Brakes rank among the most critical features in a vehicle. Brake failure can be hazardous and easily result in traffic accidents and severe injuries. Therefore, every driver must check their brakes regularly and fix any arising problems. Also, Nevada law allows people who are involved in traffic accidents to receive restitution if another person was reckless or negligent. The rule applies regardless of whether you were a driver of another car, a passenger, or a pedestrian.
If you sustain injuries in a car accident due to brake failure, you may think you can handle a compensation claim yourself. Unfortunately, insurance adjusters always aim at denying your request or paying you way less than fair compensation. They hope that if they reject your claim or put it off for too long, you will abandon it or settle for less than what you truly deserve. While it may be enticing to accept an immediate settlement from an insurer, there are serious consequences. Nevada’s compensation laws require that once you agree to a settlement, you relinquish your right to future compensation claims even if you were not aware of them at the time of settling.
At the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we know all the schemes that insurance companies use to avoid compensating car accident victims. We are knowledgeable about the compensation you deserve under Nevada law. Also, some injuries are not immediately noticeable. Therefore, an offer that appears fair today may prove insufficient in the future. We are highly skilled in personal injury law from our experience in representing clients from Las Vegas. We will evaluate your case, protect your interests, balance your long-term benefits with your current needs, and get the highest possible settlement.
If your accident was as a result of brake failure, the first entity that requires evaluation is the manufacturer, to determine whether the company was negligent before the car got into the market. A car manufacturer can be responsible for faulty brakes in several ways:
- An entire line of vehicles in the market could have defective brakes if the design of the brake system is substandard
- Your specific car could have been poorly designed, leading to faulty brakes in your vehicle
Usually, manufacturers discover the defects and voluntarily recall the cars for replacement or repair of faulty systems. However, if the manufacturer does not correct the errors, they can be liable for car accident injuries arising from brake failure.
Likewise, the auto repair garage in charge of servicing the vehicle may also be liable if the brake failure was a result of an error they made. To sustain a claim against either the repair shop or the manufacturer, you must demonstrate that:
- Their inaction or action caused the unreasonably hazardous state of the brake system
- The accident was a result of the state of the brakes
- There was no significant change to the vehicle since the repair shop or manufacturer last had the car
Brake failure can also be an indicator of negligence by the driver. All drivers must adhere to certain safety levels in their cars, and if the driver who hit you was driving a vehicle that they knew had faulty brakes, they created unsafe conditions. Therefore, they could be deemed negligent. Additionally, failure to take a car for maintenance also constitutes negligence. Negligence refers to behavior that causes an unreasonable threat of injury to others.
Under Nevada’s auto accident laws, a negligent driver is responsible for costs arising from their reckless or careless driving. If a driver is negligent and their negligence causes you harm, then they are legally accountable for paying you damages. To prevail in your negligence claim, you must prove these elements:
- That the defendant owed you a duty of reasonable care for your safety
- The litigant did not act reasonably, or they breached their duty of care
- The defendant’s breach of duty was the real cause of your injuries
- The litigant’s breach of duty was the proximate source of your injuries
- You sustained real injuries, for which you may claim damages
Nevada’s Auto Accident Negligence Laws
When it comes to auto accidents, Nevada is an at-fault state. The general negligence rules apply, and whoever should have exercised more caution to avoid the accident usually bears responsibility for the crash. The insurer of the responsible party should compensate you for any losses or damages. When determining fault in the accident, it is crucial to evaluate each party’s actions to establish whether anyone was negligent. If any party was not reasonably careful or cautious, and their behavior contributed to the accident, the party would be at fault. To establish responsibility, you must, by a preponderance of the evidence, demonstrate that the respondent did not act as cautiously as they had to and that their negligent behavior resulted in the accident.
Nevada uses modified comparative negligence (NRS § 41.141), an approach in which you will not recover if you are either more responsible or equally responsible for your injuries. When multiple parties contribute to an accident, the law permits the apportionment of fault to each party responsible. The court compares the negligence of everyone involved and assigns each party a percentage share of responsibility. In this approach, you can only recover damages if your fault does not exceed 50%. Further, this rule requires courts to reduce damage awards in proportion to your percentage of fault. Therefore, if you sue for damages worth $10,000, but the court finds that you were 30% at fault, you will only receive $7,000.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations refers to a state regulation that restricts the period within which you can file a civil lawsuit against an individual. If you miss out on the deadline, the litigant can utilize the statute of limitations in their defense against your suit. If you do not file your case within the required time, you may lose the right to sue for damages, and the court will likely dismiss your case, except on rare occasions that warrant an extension of the filing deadline.
