficient to cover this.

As a result, drivers can take out a unified uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) policy to defend against this. In most cases, if you have purchased coverage for uninsured motorists, you will also be covered for damages caused by an underinsured motorist, although it is important to check that this is the case. It’s also important to make sure that UM/UIM insurance is included in your policy. Most car insurance won’t automatically include this additional coverage, and insurance providers will generally require an extra premium to add UM/UIM to your policy.

Changes to minimum coverage

Recently, the minimum coverage level we’ve discussed above has changed. The mandatory minimum level of coverage everyone must have to operate on the road in the state of Nevada has increased, reflecting rises in the cost of healthcare, the cost of repairs and replacement of property, and the general cost of living.

In 2017, the Nevada senate passed Senate Bill 308, which effectively raised the minimum requirements on all vehicle liability insurance policies. The new law took effect on July 1, 2018, and saw the requirement rise from $15,000 personal injury cover per individual to $25,000, from $30,000 total personal injury liability per incident to $50,000 (the two-person limit remained the same), and from $10,000 property damage liability to $20,000.

To prepare for the changes, many insurance providers in Nevada stopped offering 15/30/10 insurance to their customers, even before the beginning of July 2018. Any driver who still held a 15/30/10 was effectively in violation of Nevada law and was required to purchase a new insurance policy to reflect the changes. However, some insurance providers simply upgraded their coverage, charging a higher premium as a result. Insurance providers were required to notify their customers before this was implemented, although customers would not be able to opt out of this minimum requirement.

This has important implications for drivers. Firstly, it means that no one should have been caught unaware by the recent changes — i.e. all drivers should have been notified of the changes to their policies, and these changes should have been implemented automatically. In other words, all drivers should automatically have the minimum coverage. Secondly, it means that the minimum insurance is more likely to cover all of the expenses incurred by the innocent party, so underinsured driver cases should become less frequent in the state of Nevada.

Limitations to Medicare coverage and private health insurance

If you are injured in an accident and need to receive medical treatment, your private health insurance or Medicare coverage may provide some protection, even if the injuries were caused by another driver. This is sometimes used as a way to eliminate the risk of a shortfall if the driver at fault was uninsured or underinsured. However, this may have its own limitations also.

For instance, you may not be able to claim for some medical expenses on your Medicare policy or your private health cover. Not all policies will provide cover for treatments that are considered ‘alternative’, such as acupuncture. These treatments are not backed by the whole of the medical community, so they may be excluded from some health cover policies – even though some patients do report positive results from treatments such as acupuncture.

Another factor to bear in mind is the deductible. This is the amount you will need to cover out of your own pocket before the insurance policy kicks in to cover the remainder. Some insurance providers require the policyholder to pay one or two thousand dollars before the treatment becomes eligible for coverage.

Additional costs that may fall outside of UM/UIM coverage

There may be other medical expenses that are difficult to quantify. For example, if you are already receiving medical treatment and you believe this condition has been exacerbated by an accident that wasn’t your fault, it may be difficult to prove that this additional expense was a direct result of the incident in question.

Psychological trauma and the resulting treatment may also be difficult to link directly to the accident. However, increasing understanding of mental health issues and psychological conditions may make this easier in the future, as doctors are able to diagnose problems directly and recommend the proper course of treatment.

If you are forced to miss work due to an accident that wasn’t your fault, you may want to claim damages for these lost earnings. In fact, if you have suffered any sort of inconvenience as a result of the accident, you might wish to pursue compensation. These extra expenses may not be covered by the minimum 25/50/20 insurance policy of the other driver and may not be covered by comprehensive policies and UM/UIM insurance either. This can leave drivers out of pocket, even though the accident was not their fault.

The role of uninsured and underinsured motorist lawyers

When might you need an uninsured motorist lawyer? What can an underinsured motorist lawyer do for you? If insurance does not cover the costs and damages associated with an accident, or if legal proceedings result, the services of a legal professional might be necessary. Find out more below.

These lawyers can:

  • Provide guidance and assistance if you think legal action is necessary following an accident that was not your fault.
  • Help you understand whether or not you have a good case – i.e. if the case is worth pursuing.
  • Assist you as you quantify and provide the damages you have incurred following an accident.
  • Offer support and defense if you have caused injury or damages as a result of your own actions and do not have sufficient insurance to cover it.

What To Expect

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Uninsured And Underinsured Lawyer

Are you looking for legal guidance and counsel following a road traffic accident or collision in Las Vegas or elsewhere in Nevada? Contact us today if you have been involved in a case following an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.