Tag: las vegas car accidents

Discovery in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Las Vegas injury trial attorneys

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

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

Rule 16.1. Mandatory Pretrial Discovery Requirements

(a) Required Disclosures.

(1) Initial Disclosure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The list of items that must be disclosed include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Importance of Getting Immediate Medical Attention

In real life, many people who are injured in car accidents do not get medical treatment right away. There are many reasons for this. Some can’t afford to take the time off from work to get treatment. They just live with the pain. Some can’t afford the medical treatment, and they too just live with the pain. Then there are those who believe that their symptoms will go away with time. This statement is particularly true for people suffering from headaches, neck pain, or back pain. It is only when their pain doesn’t go after several weeks that some of these people finally get medical attention. When they find out that their condition may be worse or can last months, if not be permanent, they finally seek compensation against the insurance company of the party who caused the accident. Then their claim is denied by the insurance company. That’s when they finally call an attorney.

In our over 25+ years of experience as Las Vegas car accident attorneys, we have received calls from lots of people with similar experiences. Many of them have consulted with other Las Vegas personal injury attorneys, and their case was rejected. Then they ask why.

The insurance company and other attorneys have rejected their car accident case because of the gap in treatment. A significant period between the time of the car crash until the first medical treatment raise doubts whether the person’s injuries are from the car accident. Remember, people can develop headaches, neck pain, and back pain without a car accident.

Remember also, insurance companies will only compensate you if you prove your injuries. Just because you are in a car accident doesn’t mean you are injured. A significant gap in treatment is evidence to the insurance company that you weren’t injured in the car accident. To insurance companies and to many jurors, an injured person gets treatment, and someone who does not get treatment is not injured. This is a stereotype that doesn’t always conform to reality. Those who don’t confirm to this stereotype may find it difficult convincing anyone that they are injured.

Also, in many cases, only a medical professional is needed to confirm that your injuries are related to the car accident. In most cases, a medical professional must be able to testify in court that your injures are causally related to the car accident “to a reasonable degree of medical probability.” Basically, the medical professional must be able to say that your injuries are more likely than not was caused by the car accident. The medical professional doesn’t necessarily have to be a doctor. It could be a chiropractor or physical therapist experienced and trained in diagnosing the kind of injuries you have. The more we can prove your injuries with medical documentation, the easier it could be to resolve your case.

Keeping a record of your medical appointments can serve as a key piece of evidence in your case. Your medical records can establish important information, including:

  • The nature of your medical condition
  • How long you received treatment
  • The connection between your injuries and the accident
  • The charges you incurred due to your injuries
  • Notes on your future medical needs due to the accident
  • Documentation of your pain and suffering

Be sure that you keep track of all of your medical records and bills and provide them to your personal injury lawyer.

If you can’t go to your medical appointment for sometime, you should keep a pain journal or diary of your symptoms and how it affects you on a daily basis. A handwritten diary written at or about the same time you experienced an event or symptoms is admissible in court. A handwritten journal is evidence in court, but not as powerful as medical records. Experienced personal injury trial attorneys know how to admit the handwritten diary in court as evidence to help prove your case.

If you or a loved one are struggling with your injuries from a car accident and the insurance company, call the accomplished Las Vegas car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates. All of our attorneys have 10 or more years of experience in litigating Las Vegas personal injury cases. We will answer your questions and discuss your options in depth with you, as well as the risks and benefits of proceeding. Don’t wait any longer. Call us today.

How Long Does It Take To Settle My Car Accident Case?

car accident attorney las vegas

There is no simple answer to how long it takes to settle a car accident case. Every car accident case is different, and there is no fixed formula. Generally, the less disputes issued, the more likely the case settles early. The more disputed issues, the longer it takes to settle case.  There are several factors to consider.

Is There A Dispute As To Who Caused The Accident?

The first factor to consider is whether there is a liability dispute. A liability dispute means the drivers involved in the car accident are claiming the other person is at fault. Many times when there is a liability dispute, a lawsuit will have to be filed. The purpose of the lawsuit is to get a judge, jury, or arbitrator to decide who is at fault. However, even if a lawsuit is filed, a case can still settle without going to trial or arbitration. What happens in a personal injury lawsuit is a whole separate topic, and you can learn more about that by clicking here.

Sometimes, a case with disputed liability can settle without a lawsuit. Usually, this happens when one driver has more or stronger evidence to show that the other driver is at fault. For example, if the police came to the accident scene, did an investigation, and determined the other driver is at fault, that other driver’s insurance company may decide to settle the case. Generally, a person’s car insurance company can settle a personal injury claim without the permission of their insured. If there is a disinterested witness to the accident, there is a good chance of settling without a lawsuit. A disinterested witness is someone who has no interest in the case. Usually, this means the witness doesn’t know any of the other drivers involved.

How Severe Are the Injuries And How Much Insurance Is Available?

