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Can A Car Owner Be Responsible For A Car Accident Involving Their Car?

Can A Vehicle Owner Responsible If Someone Gets Into An Accident In Their Car?


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Can A Vehicle Owner Responsible If Someone Gets Into An Accident In Their Car?

The owner of a vehicle can be responsible in some cases if they permitted someone to driver their car and that person gets into a car accident. This concept is called negligent entrustment. In essence under this concept, if an owner permits a person they know is unfit to operate a vehicle and that person causes a crash, the owner is responsible. Negligent entrustment can also apply when an owner knew or had a reason to know that unfit driver was using their vehicle and failed to stop it.

Who Can Be Responsible For Negligent Entrustment?

One of the leading cases on negligent entrustment in Nevada is the case of Zugel by Zugel v. Miller, 100 Nev. 525, 688 P.2d 310 (1984). In that case, a 13-year old purchased a motorcycle with the permission of his parents. The parents claimed they told their son not to drive the motorcycle on the public streets. But the son did, with a friend of his as a passenger. The son ran a stop sign and caused an accident. The passenger made a claim against the teenage driver and his parents. The parents disclaimed responsibility for negligent entrustment.

 

The Nevada Supreme Court disagreed with the parents. What swayed the Court was the son’s testimony that his parents knew he routinely rode his motorcycle on public streets. As stated by the Court, “[f]rom this fact alone the jury could have inferred that respondents possessed knowledge of their son’s activities of driving the motorcycle on public roadways.”

Under this theory of liability, the entrusting person need not have known that the motor vehicle was going to be driven on a public roadway. In fact, a parent who entrusts his child with a motor vehicle may be found liable under a theory of negligent entrustment even when the parent expressly instructs the child not to use the vehicle on a public roadway.

Nevada Supreme Court

The doctrine of negligent entrustment does not apply unless the person that gave permission is the owner of the vehicle. For example, in Mills v. Continental Parking Corp., 86 Nev. 724, 475 P.2d 673 (Nev. 1970), a parking attendant gave keys to a car’s owner who was allegedly obviously drunk. The drunk car owner then hit and killed a pedestrian. The Court held that the parking attendant cannot be held responsible for returning the keys to the owner, even though the owner was drunk. The Court reasoned, essentially, that the parking attendant had an obligation to return to the keys; otherwise, the attendant can be liable for conversion.

 

In Las Vegas, tourists too get into car accidents in rental vehicles. The question arises in those situations as to whether the rental car company can be responsible for a renter is an unfit driver. Under N.R.S. 483.610, a rental car company is required to check driver’s licenses, unless the renter comes from a country or state that does not require driver’s licenses. This statute further requires the rental company to visually inspect the license and compare the driver’s signature with that on the license. Attorneys for insurance companies and the rental companies have argued that this statute does not require rental car companies to verify that a driver has a valid driver’s license or is fit to drive a car.

What does it mean to be unfit or incompetent driver?

Not everyone who negligently causes a car accident is an unfit or incompetent driver. To answer the question of what is an unfit or incompetent driver, we have to look at the laws that says who can’t or shouldn’t drive. The easiest and least disputable is a drunk driver. The law says that a driver who is impaired by alcohol or drugs shouldn’t be driving and penalizes drunk drivers. A car owner who lets a driver they know to be drunk or otherwise impaired to driver their car is responsible for negligent entrustment.

An owner who permits an unlicensed person to drive their vehicle may also be responsible for negligent entrustment. In Zugel v. Zugel, the Court found the parents liable even though their son had driven the motorcycle a number of times. Why? Because the law said that the son, who had no driver’s license, was not legally competent to drive.

There may be other situations where a vehicle owner is responsible for a car accident caused by a driver they lent the car to. To find out if negligent entrustment applies in your case, it is best to speak to a car accident attorney who has experience pursuing claims for negligent entrustment.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident and want to know who is responsible for paying for your injuries, speak to an experienced Las Vegas Car Accident Attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates. Our skilled Las Vegas accident attorneys will answer your questions and conduct any needed research and investigation to ensure full compensation for our clients.

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Injured In A Hit & Run? What Can You Do And What Can We Do For You

Car in hit and run crash

Hit and Run Accident Attorney Las Vegas

According to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than one hit and run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads. It found that an average of 682,000 hit and run crashes occurred each year since 2006. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated 737,100 hit-and-run crashes occurred in 2017. In 2016, hit and run crashes resulted in an estimated 2,049 fatalities, a 60% increase since 2009.

