Is There a Limit to How Much I Can Lose in a Car Accident?

Simply by virtue of the mind-boggling number of vehicles on our highways, driving carries enormous risk. Scarily enough, even the most careful driving doesn’t guarantee a safe journey every time you head out.

If you’re determined to be at fault in an accident, you may find yourself as the defendant in a lawsuit or personal injury claim. This is an uncomfortable situation for anyone, but that’s part of why our society has universally adopted the concept of mandatory auto insurance.

The goal is to ensure that no one in a car accident — neither the plaintiff nor the defendant nor any innocent parties who are injured — suffers from financial ruin. However, if you’re to blame, you might wonder: Is there a limit on how much you can lose in a car accident? The attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group, with offices in Nevada, California, and Texas, have the answer.

How Much Can I Lose in a Car Accident?

Las Vegas Car Accidents

If a court finds you at fault in a personal injury accident, you may be ordered to pay damages to the person or persons who suffered injuries due to your recklessness or negligence. In Nevada, like in many other states, damages in personal injury cases fall into three categories. Only one of the categories, economic damages, is unlimited under the law, and punitive damages can be tripled.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the most straightforward category of damages that might cost you in a car accident. This represents the amounts a plaintiff may have lost directly due to the accident. The most common example is medical costs. Defendants may be ordered to reimburse plaintiffs for their stay in the hospital along with the cost of follow-up appointments. This includes matters such as physical therapy.

The other common element of economic damage comes from lost wages. If a car accident’s injuries keep a plaintiff out of work or prevent them from returning to work as usual, then the defendant could be required to pay for the wages and lost salary. Adding to that total would be any time missed from work for follow-up appointments as well as transportation costs to and from those appointments.

This bill can ultimately be very high. Under Nevada law, there are no limits on economic damages. The attorney who represents you as the at-fault driver may be able to argue to the court that some of the claimed damages are not valid. Consider consulting with the personal injury attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group if you need help defending your actions in a personal injury car accident.

Non-Economic Damages

Personal injury law in Nevada recognizes that severe injuries in accidents can have a long-lasting impact on victims. Therefore, the state allows plaintiffs to seek non-economic damages. These are typically defined as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life and are often described as “intangible” damages.

Nevada has no caps on non-economic damages unless your personal injury lawsuit involves a medical malpractice claim. In that case, you as a defendant would not be ordered to pay more than $350,000 in non-economic damages.

It’s important to note that plaintiffs have the burden of proof regarding intangible damages. This means that they must provide affirmative evidence of their damages. It’s not enough to claim that an accident caused emotional harm; the plaintiffs must show evidence to support that claim. The amount awarded, if any, is at the court’s discretion.

Punitive Damages

Depending on the circumstances, a defendant in a personal injury case may also be ordered to pay punitive damages for the injuries they cause. The Nevada Punitive Damages Law allows plaintiffs to seek punitive damages in civil lawsuits by presenting evidence that the defendant’s actions showed “malice, fraud, or oppression.”

All three are defined under the law; malice is likely the most relevant in the context of an accident. A claim of malice requires showing a “conscious and intentional disregard for the rights of others.”

According to the statute, punitive damage awards are capped in one of two ways. First, if compensatory damages are less than $100,000, then the punitive damage award can be up to $300,000.

However, if compensatory damages go over $100,000, then the court can order punitive damages at three times the amount of the compensatory award. For example, if compensatory damages total $150,000, then punitive damages are capped at a maximum of $450,000.

These rules apply to all civil lawsuits, not just personal injury cases. Under the law, judges or juries can exceed the limits if cases involve defective products, bad faith insurance practices, housing discrimination, hazardous materials, or defamation.

Role of Auto Insurance

Recognizing the financial risks of car accidents, Nevada law requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of insurance to cover the various damages drivers may be ordered to pay. Assuming your insurance is in good standing, your part of the judgment is for any amount exceeding your policy’s cover.

Nevada law requires that all drivers carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, which pays for the harm you might cause to people or property. In Nevada, drivers must have insurance that provides $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, as well as $20,000 per accident for property damage.

If, hypothetically, you were ordered to pay $100,000 in damages for your role in an accident and carried the minimum amount of insurance, you would be personally liable for the remaining $50,000. In other words, the maximum amount you can lose is the total judgment minus the limits on your insurance coverage.

The law allows you to purchase higher coverage limits and other types of insurance, such as collision, comprehensive, and uninsured motorist coverage.

Experienced Car Accident Counsel From De Castroverde Law Group

Personal injury litigation often involves a complex set of issues that includes establishing what happened, who was to blame, and how much someone should have to pay for it. The attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group have extensive experience with all forms of personal injury claims, especially those related to vehicle accidents. You can trust us to provide relevant counsel and stand with you throughout your lawsuit. Check out our team online, and call us or contact us online for a consultation.

Photo Credit: Car accident by Gabriel Saldana is licensed with CC BY 2.0