Category: Las Vegas Car Accidents

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.

How Much Can I Get For My Car Accident?

How much a car accident victim can get from a personal injury settlement is not an easy question to answer. This is also a different than asking how much your car accident claim can settle for. How much a personal injury claim settles for depends on the injuries, the medical treatment, and how much insurance policy is available. How much the accident victim can get takes into account how much the claim can settle for, how much medical bills have to be paid out of the settlement, and how much the attorney’s fees and costs are.

Settlement Value Of A Car Accident Claim

The settlement value of a car accident claim depends primarily on the nature of the injuries and how much money is available. Of course, the more severe and permanent the injuries are, the higher the value of the case. However, regardless of how severe the injuries are, the amount of money or insurance policy the defendant has will limit how much the case could settle for.

Also, no two people’s cases are alike. While people can have similar injuries, everyone heals differently. Injuries can also affect people differently.  The injured victim of a car accident can claim for their medical bills, their pain and suffering, lost enjoyment of life, and any wage or income loss. In the legal field, we call these items “damages.”

Because the settlement value of a case depends on a person’s injuries, how long they heal or whether those injuries are permanent, an experienced car accident lawyer cannot know from the beginning of a case how much the case could settle for. The more common injuries from a car accident are neck and back pain that are initially diagnosed as a soft tissue injury, usually a sprain or strain. Some neck injuries may require surgery. Doctors generally can’t tell at the beginning if a neck sprain or strain may turn out worse and require surgery. Imaging, such as MRIs, may be necessary. Doctors also may require pain management and even epidural steroid injections. Other tests, such as nerve conduction studies, may be needed. All of these tests and treatment take time.

Once a car accident victim is fully healed or has reached maximum medical improvement, then the attorneys can begin the process of settling the case. A car accident victim shouldn’t settle their case until they know the full extent of their injuries.

How Much Does The Injured Victim Get Out of A Car Accident Settlement

When a client has reached maximum medical improvement, then the settlement value of his or her claim can be evaluated. After determining the settlement value, we can then estimate how much the client’s share is of the potential settlement. To do that, we would have to deduct the medical bills that have to be paid back, the attorney’s fees, and the costs that have to be reimbursed to the attorneys.

Remember, personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis. That means, car accident attorneys like D.R. Patti & Associates don’t get paid unless they recover monies for the client. In a typical contingency fee case, the lawyer’s fee is a percentage of the total settlement. That percentage usually increases if the case goes into litigation.

Is Hiring An Attorney For A Car Accident Worth It?

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If you were injured in a car accident, you may be wondering whether it’s worth hiring a car accident attorney. You may be worried that you can’t afford an attorney or that the attorney’s fees may reduce your share of any settlement. Or you may be looking at all the billboards of personal injury attorneys in Las Vegas and wondering whether an accident attorney will really care about you and your case. Or you may be thinking, making a claim seems so simple since the other person was clearly at fault that you don’t need an attorney to handle your claim.

There could be many reasons why you may be concerned about hiring an injury lawyer, but whatever those are, it is usually best to consult with an attorney before settling your car accident case. You may discover it’s not about whether you need an attorney but whether you can find the right accident lawyer for you and your case. You may also discover that the at fault party’s insurance company does not have your best interests at heart and that your claim is not as simple as you think it is.

Why Hire An Injury Attorney For Your Car Accident?

A good personal injury attorney will have the knowledge, skill, and experience to value your case and to get maximum recovery as possible. Doing a Google search for how to handle your personal injury case is no substitute for experience, because each injury and each accident are as unique as each individual. Meaning, there is no one foolproof formula to handle a car accident claim. A seasoned car accident lawyer knows what facts to look for and to highlight, as well as how to deal with facts that the insurance company uses to low ball your accident claim.

If you suffered serious injuries or have permanent lifelong damages from a car accident, you may find that the automobile policy limits of the person who caused the accident is not enough to fully compensate you. Most of the time, the automobile insurance policy limits for the at fault driver will not be sufficient to compensate someone with serious permanent injuries. In Nevada, drivers are only required to carry car insurance policies of a minimum of $25,000.00 per person and $50,000.00 per accident.

If you are seriously injured, you would want to definitely hire an attorney who will conduct the research and investigation to find other sources for recovery. For example, sometimes there may be more than one person at fault or who contributed to a car accident. There are times when the design of a roadway contributed to the crash. A good car accident lawyer knows their first obligation is to their client and to perform the due diligence necessary to provide maximum recovery for their client.