A hit-and-run crash can leave injured victims with medical bills piling up and unable to earn income to pay those bills. Some people think they may have no options if they were injured in a hit and run car accident. That is not necessarily so. In our combined 50+ years of experience as car accident attorneys in Las Vegas, we have successfully recovered compensation for those who initially thought they had no options.

Locating The Fleeing Driver

There are ways to search for the hit-and-run driver. Of course, if a witness was able to jot down or take a photo of the license plate, we can conduct a search for the owner of the vehicle. If the police were called to the scene and given the license plate of the fleeing vehicle, the policy usually will contact the registered owner of the vehicle.

Locating the registered owner of the fleeing vehicle can lead to the applicable car insurance policy. Even if the registered owner was not the fleeing driver, the owner’s insurance on the vehicle may apply and provide protection to the hit-and-run victim. In most cases, the liability insurance policy on the car is the primary policy that applies.

In addition, the registered car owner may also be responsible for the negligence of the hit-and-run driver under the doctrine of negligent entrustment, which is a form of negligence. As described by the Nevada Supreme Court, “[u]nder this doctrine, a person who knowingly entrusts a vehicle to an inexperienced or incompetent person, such as a minor child unlicensed to drive a motor vehicle, may be found liable for damages resulting thereby.” Zugel by Zugel v. Miller, 100 Nev. 525, 527, 688 P.2d 310, 312 (1984).

Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage

Even if the fleeing driver or the registered owner cannot be located, the injured victim’s own uninsured motorist (UM) policy would generally apply. UM insurance generally applies when you are injured in a car accident and the person who caused it has no insurance. It also applies where the person who caused the crash cannot be found. When the fleeing driver cannot be located, the UM policy of the injured victim applies if  there is physical contact between the fleeing vehicle and the injured victim or the victim’s vehicle. The insured is also obligated to report the accident to the applicable police department, sheriff’s office, or to the Nevada Highway Patrol. These rules governing when UM policies apply to hit-and-run crashes are set forth in NRS § 690B.020(2)(f).

In Nevada, drivers are not required to purchase UM coverage. However, car insurance companies must offer their insured the opportunity to purchase insurance specifically covering hit-and-run accidents. See Nev.Rev.Stat. § 690B.020. The limits of the insurance offered must be at least equivalent to the Nevada minimum liability limit of $25,000 per person and $50,000.00 per accident. Insureds can purchase higher UM/UIM limits for their protection, up to an amount equal to their liability insurance limits.

What Can You Do If You Are Injured In A Hit-And-Run Crash?

  • Call 9-1-1 and report the car accident. As mentioned above, your car insurance company will likely require you to obtain a police report of the hit-and-run crash.
  • Speak to any witnesses on the scene and see if anyone noted the license plate of the fleeing vehicle. Make sure to get contact information for all witnesses. Ask the witnesses if they can stay to provide a statement to the police.
  • If you are injured, seek immediate medical attention. Usually, when you call 9-1-1 and report that you are injured, an ambulance will be dispatched to the accident scene.
  • Call the experienced and award-winning Las Vegas car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates. We can hire private investigators to search for the hit-and-run driver, if the police cannot locate them. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can begin the search and investigation. Our experience as Las Vegas personal injury attorneys have taught us that locating the fleeing driver as soon as possible is important in order to preserve evidence, such as damage to that driver’s vehicle.

Will Prior Accidents Affect My Car Accident Claim?

car accident attorney Las Vegas

Prior car accidents or other types of accidents may affect your car accident claim. First, insurance companies may blame prior accidents for a victim’s injuries. The more recent those accidents are, the more likely the insurance company will use those prior accidents against the victim. Second, auto insurers may use those prior accidents to test a victim’s credibility. Under the guise of needing to know more information about those prior accidents, insurers will seek more information from the victim about those accidents. Then, they will use any discrepancy – regardless of how small – against the victim. Thus, it is important to tell your car accident attorney your accident history so they can be prepared to deal with these tactics from insurance companies.

How will insurance companies learn about my prior accidents?

Insurance companies generally run a background check on the claimant in the ISO ClaimSearch database. This database contains detailed records of auto and property insurance claims and payments. Insurers claim they use the database to detect fraud. But they also use information from the database to challenge the cause of a car accident victim’s injuries. An ISO search will reveal the date, insurance company, claim number and possibly the injuries reported.

Why is my prior accidents relevant to my current injuries?

