Category: Personal Injury Trials

Nevada Injury Lawsuits and Recovering Lost Earning Capacity

Nevada Injury Lawsuits and Recovering Lost Earning Capacity

If you are injured after an accident, it’s not uncommon to miss work. Sometimes the amount of time away from work is limited. But in other cases, severe injuries can completely change your career course. If you have any injury that keeps you from working in Nevada, lost earning capacity is considered in your damages.

Lost earning capacity is any future income that a victim is largely certain to lose after an out-of-court settlement or a lawsuit. When victims cannot return to work, these damages are often awarded lost wages in Nevada. Lost wages are defined as any income that has already been lost at the date of the settlement or lawsuit.

The Difference Between Lost Earning Capacity and Lost Wages

In accidents or other types of personal injury cases, Nevada law lets you recover for each of the following:

  • Loss of income that is reasonably expected going forward as a result of the injuries you have experienced.
  • Any wages and benefits from work that weren’t received between the time when the injury occurred and the lawsuit or settlement.

Lost wages are often proven with a large amount of certainty. This is because they are the amounts you have already lost due to missing work following an accident. However, lost earning capacity can be more challenging to prove. The amount is based on what you would have earned in the future if you were not injured.

The amounts are more speculative and harder to prove, but it can be done. The attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates can help you prove the certainty needed by the court to recover lost earning capacity damages.

How Lost Earning Capacity is Calculated in Nevada Personal Injury Cases

Many factors can go into calculating your lost earnings in the future, including the following:

  • How long the injuries are likely to last?
  • Whether your income was performance-based or fixed?
  • Whether you will likely be able to return to normal employment?
  • What your long-term employment goals are?
  • How old you are and what your life expectancy is?
  • Any raises you might have received?
  • Your state of health before the injury or accident?
  • Potential for promotions in your work field?
  • The number of working years before your probable retirement?
  • Anything else that relates to your earning potential?

Length of Injury Time Needed to Recover Lost Earning Capacity

There is no specific amount of time that you must be injured to claim lost earning capacity in the state. However, Nevada typically only grants lost earning capacity if your injuries make it impossible for you to work for an extended period. This period typically extends beyond the last date when you can file a lawsuit.

The statute of limitations starts to count down as soon as you realize that you have an injury. In most cases with Nevada personal injury cases, this is a two-year period. However, it can be longer or shorter depending on the type of case. Failing to file a suit within the statute of limitations will cause you to lose your right to sue for the injuries.

With serious injuries, you may find that you cannot work while the statute of limitations is running. Other situations may lead you to miss out on promotions or other advancements within a company. Lost earning capacity in Nevada lets you recover damages for these opportunities and income.

Acquiring Damages in Nevada for Lost Earning Capacity

If you have been severely injured in the state of Nevada, you could be looking at a huge level of compensation from an insurance company. However, they work to delay your case and keep their losses low. Having an expert personal accident attorney on your side will help you get the damages you deserve for your injury.

Understanding Nevada Personal Injury Damage Caps

Understanding Nevada Personal Injury Damage Caps

Generally, Nevada has no law that places a damage cap on the amount a person can recover in car repairs, medical bills, lost wages, and similar damages in most personal injury cases. However, exceptions exist for medical malpractice cases and government employees found negligent while carrying out their duties.

The law caps damages against a public employee to $10,000. In addition, Nevada does have caps on damages in two specific situations. There is a $350,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering as well as limits to punitive damages. This cap is $300,000 if the damages total less than $100,000 or three times the amount of damages if the damages are over $100,000.

Do Nevada Injury Cases Have an Economic Damages Cap?

The short answer is no. There isn’t a cap on what someone can try to recover for the purposes of economic damages. Economic damage awards consider past and future costs for expenses like lost wages, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, occupational and physical therapy, property damage, and short and long-term care.

You may also hear economic damages called special damages or pecuniary damages. Along with non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, economic damages are part of the compensatory damages in a personal injury case in Nevada

Are There Caps on Pain and Suffering Damages?

