Your attorney may begin your case by investigating the scene of the accident to determine negligence.
This can include canvassing the area to find and record witness statements.
Complicated cases will probably require specialists to determine the factors contributing to the accident. Your attorney will hire vehicular accident reconstructionists, safety engineers and other professionals and experts as necessary who can help determine the cause of serious accidents.
Your attorney will also consult with your doctors and other medical specialists to identify the care and treatment that you will need in order to recover after the automobile accident. There may be more affecting your health than the immediate diagnosis and treatment.
Depending on the severity of your injuries you may require a long-term plan for care and rehabilitation in order to make a recovery, and signs and symptoms of some injuries may only present after delay. If you need a trusted doctor, you attorney should help you to find one.
Your attorney should work hard to obtain full and complete compensation for all your losses to health, wealth, and happiness suffered as a consequence of your automobile accident.
These are the dollar costs and dollar cost equivalents that the accident causes you in medical and repair bills, any loss in earnings you have from not being able to work, and the emotional cost of pain and suffering you have endured including from severe bodily injury and death, if the worst has occurred.
It may seem ghoulish to put a dollar figure to some of these losses, but it is not your responsibility to make the calculation. Your attorney will calculate the costs. It should be your right to be made whole and a payment can compensate your loss and penalize negligent behavior.
Gathering evidence to support your case
Proving that you had the right of way and that the other driver failed to yield the right of way, resulting in the collision, can be difficult to do. In order to prove this and recover the compensation that you deserve, you will need to gather a variety of evidence types. Sources of evidence that can be useful in supporting your claim include:
- witnesses statements;
- photographic evidence;
- video of the accident;
- police reports;
- the testimony of the other driver;
- angles of impact and damage on the vehicles; and
- skid marks or other signs that a driver was speeding, tried to stop, and so on.
Accident reconstruction experts who can assist your legal counsel in building your case and proving fault.
Proving fault after a car accident
Are you really at fault?
Remember, you may not know what happened immediately before the event and you may not be at fault even if you think that you are. The investigation will determine what or who was at fault.
The state of Nevada uses the at-fault system of auto insurance. The at-fault insurance system is based on tort liability.
Each insurance company whose policy holder was a party to an accident pays for the damages sustained according to the degree of fault of that policy holder. This means that the general rules of negligence apply to the process of determining responsibility for an accident.
The at-fault system compares to the no-fault system used by some other states and Puerto Rico, in which every driver is required to file a claim with their own insurance company after an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
The key differences between at-fault and no-fault insurance policies is whether the victim has a right to sue and who pays for the injured party’s damages. In Nevada, the victim has a right to sue and the negligent party — the person who should have been more careful to avoid the accident — is responsible for any losses and other damages. Typically, the insurer of the negligent party actually pays the cost.
The investigation examines the actions of each party to the accident to determine if anyone acted negligently.
If any party failed to use a reasonable amount of care and caution, and those actions contributed to the collision, then that would be considered at-fault for the accident. It’s important that there be a thorough investigation because you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the other party was not as careful as they should have been and that their negligence caused the accident in order to prove fault.
It’s also important that there be a thorough investigation when proving fault in a complex car accident because more than one party may share equal or varying degrees of responsibility. These are a few reasons to retain an experienced auto accident law firm to perform the investigation.
A law firm can help you recover the compensation that you deserve for a full recovery by:
- gathering evidence to prove the fault of the other driver, including electronic control module (ECM) data, witness testimony, video footage, skid mark analysis, and more;
- ensuring that your claim is filed within the required amount of time;
- representing you during discussions with your insurance adjuster;
- valuating your damages;
- hiring experts, specialists, and medical professionals who can evaluate your claim and damages and offer testimony on your behalf;
- negotiating a settlement; and
- litigating on your behalf.
What if a manufacturer’s defect caused the injury?
Even simple machines can be improperly designed or manufactured. More complex machines like automobiles have many parts and subassemblies, and many more opportunities for improper design and manufacture. Fraudulent OEM and replacement components — those not made according to the compatible specification in order for the manufacturer to save money — can also be problems.
You may have a second case to seek compensation if you have been involved in a car accident and a portion of your injuries was caused by a defective product in the automobile.
For example, many people have experienced additional injuries that are caused by the airbag system being deployed with excessive force during an accident and sending shrapnel into the passenger area, often causing serious injuries; and electronic door openers, in cars without physical door handles or emergency releases, have prevented drivers from escaping the interior of burning vehicles.
Other manufacturer defects have also been contributing factors to car accidents. Some of these defects include:
- stuck acceleration pedals,
- brake system failures,
- ignition switches shutting off while in motion, and
- master computer failure while the car is in motion.
There are frequently manufacturer recalls in effect for defective parts, but an active recall campaign — even one with generous compensation — does not absolve a manufacturer from responsibility. You are entitled to seek compensation if your attorney determines that any portion of your injuries is related to a manufacturer defect.
Nevada’s comparative negligence standard
Nevada state law allows for apportionment of fault for each party involved when more than one party contributes to a car accident.
The court will compare your negligence to the negligence of the others involved, and each party will be assigned a percentage of responsibility. This is one reason to never admit fault immediately after a car crash. You might think that you were to blame, but you may have been only partly to blame.
This isn’t cheating or gaming the system but the result of a scientific process for discovering responsibility.
Pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes NRS 41.141 ”When comparative negligence not bar to recovery; jury instructions; liability of multiple defendants.” — Nevada’s comparative negligence standard — you can still recover for your damages if the court finds you to be less than 50 percent responsible for the accident.
You are not entitled to recover any of your damages if you are found to be 50 percent or more responsible. Your compensation is reduced by the percentage to which you are found to be at-fault for the accident. For example, if you are found to be 30 percent responsible, then your compensation will be reduced by 30 percent.
Types of damages you can recover after a car accident
If you handle your own case, a common mistake to avoid is not asking for all available, applicable damages. This is yet another reason to contact a Las Vegas accident attorney. What are the types of damages available to you after being injured in an accident? There are several different types primarily classified as economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are those which are objectively quantified monetary losses that represent your tangible, out-of-pocket costs including:
- medical bills;
- lost wages
- property damage and repair bills
- lost earning capacity
Non-economic damages are those which are more subjective, less tangible non-monetary losses including:
- pain and suffering;
- emotional distress
- permanent scarring or disfigurement
- loss of consortium
- loss of enjoyment of life
Much like valuing the selling price of a going concern as some multiple of a business metric like cash flow or sales, you use a multiplier to calculate the value of non-economic damages like pain and suffering by applying the multiplier to your economic damages to determine what to ask for non-economic damages.
For example, if you use a multiplier of three, then you would multiply the value of your economic damages by three to produce the value of your non-economic damages (which would be equal to three times the value of your economic damages).
You should not overlook the diminution in quality of life related to injuries from the accident. You may suffer impairments including both physical and psychological even after your immediate wounds are treated and healed. How will you be compensated for these losses to your life and for the impact on those who love you and depend on you? You attorney will know.
Nevada also recognizes another type of damages known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded as punishment and used as a method to deter reckless or intentionally harmful behavior which may be malicious in nature. In general, negligence does not necessarily equate to intention or maliciousness.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote it best when he wrote (as translated from the original German) “Misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent occurrence.” In other words, as Robert J. Hanlon wrote, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
You should receive the compensation that you deserve, especially if you bought an insurance policy as, dare I write it, insurance against the event from which you hope to recover.
If you or someone you love has been involved in an automobile accident with a negligent driver, do not delay in contacting an experienced Las Vegas automobile accident attorney. The attorney can guide you through the claim process for your best chance at a full recovery of your losses.