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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.

My child was injured at school

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The law requires that schools must provide a safe environment for students. Once they are on school property, the school has a responsibility to their students for a reasonable duty of care. Students spend a significant time in school, and it is inevitable that accidents will occur.

In Loco Parentis a Latin term meaning “in [the] place of a parent” or “instead of a parent.”  Refers to the legal responsibility of some person or organization to perform some of the functions or responsibilities of a parent. Legal Information Institute. In Loco Parentis

Authorities must repair or eliminate dangerous conditions in a timely manner and make sure students receive proper supervision. Many student injury cases fall under the category of negligence. A case based on negligence often highlights a school’s failure to provide a safe environment for student safety while they’re on school grounds, on buses, or at a school sponsored event.

Common Causes of Injuries at School

  • Bullies
  • Slip and falls
  • Playground injuries
  • School bus accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Inadequate security on premises

Damages

The school’s negligence must have resulted in damages that are calculable and provable. These include medical costs, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and pain and suffering. If the child had a part-time job, then you may have a wage loss claim.

Let’s take a look at an example of negligence in school wherein a school employee failed to supervise students who were under her care. Johnson v. School District of Millard, 573 N.W.2d 116 (Neb. 1998). Robbie L. Johnson, a first grader at Willa Cather Elementary School, was injured while in his music class.  Nancy Patton, a music teacher taught her class the song and game “London Bridge.” London Bridge is a game in which two children, while singing a song, form a “bridge” by linking their arms. Robbie testified that he was swung “fast and hard” while caught in his classmates’ arms.  While swinging Johnson, the two children released their hands and threw Johnson into a bookcase, cutting his head above his right eyebrow. Robbie required fifty stitches to close the cut above his right eye. Johnson suffered blurred vision for a short period of time and continues to suffer headaches as a result of his injury.

If you or a loved one are facing a lawsuit for injuries you sustained as a result of an 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.

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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What Does It Mean That My Car Is Totaled?

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If you get involved in a severe car accident, your insurance company may declare your car a total loss or, in other words, “totaled.” Under Nevada law, if the cost of the repair a car damaged in a car accident is at least 65% of the car’s fair market value before it was damaged, the insurance company can declare the car a total loss. The repair cost cannot include the cost of painting and towing the car.

NRS 487.790(1)(b) defines a total loss as a vehicle “which has been wrecked, destroyed or otherwise damaged to such an extent that the cost of repair, not including any cost associated with painting any portion of the vehicle, is 65 percent or more of the fair market value of the vehicle immediately before it was wrecked, destroyed or otherwise damaged.”

How Is Fair Market Value of My Car Calculated

Fair market value is how much the car would sell in the condition it was in before the wreck. The insurance company determines how much your car would sell for by looking at how much a vehicle like yours is currently selling. The look for identical make, model, year, mileage, and condition. If the insurance company determines your car a total loss, they will provide you with a total loss valuation. This document will list the cars that recently sold and are comparable to your vehicle.

Contrary to public perception, insurance companies do not use Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds to value your pre-crash vehicle. However, the Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds’ value of your vehicle may approximate the insurance company’s valuation. So, you can look up the resale value of your vehicle on Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds to get an idea. Remember, however, the amount you see will not be identical to the insurance company’s fair market valuation. The insurance company may use their own database or hire a third-party company to determine the fair market value.

Remember, the value of your vehicle usually decreases with age. The older your vehicle, the fair market value will be lower. Even if your car was in perfect working condition, with no damage, your car’s value will not be equivalent to that of a newer model. It can happen that someone has an older car that was not severely wrecked in a crash, but the cost of the repair the damage is still at least 65% of the value. As car accident attorneys, we’ve had many clients who questioned why the insurance company just can’t fix the car rather than paying the lower fair market value. In many cases, accident victims may have the option to keep the car.

What Are Your Options If Your Car Was Declared A Total Loss?

If your car has been declared a total loss after an accident, you may have two options: accept payment for the fair market value of the car or keep the car. If you accept the fair market value, you will have to give the title of the vehicle to the insurance company. By giving the insurance company the title to your wrecked car, your insurance company owns your car. Typically, the insurance company can then sell your car as, usually at an auction in a salvage yard.