No, although an exception is made in medical malpractice cases. Recovery of non-economic damages is allowed in personal injury cases. These may also be called general damages. However, these damages can be hard to attach a dollar amount to. They can include compensation for the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of function of a limb or another body party

No caps exist except in claims of medical malpractice, which we explain below.

Do Caps Exist for Pain and Suffering in a Medical Malpractice Case?

There are caps on non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case. The cap exists at $350,000 and is in place no matter how many people are liable for an injury. This cap was created in 2004 as a part of the Keep Our Doctors in Nevada ballot initiative. It applies to any cases related to the negligence of healthcare providers, like nurses, doctors, and hospitals.

What Punitive Damage Caps Exist in Nevada?

In most personal injury cases in Nevada, medical malpractice and otherwise, the cap on punitive damages is as follows:

  • $300,000 if the compensatory damages provided to the individual equal less than $100,000.
  • If the damages are more than $100,000, the cap is set at three times the amount of an individual’s damages in a lawsuit.

However, there are some exceptions here, too. For example, there will be no caps in the following situations:

  • Cases where a car or other vehicle accident has been caused by a driver who chose to consume drugs, alcohol, or both.
  • When a defective product was distributed, manufactured, or sold in Nevada.
  • Situations that involve a violation of state civil defamation laws.
  • Cases that show an insurer acted in bad faith concerning its requirement to provide insurance coverage.
  • Situations where injuries or damages were created through the disposal, emission, or spilling of hazardous, toxic, or radioactive waste or substances.
  • Specific violations of a federal or state law about the prohibition of discriminatory housing practices.

In each of these situations, no cap is applied to the punitive damages allowed in a Nevada personal injury case.

Experienced Representation Can Help You Win Your Case

Suppose you have been injured in an accident or as a result of using a dangerous product, a hotel accident, or a slip and fall accident. You will need the help of an experienced car accident and personal injury attorney in Nevada. This expert can help you determine your options and help you get the compensation you should obtain for your injuries. Reach out to use to learn more and receive a free consultation.

Punitive Damages In Las Vegas Personal Injury Cases

Punitive Damages in Las Vegas Personal Injury Cases

Many people have heard the term “punitive damages” and want to know how it applies to their personal injury or car accident claim in Las Vegas. “Punitive damages” is an amount that is awarded by a jury to punish a party in a civil lawsuit. This term is also sometimes called “exemplary damages,” as the award is intended to set an example. Punitive or exemplary damages is usually contrasted with compensatory damages, which are intended to make an accident victim whole again. Compensatory damages usually include medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and lost enjoyment of life.

Punitive damages cannot be awarded in most cases. For a personal injury plaintiff to even be able a jury for punitive damages, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was more than negligent. Negligence generally means careless. In other words, to be able to ask for punitive damages, a plaintiff must show that a defendant was more than careless. In Nevada, usually, this means showing that a defendant acted intentionally, recklessly, or with intent to do harm. In car accident cases, punitive damages usually do not apply but may apply in drunk driving cases. It should also apply to cases where a defendant was texting and driving.

In the McDonald’s coffee cup case that a lot of people seem to know about, the biggest portion of the jury’s award was the punitive damages. The jury in that case awarded $2.7 million against McDonalds. The large jury award in the case upset many people. Those people tend to refer to the McDonald’s case as an example of a frivolous lawsuit where the accident victim became rich. However, the purpose of that $2.7 million award was to punish McDonalds. The plaintiff’s attorney in that case showed that McDonalds served their coffee at temperatures higher than other restaurants. They also showed that, in a decade, McDonalds received about 700 complaints of people suffering burns from their coffee. In awarding punitive damages against McDonalds, the jury believed that McDonalds needed to be punished for their policy and deterred from continuing to follow this policy.