Nevada’s statutes of limitations on personal injury cases due to car accidents is two years (N.R.S. § 11.190-(4)(c)). It starts running from the time you know (discover) or reasonably should have known (discovered) of your injuries. This element is critical because some injuries appear much later after an accident. However, several circumstances allow for tolling or suspension of the statute of limitations until long after you discover your injuries. Reasons for tolling include:
- The defendant is out-of-state: The restriction on time to sue does not run during the time the respondent is away from Nevada
- One of the parties is a national of a country at war with the U.S.: The time restriction to sue pauses when one party to the case is a national of a state that is presently at war with the U.S.
- Reversal of judgment: After a court overturns a case, you have one year after the repeal to bring a claim arising out of the annulment.
What to do Following an Accident
If you sustain injuries in a traffic accident, you should:
- Call 911 to report the crash and request medical aid
- Seek immediate medical attention, even if you think your injuries are minor. Do not say that you were not injured because the symptoms may not be immediately noticeable. Also, some injuries take several days to appear. Assuming that you did not sustain injuries could provide an excuse for the insurance company to reject your claim
- Provide the police with only the essential information they need to file their reports. Do not admit to being even partially at fault. Leave determination of responsibility to accident recreation experts
- If possible, write down relevant information from the accident scene for use in your claim. Such details include:
- Name, contact information, license number, and insurance information of the driver
- Vehicle type, model, make, and license plate of the car involved in the accident
- Date, time, and the location where the accident occurred
- The direction each vehicle was traveling
- Names and contact details of eyewitnesses
- Notes from any conversations with the eyewitnesses
- If possible, take photographs of the accident site including:
- Pictures of the scene from various angles
- Damage to the cars and any debris on the road
- Any nearby traffic signals or signs that may be relevant to the case
- Your injuries
- Consult an attorney before you speak to insurance companies to safeguard your rights
- Keep records of everything that happens to you after the accident, such as medical bills and reports, hospital visits, financial records, and lost work or wages
The Claim Process
Most personal injury claims never go to trial. A majority of them resolve without the intervention of a jury. Therefore, how you negotiate a settlement is crucial. Here is an outline of the steps that your personal injury attorney should take to ensure fair terms and higher compensation.
- Establishing Your Case
Although your lawsuit is unlikely to go to court, your attorney begins preparation by assuming that a jury will hear it. The lawyer must carefully draft filing documents that can withstand the court’s scrutiny. You must also precisely state your cause of action and the grounds for recovery. You will also need to preserve evidence that is crucial to your case. Establishing such evidence is critical to assisting the defendant’s insurer to recognize that it is in their best interest to offer a fair settlement.
Knowing that you are ready to fight for your rights is often sufficient to make the insurer evaluate your claim correctly. Evidence to prove the validity of your claim includes:
- Official police reports on the accident
- Photographs or video footage, or both from the accident scene
- Medical records, x-rays, and notes of doctors and therapists
- Testimony of doctors and therapists
- Eyewitness testimony
- Statements of family and friends to show the effect of the accident on your life and well-being
- Testimony and documents showing lost income
- Evidence by economic or vocational experts, where necessary, to show how your injuries have resulted in a loss of earning capacity
If it is obvious who the at-fault party is and insurance coverage for the damages is available, settlement talks may happen shortly after your accident. However, in most of the cases, settlement talks only begin after both parties have sufficient time to study the case. Even when you are the victim, you might have missed out on some details of the accident.
Discovery is the process where all parties get an opportunity to build their case. It serves to limit the scope of the claim, and provide a fair chance for each party to establish the facts and determine their course of action. Discovery includes depositions, interrogatories, and physical examination of the accident scene. The process can continue for several months if your case is complicated.
Through discovery, your attorney will determine how much your damages are worth to decide where to begin negotiating. The defense will also take time to value your claim. If each side remains objective, you can reduce disagreements. Often, your attorney will allow the discovery process to happen to let the defense understand the merits of your claim for the forthcoming negotiations. After the discovery process is complete, your attorney can negotiate a settlement for you.
- Writing the Demand Letter
Negotiations start once you send a demand letter articulating the rationale for your case and the claim for damages. If the defense has not consolidated the details of your case, your lawyer can clarify the request and what you are seeking as a settlement. The adjuster will usually call you within 14 days to give their response to your letter, but the time will depend on the complexity of your case and their schedule. They can either agree to your demand or provide a counteroffer. If the defendant does not respond within two weeks, you should call the claims department to confirm whether they have the letter, and when you can expect a response. If you get no response, your case will continue on course towards trial pending further negotiations.
In response to your demand letter, the insurer will send you a “reservation of rights”. This is a letter that informs you that the insurance adjuster is examining your claim and will decline to pay if the policy does not cover the accident. This document safeguards the insurer against future claims that they proceeded with negotiations. Therefore, they recognized that the policy included the accident. The correspondence is also a strategy that insurers use to hint to you that they might not pay for your loss, thus compelling you to accept a small offer.