What About The Cost Of An Attorney?

The cost of a personal injury lawyer should not be a concern. Personal injury and automobile accident cases is one of the few areas of law where the lawyer does not get paid up front. A car accident lawyer doesn’t get paid at all they are not successful in obtaining a settlement or an award for their clients. This type of fee arrangement is called a contingency fee.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, call and speak to one of our Las Vegas car accident attorneys. All personal injury consultations are free. D.R. Patti & Associates has a combined 50+ years of experience in all forms of injury cases.

DO YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY IN A FENDER BENDER?

Do YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY AFTER A FENDER-BENDER?


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do you need an attorney after a fender-bender?

Even if you can’t see any damage, or it appears to be to a small scratch, there may be minor damage underneath that has gone unnoticed. Not all vehicle damage is apparent right away. It is not unusual to drive away from a crash and then, one or two days later, notice that your car is having mechanical problems.
This is also true with respect to injuries, as some soft-tissue injuries it may take a while to show symptoms. Remember, not all injuries are obvious. Some injuries, like whiplash and brain injuries, may not be obvious for several hours or even days.
Usually, after a traumatic event like a car accident adrenaline also called epinephrine, is known as the “fight or flight” hormone. After a frightening or dangerous event, adrenaline floods a person’s bloodstream. This hormone masks the pain that people feel from their injuries. More importantly, many car crash victims may have a head injury. Sudden back-and-forth motion usually causes whiplash, and sudden loud noises (like a crash) can cause a more serious traumatic brain injury. Medical Care:  Don’t refuse medical care at the scene. You could be seriously injured and not realize it. Refusing or delaying medical treatment after an accident can result in your claim being denied. You’ll be giving the insurance company a reason to argue your injuries weren’t caused by the crash. We advise all car accident victims to see a doctor right away if they have been involved in any type of collision

WHAT ARE SOFT-TISSUE INJURIES?

What may seem like a bruise or stiffness after an accident may, in fact, be something much more serious. The result can be pain, swelling, and bruising. Soft-tissue injuries are classified as the following:

  • Lacerations
  • Tendonitis
  • Stress injuries
  • Strains
  • Muscle Contusions (bruises)

SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION

If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital from the scene, have a medical evaluation as soon as possible, preferably the same day. See your doctor or go to the nearest emergency department or urgent care center. If you don’t seek medical attention after the accident, the insurance company may try to use this to their advantage and claim that you did not actually sustain your injuries in the accident
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.

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Arbitration of Car Accident Claims In Las Vegas

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Car accidents can result in catastrophic injuries, and they also cause relatively less serious injuries. For the majority of car accident victims, injuries include neck and back pain that may last only a few months. For those crash victims, facing the possibility of a lengthy lawsuit may deter them from pursuing a claim. Car accident lawsuits in Las Vegas could take more than a year or two. For relatively smaller car accident cases, Nevada law provides for arbitration as a means to resolve those case faster. This article describes Clark County’s Court-Annexed Mandatory Arbitration Program.

What Is Arbitration In General?

Arbitration is a process where a case is resolved by a neutral third-party, other than by a judge or jury. When lawsuits are filed, either a judge or a jury will decide the case at a trial. With arbitration, there is no judge or jury and no courtroom. Instead of proceeding with a lawsuit, the parties to a dispute can agree to hire one or several neutral persons to hear evidence and decide the case. Parties to a private arbitration can agree to make the arbitrator’s decision to be binding or not binding. Nevada has required mandatory arbitration in certain counties, such as Clark County. The decision of an arbitrator, however, is not automatically binding.

Clark County’s Court-Annexed Arbitration Program

In Las Vegas, all cases are automatically enrolled in the mandatory Court-Annexed Arbitration Program. Thus, unless exempted, all cases must first be arbitrated.  The purpose of this Arbitration Program “is to provide a simplified procedure for obtaining a prompt and equitable resolution of cervical civil matters.” Absent good cause, arbitration hearings for cases in the program must be held within 6 months after appointment of an arbitrator. The laws governing the Arbitration Program can be found in the Rules Governing Alternative Dispute Resolution.

For car accident cases, the exemption that usually applies is the exemption for cases where the damages claimed are in excess of $50,000.00. A request for exemption must be submitted to the Arbitration Commissioner within 20 days after the defendant files an answer.