Nevada Law On Punitive Damages

In Nevada, the legislature enacted laws that governs when punitive damages can be awarded. Those laws can be found in Chapter 42 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS). Under NRS § 42.005, a jury may award punitive damages against a defendant who “has been guilty of oppression, fraud or malice, express or implied.” NRS § 42.001 defines these terms as follows:

NRS § 42.001. Definitions; exceptions. As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires and except as otherwise provided in subsection 5 of NRS 42.005:

  1.       “Conscious disregard” means the knowledge of the probable harmful consequences of a wrongful act and a willful and deliberate failure to act to avoid those consequences.
  2.       “Fraud” means an intentional misrepresentation, deception or concealment of a material fact known to the person with the intent to deprive another person of his or her rights or property or to otherwise injure another person.
  3.       “Malice, express or implied” means conduct which is intended to injure a person or despicable conduct which is engaged in with a conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.
  4.       “Oppression” means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship with conscious disregard of the rights of the person.

The Nevada legislature also limited how much punitive damages can be awarded in most cases. Subsection (1) of NRS § 42.005 limits the amount of punitive damage awards as follows:

  1. Except as otherwise provided in NRS § 42.007, in an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud or malice, express or implied, the plaintiff, in addition to the compensatory damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant. Except as otherwise provided in this section or by specific statute, an award of exemplary or punitive damages made pursuant to this section may not exceed:

(a) Three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff if the amount of compensatory damages is $100,000 or more; or

(b) Three hundred thousand dollars if the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff is less than $100,000.

The above limitation on punitive damages do not apply to product defect or product liability cases and to insurance bad faith cases, amongst others. See NRS § 42.005(2).

Examples of Punitive Damage Awards in Nevada

In a recent Las Vegas medical malpractice case, a jury assessed $8 million in punitive damages against a local hand surgeon. The jury found that the hand surgeon had committed fraud. The plaintiff, a U.S. Air Force pilot, claimed that the surgeon performed a procedure that was not the standard of care. In fact, the plaintiff presented expert testimony that no other hand surgeon ever performed or would have performed the same procedure. The plaintiff also argued that the surgeon performed the procedure in order to guarantee that the plaintiff will require future procedures, for which the surgeon can financially benefit.

In a product liability lawsuit, plaintiffs alleged that a drug manufacturer sold hormone replacement therapy drugs that increased the risk of getting breast cancer and failed to adequately warn its customers. The jury found that the defendant guilty of malice or fraud, and a separate trial was held on the question of how much the punitive damage award should be. Following that separate trial, the jury awarded a total of $99 million in punitive damages against the defendant. See Wyeth v. Rowatt, 126 Nev. 446, 244 P.3d 765 (Nev. 2010).

If you or a loved one have been injured and want to know if punitive damages apply to your personal injury case, speak to a Las Vegas personal injury and car accident attorney at D.R. Patti & Associates. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have dealt with punitive damages on many occasions and can answer your questions. Call 702-331-3391 for a free case consultation.

What to Expect in a Deposition in a Personal Injury Case?

Depositions in Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawsuits

Many clients are nervous, if not downright scared, of being in a deposition. Most people are never involved in a deposition until they get injured in an accident, and their accident case goes into litigation. Many don’t know what’s going to happen, what questions are going to be asked, and even if a judge is going to be there. With a combined total of 50+ years of experience, the Las Vegas car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates know that preparing the client for a deposition includes explaining the process, answering the client’s questions, and letting them know there is nothing to be scared about. This blog demystifies the deposition in a Las Vegas personal injury case.

What is a Deposition?

A deposition is an investigatory tool in lawsuit that the parties can use to learn and record a party or witness’ anticipated trial testimony. A good trial attorney will want to know what the other party knows and the evidence that party intends to use well before a trial. As explained in another blog about discovery during litigation, the law does not like surprises at trial. Trial attorneys also don’t like surprises. Also, when a person is represented by an attorney, the opposing party’s attorney cannot speak to that person without their attorney present. So, the law allows the other party to ask questions of the plaintiff with the plaintiff’s attorney present.

Trial attorneys use depositions to impeach a deponent at trial. Impeach means to call into question the truthfulness of a person. In other words, a trial attorney uses a deposition transcript to show that someone is lying or doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That is impeachment.

