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Top Three Mistakes When Buying Auto Insurance

By: Jared Clark, Esq.

Nevada Law, like majority states in the United States, mandates that every vehicle driving on public highways maintain certain insurance coverage to protect drivers and passengers in the event a collision occurs. Although the state-required coverage amount may significantly vary from state-to-state, the importance and impact of obtaining good insurance coverage remains paramount. Under Nevada Law, the Legislature has enacted law requiring Nevada drivers to carry protection levels of at least $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident for bodily injury and $10,000 per accident for property damage. The purpose of requiring this coverage is to protect motor vehicles from loss, physical damage and/or bodily injury resulting from a traffic collision.

As with many people, the process of obtaining good auto insurance can be quite cumbersome and confusing because of the following:

  1. The insurance agent’s failure to thoroughly explain various terms
  2. The insurance agent’s failure to explain the risks associated with particular coverages
  3. The complex nature of insurance law and coverages

This article will discuss common mistakes made when acquiring auto insurance.

Mistake #1: Failure to Obtain Medical Payment Coverage

Medical Payment coverage, more commonly known as “med-pay,” is a benefit that will help pay for reasonable and necessary medical and funeral expenses incurred, as a result of an auto collision, regardless of fault. Med-pay not only protects the driver, but also any passenger who is in the insured vehicle and involved in the collision.

Some common scenarios in which med-pay benefits will cover medical expenses include:

  • You being struck by a vehicle while walking or on a bike
  • You being injured as a passenger in another’s vehicle
  • You or any family member while occupying any automobile
  • Any other person while occupying your covered automobile

People often ask, if I have health insurance, then why do I need med-pay coverage? There are a couple of reasons. First, med-pay, unlike health insurance, will cover any and all passengers in your insured vehicle if they sustain injuries from an auto incident. For those who are constantly chauffeuring family and friends around, this can be a very beneficial protection.

The second reason stems from a less obvious reason. In Nevada, there is no right to reimbursement for med-pay benefits. This means that if you recover any settlement from the at-fault insurance carrier for your injuries, your auto insurance company cannot recover any settlement proceeds for med-pay benefits they may have paid. This is much difference from health insurance as most health insurance carriers would have a legal right to be paid out of any settlement, award or verdict for med-pay benefits paid. Time and time again, we are learning that insurance companies and agents are not adequately informing clients of all benefits associated with med-pay coverage.

Mistake #2: Failure to Obtain Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured/Underinsured (UIM/UIM) motorist coverage protects you if you are in a motor vehicle collision with an at-fault driver who either has no liability insurance or, on the other hand, maintains liability insurance, but their insurance is inadequate to compensate you for your damages and injuries. UM/UIM coverage also protects victims of hit-and-run accidents or in instances where the driver or owner of the other vehicle cannot be identified.

Example:

A driver ran a red light and collided with another motorist at an intersection causing a violent crash. The fault-free driver unfortunately suffers serious injuries and incurs medical bills totaling $30,000. Routinely, the victim would file a claim with the at-fault insurance company to be compensated for his damages and medical bills.

However, in this instance, the at-fault driver did not have any insurance. Therefore, the injured victim was unable to bring a claim for compensation. Regrettably, the victim did not carry UIM/UM protection and therefore could not bring a claim for compensation under her policy either.

Because the victim had not UIM/UM coverage, the at-fault vehicle was uninsured, the victim is now left with $30,000 in medical bills and no recourse for compensation. This is a financial burden that most people would not be able to meet and often times forces victims to file bankruptcy in an effort to get the debt discharged or reduced.

Please do not let this victim be you. Protect yourself by making sure you have UIM/UM coverage. Protect yourself and your family!

Mistake #3: The Misnomer of the Phrase “Full Coverage”

Insurance adjusters often times disclose to their clients, “don’t worry, you have ‘full coverage.’” Well, what exactly is “full coverage?” Many drivers are under the mistaken impression that they are protected under every instance and circumstance when it comes to their auto insurance policy. This is not the case and the consumer often times leaves the agent under a mistaken belief. While there is no such coverage as “full coverage” and therefore no precise definition, the term typically refers to the state-required liability to cover bodily injury and property damages to others in an accident. Insurance agents often fail to explain, with clarity and transparency, as to what “full coverage” entails.

As previously discussed, under Nevada Law, drivers are required to carry protection levels of at least $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident for bodily injury and $10,000 per accident for property damage. This protection is activated only if you are the cause of collision. But what about bodily injury you sustain if you are fault-free and the adverse driver committed a hit-and-run? Or, what if you sustain bodily injury and the insurance on the at-fault vehicle had just lapsed? This is when your “full coverage” should kick in, right? Wrong! The full coverage, as outlined above, is only at play if you are legally responsible for the collision. Unless you are the fault-free driver or passenger, and have either UIM/UM or med-pay, you are not “fully” protected in the literal sense.

Most insurance carriers and their agents characterize the minimum state-required coverage of bodily injury and property damage as “full coverage,” which may satisfy the state insurance requirement, but it does not provide protection for other foreseeable circumstances that may arise. The term is a misnomer that does nothing but cause confusion and misguided beliefs. In a transient city like Las Vegas, where drunk driving and hit-and-runs are commonplace, it is vital to ensure that you and your family are truly fully protected.

Next time, when your insurance agent uses the term “full coverage,” it is necessary to request a precise definition and explanation, including all associated risk and benefits. Give us a call at Bertoldo, Baker, Carter and Smith at (702) 228-2600 if you would like to know what insurance coverages we recommend to ensure adequate protection for you and your family.

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