Tag: las vegas car accident attorneys

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.

Arbitration of Car Accident Claims In Las Vegas

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

What Is Arbitration In General?

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

Clark County’s Court-Annexed Arbitration Program

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

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

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

Scheduling The Arbitration Hearing

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

The Arbitration Hearing

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

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

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

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

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

Punitive Damages in Las Vegas Personal Injury Cases

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

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

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

How Do Accident Attorneys Get Paid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Traffic Tickets Admissible In Car Accident Lawsuits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevada Supreme Court, Frias v. Valle

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

Paying A Traffic Ticket Is Generally Not An Admission of Guilt

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

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.

Proving Fault In A Car Accident

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In many car accidents that occur in Las Vegas, who is at fault is usually determined by evidence gathered at the scene. This is why police officers should be called; they know what to evidence to collect. In some other cases, who is at fault is so obvious even if a police officer wasn’t called to the scene. In some other cases, the police officer can’t determine who is at fault; even if a police officer did, the insurance company for the at fault driver may still dispute what happened. In the latter two cases, gathering certain evidence is the key to proving who is at fault. Next is determining the applicable rules of the road.

The first step in determining who is at fault in a car crash is to ascertain how the accident happened. This step requires gathering evidence, which can include:

  • Statements of those involved in the crash
  • Location and extent of the damage to the vehicles involved.
  • Location of the vehicles after impact
  • Speed of the vehicles before and at impact
  • Skid marks
  • Location of debris or parts that may have fallen off the vehicles

The Role of Police Officers

The first step in gathering evidence is to call the police to the scene of an accident. The following is a typical scenario in Las Vegas. You get into a car accident. Someone calls 9-1-1, and a police officer arrives and speaks to those involved in the accident. The police officer may even speak to independent witnesses at the scene. If there is video from a nearby business or from a dash cam, the police officer may likely view that video. The police officer may even document skid marks on the street and the location of the vehicles involved or debris from the vehicles. Before he or she departs, the officer may already conclude who is at fault for the accident and give that person a citation. While the police officer’s opinion as to who caused the accident is not admissible in court in most cases, the evidence gathered by the police officer is.

In car accidents involving fatalities, the police conduct a more thorough investigation, including measuring skid marks, location of debris from the vehicles, determining the point of impact. The police may even perform an accident reconstruction when necessary. When a police officer performs an accident reconstruction, the police officer’s opinion as to who caused the accident may be admissible in court as a form of expert opinion.

If a person who gets into a crash does not call the police, certain evidence may be lost. For example, most people do not document location of the vehicles immediately after impact. Most don’t notice skid marks, let alone take photos of or measure those skid marks. Most car accident victims don’t request video surveillance from nearby businesses. Unfortunately, business do not store surveillance videos for long, and the video may be lost if not requested in time. Thus, car accident victims should not wait too long to retain a car accident attorney in Las Vegas who knows to request those videos. Also, as noted in one of our other blogs, traffic cameras in the Las Vegas Valley may now be available.

Also, police officers may obtain a written statement from the driver’s involved describing how the accident happens. Those written statements are admissible in court when used against the person making the statement, particularly for impeachment. So, if the other driver later changes his or her story as to how the accident happened, a car accident attorney can just pull out that driver’s written statement.

Car Accident Cases Where Fault Is Clear

Certain types of car accidents, liability (i.e., who is at fault) is generally clear. In those cases, typically, how the accident happened is undisputed. Take for example the typical rear-end crash.

Often times (but not 100%), fault can easily be determined in rear-end accidents. In those cases, there’s usually no question that the at fault driver was directly behind the front car when the latter suddenly stopped. In many rear-end accidents, the driver that hit the front car is at fault. This would generally be the case even if the front car suddenly slammed on their brakes. Why? The answer can be found in NRS § 484B.127 and the Nevada DMV handbook. Section 484B.127 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) prohibits drivers from “follow[ing] another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.” Meaning, a driver should always leave sufficient space between the vehicle in front, enough space to allow the driver to stop, even if the front vehicle suddenly stops. The Nevada DMV handbook explains how long it would take to stop a car going at a certain feet and how many feet a car would travel even after hitting the brakes. A Nevada licensed driver is expected to know these; that’s why this information is in the handbook.

In the above rear-end crash example, how the accident happened was clear. An experienced car accident attorney can determine fault by simply applying the rules of the road.

Rules of the Road

Car accident claims are typically framed as a negligence case. Generally, negligence is the failure to do what an ordinary reasonable person would do under the circumstances. In car accident cases, we look to the rules of the road in determining what an ordinary reasonable person would do. A person who violates a law and injures someone could be liable under the theory of negligence per se. In such cases, the person whose actions violate the law is presumed to be negligent.

Nevada’s rules of the road and traffic laws can found in NRS 484, NRS 484A, NRS 484B, and NRS 484C.

If your or a loved one have been injured in a car accident in Las Vegas, speak to an experienced Accident Attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates today. With a combined total of 50+ years of experience as Las Vegas car accident attorneys, we know what it takes to prove your case.

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.