Are Depositions Common In Personal Injury Lawsuits?

Only a fraction of all personal injury cases end up in litigation. Once a personal injury case does go into litigation, however, it is likely that depositions will be taken. Depositions generally occur even in Las Vegas car accident cases that go into the Mandatory Arbitration Program. Attorneys use depositions to conduct their investigation and to prepare for trial. Attorneys generally do not like going to trial without knowing what the parties and the witnesses will say. Attorneys cannot speak to the other party in the case without an attorney present. Nor can attorneys send an investigator or any one on their behalf to talk to the other party. That is unethical and prohibited by the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct. So, to find out what a party’s testimony will be, the opposing counsel will generally want to take that party’s deposition.

While an attorney can speak to witnesses who are not represented by an attorney, trial attorneys prefer to have the witnesses’ testimony recorded. By recording a witness’ testimony in a deposition prior to a trial, an attorney can use the transcript of the deposition to impeach the witness’ testimony.

Who Can Be Deposed?

Unlike some other tools of discovery which can only be used against another party, depositions can be taken pretty much of anybody, including the parties. The plaintiff (i.e., the person who brought the lawsuit) will more likely be deposed. The party who is sued is called the defendant. The plaintiff’s attorney may depose the defendant prior to the trial. This is particularly true if there is a dispute about who or what caused the accident or whether the defendant was negligent.

The doctors and other health care providers who treated the plaintiff can also be deposed. However, it’s more likely that only some of the doctors and witnesses will be deposed.
Witnesses to the accident can also be deposed. People who are close to the plaintiff and have information as to how the accident-related injuries affected plaintiff may also be deposed. This could include a plaintiff’s spouse or any adult residing with them.
If the plaintiff has lost income or wages, the plaintiff’s employer may also be deposed.
Lastly, the parties’ expert witnesses will also likely be deposed.

Who Else Will Be At A Deposition in A Personal Injury Lawsuit?

The deponent and the attorneys for the parties in the lawsuit will, of course, be at the deposition. The party or witness who is being asked questions (i.e., the deponent) will, of course, be there. A court reporter will always be at the deposition, and sometimes, a videographer.

The court reporter types up all the questions and answers and will create a transcript. The person who is being asked questions in a deposition is called the “deponent.” The deponent will be given opportunity to review the transcript of the deposition and to correct any mistakes in the transcript. The deponent will usually be reminded that any changes he or she makes to the transcript may be used to impeach him or her at trial.

In some cases, a videographer may also be present during a deposition. Some trial attorneys prefer to play back clips from the video of the deposition to a jury in a personal injury trial. A video has more impact to a jury that reading a transcript.

A judge will not generally be present during a deposition. In Nevada, however, the attorneys may call the judge presiding over the case or the Discovery Commissioner during the deposition. This happens when the attorneys have a dispute that needs to be resolved before the deposition can continue.

While the parties to a lawsuit may also be present during the deposition, other witnesses who are expected to testify at trial cannot be present.

What Happens During A Deposition?

A deposition begins with the court reporter swearing in the deponent. The deponent takes an oath to tell the truth, and this is the same oath a person will take if they were to testify in trial. The attorney who set the deposition and will be asking the majority of the questions then gives his “admonitions.” That’s what attorneys call them, but they really are just the rules of the deposition. The following are some of the common admonitions:

  • Reminder to the deponent of his oath to tell the truth
  • Answer all questions verbally. The court reporter has difficulty recording gestures, such as nodding or shaking of the head.
  • Let the attorney finish his or her question completely before answering. Basically, don’t speak over each other.

If the deponent answers a question, the attorney will assume the deponent understood the question.

What Questions Will They Ask To A Personal Injury Plaintiff?

