Your Las Vegas Car Accident: The Basics
We've seen wrecks along the shoulder of Tropicana Avenue time and time again, but for some reason you never thought that you'd be the sour looking motorist standing beside their smashed up vehicle. Driving is a gamble, and much like a trip to the Bellagio the odds may be stacked against you in the long run. A recent study found that drivers have an accident on average every 18 years, which means you'll probably have to deal with the fallout at least once or twice during your lifetime. Whether you are preparing for the inevitable, or trying to sort out the mess, FindLaw has created this guide to a Las Vegas car accident.
Nevada Revised Statutes section 484E details the legal requirements placed on drivers after suffering a car accident. First and foremost, pull your car over to the shoulder so you don't risk criminal liability as a hit-and-run driver. If the accident resulted in an injury you are required to render basic aid, such as taking that person to the hospital or calling an ambulance. You also most exchange information with all parties involved in the crash, including name, address and the registration number of the vehicle involved. If unattended property was damages you must contact the police as quickly as possible.
It would be a good idea to gather some evidence of the accident scene while it is fresh. A picture is worth a thousand words, so snap some shots of the scene and the vehicle damage with your iPhone right away. Jot down a few notes about the circumstances of the accident, including weather and road conditions if relevant. Also, try gathering contact info for any witnesses and ask them what they saw. However, attorneys typically advise clients against admitting responsibility or apologizing for causing the accident, as these statements can be used against you in court to prove that you were in fact responsible.
Finally, if the accident resulted in injury, death or more than $750 worth of property damage you must draft and submit a Report of Traffic Accident within 10 days of the crash. This form is quite detailed, so make sure you gather the names, addresses, social security number, driver's license information, insurance information and complete vehicle details (such as make, model, year and tag number) from each driver. Attach a copy of your insurance card and any doctor's statements if an injury was involved, sign the form and submit it by mail to:
555 Wright Way
Carson City, NV 89711
This is a lot of information to remember after a traumatic accident, so why not print out a helpful checklist to store in your glove box just in case?
Auto insurance is mandatory for all drivers in Nevada. They are required by state law to carry a mandatory minimum coverage:
- $15,000 for injuries to one person in an accident;
- $30,000 per accident where more than one person is hurt, and;
- $10,000 per accident for property damage.
Like most states, Nevada follows a "fault" system for determining liability after a car accident. The person who was legally at fault for causing the accident (and their insurance) must compensate anyone who was injured or whose property was damaged. Contrast this with rare no-fault states, where drivers recover from their own insurance company regardless of whose fault the accident was.
Types of Lawsuits
The most common lawsuit following an auto accident is negligence. Negligence governs accidentally caused injuries. You must show that the other party was not exercising a reasonable level of care under the circumstances.
For serious accidents involving a fatality, the deceased individual's family members may be able to sue for wrongful death. This type of lawsuit aims to recover lost wages, lost companionship and funeral expenses.
Alternatively, you could try suing the vehicle manufacturer themselves in a products liability lawsuit. To succeed, you must point out a design or manufacturing defect that caused the accident. Proving a defect usually requires the analysis of an automotive expert, and the case can get quite technical.
The Nevada legislature adopted a modified comparative negligence theory, which is a partial legal defense that reduces the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover in a negligence claim based on the degree to which the plaintiff's own negligence contributed to cause the injury. Under the Nevada statute, each party is assigned "fault", and the plaintiff's recovery is reduced in proportion to his or her responsibility. For example, if your vehicle requires $1,000 to repair as a result of the accident which was found to be 10% your fault, you will be able to recover 90%, or $900. However, the "modified" aspect of this law means that plaintiffs found to be more than 50% at fault (the so-called "51% rule") is barred from all recovery.
Nevada plaintiffs have two years from the date of the accident to file their personal injury, wrongful death or product liability claims, or else the judge will dismiss the claim regardless of its merits. However, plaintiffs have three years to recover for property damage. This so-called statute of limitations prevents plaintiffs from forcing defendants to defend themselves for incidents they might remember less than the night before (much less years).
Filing a Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit is as easy a writing a brief complaint that describes the incident, the individuals involved and requests monetary compensation. You can file your suit at the Regional Justice Center located at 200 Lewis Avenue, if you'd like to handle it yourself. Alternatively, consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. Plaintiff side attorneys typically work on a contingency basis, so their fee is a certain percent of your winnings instead of an hourly fee.
Talk to an Attorney About Your Las Vegas Car Accident
Legal assistance can be invaluable when you need it, so it should come as no surprise that lawyer fees may seem steep. But a good lawyer can save you money, time, and plenty of intangibles when the chips are down. If you've been in a car accident in Las Vegas, there may be matters of law left unresolved by the insurers. Learn more by speaking with a Nevada injury attorney today.
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