Category: Car Accident Deaths

Award of Attorney’s Fees in Personal Injury Litigation

Award Of Attorney’s Fees In Personal Injury Litigation

A common question experienced personal injury and car accident attorneys typically hear from clients is can we get the at-fault party to pay our clients’ attorney’s fees. The answer is usually no, but there are a few exceptions.

The general rule regarding awarding attorney’s fees is called the “American rule,” where each side is responsible for their attorney’s fees, regardless who wins. This rule applies in Nevada as well. Unless an exception applies, a personal injury victim who files a lawsuit and wins will not be able to recover attorney’s fees from the at fault party.

In personal injury cases, exceptions to the American rule are usually found in statutes or court rules. The following are some of those exceptions that allow a winning party in a personal injury lawsuit to seek an award of attorney’s fees and costs.

Cases Less than $20,0000

A plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit who wins $20,000.00 or less may recover their attorney’s fees from the losing party. This is permitted under Section 18.010(2)(a) of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS). The purpose of this rule is to allow plaintiffs in small lawsuits the opportunity to be made whole or to be fully compensated. See Northern Nevada Homes, LLC v. GL Construction, Inc., 134 Nev. 498, 422 P.3d 1234 (2018). Often times, the cost of litigation and attorneys deter those with minor injuries or smaller claims from filing lawsuits. This in turn motivates insurance companies to deny or force small cases into litigation, in hopes that some attorneys or litigants will stop pursuing their case. This happens particularly in low property damage car accidents or minor impact soft tissue or MIST injury cases.

Mandatory Arbitration

In Nevada, all personal injury cases valued at $50,000.00 or less generally proceed under the Court Annexed Mandatory Arbitration program. The prevailing party in cases in the arbitration program can ask the arbitrator to award attorney’s fees up to $3,000.00. This rule is set forth under Rule 16(E) of the Nevada Rules of Alternate Dispute Resolution.

Short Trial

Personal injury cases in the Court Annexed Mandatory Arbitration Program can end up in a short trial. Any party to a mandatory arbitration case can request a short trial within thirty (30) days of an arbitrator’s decision. In addition to the offer of judgment rule below or NRS 18.010 discussed above, Rule 27 of the Short Trial Rules permits and award of attorney’s fees up to $3,000 to the prevailing party.

Prevailing Party Wins An Award Higher Than Offer of Judgment

One of the most common way to obtain an award of attorney’s fees in a personal injury case is by issuing an offer of judgment and, if the offer is not accepted, winning an award higher than the offer of judgment. This is allowed under Rule 68 of the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure.

To invoke this rule, the prevailing party must have first issued an offer of judgment at least 21 days before trial. In the offer, a party states they are willing to settle the entire case or certain claims for a specific amount. The offer must be reasonable and in good faith in both timing and amount. See Beattie v. Thomas, 99 Nev. 579, 588-89, 668 P.2d 268, 274 (1983). This means that the offer made was reasonable in amount and based on the information available at the time that offer was made.

The other party to whom the offer of judgment is issued has fourteen (14) days to accept the offer. If the offer is not accepted within that time, the offer is considered rejected. If the party that issued the offer then wins an amount higher than what they offered to settle the case for, that party can ask for an award of attorney’s fees.

Under the recent Nevada Supreme Court decision in Capriati Construction Corp., Inc. v. Yahyavi, 137 Nev. Adv.Op. 69, 498 P.3d 226 (Nov. 2021), a trial court may now award a personal injury attorney’s full contingency fee. The Court reasoned that permitting award of a personal injury attorney’s full contingency fee promotes the public policy behind the offer of judgment rule.

The public policy behind Rule 68 or the offer of judgment rule is to promote settlements. The purpose of Rule 68 was to punish parties who fail to accept a reasonable offer of judgment. Permitting the award of an attorney’s full contingency fee fulfills that purpose.

If you or a loved one are facing a lawsuit for injuries you sustained as a result of a car accident in Las Vegas, the experienced accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates can assist you. With a combined total of 50+ years of experience, we can advise and guide you through the process and obtain the best results possible.

Failure to Use Seat Belt Increase Deaths from Car Crashes

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Failure to Use Seat Belt Increased Deaths from Car Crashes

According to the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), car crash deaths have increased despite the Covid Pandemic. Contributing to this increase is the failure to use seat belts. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) reported the number of deaths of non-seat-belted drivers and passengers in Nevada increased by 20 percent from 2019 to 2020.

A recent crash highlighted how failure to use seat belts have contributed to more crash deaths. On a Thursday morning in September, two cars crashed into each other at the intersection of Flamingo and Lindell, and one of the drivers was thrown out of their car and died. The driver that died was not wearing a seatbelt. According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, this was the 92nd crash-related death in Metro’s jurisdiction.

In May, a crash in North Las Vegas left one person dead and two others with critical injuries. The person who died and one of those critically injured weren’t wearing their seat belts.