An issue in most personal injury lawsuit is whether the accident caused the victim’s injuries. This is because one of the elements of a negligence claim that a personal injury plaintiff has to prove is causation. Unless an injury is obviously and indisputably caused by a crash, insurance companies will typically question whether a victim’s injuries are related to the accident. An example of an injury that could be unquestionably crash-related would be a broken bone, as doctors would be able to tell from an x-ray if a fracture is fresh or not. However, the most common type of injuries from a car accident are not as clear cut.

One of the most common type of injury from a car accident is a neck pain. Neck pain from a car accident is usually diagnosed as sprain or strain, which can colloquially be called whiplash. There’s generally no definitive objective test from sprain or strain. Meaning, an x-ray or MRI will not definitively show sprain or strain. An MRI may show loss of cervical lordosis or the normal curve of the neck. This curvature loss may evidence muscle spasms, but it also could be from other factors, such as aging or repetitive motions. Doctors generally wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the x-ray whether the curvature loss is from the accident, unless they can compare the x-ray to one taken immediately before the accident.

Also, pain is the usual primary symptom of accident injuries. However, there is no objective test for pain. Doctors routinely rely on their patients reporting whether they have pain and when the pain started. So, if insurance companies and their defense attorneys can show you had the neck pain before the car accident, then they can attack the opinion of the accident victim’s doctors.

Prior accidents can be a goldmine for the insurance company. What better way to show prior neck pain than go back to any prior accidents the victim may have had. Again, neck pain is a common injury from a car accident. Thus, there is a good chance if the victim was in a prior crash, the victim would have had neck pain. Then, the insurance company will likely claim the victim’s neck injury pre-existed the crash.

Of course, it’s also likely that a person can be injured in an accident that occurred years before and fully heal from those injuries. And the person’s medical records prior to the current car accident may prove that. That is why a car accident lawyer needs to know a client’s accident history. The accident attorney would need to obtain the client’s pre-accident medical records or the medical records from prior accidents. With our combined 50+ years of experience as personal injury attorneys, we know what the insurance company is looking for and we know how to beat their game. We obtain the necessary evidence to prove our client’s case even before the insurance company even asks. That’s how we have obtained millions of dollars on behalf of our clients.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident in Las Vegas and had prior accidents, you should hire an experienced Las Vegas car accident attorney. Personal injury cases where the accident victim had multiple prior accidents can get complicated and may even result in a personal injury lawsuit. The accident victim will need a personal injury attorney who has successfully handled many cases like yours, even through litigation and trial. The personal injury attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates have represented many car accident victims who’ve had prior accidents. It’s actually quite common, since accidents can and do happen far too frequently. So call and speak to one of our Las Vegas car accident lawyers today.

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.

Distracted Driving In Nevada

Distracted driving is far too common and occurs for a number of reasons. Texting while driving is just one form. Reading a text or anything on your cell phone while driving is another form. Distracted driving is driving when you don’t have full attention on driving. You could be eating and drinking, talking to other people in your vehicle, looking at your navigation system, or even fiddling with the radio. Any activity that takes your full attention from driving and the road, even for just a few seconds, is a potential distraction and increases the risk of being involved in a car crash.

The Nevada Department of Transportation estimates the increased chances of getting into a car accident by doing any of the following activities while driving:

  • Reaching for a moving object – 9 times more likely to be involved in a crash
  • Driving drowsy – 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash
  • Looking at an external object – 3.7 times more likely to be involved in a crash
  • Reading – more likely to be involved in a crash
  • Dialing a phone – 2.8 times more likely to be involved in a crash
  • Applying makeup – 3 times more likely to be involved in a crash
  • Eating – 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a crash
  • Reaching for a non-moving object – 1.4 times more likely to be involved in a crash
  • Talking on a hand-held phone – 1.3 times more likely to be involved in a crash

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. During that 5 seconds, a car going 40 mph can cover 294 feet. That’s nearly twice the length of a football field. So a lot can happen in those 5 seconds.

Consequences of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is dangerous for everyone on the road – for drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists. According to the NHTSA, distracted driving resulted in 2,841 fatalities in 2018. This figure includes 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists. In 2017, 434 people died in crashes reported to have involved cell phone use. According to statistics reported by The Zebra, an estimated 391,000 drivers were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2017 and 2018 saw 4,637 deaths resulting from distracting driving. The Zebra also reports that distracted driving claimed approximately 9 lives per day.

The Nevada Office of Traffic Safety reported that between 2013-2017, 73 fatalities resulted from crashes where distracted driving was confirmed in the crash report. However, they estimate the actual number of fatal crashes involving distracted driving is much higher, as confirming whether distracted driving occurred is difficult.

The experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates know what it takes to prove distracted driving. If you or a loved have been injured by a distracted driver, call and speak to a Las Vegas car accident attorney at D.R. Patti & Associates at 702-331-3391 for a free consultation and see how we can help you.

Documenting Your Injuries, Pain, and Suffering When You Can’t See Your Health Care Provider

Documenting Injuries - Pain Diary

With many of us practicing social distancing to help flatten the curve, we have come to learn that many people have been unable to continue their treatment for their accident-related injuries. Many people with accident-related injuries have regularly scheduled doctor, chiropractic, physical therapy appointments. If they miss some appointments, their healthcare providers would normally give them instructions on exercises they can do at home that may help relieve some of their sometimes. Unable to obtain medical treatment, accident victims may be concerned whether their injuries would linger longer or worsen.

Missing health care appointments, however, cause another concern for their personal injury cases. 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.

One way to counter such arguments and demonstrate injury is to maintain a pain journal. Some physicians will instruct a patient to maintain a written log (journal) of pain-related information and to bring this with them to their office visits. The physician reads the patient’s journal to identify trends in the pain and responses to treatment. The following types of information should be recorded on a daily basis:

  • Your symptoms that day
  • Time when your pain started or got worse.
  • What you were doing at the time the pain started or got worse.
  • The intensity of your pain from 0 to 10, 0 being no pain to 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt
  • How long did the pain last
  • What you were doing at the time the pain stopped or got better.
  • Did you take any medication (over the counter or prescription) and what was the dosage
  • Time you took the medication
  • Whether the medication worked and how long did it take to work
  • Any other thing you did to reduce the pain, such as ice/heating pad, TENS, bed rest, wearing a brace, etc.
  • If you had to skip out on any activities, whether work or social engagements, because of the pain or other symptoms

To learn more about what you can do to document or prove your injuries from a car accident, call the experienced Las Vegas car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates for a free consultation.

D.R. Patti & Associates Obtains Six-Figure Settlement in Las Vegas Scooter Accident

Las Vegas scooter accident settlement

From our extensive experience as personal injury attorneys, we have seen our fair share of unfortunate Las Vegas scooter accidents and the injuries and other damages they cause. Thankfully, we have been able to obtain compensation for Las Vegas scooter accident victims. Recently, we were able to obtain a six-figure settlement for two people riding an electric scooter who was struck and injured by a truck. Unfortunately, based on statistics, we know that this may not be the last Las Vegas scooter accident we see and work on.
In an unstable economy and averaging between 60 to 100 miles per gallon, mopeds and scooters have been the cheaper option for many people, particularly those on college campuses, and their popularity has been increasing.[1] The popularity of this economical mode of transportation is evident on the Las Vegas Strip all the way to downtown, with tourists opting for this cheaper way to see the sights and casino-hop. One study estimates that moped and scooter sales have increased by as much as 60% in recent years.[2]

Unfortunately, the increased use of mopeds and scooters has led to more accidents, crashes, injuries and even fatalities. A recent Florida study found the following to have been common factors in those accidents resulting in severe injuries and fatalities: lack of a helmet, the speed of the moped or scooter, the speed limit in the area of the accident, and the amount of traffic in the area.[3]

It is no surprise that the lack of a helmet has contributed to the more severe injuries and fatalities. In many of these tragic events, the operators of mopeds and scooters were not wearing helmets.[4]The Florida study revealed that only 17% involved in moped or scooter crashes wore helmets. In Nevada, while motorcyclists are required to wear helmets that meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation, those driving mopeds 50 cc or under, with less than 2 horsepower and capable of no more than 30 mph are not.[5]

The Florida study also found a high correlation between the speed of the moped/scooter, the speed limit in the accident site, and the amount of traffic. The number of accidents and severity of injuries increased when the street had three (3) or more lanes of travel.[6]The number of accidents resulting in severe injuries or fatalities also increased when the scooter/moped was driving above 20 miles per hour and the speed limit in the area was over 30 miles per hour.[7]All of these factors make sense – mopeds and scooters traveling in a busier area with faster cars will have greater chance of being involved in an accident and a greater chance of causing severe injuries or deaths. Like motorcycles, mopeds and scooters are sometimes difficult for other drivers to see on the roads. Thus, car drivers, who are likely not anticipating them or looking out for them, will likely not watch out for moped and scooter drivers.

Moped and scooter drivers must watch out for themselves. The lessons from the Florida study: wear a helmet and avoid driving in high traffic areas. Be safe out there.

If you are a moped or scooter driver who is injured in a car accident, call the Las Vegas scooter accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates, or email us and see how we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.