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Under Nevada’s Wrongful Death Statute Where There Is Only One Decedent, There Is Only One “Each Person” Limit Available

Under Nevada’s Wrongful Death Statute, N.R.S. 41.085, the estate and multiple heirs can each make their own individual claims for damages.  (If you are not familiar with the Wrongful Death details, please click the following link to the relevant Mills & Associates Nevada Insurance Law blog post: Wrongful Death In Nevada).  Still there is the related coverage question of what portion of an applicable automobile policy limit is available to pay all these different Wrongful Death claimants.  The case of Nationwide Mut. Ins. v. Moya, 108 Nev. 578, 837 P.2d 426 (1992) answers that question.

One = One Mrs. Moya was killed by an uninsured drunk driver.  The estate and the heirs made claim against the Uninsured Motorist policy that covered the Moya vehicle.

The Moya claimants (both the estate and the heirs) said that they should be entitled to recover the “each occurrence” limit rather than the smaller “each person” limit.  First, the Moyas argued that they each had their own individual claim for “bodily injury” because the death of Mrs. Moya caused each of them to be sickened with emotion and depressed.  The court interpreted the policy stating that these conditions did not amount to “sickness” and therefore, they did not sustain individual “bodily injuries”.  In other words, they didn’t qualify under the language of the policy to recover as individual UM claimants.

Next, the Moyas argued that because they each had their own individual claims that they should each be able to recover their own “each person” limit.  Overturning the District Court, the Nevada Supreme Court adopted the majority rule stated in 1 A. Widiss, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists Insurance § 12.4 (1985); see also, Izzo v. Colonial Penn Ins. Co., 524 A.2d 641, 645 (Conn. 1987).  The Court explained that “where one person is injured in the accident, the each person limit applies, regardless of the number of persons damaged as a result of the accident.”  108 Nev. at 585.  The court left room to collect the “each occurrence” limit where a person sustains direct injury in the same accident in which someone else dies.

Although this involves a UM policy, it is very likely that the Court would adopt the same interpretation of a liability policy provision.

For more on Wrongful Death in Nevada CLICK HERE.

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