Statistics from OTS showed that seat belt use in Nevada fell from 93.2% in 2010 to 89.4% in 2016. Nationally in 2020, only 90.03 percent of vehicle occupants used seat belts. Users of rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have also a tendency to not use seat belts.

Nationally, 22,215 were killed in car crashes in 2019, and 47% of them were not wearing seat belts. In Nevada, 22.3% of those killed were not using seat belts. From 2014 through 2018, Nevada saw 337 unbelted occupants die in crashes. A large number of deaths from crashes involving pickup trucks and SUVs involve occupants not wearing seat belts. Also, a greater number of crash deaths at night involve occupants without seat belts.

What are Nevada’s Seat Belt Laws?

Nevada law requires all passenger cars to be equipped with at least two shoulder-harness seat belts for front seat occupants. Nevada law also requires all occupants of passenger cars to be wear seatbelts. Under NRS 484D.495, the maximum penalty for not wearing a seat belt is a traffic ticket for a non-moving violation and a mere $25, with no Nevada demerit points. This $25 penalty has remained the same amount for decades, despite other changes to the statute.

Also in Nevada, law enforcement can’t stop vehicles merely because the occupants are not wearing a seatbelt. Traffic citations can be issued for non-seatbelt use only if a vehicle is stopped for other legitimate reasons. Such a law is called “secondary enforcement” seat belt law.

Nevada’s seatbelt statute also prohibits defendants and their insurance companies from arguing that not wearing the seatbelt as contributory negligence.

AHAS, amongst others, have argued that Nevada’s seat belt laws are not enough to save lives. They advocate for adopting laws that better enforce seat belt requirements.

How Does Nevada’s Seat Belt Laws Compare with Those of Other States?

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have what’s called primary seat belt law. This means that law enforcement can stop and cite vehicle occupants for non-seat belt use. Some states issue citations if only the front seat occupants are not wearing seat belts; others issue citations for both front and back seat occupants. In its recent report, AHAS has given Nevada poor grades for its seat belt laws.

The Nevada Office of Traffic Safety estimates that if the state were to adopt a primary seat belt law, the state could save at least 9 lives, 125 serious injuries, and $25 million in costs.

Buckle Up and Save Your Life

By now, it should be common sense that using seat belts saves lives and prevent greater injuries. Seat belts can help prevent car occupants from being thrown out of their cars on impact. Being ejected from a vehicle in a crash is nearly always deadly. By using seat belts, a car crash doesn’t have to produce devastating results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that buckling up can reduce the risk of fatality in a passenger car by 45% and by 60% in a light truck.
Let’s dispel the excuses for not wearing seat belts:

  • I’m not driving that far, just down the street.” You don’t have to drive far to be the victim of a crash. A crash can happen on the road just in front of your house.
  • “I’m just driving in the parking lot.” Crashes happen in parking lots too. A lot. After decades of experience, we’ve seen far too many parking lot accidents.
  • The airbags will save me.” Airbags do not work like seat belts. They are designed to work in conjunction with seat belts, not replace them. Without a seat belt, a driver could be thrown into a rapidly opening air bag. Such force could injure or even kill you.
  • Seat belts are uncomfortable.” Being injured or dead is more uncomfortable.
  • I’m a safe driver.” While you may be a safe driver, others you share the road with may not be. The best defense against distracted drivers or drunk drivers is to wear your seat belt.

From personal experience, the car accident lawyers of D.R. Patti & Associates know what it’s like to lose a loved one from a crash. We stood by a grieving mother who lost her 18 year old daughter in a single vehicle accident. There were six occupants in the car, and only our client’s 18 year old daughter died. Why? Because she wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the car on impact. We too have lost loved ones from car crashes. One of our attorneys lost a family member who was thrown out of his car during a crash; that family member also wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

If you or a loved did become a victim of an unfortunate collision, the personal injury law firm of D.R. Patti & Associates can help. Our top-rated car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates have over 50 years of combined experience in car claims in Las Vegas, Henderson, Summerlin, and Reno, Nevada. We know Nevada personal injury law and have the skills to get you the compensation you deserve.

Car Crash Deaths Increased Despite Pandemic

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Despite the Covid Pandemic and the ensuing business shutdowns, the number of car crash deaths in Nevada rose by 3.3 percent in 2020 from the previous year. According to the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, there were 314 traffic-related fatalities on Nevada roads in 2020, 10 more from the previous year.

The increases in car crash deaths continued in the first half of 2021. In May 2021 alone, the total number of crashes and deaths were higher compared to May 2020. In that period, Clark County saw 86 deaths, a 31% increase in traffic fatalities. These Nevada traffic fatalities include deaths of automobile drivers and their passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

The increase in traffic deaths from 2019 to 2020 came despite a 39 percent and 44 percent decrease in fatalities in March and May 2020. However, the summer months of 2020 saw an uptick in traffic deaths. Compared to the same time in 2019, June 2020 saw a 47 percent increase in traffic deaths.