Assuming liability is not in dispute, the next two main factors to consider are (1) the extent and severity of the injuries and (2) the amount of insurance available. The more severe the injuries and the lower the amount of insurance available, the faster a case would actually settle. For example, if a car accident caused you to break a leg and the insurance limits for the at fault driver is the Nevada minimum of $25,000, the case would likely settle pretty quickly. The reason this case settles quickly is because there is no dispute that the injuries are greater than the insurance monies available.

The more severe the injuries and the greater amount of insurance available, the longer it could take a case to settle. For example, if you were in a car accident with a semi-truck, it is likely that the semi-truck carries a commercial liability policy. That commercial policy could be more than a million dollars. If you injured your neck in that truck accident, it could take sometime before your doctors determine that the injury is more severe or permanent. Most neck injuries from a car accident are initially diagnosed as a soft tissue injury, usually a sprain or strain. Some neck injuries may require surgery. Doctors generally can’t tell at the beginning if a neck sprain or strain may turn out worse and require surgery. Imaging, such as MRIs, may be necessary. Doctors also may require pain management and even epidural steroid injections. Other tests, such as nerve conduction studies, may be needed. All of these tests and treatment take time. A car accident victim shouldn’t settle their case until they know the full extent of their injuries.

More often than not, the less severe the injuries, the more likely the case will settle without a lawsuit. Less severe injuries take less time to heal. Once a car accident victim is fully healed or has reached maximum medical improvement, then the attorneys can begin the process of settling the case. You can learn more about the process of settling a case here.

How Bad Was The Car Accident?

The amount of damage to the cars involved in the accident also affects when the case settles. Generally, insurance companies take the position that minor impact accidents do not cause injuries. Even if they do, insurance companies say that the injuries are so minor and they will dispute the necessity or amount of medical treatment. Read more about the insurance companies’ tactics in dealing with “Minor Impact Soft Tissue” injury cases here.

What is considered a minor impact usually depends on the cost to repair the damage or how visible the damage is. An experienced personal injury will always obtain documentation on the property damage. This could include photographs of the cars and repair estimates.

The above are just some of the more common factors affecting how long it takes to settle a car accident. There may be other factors to consider, such as whether the accident victim has pre-existing injuries or is an eggshell person. Again, no car accident case is the same. If you have questions about your car accident case, you should speak to an experienced Las Vegas car accident attorney. With a combined total of 25+ years of experience and success, the car accident attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates can provide unique insights to your case. Our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys know that its important that clients get to speak to their attorneys.

Pitfalls of Settling A Car Accident Case Without An Attorney

It’s not unusual for some people injured in a car accident to accept a settlement from an insurance company immediately or days after a crash. Insurance companies would like to settle cases as fast as possible right after an accident, before the accident victim realizes how injured they are or gets an attorney. Settling within hours or days after a crash is part of an insurance company’s tactics to pay as little as possible for personal injury settlements.

We recently represented two individuals who did exactly that, and neither fully realized what they had done.
In one scenario, our client was injured in what generally could be considered a minor impact. Even our client did not think the crash was severe. A taxi cab had backed up into the driver’s side of his car. Though he felt immediate pain, he thought it would go away in a few days because it was just a small crash. Within an hour, an insurance adjuster for the taxi cab company was on the accident scene. Our client’s main concern was getting his car fixed. The insurance adjuster told him the car will be fixed if our client signs the release.

Our client, who spoke only Spanish, didn’t understand or fully understand that he was releasing or waiving his right to seek compensation for injuries. Our client also didn’t realize his injuries would get worse.

Our client was in his seventies and had been turned to his right, warning his back seat passengers about the cab that was backing up fast into them, when his car was struck. His age and his body position all contributed to him developing sprain and strain, otherwise known as soft tissue injuries, injuries that would persist for days, weeks, even months. The day following the accident, the headache that began with the crash was worse. His neck was stiff, and it was painful to move. His back was achy.

Las Vegas Taxi Cab Accident Attorney

Our client waited for the adjuster to call regarding repairing the damage to his car. When he did finally call over a week later, our client told the adjuster he was injured and wanted them to pay for him to see a chiropractor. The adjuster told him that he didn’t have a claim anymore, because he signed the release. Our client was still in a great deal of pain, so he sought a chiropractor on his own. When he told the chiropractor what happened, the chiropractor referred him to D.R. Patti & Associates. In representing this person, we learned that the taxi cab company routinely attempts to settle a case immediately at the scene of a crash.
In another scenario, our client was in a motorcycle accident. She was a passenger in her husband’s motorcycle when her husband laid his bike down to avoid hitting a car that suddenly swerved into their lane. No one got the other car’s information. While her husband was fine, our client suffered a fracture to her cheek bones and significant road rash and bruising. She was transported by ambulance to the emergency room. By the end of the day, she had accumulated over $50,000.00 in medical bills; but she hadn’t received the bills yet and didn’t know how much the ambulance ride and emergency visit cost.