If you decide to accept the fair market value, your insurance company will first pay off any loans on the car and give you the balance. Unfortunately for some people whose cars get severely damaged in a wreck, the fair market value of their vehicle may be less than what they owe on the car. This means that, even after the insurance company gives the total loss payment to the car loan company, the car owner would continue to owe the remaining balance. Unfortunately, as car accident attorneys, we see this scenario too often. After a really bad car accident, a car accident victim may end up still owing money on a car that is a total loss.

Because of this possibility, it’s important to purchase gap insurance if you still have a loan on your car. Gap insurance pays the difference between the amount a car insurance company pays for your totaled car and the amount you owe on your lease or loan.

If you do choose to keep the car, remember the insurance company will not pay you amount it will cost to repair the car. It has no obligation to do so. When your car is declared a total loss, the insurance company’s obligation is to pay the fair market value of your car. Because of that, if you choose to keep the car, the insurance company will only pay you the fair market value of the car. However, the insurance company will also reduce what they have to pay you by the salvage value of the wrecked car. Salvage value is the amount the insurance company could obtain by selling your wrecked vehicle as is, usually at an auction at a salvage yard. If you have to pay a deductible, your insurance company will also reduce what they have to pay you by this amount.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident and need help dealing with the insurance company, call an experienced Las Vegas car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates. Our skilled accident lawyers will explain and guide you to the property damage evaluation and fight to get you the maximum compensation for your car and your injuries.

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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How To Obtain Video Of My Car Accident In Las Vegas

How To Obtain Video of My Car Accident In Las Vegas?


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How To Obtain Video of My Car Accident In Las Vegas?

In many car accident cases our personal injury law firm has handled in Las Vegas, our clients have asked us to obtain video of their car accident. Most of the time, that video does not exist. “What about the traffic cameras we see on the street,” they would ask. And we would have to answer that those do not record. Until recently.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cameras in Las Vegas. They are visible on traffic lights at intersections. Those cameras are operated by the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation (FAST), a division of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), in conjunction with the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). FAST is responsible for managing traffic control devices in the Las Vegas Valley, including freeway ramp meters and traffic signals at intersections. They also operate those digital freeway signs. The traffic cameras assist FAST in monitoring and coordinating traffic. That is, they program how long the red, green, and yellow signals last, based on the traffic flow in that area.
NDOT and FAST allow drivers to view the videos captured by these cameras. You can view them here live. Although legislators on occasion would consider using these traffic camera videos to issue citations for running red lights, nothing came of it. These cameras were solely there to assist FAST in its traffic management duties.

Traffic cameras are an opportunity for drivers to make travel decisions based on road conditions. Knowing if there is congestion, an incident blocking the freeway, extreme weather or other condition can help you decide to forego travel or detour the area, making for an easier commute and safer roadways.

Nevada Department of Transportation

Unfortunately, recording the videos would require heavy investment in computer servers. So, until recently, FAST did not record and save the traffic camera videos. Now, as recently reported by KTNV, a Las Vegas company has partnered with FAST and NDOT to record and store the videos and/or screenshots. That company, National Traffic Video is operated by a well known accident and forensic engineering firm, American Bio Engineers.

While actual videos of accidents are routinely captured, videos and screenshots depicting the immediate aftermath or vehicle rest positions can provide vital information about how the impact occurred.

