Most people think of car insurance as something similar to a registration fee – it’s something that the government requires you to carry in order to drive a car on public roadways. Any litigator will tell you, however, that your insurance decisions are some of the most important decisions you can make when it comes to your future financial well-being. The first and most important issue any litigator will consider in the event of a car crash is the insurance status of all involved parties.
Based on my experience litigating auto accidents here in Las Vegas, I recommend getting at least 100/200 in bodily injury liability coverage, matching it with your Uninsured/Underinsured coverage, and $50,000.00 in property damage coverage. I also recommend getting $10,000.00 in Medical Payments coverage if you can afford it. Remember – the base coverage for your policy is the most expensive part. Upping your limits is comparatively cheap.
It is extremely unwise to drive around in a city like Las Vegas with the minimum Nevada coverage of $15,000 per person/$30,000 total bodily injury coverage. Here are some things to consider when picking your coverage:
1. Unless you’re “judgment proof,” you risk having a catastrophic hit to your financial future if you only carry the minimums.
“Judgment proof” is the colloquial term to describe someone who has little to risk in a lawsuit. Maybe someone can get a huge judgment against you if you hit them, but there’s nothing they can do to collect it because you have no home equity, an old car, and no property worth anything.
I carried minimum limits when I was in college because I knew that I had nothing of value anyone could take and sell, and we no longer have “debtors’ prisons.”
Judgments hang around a long time, though. Even if you’re judgment proof today, you might not be in 2-3 years and the plaintiff in that case can usually still enforce his or her judgment against you at that time. The last thing you want is to finally be making good money only to find out that the plaintiff is garnishing your wages three years later.
2. Even a minor fender-bender can blow through $15,000.00 in bodily injury coverage in a matter of days or weeks.
The trend in Las Vegas is to seek out a pain management specialist immediately after an accident and get him or her to conduct a round of spinal injections at anywhere from $3,000.00 - $10,000.00 per session even in a very minor accident.
Although it’s ultimately up to the physician, I do not recommend this course of action to my plaintiff clients. You should always go with a conservative course of treatment first and only start injections if conservative methods fail. Not only is it healthier for you, but it also builds a better damages case if you have to go through litigation.
I had a case recently where my client rear-ended a woman at a stop light and caused some minor damage to her vehicle, but by the time we even got notice of the claim, she had racked up $100,000.00 in spinal injections because she had a sore neck and back.
If my client only had $15,000.00 in limits, the insurer would have “tendered” (offered up) its $15,000.00 insurance limits and my client would be forced to pay the rest of it. Luckily my client was smart and had adequate coverage.
3. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage is great.
When you think about getting into an accident, who do you expect to hit you in Las Vegas? The cardiologist on his way to the hospital? An investment broker coming home from a long day at work? Or, more likely, a teenager texting his friends while he drives home or a drunk coming off a 12-hour bender?
Teenagers and drunks don’t exactly prioritize insurance in their monthly budget. You’ll be lucky if they even have the minimum insurance coverage.
If you have a good Uninsured/Underinsured policy, though, it doesn’t matter. That’s because you’ll get the at-fault driver’s insurance limits and then turn around and tell your insurer that they owe you the rest of your damages.
In Nevada, the Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage has to cover all damages you could recover from the at-fault driver if he was adequately insured. This means your insurer steps into the shoes of the drunk guy that hit you.
Don’t expect your insurer to just cough up the money, though. If you are dealing with them directly, they’re some of the most difficult adjusters you can find, in my experience. If you are dealing with them without a lawyer, expect them to offer you pennies on the dollar because they assume you’re bluffing. If you were serious about filing suit, you’d have a lawyer and they know it.
As long as your lawyer understands the policy, the laws of Nevada, and can lay out (“blackboard”) your damages you will present at trial, you can get a great recovery from your insurance carrier.
Be careful, though – talk to a lawyer before settling with the at-fault driver’s insurer. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can screw up your claim.
4. Medical payments coverage is also great. If you can afford it, bump up this coverage.
“Medpay” coverage is fantastic because you can use it to pay your medical bills and your insurer has no right of subrogation in Nevada. This means you can sue the at-fault driver, collect damages for the bills you ran up and paid with Medpay, and your insurer doesn’t get a dime of that money.
You can also use it as bait with the medical providers to get them to reduce their liens and put more money in your pocket if you know how to handle the situation.
Everything in this world is negotiable if you have the right leverage. To a good lawyer, medical bills for your injuries are just an opening offer and not set in stone.