In a deposition of a personal injury plaintiff, the topics usually covered are:

  • The plaintiff’ background – this includes the plaintiff’s employment and educational history, certain prior convictions, past addresses or living situations
  • How the accident happened, what led to it, and what happened immediately after the accident – In a car accident case, the defense attorney will usually want to know where the plaintiff was going to at the time of the crash and where the plaintiff came from. The defense attorney will also want to know whether the plaintiff spoke to the defendant at the scene and what they talked about.
  • The plaintiff’s injuries and medical treatment – Covering this topic is usually where the defendant’s attorney may get tricky. The defendant’s attorney will usually already have reviewed the plaintiff’s medical records. He or she may even have the medical records in front of him or her during the deposition. The attorney generally already knows what the medical records say. The defense attorney’s hope is that the plaintiff says something different than what the medical records say.
  • Any limitations in plaintiff’s activities – An aspect of plaintiff’s damages is lost enjoyment of life. So, the defense attorney wants to know what aspect of plaintiff’s life has been affected by the car accident injuries. Has the plaintiff stopped working out or going to the gym because of his/her injuries? Has the plaintiff been able to do household chores? Or has plaintiff had to pay others to do the chores plaintiff normally does?
  • Any pre-existing conditions or injuries – In many car accident cases involving injuries to the neck or back, the defense may argue that the neck or back injuries pre-existed the accident to some degree. So, in a deposition, the defense will ask the plaintiff if he or she has ever had the symptoms they are currently complaining about. The defense will also want to know the doctors or other healthcare providers the plaintiff has seen before the accident.
  • Any prior accidents or other personal injury or insurance claims – Insurance companies usually do a background check with the Insurance Services Office (“ISO”) database. This ISO database shows the insurance company whether a plaintiff has previously filed insurance claims. This includes any property or personal injury claim from a car accident, and could include homeowner’s insurance claims. In covering this topic, the defense attorney has two goals: (1) learn more about those prior claims and whether plaintiff’s injuries in those claims are similar to the present claim and (2) hopefully catch the plaintiff lying or failing to mention one of those prior claims.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident or other type of accident, call the experienced personal injury attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates. Our award-winning attorneys have handled many different types of car accident cases in Las Vegas and have obtained millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. While working on your case, we will keep you informed and be at your side throughout the process.

Discovery in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Las Vegas injury trial attorneys

We’ve seen them. Trial in movies or tv shows where one of the parties produces a surprise witness or evidence. Such surprises make for an exciting movie or tv show but is not realistic. In real life trials, surprises are disfavored. Any new evidence not previously disclosed to other parties will likely be excluded. In litigation, discovery is the process during which the parties disclose the evidence they intend to use at trial.

While movies and tv shows usually focus on trials, the bulk of personal injury lawsuits is spent in discovery. In Nevada, discovery begins soon after a defendant files an answer. It begins with the mandatory exchange of witnesses and documents. Rule 16.1(a) of the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure list the items that must be disclosed at this early stage.

Rule 16.1. Mandatory Pretrial Discovery Requirements

(a) Required Disclosures.

(1) Initial Disclosure.

(A) In General.  Except as exempted by Rule 16.1(a)(1)(B) or as otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other parties:

(i) the name and, if known, the address and telephone number of each individual likely to have information discoverable under Rule 26(b), including for impeachment or rebuttal, identifying the subjects of the information;

(ii) a copy — or a description by category and location — of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the disclosing party has in its possession, custody, or control and may use to support its claims or defenses, including for impeachment or rebuttal, and, unless privileged or protected from disclosure, any record, report, or witness statement, in any form, concerning the incident that gives rise to the lawsuit;

(iii) when personal injury is in issue, the identity of each relevant medical provider so that the opposing party may prepare an appropriate medical authorization for signature to obtain medical records from each provider;

(iv) a computation of each category of damages claimed by the disclosing party — who must make available for inspection and copying as under Rule 34 the documents or other evidentiary material, unless privileged or protected from disclosure, on which each computation is based, including materials bearing on the nature and extent of injuries suffered; and

(v) for inspection and copying as under Rule 34, any insurance agreement under which an insurance business may be liable to satisfy all or part of a possible judgment in the action or to indemnify or reimburse for payments made to satisfy the judgment and any disclaimer or limitation of coverage or reservation of rights under any such insurance agreement.