In 2020, Emptier Roads Turned into Racetracks, Impaired and Distracted Driving was Reported as More Widespread, Protections Like Seat Belt Use Appear to Have Dipped, and the Traffic Fatality Rate Spike.

–Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

According to a report by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), the increase in car crash deaths is part of a nationwide problematic trend. According to the report, even as overall traffic reduced, “the fatality rate increased dramatically and it was reported that dangerous behaviors such as excessive speed, lack of seat belt use and impaired and distracted driving were on the rise.”

Every day on average, approximately 100 people are killed & over 7,500 more are injured on America’s roads.

–Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

The increased traffic fatalities are not limited to cars and SUVs on the roads. The AHAS report cited statistics showing a 48% increase in large truck crashes from 2009 to 2019.

Another factor cited in contributing to some of these deaths is the failure to use seatbelts. In Nevada from 2019 to 2020, the number of unrestrained driver and passenger fatalities increased by 20 percent.

The AHAS criticized Nevada’s seatbelt enforcement as not being enough. In Nevada, drivers can’t be stopped for merely not wearing a seatbelt. Instead, drivers can only be cited for non-seatbelt use in conjunction with another citation.

To mitigate the increase in car crash deaths, the AHAS have championed for better laws and adoption of advanced life-saving technology. The AHAS called for making available affordable Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, also known as ADAS, more available and more affordable. Examples of ADAS include automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and blind spot detection systems. This group is calling for federal and state lawmakers to adopt minimum safety standards for ADAS.

Its platform includes lobbying lawmakers to update current performance standards for vehicles. For example, citing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the group criticized the performance of headlights in most vehicles.

The AHAS also called for changes not just in consumer vehicles but also for large trucks. It reported that U.S. Department of Transportation have ignored many lifesaving truck safety advances, “including effective underride guards, adequate entry-level driver training, and screening for obstructive sleep apnea.”

Car Crash Deaths and Wrongful Death Claims

If someone you love lost their life in a traffic accident, you may have a wrongful death claim. Such a claim is a type of claim made for the death caused by the negligence or other wrongful conduct of another. The death of anyone can have devastating emotional, psychological, and financial consequences to those left behind. Unexpectedly losing someone in a car crash leave people unprepared for those consequences.

Nevada law allows a deceased person’s immediately family or the person’s heirs to seek compensation for the loss of that person’s companionship and love, the family’s grief, and lost financial support. Imagine a child’s loss, growing up with a father or a mother.

The estate of the decedent can also make a claim for the decedent’s medical bills, as well as for the pain and suffering the person suffered before dying.

If you have suffered a loss of a loved one in a tragic accident, call the personal injury lawyers of D.R. Patti & Associates and see if you have a wrongful death claim. At our firm, you will speak with an experienced and skilled car accident attorney. We will investigate your claim and gather the evidence necessary to prove your case. Most importantly, we will be there for you every step of the way through this tough time.

Death of College Basketball Star in Car Crash Is An Example of A Tragic Avoidable Accident

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Yesterday afternoon, 19-year old Terrence Clarke, a University of Kentucky basketball player, died in a car crash in Los Angeles. Based on reports, he had run a red light and crashed into a vehicle that was making a left hand turn. Clarke’s car then hit a light pole and a brick wall.

According to reporting by ESPN, Clarke was driving “at a high rate of speed” when he ran the red light. It was also reported that Clarke was not properly wearing his seatbelt. The crash was captured on surveillance video, per the reports.

Clarke’s family and friends are devastated by their loss and have expressed their condolences on social media. Before being sidelined by an injury, Clarke started in Kentucky’s first six games and was one of its top scorers. Clarke had recently declared for the NBA draft in March.

While we know only the above facts about Clarke’s tragic accident, the speeding and disregard of a red light reminds us of many crashes we’ve seen like this. Sadly, in our combined 50+ years of experience as Las Vegas car accident attorneys, this is not the first time we have seen crashes like this, resulting from, amongst other things, speeding and running red lights.

Although we generally learn in driver’s education that yellow means slow down or use caution, in reality, many do not follow this rule. Unfortunately, many drivers see a yellow light and speeds up to try to beat the impending red light. On the other side of traffic, those whose lights turn green do not wait to see if the cars from cross-traffic will stop at the red light or misjudge the speed of cross-traffic. They just assume they will.

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, more than 800 people were killed in 2016 in crashes involving running traffic signals. In that same year, an estimated 137,000 were injured as a result of not obeying traffic lights.

A study conducted by a University of Cincinnati doctoral student found that several factors influence a driver’s decision to try to beat the light. For one, the study found that the faster a car is going when the light switches to yellow, the more likely it is to pass through the light. The study also concluded the longer the yellow light is on, the likelihood of a driver trying to beat it increases.