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  • Insured's Fault Is Governed By The Laws Of Negligence












  • Insured's Fault Is Governed By The Laws Of Negligence

    State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Commissioner of Ins., 114 Nev. 535, 543 (Nev. 1998):

    Under NRS 41.141, a plaintiff who is fifty percent at fault is not barred from recovery, but his damages are reduced by his own percentage of negligence. See Moyer v. United States, 593 F. Supp. 145 (D. Nev. 1984). Thus, in a two-party car accident, a defendant whose negligence constituted fifty per cent of the total causal negligence in connection therewith, is liable to the plaintiff for fifty percent of her damages.

    State Farm argues that the Nevada legislature had NRS 41.141 in mind when it incorporated the phrase "at fault" into NRS 687B.385. In support of this proposition, State Farm suggests that NRS 41.141 codifies Nevada's well-settled policy to impose civil liability on a person who is fifty percent at fault in causing an accident. This means that in a given accident, two equally at fault parties, both covered by liability insurance, are liable to each other with their respective insurers having to pay damages to the opposing party. Accordingly, State Farm maintains that "a specific definition of 'at fault' in NRS 687B.385 was not required, because an insured's liability for negligence or fault was already defined in NRS 41.141."

    We conclude that, in the absence of a regulation to the contrary, State Farm reasonably construed the "at fault" provision in NRS 687B.385 consistently with NRS 41.141. It is clear that there is a direct doctrinal connection between the resolution of a claim under the liability coverage of an auto insurance policy and the determination of "fault" pursuant to the statutory doctrine governing tort liability.

    In the context of a claim against an insured based on the operation of an automobile, the insured's liability or "fault" is determined by the laws of negligence. Under NRS 41.141, a defendant who is fifty percent at fault is legally liable to the plaintiff for fifty percent of the plaintiff's damages. Therefore, absent a regulation based on a reasonable construction of NRS 687B.385, an insured who is fifty percent at fault with regard to a claim under the policy may be validly subject to an increase in his policy premium or other adverse actions such as non-renewal or cancellation. Accordingly, we reverse the district court.

    *** Any law, statute, regulation or other precedent is subject to change at any time ***

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