The list of items that must be disclosed include:

  • The names and contact information of people who likely have relevant information
  • A copy of documents relevant to the case
  • In Las Vegas personal injury cases, the names of health care providers that treated the plaintiff for injuries or pre-existing conditions relevant to the case
  • If there is an insurance policy that would cover all or part of the damages claimed, then the insurance policy. In a car accident, this means the defendant must disclose their car insurance policy.
  • An itemization of the damages claimed by the party. In personal injury cases, this means the medical bills a plaintiff has incurred or will incur in the future, lost wages or income, and any other out-of-pocket expenses

A party in a lawsuit has a continuing duty to disclose the above items as the litigation continues. A party who fails to disclose these items can face a motion to compel from the other side. In a motion to compel, the other party asks the court to force the non-responding party to disclose the required items or information. If the non-responding party fails to do so, the court can sanction the non-responding party. Sanctions could be a monetary fine; the non-responding party could be required to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs. The court could preclude the non-responding party from relying on any undisclosed information, witness, or evidence. The court could also dismiss part of all of the non-responding party’s claims or defenses. The worst sanction for a plaintiff would be dismissal of the entire case.

After the initial disclosure of witnesses and documents, the parties have several tools under the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure to obtain relevant information and items. These include

  • Interrogatories (NRCP Rule 33)
  • Requests for Production of Documents (NRCP Rule 34)
  • Requests for Admissions (NRCP Rule 36)
  • Depositions (NRCP Rule 30)
  • Site Inspections (NRCP Rule 34)
  • Independent Medical Examination (NRCP Rule 35)
  • Subpoenas (NRCP Rule 45)

Of the above, only depositions and subpoenas can be used to obtain documents and information from people who are not parties to the lawsuit.

The above mechanisms are the only ones mentioned in the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure. However, there are informal means to conduct discovery. Parties can still hire investigators or do their own online research. In personal injury lawsuits, insurance companies may hire an investigator to conduct a surveillance of an accident victim. With social media, insurance companies sometimes do not need to do surveillance.

Regardless of the means a party to a lawsuit obtains relevant documents and other evidence, the party must generally disclose those materials before trial or risk not being able to use them at trial.

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 trial attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates can assist you. With a combined total of 50+ years of experience, the Las Vegas car accident attorneys of D.R. Patti & Associates can advise and guide you through the process and obtain the best results possible.

Trust Your Attorney: Confidentiality of Client Communications

Clients may feel scared about telling their attorneys about things that they may not be proud of.  Or a client may feel that a small bit of information is unimportant to the attorney. However, successful representation of clients, even in car accident cases, may depend on the client’s attorney knowing that information. Like good attorneys, the experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates know how to encourage clients to disclose information, regardless of how embarrassing. We let our clients know that, except in exceptional circumstances, the law protects communications between clients and attorneys.

The Laws And Rules Protecting Client Confidentiality

The ethical rules governing attorneys obliges attorneys to maintain the confidentiality of communications with clients, and these rules provide for a very few exceptions. Rule 1.6 of the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct states

Rule 1.6. Confidentiality of Information.

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or the disclosure is permitted by paragraphs (b) and (d).

(b) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:

(1) To prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;

(2) To prevent the client from committing a criminal or fraudulent act in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services, but the lawyer shall, where practicable, first make reasonable effort to persuade the client to take suitable action;

(3) To prevent, mitigate, or rectify the consequences of a client’s criminal or fraudulent act in the commission of which the lawyer’s services have been or are being used, but the lawyer shall, where practicable, first make reasonable effort to persuade the client to take corrective action;

(4) To secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules;

(5) To establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client; or

(6) To comply with other law or a court order.

(7) To detect and resolve conflicts of interest arising from the lawyer’s change of employment or from changes in the composition or ownership of a firm, but only if the revealed information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client.

(c) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

(d) A lawyer shall reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to prevent a criminal act that the lawyer believes is likely to result in reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm.