- The Negotiations
Your attorney will work to settle the case through informal conversations with the defense. They will discuss the contentious issues and negotiate the particulars of a settlement. It is rare for your attorney to settle a claim with a single phone call. There are always disagreements because the defense will often dispute a section of your claim. Your attorney will tactically decide when to provide information to the defendant’s counsel and when to save it for later. The back and forth discussions are strategic. Your lawyer may be unwilling to let the defendant’s legal team know your indispensable content, and they may wish to conceal their opinion about your case. Your lawyer will settle your claim by negotiating deliberately and skillfully.
During negotiations, the adjuster will ask various questions and dispute some facts in an attempt to lower the value of your compensation. The main points of dispute are:
- Liability - Who is at fault in the accident and your degree of comparative negligence.
- The severity of your injuries - Whether your injuries are permanent or disabling
- The type of medical care - Whether you had pre-existing medical conditions and whether specific procedures were essential.
If you concede to their arguments and consent to a lower settlement, the adjuster will make another proposal. If you accept the new terms, you will sign a settlement agreement to conclude the case.
- Formal Mediation
Sometimes, your lawyer may settle your case through mediation, a formal proceeding for negotiation. Unlike the informal discussions that your attorney and the defense may engage in by email or over the phone, mediation is a face to face process. The parties meet in the presence of a mediator who assists them to delimit the scope of the case and facilitate settlement negotiations.
- Signing the Settlement
If both parties reach an agreement, your attorney puts it in writing. The settlement becomes valid when you put the deal in writing, and each party signs it. Your attorney will review the settlement draft to ensure that it represents your agreement. If you consent to the resolution, the parties sign and send out a copy of the contract to the court for approval. When the judge signs that document, your case is settled.
Dealing with Insurance Companies
You must talk to an attorney about the accident and the damages before you speak to the insurance adjusters. Insurance companies will often seek closure on your case before you determine the extent of your injuries. To safeguard your rights and interests, consult an attorney, and let them negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. It is also crucial that you are aware of the mistakes you must avoid when negotiating with insurance adjusters.
Do not give a Recorded Statement
You are not under any legal obligation to record statements. The insurance adjuster could request that you make a seemingly simple written statement and then use that information to reduce your settlement. However, you should not do it without your attorney because the adjuster could use anything you say against you.
Avoid giving Irrelevant Information
Insurers usually focus on securing irrelevant information that they can use to compromise your claim. Avoid disclosing to them details about your family, friends, or past and current employers, except if they are beneficial to your application. Information about your previous medical conditions is also irrelevant, and the adjuster can use it to invalidate your claim.
Avoid Signing Medical Releases Prematurely
You should delay the signing of medical releases until almost the end of your treatment. The statements give you access to your medical records, and the adjuster does not require them in the initial phases of the claim. Giving the documents early to the adjuster will result in a smaller award. It is more profitable to retain the records until your physician confirms your health status and that future complications are unlikely.
Do not Settle too Fast
Insurance adjusters exploit your desire for a quick settlement. While you want to avoid a lengthy claim process, settling too fast does not benefit you. Sometimes, the extent of your damages or injuries becomes evident later. Complications that arise afterward translate to more medical costs. Therefore, an early settlement could cause you to miss out on higher compensation.
If you are a victim of a car accident, different categories of recoverable damages are available to you. Filing a personal injury claim can help you recover the following:
- Economic Damages
These are damages that you receive in compensation for the money you lost due to the accident as well as expenses you incur from the injuries. Economic damages are objectively quantified into actual monetary losses and out-of-pocket expenses. They include:
- Medical costs, both current and future
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Vehicle replacement or repair costs
- Rental car bills
- Legal costs
- Non-economic Damages
These damages include all the injuries that you incur that are difficult to attach a price to, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
- Permanent disfigurement or scarring
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Punitive Damages
Nevada law permits the court to award you punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury claim. This form of compensation exists to punish the respondent for bad behavior as well as discouraging others from acting similarly.
Limits on Damages
Nevada caps the limit for punitive damages at:
- Three times the compensatory damages if they are equal to or more than $100,000
- A maximum of $300,000 if the total award for your compensatory damages is less than $100,000
Other limits are:
- If your injuries arose from the deliberate delinquency of a minor, the minor’s parents would be liable for up to $10,000.
- If the state is a respondent in your claim, you may receive damages of up to $100,000, excluding interest.
Consult a Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Knowing what to do after an accident can sometimes be challenging. You may lose income during your recovery, incur medical expenses, pay for car repair, and incur other unanticipated costs. While you heal, you do not need to deal with a dishonest insurer. The Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm has numerous success stories from representing members of the Las Vegas, NV community in personal injury cases. You can call us at 702-996-1224, and we will negotiate the maximum possible settlement within the shortest time possible.