If the damages from a car accident claim is less than $50,000.00, it will usually be first arbitrated. In an arbitration, the case is decided by a qualified neutral third-party. Sometime after the lawsuit is initiated and a defendant files an answer, the parties in such a case will receive a list of five potential arbitrators, usually local attorneys. Each party can de-select two of the potential arbitrators, and the Arbitration Commissioner will select the arbitrator from the remaining names.

Scheduling The Arbitration Hearing

The person who is appointed as the arbitrator will hold a conference with the parties’ attorneys to discuss when the arbitration hearing should be scheduled. All arbitration hearings must generally be scheduled no later than 6 months after the arbitrator is appointed. An arbitrator may continue the arbitration hearing for another 3 months (no later than 9 months after the arbitrator is appointed) for good reason. Only the Arbitration Commissioner can extend the deadline to hold the arbitration hearing beyond 9 months and only for “unusual circumstances.”

The Arbitration Hearing

The arbitration hearing is held usually in the arbitrator’s office or the office of the one of the attorney’s involved. Again, there will be no judge or jury. Arbitration is relatively more relaxed atmosphere. The parties and arbitrator sit around a conference table. The attorney for the plaintiff (i.e., the car accident victim) will usually start with an opening statement, followed by the defendant’s opening statement.
Following opening statements, the parties can then call witnesses. Because arbitration is intended to be a cheaper and faster way to resolve disputes, doctors and other healthcare providers to the car accident victim are usually not called. This is unlike in a regular trial before a judge or jury, where doctors are usually called to testify about the accident victim’s injuries.

In arbitration cases, a car accident plaintiff can rely on the doctor’s written medical records rather than calling the doctor’s to testify, saving the plaintiff a ton of money. Doctors routinely charge for taking time away from their medical practice, and doctor’s fees can amount to thousands of dollars. Not calling doctors to testify also saves tons of time. Because of the limited number of witnesses and reliance on records, an arbitration hearing usually lasts less than three hours.

The rules require that the arbitrator issue his or her decision within seven (7) days after the arbitration hearing. After the decision is issued, either party to the arbitration can request that the car accident dispute proceed through a trial by filing a request for trial de novo. The request must be filed within 30 days after the arbitrator’s decision. If neither party requests a trial, the decision of the arbitrator becomes binding.

If you or a loved one are facing a lawsuit for injuries you sustained as a result of a car accident , the experienced trial 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.

Common Mistakes In Car Accident Claims

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The car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates have over a combined total of 50 years of experience. In that time, we have seen some car accident victims harm their personal injury case. While often times these mistakes do not destroy a case, these mistakes can cause difficulties in negotiating adequate settlements.

Ignoring Medical Advice Or Appointments

One of the most, if not the most, contested aspect of any car accident claim is the injury.

Insurance companies and defense attorneys typically challenge whether an accident caused the victim’s injuries. Also, a car accident victim must prove their injuries, and generally, Nevada law requires medical evidence of those injuries. Ignoring medical advice or missing doctor appointments can cause problems in car accident claims.

Auto insurance companies tend to argue that a person who is truly hurt, that person seeks medical treatment and that a person who does not seek medical treatment is a person who is not truly hurt. The foregoing is a faulty syllogism, as there are many reasons why an injured person may not seek medical treatment or may have gaps in their treatment. Nevertheless, accident victims must be prepared to respond to such arguments.

In our experience, we’ve also seen injured victims who want to stop going to a doctor not because they are no longer in pain, but because they don’t think the doctor can do anything else. So, those accident victims simply decide to live with the pain and other symptoms. However, these injured persons fail to realize that it takes a medical professional to determine whether injuries are permanent. If the accident claim goes into litigation, a medical professional has to testify to that. An injured victim’s testimony that they continue to be in pain may not be enough.

Not Repairing A Car After A Crash

In other articles, we have discussed the typical argument of insurance companies that car crashes involving minor damages do not cause injury. Insurance companies’ arguments usually go something like this: since the crash did not cause that much damage to the car, it could not have caused the injuries complained of. Of course, this argument ignores that cars and people are not comparable to each other. Nevertheless, insurance companies routinely rely on the extent of damage to the car to contest a person’s injuries.

Unfortunately, some people unwittingly help car insurance companies by choosing not to repair a car following a crash. Generally, in the immediate days after a car accident, the applicable auto insurer will obtain a preliminary property damage estimate. This estimate is usually based on an inspection of the exterior of the car and does not include hidden damage.