A lawyer’s duty to keep their client’s information confidential continues even after a client’s case is done. Rule 1.9 of the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct states

Rule 1.9. Duties to Former Clients.

. . .

(c) A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter or whose present or former firm has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter:

  1. Use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as these Rules would permit or require with respect to a client, or when the information has become generally known; or
  2. Reveal information relating to the representation except as these Rules would permit or require with respect to a client.

Besides the ethical rules above, the legal doctrine of “attorney client privilege” serves to protect the confidentiality of client communications from compelled disclosure. This privilege is one of the oldest legal doctrines. In Nevada, this privilege is codified in a statute. Section 49.035 et seq. of the Nevada Revised Statutes sets forth when the privilege applies and the exceptions. The general rule is stated in NRS § 49.095 as follows:

NRS § 49.095. General rule of privilege. A client has a privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent any other person from disclosing, confidential communications:

  1.       Between the client or the client’s representative and the client’s lawyer or the representative of the client’s lawyer.
  2.       Between the client’s lawyer and the lawyer’s representative.
  3.       Made for the purpose of facilitating the rendition of professional legal services to the client, by the client or the client’s lawyer to a lawyer representing another in a matter of common interest.

Basically, information a client discloses to his attorney relating to his case is considered confidential, and the attorney cannot disclose it without the client’s consent. Our legal system recognizes that for attorneys to effectively represent their clients, attorneys must have all the relevant information. Further, clients must be encouraged to make “full and frank” disclosures. Upjohn Co. v. United States, 449 U.S. 383, 389 (1981).

If you need a car accident attorney in Las Vegas you can trust, call the award-winning and experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates.

Timeline of a Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawsuit

Timeline of a Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawsuit

A lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint. Generally, if the accident occurred in Las Vegas, the complaint would be filed in state court. In some cases where damages exceed $75,000.00 and the parties reside in different states from each other, those cases can be filed with the federal court. This timeline will focus on cases filed in state court. The person on whose behalf the lawsuit is filed is called the plaintiff. The person being sued is called the defendant.

The amount of damages an injured person is seeking determines which state court the lawsuit is filed in. If the damages do not exceed $15,000.00, the case is filed with the Las Vegas Justice Court. If the damages exceed $15,000.00, the case is filed with the Eighth Judicial District Court.

Las Vegas Personal Injury Cases In The Eighth Judicial District Court

In personal injury cases (except Medical Malpractice), a lawsuit must be filed no later than the second anniversary of the accident. This is called the statute of limitations. This means that if the car accident or slip and fall that caused your injuries occurred on July 1, 2020, the lawsuit must be filed by July 1, 2022. If the lawsuit is not filed by the second anniversary, the lawsuit will be dismissed. Nevada’s statute of limitations applicable in personal injury cases can be found in NRS § 11.190.
Once the complaint is filed, the plaintiff has 120 days to serve the defendant with the complaint and a summons. This step is called service of process. A defendant must be served before the court can have jurisdiction over the defendant. The laws governing service of process can be found in Rules 4 and 4.2 of the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure (“NRCP”). Failure to serve the defendant without good cause before the 120 expires can result in dismissal of the lawsuit. If additional time is needed to serve the defendant, a plaintiff should seek an extension with the court before the 120 days expires.
The best and primary way to serve a defendant is through personal service, which means that a defendant is personally handed the complaint and summons. Any person over the age of 18 years old and not a party to the lawsuit can serve the defendant. See NRCP Rule 4(c)(3). If the defendant is a legal entity, such as a corporation or a limited liability company, the company’s registered agent for service of process can be served. If the defendant is a Nevada corporation or limited liability company, you can find out who the registered agent is through the Nevada Secretary of State’s website.

If the defendant cannot be found, Rules 4 and 4.4 of the NRCP provides for alternatives to personal service. To be able to utilize those alternatives, the plaintiff or her attorneys must show that they conducted due diligence in locating defendant and attempting to serve them. Alternatives to personal service including publishing the complaint and summons.