The following day, they made a claim against their own insurance company and were initially denied. Their insurance company explained that because there was no evidence another car hit them, they had no claim under their uninsured motorist (UM) policy. But then the insurance company said our client had a liability claim against her husband’s policy, since he caused the accident. Our client was thrilled when the insurance company offered to give her the entire amount of her husband’s insurance policy of $50,000.00 and signed a release. A few days later, she found out that the hospital was claiming a lien against the entire $50,000.00 and that her health insurance refused to pay the emergency room visit. That finally prompted our client to call one of our attorneys. On her behalf, not only were we able to successfully get her health insurance to pay for the hospital bills, but we were also able to obtained additional monies from her insurance company under her underinsured motorist (UIM) policy.

INJURED AS AN UBER OR LYFT PASSENGER

Injured as Lyft or Uber Passenger

Injured while in a rideshare in Las Vegas?

More and more people are using rideshare service such as Uber and Lyft to get around in Las Vegas. Generally, using Uber and Lyft is a good idea. It is generally cheaper than a taxi, responds sooner, and reduces drunk driving. Unfortunately, even Uber and Lyft drivers get into car accidents. Passengers in the Uber or Lyft vehicles who are injured in the car accident can recover against the insurance of the person that caused the accident. This is the case even if the car accident was caused by the Uber or Lyft driver.

If the accident was caused by the Uber or Lyft driver, their insurance will cover the passenger’s injuries. Uber and Lyft carry third party liability insurance coverage, which generally covers up to $1 million for personal injuries and property damage per accident. A passenger is covered under this kind of liability policy when the Uber or Lyft driver is at fault for the accident.

What If The Accident Was Not Caused By The Uber Or Lyft Passenger But Someone Else?

If the accident was caused by another driver, the at-fault driver’s insurance will cover the Uber or Lyft passenger’s injuries. In Nevada, drivers are required to carry liability insurance that covers a minimum of $25,000 per person or $50,000 per accident. If  that other driver’s insurance isn’t enough to compensate the injured passengers, Uber and Lyft insurance can cover the rest through underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance.

If the at fault driver does not have insurance or the passenger was a victim of a hit and run, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage of the Uber’s or Lyft’s insurance will apply. Lyft carries at least $250,000 in UM and UIM coverage for its passengers. Uber carries $1 million in UM and UIM coverage for its injured passengers.

What Should You Do If You Were Injured While A Passenger In An Uber Or Lyft?

First, if you are injured, take care of yourself and seek medical attention. If you feel symptoms, such as pain, at the scene of the car accident, and feel like you need medical attention, call 911 and ask for an ambulance and/or go to the emergency room or urgent care. If you do not have health insurance, do not worry about the expense; worry about getting better. Your health should be your first priority. The Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates can help you obtain monies from Uber, Lyft, or any other insurance that applies to cover your medical expenses from a car accident.

Low Property Damage in Las Vegas Car Accidents

Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorneys

The extent of property damage in car accidents is important in determining how a car insurance company deals with personal injury claims. What most Las Vegas personal injury attorneys know and the public may not is that low property damage in Las Vegas car accidents equates to low offers and a take it or leave it attitude from insurance companies.  Such cases have often been categorized as MIST cases—Minor Impact Soft Tissue injury cases. The experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates would agree with such classifications, as low property damage in Las Vegas car accidents does not necessarily equate with minor impact, but that is a blog for a different day.

But insurance companies do equate minor property damage with low impact, as part of their “delay, deny, defend” strategy. They developed this strategy in the mid-1990s as a way to increase their profits. By taking a hardline approach, insurance companies made the car accident cases with less property damage more expensive and more time-consuming to fight. They take this approach regardless of whether the accident victim is an eggshell plaintiff or how other extenuating circumstances. An eggshell plaintiff is someone who is more susceptible to injury. The insurance company’s goal is to deter MIST or claims for personal injuries based on low property damages.

Unfortunately, automobile insurance companies are winning. Quite a few Las Vegas personal injury attorneys are now less inclined to take cases with low property damage in Las Vegas car accidents.  Even when an attorney has taken on such a case, some are less inclined to litigate even when the insurance company offers a mere pittance, sometimes offers below the personal injury client’s medical bills.  On some few occasions, automobile insurance companies lose, and sometimes lose big, but these occasions do not make enough of a big dent in the trillion dollar insurance industry pockets to stop this strategy. According a book by Rutgers law professor, Jay M. Feinman, property/casualty insurance companies collect $440 billion in premiums and pay only about $250 billion in claims each year.

The “delay, deny, defend” strategy works well for the automobile insurance industry in Las Vegas because they know Clark County jurors’ reputation as conservative.  To me, Clark County jurors in general are skeptical.  They generally have bought into the idea that a person cannot be possibly injured. They tend to see persons making personal injury claims as simply out to make money, seeking a reward rather than compensation.  A CNN article referenced a case where the victim of a rear-ender who incurred $15,000.00 in medical bills and lost wages received only $1,500.00 because the jury did not believe she could be injured when her car only had dents.  According to the article, three of the jurors said that blow-up photos of the minor property damage sealed the plaintiff’s fate.  That case could very well have occurred in Las Vegas.
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