Car accidents can cause hidden damage, or damage to the car that is not visible until the car is taken apart. As one car repair shop wrote, “[d]uring a rear-end collision, even a minor bump can cause damage to the frame behind the bumper.” A common property damage that is not seen on initial visual inspection is damage to the reinforcement bar that is hidden behind the bumper and bumper absorber. When a car is repaired, a registered repair facility will usually write a supplement to include an estimate for replacing a damaged reinforcement bar. However, if the car is not repaired, the damage to the reinforcement usually cannot be seen.

Posting On Social Media

As discussed in another article, insurance companies now increasingly rely on social media to find things they can use against an accident victim. To some extent, perusing social media has replaced surveillance videos. Insurance companies can use people’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or other social media posts, particularly photos, to argue that someone is not as injured as they claim.

If a person is laughing, smiling, or looking like they have a good time, insurance companies and their defense attorneys will argue that person cannot be injured. Of course, this argument ignores the fact that a person who has pain or other symptoms can still laugh, smile, or look like they are having a good time occasionally and for brief periods of time. But the more a person has social media posts like this, the more that person provides ammunition to the insurance companies against their own case.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, call the experienced Las Vegas personal Injury Attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates. We’ve successfully handled many different types of accidents and injuries, and we’ve done so while providing personalized treatment to our clients. Our golden rule is to treat our clients the way we want to be treated.

Can I Get Attorney’s Fees From A Negligent Driver?

Punitive Damages in Las Vegas Personal Injury Cases

Can I Get Attorney’s Fees From A Negligent Driver?

Generally under Nevada law, the person at fault for a car accident is not obligated to pay for an accident victim’s attorney’s fees. If a car accident claim ends up in a lawsuit, however, it is possible that the at fault party may be responsible for the accident victim’s attorney’s fees.

Nevada’s personal injury law says a negligent driver is liable for an accident victim’s property damage, medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost income. However, if the injured victim has to retain a car accident attorney, the negligent driver does not have to reimburse the attorney’s fees that the victim has to pay out from his or her settlement.  If the victim pursues a lawsuit and wins, the negligent driver may have to pay attorney’s fees. But to get the negligent driver to pay the attorney’s fees, there are certain things that must be done during the lawsuit.

How Do Accident Attorneys Get Paid?

In most areas of law, when a person hires an attorney, they have to agree to pay the attorney an hourly basis and usually must give the attorney a deposit or retainer. Unlike other areas, personal injury attorneys typically get paid on a contingency fee basis. This means that the accident lawyer gets paid only if they obtain a settlement or award. Also, the accident victim does not have to advance any monies for the attorney’s fees.

Contingency fees are common in personal injury and car accident cases because accident victims usually can’t afford to pay for an attorney on top of the medical bills and other accident-related expenses. Also, car accident victims are normally not entitled to attorney’s fees from the negligent driver or his or her car insurance.

Why Am I Not Entitled To My Attorney’s Fees In A Car Accident Case?

Nevada follows the American rule with respect to recovering attorney’s fees. The American rule states that each party must pay its attorney’s fees and costs, unless there is a statute or contract that says otherwise. In Nevada, the general controlling statute on attorney’s fees states “[t]he compensation of an attorney and counselor for his or her services is governed by agreement, express or implied . . ..” Nev.Rev.Stat. 18.010. Under this general rule, a car accident victim may not be entitled to attorney’s fees from a negligent driver, but may be entitled to attorney’s fees if they are suing their own insurance company for insurance bad faith. That’s because an insurance policy does generally provide for the award of attorney’s fees to the winning party.

Under What Circumstances Are Attorney’s Fees Awarded In Car Accident Cases in Nevada?

Nevada law does permit the award of attorney’s fees to the party that wins a lawsuit under certain circumstances. Some of those circumstances are listed below:

  • Winning not more than $20,000. NRS 18.010(2) permits a party in a lawsuit who wins less than $20,000 to recover attorney’s fees. The party must be considered the “prevailing party.”
  • If an accident victim issues an offer of judgment during a lawsuit and wins an award that is higher than that offer of judgment, the accident victim may be awarded his or her attorney’s fees. This method is often how Las Vegas car accident attorneys get attorney’s fees for their clients.
  • If a court finds a negligent driver defended the lawsuit frivolously. This circumstance is very rare.