Once the defendant is served, they have 20 days to file an answer. Once the defendant files an answer, the plaintiff can request exemption from the mandatory Court Annexed Arbitration Program or proceed through the program.

The Mandatory Court Annexed Arbitration Program

In the Eighth Judicial District Court, 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.

A case is exempted from the program if the case involves a claim in excess of $50,000.00. There are other reasons a case can be exempted from the program, such as public policy. A request for exemption must be submitted to the Arbitration Commissioner within 20 days after the defendant files an answer.

If a Las Vegas personal injury case is worth 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 an answer is filed, 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.

The decision of the arbitrator is non-binding, unless the parties agree otherwise. This means that once the arbitrator issues her decision, either party to the lawsuit can elect to proceed to a trial by filing a “Request for Trial De Novo” within 30 days after the arbitrator issues her decision. If such a Request is filed, the lawsuit will proceed through the Short Trial program unless a party demands removal from the program within 10 days after the Request. If a lawsuit is removed from the Short Trial program, the lawsuit proceeds on the regular course of litigation.

As with the Court Annexed Arbitration Program, the Short Trial program is intended to provide a faster resolution of a lawsuit. Unlike a regular trial, a trial in the Short Trial program must occur within 120 days after the presiding judge is appointed. In a lawsuit that is not in the Short Trial program, it can take a year or more for a case goes to trial. There are other difference. Unlike a regular trial, a case in the Short Trial program only has 1 day to try the case in front of a jury of four people. Also unlike a regular trial, a pro tempore judge, rather than a district court judge, can preside over a Short Trial. The Short Trial rules can be found in the Nevada Short Trial Rules.

Scheduling Conference & Discovery

After a Las Vegas personal injury lawsuit is exempted from arbitration or an arbitrator is appointed, a scheduling conference will be held with the parties or their attorneys. If the case is in the Arbitration Program, the scheduling conference will be set by the arbitrator. If the case is not in the Arbitration Program, the plaintiff will schedule the conference. In the scheduling conference, the parties discuss how long they need to conduct “discovery” and set deadlines.
Discovery is essentially the process during which each side conducts their investigation and discloses the evidence they intend on using at trial. The Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure provide for the following ways to conduct discovery:

  • Interrogatories (NRCP Rule 33)
  • Requests for Production of Documents (NRCP Rule 34)
  • Requests for Admissions (NRCP Rule 36)
  • Depositions (NRCP Rule 30)
  • Site Inspections (NRCP Rule 34)
  • Independent Medical Examination (NRCP Rule 35)
  • Subpoenas (NRCP Rule 45)

In cases outside the Arbitration Program or Short Trial Program, the discovery period could last longer than 6 months after the scheduling conference. Oftentimes, it could be as long as a year. The more complex a case is, the longer the discovery period could take. If the parties cannot agree on how long the discovery period should be, the district court judge assigned to the case or the Discovery Commissioner will set the discovery period.
Along with the discovery period, the other deadlines the parties can either agree to or the court can set include deadlines for filing pre-trial motions, deadlines for disclosing experts, and the deadline for the case to be ready for trial.

Dispositive Motions, Pre-Trial Motions & Trial

In cases outside the Court Annexed Arbitration Program or Short Trial Program, the next deadline the parties usually face after the discovery period is the deadline to file dispositive motions. This deadline is usually set 30 days after the end of the discovery period. Dispositive motions are papers or briefs submitted by a party to the court, in which the party asks the court for a case-ending decision. The typical dispositive motion is called Motion for Summary Judgment.

Another deadline the parties face after the discovery period is the deadline to file pre-trial motions. Pre-trial motions usually deal with evidentiary issues. That is, the parties argue what evidence can be shown to a jury or what must be excluded.

The final step is the trial. In cases outside the Court Annexed Arbitration Program or Short Trial Program, trial can last days and, sometimes, weeks. By the time a trial starts in a case outside the Court Annexed Arbitration Program or Short Trial Program, over a year could have lapsed since the lawsuit was started.

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 personal injury 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.