Hansen v. State Farm: A Dispute Over Legal Representation Paid for by an Insurer

In theory, filing insurance claims should be simple. If your car gets damaged in an accident, your insurance company or the insurer of the at fault driver, pays for repairs to your car. It might even pay for a rental car for you to drive while your car is being repaired. Who pays if someone suffers a catastrophic injury that is only tangentially related to a car accident?

The obvious answer is not “a homeowner’s insurance policy,” but the Nevada State Supreme Court decision on Hansen v. State Farm shows that insurance policies can pay for a lot more than just repairing damages to the insured property.

Details of the Hansen Case

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Stephen Hansen was attending a party when he and his friends got into a disagreement with another group of young men. Stephen got into his friend Craig LeFevre’s car with Craig and another friend, Joe Grill. As they drove away, another vehicle pursued them. Brad Aguilar, a minor, was driving the other car, which belonged to Brad’s father Ernest. Brad’s car hit Craig’s car, but the collision did not cause any serious injuries. Once Craig’s car stopped, some of the young men who had been at the party began throwing rocks and other objects at Craig’s car. A rock broke Craig’s windshield and hit Stephen, causing him permanent injuries that required multiple surgeries.

Things got complicated regarding insurance claims related to the incident. Since Ernest Aguilar was the owner of the vehicle involved in the incident, should his insurance pay for Stephen’s medical treatment? Given that the vehicle was not the immediate cause of Stephen’s injuries, is it possible for a parent to ensure his son’s conduct? Beyond these questions, the events that led to Stephen’s injuries were not an accident, according to State Farm’s definition of the term.

The Question of Legal Representation

Nevada is a dual representation state, which means that insurance companies are responsible for paying for legal representation for both the insurer and the insured. One of the problems in the Hansen case was that State Farm originally had the same law firm representing both the insurer and the insured. What should happen according to Nevada’s dual representation laws is that the insurer’s own lawyers should represent the insurer.

Meanwhile, the insured should choose his own lawyer, and the insurer should pay for this legal representation. In Nevada, there must be an actual conflict of interest, not simply a potential one, in order to necessitate the insurance company paying for two separate lawyers. What counts as an actual conflict of interest must be determined on a case by case basis.

Contact Brock Ohlson About Insurance Disputes

If you are involved in litigation related to an accident, your insurance company or the other party’s may be required to pay for your legal representation. Contact Brock Ohlson, Nevada’s Personal Injury Lawyer, to discuss your personal injury case.