American Bio Engineers

As noted on their website, the videos or, if those are not available, screenshots can provide useful information for those involved in car accidents in Las Vegas. American Bio Engineers provide the video or screenshots for a fee, and this is how they say they manage to undertake this venture.
KTNV recently reported that the videos provided by National Traffic Video was used by crash investigators to show what happened in a tragic crash that killed a 1 year old boy.
Before these traffic camera videos were available, Las Vegas accident attorneys and law enforcement crash investigators had to hope that surveillance cameras from nearby businesses would capture a crash. Of course, such videos were not available for car accidents on the freeways. Most of the time, nearby businesses didn’t catch a crash or didn’t have the right angle on the streets.
When videos weren’t available, car accident attorneys and crash investigators in Las Vegas had to rely on accident reconstruction. Car accident attorneys, such as ourselves, had to hire companies like American Bio Engineers to reconstruct an accident based on information obtained by investigating police officers. Such information includes length of skid marks, point of impact, and location of debris. Not all of the information, however, may be included in a traffic crash report, if there is such a report.
The videos or screenshots provided by American Bio Engineers can assist in resolving car accident claims where there is a question of who caused the crash. These videos could also be helpful in cases where the severity of the impact may be at issue.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident in Las Vegas and want to know how to obtain video or other evidence of a car wreck, speak to an experienced car accident attorney at D.R. Patti & Associates. We will retain American Bio Engineer and take other steps to secure the necessary information about your car accident. We check with nearby businesses that may have captured the car accident from a different angle and also speak with known witnesses. Having successfully represented thousands of car accident victims in Las Vegas, we know how to win your case. Give us a call today.

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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?

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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.

What Is Whiplash?

Car Accident Attorney Las Vegas

Whiplash From Car Accidents

Whiplash is a non-medical term that refers to a neck or upper back injury from violent or forceful rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck. The whipping motion overstretches the joints, muscles and ligaments of the neck and back beyond their normal range of motion. The most common cause of whiplash injuries is car accidents, but there are other causes, such as falling and blows to the head.

Is Whiplash Serious?

Whiplash may also be called a neck sprain, strain, or soft tissue injuries. These terms may give the impression that this condition is not serious, but it can be. While most people recover from whiplash, the condition may lead to chronic neck pain or even surgical intervention for some people. Older people, and those who already have neck problems such as arthritis, may experience more serious whiplash than a younger person. As people age, muscles and ligaments lose their flexibility and strength and thus, are more sensitive to the whipping movements.

By some counts, more than a million Americans suffer injuries from whiplash each year. Many recover, although it may take awhile — weeks, even months. But about half of those affected continue to have neck pain a year or more later, and about 10% may end up with chronic pain that interferes with work and everyday life.

Harvard Health Publishing

Symptoms of whiplash include pain to the neck and back, pain radiating to the shoulders and arms, “pins and needles” sensation down the arms or fingers, stiffness, headaches, ringing in the ears (i.e., tinnitus). Other symptoms could include memory loss, concentration impairment, nervousness/irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, or depression. An accident victim can develop these symptoms immediately after the crash or even days later. However, just because the symptoms develop later or does not appear to be severe doesn’t mean the condition is not severe. Even though symptoms may develop late, the condition may still become chronic.

Common Treatment of Whiplash

Typically, whiplash is treated with chiropractic treatment, range of motion exercises, physical therapy, cervical traction, pain medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants. When whiplash symptoms persist, doctors may order CT or MRI scans of the spine. While these radiological studies may assist doctors in trying to identify the source of the pain, it’s not always the case. As reported by Harvard Health, “[S]ome people with persistent pain have perfectly normal imaging test results, while others whose imaging tests show abnormalities are pain-free. So it’s not as straightforward as one might think to link an imaging abnormality to symptoms, let alone to whiplash trauma.”

Whiplash and Low Speed Accidents

Whiplash can occur even from low speed car accidents. In fact, Harvard Health reports that whiplash injuries often occur during low-speed collisions.

Whiplash injuries often occur during low-speed collisions, but low speeds can translate into a lot of force. For example, if you are sitting in a stationary car that’s hit from behind by a car moving at just 10 miles per hour, the force from the collision can briefly put 9 Gs of force on your neck (a G is the gravitational “pull” of the earth). It’s not difficult to imagine how one or more structures of your neck could be injured under these circumstances.

Harvard Health Publishing

However, insurance companies and defense attorneys dispute the idea that low speed crashes can cause whiplash. Often times, insurance companies equate low property damage to low speed to no injuries. Studies published in medical journals, however, have shown this argument to be a myth.

If you or a loved one have suffered soft tissue injuries from a car accident or a fall, call and speak to an experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney. If you call D.R. Patti & Associates, you will regularly speak to and meet with a skilled Las Vegas accident attorney who knows how to deal with insurance companies‘ “delay, deny, defend” strategies.