How to recover damages when you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver
This article provides a thorough exploration of Nebraska's auto insurance laws, discussing key concepts such as coverage requirements, penalties for uninsured driving, and how to navigate accidents with uninsured drivers.
Nebraska’s vast prairies and towering cornfields might suggest tranquility, but don’t let that overshadow the realities of the road. According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation, the state sees an alarming 30,000 car accidents per year, including 10,000 that lead to injuries and 200 resulting in fatalities.
To make matters worse, almost 1 in 10 drivers in Nebraska are uninsured, introducing additional risk into the equation.
In this article, we’ll explore Nebraska’s auto insurance laws. You’ll learn about the minimum coverage required, the penalties for uninsured drivers, and the legal options available if you’re involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver.
Does Nebraska have a fault-based insurance system?
Nebraska follows the traditional fault system when it comes to car accidents. Under this system, the person responsible for causing the car accident (known as the “at-fault” driver) is liable for any resulting damages, typically through their insurance company.
In a fault-based state like Nebraska, you have three main options to seek compensation if you’re injured in a car accident:
- File a claim with your own insurance company (your company will then seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurer).
- File a third-party claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
- File a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver.
Learn about the types of compensation available in a car accident.
What is the minimum auto insurance coverage I need to purchase in Nebraska?
Nebraska law requires all motor vehicle owners to carry liability insurance to cover accidents they may cause. The minimum coverage requirements are as follows:
- $25,000 for bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident.
- $50,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident.
- $25,000 for injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident.
In addition, Nebraska requires all drivers to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). This coverage protects you if you’re hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages.
Auto liability insurance pays for the damages suffered by another person caused by an accident in which you were at fault. Learn more about auto liability insurance, including how it works and whether it protects you if you’re traveling in another state.
What optional coverage is available in Nebraska?
Meeting the minimum insurance requirements is a good start, but you may want to consider additional optional coverages for broader protection. Here are a few options available in Nebraska:
- Comprehensive coverage provides coverage for losses other than those caused by a collision (vandalism, falling trees, fire, etc.).
- Collision coverage provides coverage for damage to your vehicle caused by an accident with another vehicle or an object (such as a fence).
- Med-Pay provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers regardless of who is at fault. Med-Pay limits apply per person and range from $1,000 to $10,000.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) provides the same coverage as Med-Pay but also includes coverage for lost wages and transportation expenses.
A comprehensive study conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC) found that the average economic cost per death, injury, or damaged property in motor vehicle crashes in 2021 was:
- $1,778,000 per death
- $155,000 per disabling injury
- $40,000 per non-disabling injury
- $5,700 per property-damage crash
What are the penalties for being uninsured in Nebraska?
Driving without insurance in Nebraska is a Class III misdemeanor under Nebraska Revised Statute Section 60-560. The penalties can include a fine of up to $500, license and registration suspension, reinstatement fees, and even jail time.
However, the most severe consequence of driving without insurance is that uninsured drivers who cause an accident are personally liable for all of the damages that result.
How can I recover damages if I'm involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver?
If an uninsured driver causes your accident, your best course of action in most cases is to file a claim with your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage policy. Your insurer will cover your damages up to your policy limits.
If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage or your damages exceed your policy limits, you’ll need to file a lawsuit against the uninsured driver. Unfortunately, drivers who are uninsured are often unable to satisfy a judgment against them.
How does car insurance work when a friend or family member borrows my vehicle?
In most cases, car insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. In other words, if a friend or family member borrows your car and gets into an accident, your insurance policy will typically serve as the primary coverage that would pay for damages.
There are exceptions to this general rule, such as when your friend borrows your car without your permission. Ultimately, it’s a good idea to review your full auto insurance policy and contact your insurer with any questions.
Five FAQs about Nebraska car insurance
Yes, you must provide proof of insurance if stopped by law enforcement or after an accident.
The cost of car insurance in Nebraska varies widely based on a number of factors, including your driving record and location. According to one source, the average cost of auto insurance in Nebraska is $1,624 per year for full coverage and $359 for minimum coverage.
You can—and many drivers do—purchase more than the minimum liability coverage required. Keep in mind that you’ll be personally liable for any damages that exceed your policy limits.
Yes. Under Nebraska’s no-pay, no-play law, uninsured drivers may have their damage recovery limited if they’re injured in an accident, even if they’re not at fault for the accident.
You need to register your vehicle and obtain Nebraska insurance within 30 days of becoming a resident.