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Car crashes

CARSON CITY — People injured in car crashes now have some additional rights in Nevada under a new state law, and legal groups want the public to know about them.

Senate Bill 435 took effect Oct. 1, and requires the insurance company for the person at fault in a crash to disclose the maximum the policy will pay.

According to attorney Graham Galloway, who is on the Nevada Justice Association Board of Governors, this is important so victims who may not have health insurance don’t undergo expensive procedures, only to find out that the person who caused the accident only has a $25,000 liability policy, which is the state minimum.

“You don’t want to run up a lot of additional medical expenses that are not going to be covered by the other side’s insurance,” said Galloway. “If you have health insurance, that’s not usually an issue. But there’s lots of people who don’t have health insurance, so they’re relying on the ‘other side’ to pay for their medical expenses.”

Previously, plaintiffs would take a case all the way to trial, only to find out that the defendant’s insurance policy was worth very little.

Insurance companies that oppose the law argued that, once personal-injury attorneys know the limit of a more generous policy — say, $100,000 — they might be more likely to ask for that amount during negotiations.

A second section of the bill gives a “do-over” to people who accept a “low-ball” offer from an insurance company before checking with an attorney.

Galloway said people sometimes underestimate how fast their medical bills will add up.

“Unfortunately, people don’t understand how the emergency room works — where you get a hospital bill, a radiology bill, and E.R. physician bill,” he explained. “And they think maybe they have a $500 hospital bill, not realizing there are these other bills, and they settle, on the cheap — and then, they’re stuck.”

Under the new law, victims who agree to a settlement within 30 days of the accident and then change their minds now have 60 days to get an attorney, who may be able to negotiate a better deal.

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