There are other circumstances where attorney’s fees may be awarded to an accident victim in a lawsuit that are more situation specific. For example, if a defendant engages in discovery during the lawsuit in bad faith, the plaintiff can seek attorney’s fees relating to that bad faith.

If you have a personal injury lawsuit relating to a car accident and want to know whether you can recover attorney’s fees, speak to a personal injury attorney with extensive experience in litigation. The accident lawyers at D.R. Patti & Associates have a combined 50+ years of litigating car accident and other personal injury claims and have won attorney’s fees in a variety of circumstances.

Are Traffic Tickets Admissible In Car Accident Lawsuits

Traffic Ticket Car Accident Attorney

So many times in our 50+ combined years as car accident attorneys in Las Vegas, we’ve had clients question why the negligent driver is disputing a car accident when that driver received a traffic ticket for causing the accident. We’ve had to explain that traffic tickets are generally not admissible in a personal injury lawsuit. A traffic ticket citation is a mere opinion by the investigating police officer. Even if the negligent driver paid the ticket, the ticket itself does not automatically become admissible.

Personal Opinions Of Police Officers Responding To An Accident Are Not Admissible In Court

When a police officer comes to the scene of an accident, they gather evidence and then make a determination as to who caused the accident. That determination is considered an opinion and not a fact. In court, only medical and other expert witnesses can testify as to their opinions. Nev.Rev.Stat. 50.265. Unless a police officer qualifies as an expert, he or she can’t testify as to who he or she believes caused an accident.

Police Officers Responding To A Crash Generally Do Not Perform An Accident Reconstruction

To qualify as an expert in Nevada, the expert must show that they have “scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge” that will help the jury and that they have “special knowledge, skill, experience, training or education” to back up their opinions. See Nev.Rev.Stat. 50.275. Basically, this law means that police officers must show they have specialized training in accident reconstruction to be able to testify as to their opinion on who caused a crash. Also, the law means that the officer must also be able to show that he has sufficient evidence to support his conclusion.

Police officers in Las Vegas usually get some training in accident reconstruction, but not to the same extent as recognized experts in accident reconstruction. Also, the typical Las Vegas police officer responding to a crash do not do the measurements and calculations that experts in accident reconstruction do. For example, experts in accident reconstruction usually measure “crush damage” or the extent of deformity in the vehicles involved in a crash. Police officers typically do not do that. Usually, police officers responding to a car accident take statements from the drivers and passengers involved in the accident and independent witnesses. They then base their determination on those statements. When a crash results in death, Las Vegas police officers may perform a more detailed investigation and calculations. If they do, those officers may qualify as experts in court and testify to their opinions.

The leading Nevada Supreme Court decision on the admissibility of a police officer’s opinion is the personal injury case of Frias v. Valle, 101 Nev. 219, 698 P.2d 875 (1985). In that case, the plaintiff was struck by a taxi cab. In court, the drivers disputed the severity of the accident. During the trial, the court permitted the use of the police officer’s traffic crash report as evidence. After the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant cab driver appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, arguing that the crash report should not have been admitted. The Court agreed with the cab driver and explained its decision as follows:

It is the function of the trier of fact to decide who and what caused an accident. The conclusions of Officer Sowder, based upon statements of third parties and a cursory inspection of the scene, did not qualify him to testify as to who was at fault. Evidence of the traffic citation was also inadmissible. By admitting Officer Sowder’s traffic accident report into evidence, the trial court erred.

Nevada Supreme Court, Frias v. Valle

While an investigating officer’s opinions may not be admissible, their observations of the accident scene are. Officers can testify as to what they saw, what evidence they gathered from the scene, and what the drivers said. The evidence gathered by traffic officers are invaluable to car accident attorneys and experts in accident reconstruction.

Paying A Traffic Ticket Is Generally Not An Admission of Guilt

Nevada law does say that if someone is convicted of a crime, then that person is conclusively deemed to be civilly liable for persons injured by that crime. See Nev.Rev.Stat. 41.133. The Nevada Supreme Court, however, has declared that violations of traffic laws are not considered crimes under this statute. Langon v. Matamoros, 121 Nev. 142, 111 P.3d 1077 (2005). Additionally, the Court has also said that paying a traffic fine is not the same thing as admitting guilt. Mendez v. Brinkerhoff, 105 Nev. 157, 771 P.2d 163 (1989). Most people pay traffic fines because it is easier than fighting it and going to court. The same thing cannot be said about other crimes.