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Car & Truck Accidents: More Cash for Your Crash!
Special low 25% discount contingency fee on favorable police report car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident or boat accidents): if you were in a car or truck or boat or motor cycle accident and you were an innocent passenger in the car or other vehicle or you were a driver and the police cited the other driver and not you or you were a pedestrian and the police cited the driver and not you, we will take your case for a low 25% discount contingency fee. This also applies if you were a pedestrian and the driver who hit you was cited for a moving violation and you were not cited for jaywalking.
This is a no gimmick low 25% fee. The fee stays at 25% even if we have to file suit or go to trial. This is in contrast to other law firms that advertise low personal injury fees only if the case settles without filing suit.
We can do this because you won't see us throwing away your money on billboards or tv or yellow page ads. Since we spend virtually no money on advertising as compared to the lawyers on tv and billboards, we can pass the savings on to our clients. In other personal injury cases our fees are 33.33% to 40%.
A "contingency fee" means we only take a % of the gross amount of what we are able to obtain by way of a settlement or judgment. If your case does not result in a settlement or judgment, you will not owe us anything for our attorneys fees.
Note: In many Las Vegas area collisions, the police will not investigate unless there is a report of an injury along with the police call. If you are a pedestrian hit by a car, or a car driver in a collision with no police report our fee will be 1/3 or 33.33%, unless the other side quickly admits liability as is often the case if you are stuck from behind at a stoplight.
IF YOU ARE IN A COLLISION:
If you are in a car collision, to maximize your recovery, in addition to hiring a lawyer at 25% instead of 1/3 or 40%, keep these things in mind:
- If you are not at fault and think you are hurt and have the choice of having the police investigate the collision or not, it is always better to have the police investigate. Some people who hit your car are dishonest and will deny fault if they have plenty of time to think things over, even if they tell you there is no need to call the police.
- If you don't need to take an ambulance to the hospital don't. Typically ambulance charges are about $1,000. The ambulance companies typically don't give a discount to either you or your health insurance company. If your health insurance company pays your ambulance bill they will have to be paid back out of the settlement. If you don't have health insurance, the ambulance company will have to be paid back out of your settlement. Obviously if you have broken bones or big cuts you may need an ambulance. But if you could have gotten to the hospital just as well by having someone drive you, or driving yourself, the ambulance bill won't really add value to your case.
- Hospital emergency rooms are very expensive. If you have major brand health insurance, the health insuranc company will get a substantial discount off the bill so the bill should not be a problem in a good case. If you don't have health insurance, the hospital bill will be a giant lien that can hurt your case. If you don't have health insurance you should really avoid the hospital emergency room unless you think you are in a dangerous medical situation. Of course, that may be a hard decision for you to make and if you are unsure, better to play it safe and let the ambulance take you to the hospital. However, especially, if you don't have health insurance and are confident that your medical situation is not that urgent, seek cheaper care such as a 7/24 clinic or a visit to your family doctor or to a chiropractor. Family doctors and chiropractors can assess whether you need to go to an emergency room if you are able to get see one right away.
Note: Medicare and Medicaid and some major insurance companies (such as United Health or Culinary) still get huge discounts off hospital Emergency Room bills. Unfortunately, we have recently had some cases where the client is insured by one of the new and minor Obamacare insurance companies and these insurance companies often fail to get a real discount off the hospital ER bills and have huge deductibles. If you have one of these minor insurance companies, be warned that going to the ER for an auto accident can take a big chunk out of your recovery. In addition, even the big major insurance companies in some situations get virtually no discount. Usually Culinary insurance gets a good discount from local hospitals but we have had cases where this was not true. In short, the insurance discount is often unpredictable. Unfortunately, in some situations it is predictable that there will be no significant insurance discount. This applies to both regular ambulance and air ambulance bills. Kaiser Permanente may get good discounts in California, but when a Californian insured with Kaiser Permanente is treated in Nevada the accident victim may get no insurance discount.
- Be sure to explain to any treating doctor or medical professional that you were in a motor vehicle collision (or whatever kind of trauma you experienced). Occasionally, clients don't mention they are seeking treatment for pain from a car collision because they are afraid their insurance won't cover a car accident or the doctor won't provide treatment if there could be litigation involved. Health insurance companies generally have to cover you for car accidents, except that some health insurance policies exclude injuries in the course of your work. It is true some doctors don't want anything to do with treating someone who make may a claim and file a lawsuit. However, if you fail to mention the incident or collision which caused the injury or pain, your case will be terribly weakened.
Pedestrians Struck by Motor Vehicles:
Las Vegas is a driver's city, not a pedestrian's city. Major streets have a speed limit of 45 mph and usually police don't ticket drivers going less than 10 mph over the speed limit unless it is a school zone, or maybe a construction zone. There are long stretches of some major roads without a marked crosswalk or a traffic light. One current example is Decatur just north of the 215. Pedestrians needing to cross have to play dodge the cars.
In addition, even if there is a marked crosswalk with pedestrian stop and go lights, right turning car will often have a green light to cross the pedestrian's path even when the pedestrian has the green walk light. Unfortunately, some drivers don't "see" pedestrians, or even motorcycles.
Under the law there is a crosswalk, even if unmarked at any intersection. But cars stopping at such an unmarked crosswalk along a 45 mph road, even if required to do so by the law, run the risk of getting rear-ended. Even in marked crosswalks cars often fail to yield to pedestrians.
Local police generally blame the pedestrian who gets hit by a car if the pedestrian is crossing outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Since it is so common for cars to fail to stop for pedestrian's in the crosswalks, it may actually make more sense for pedestrians to cross in the middle of street where they only have to watch for cars coming in two directions, instead of four directions. However, investigating police officers don't buy this argument. Also, if a pedestrian is hit while "jay-walking" in the middle of a street and the case goes to trial, the defense will get an instruction about the pedestrian having broken a safety law.
If you are pedestrian hit by a car and you have a favorable police report meaning the police blame the car drive and not you, our fee will be 25%. We are sometimes successful in suing on behalf of a pedestrian who is crossing outside of a crosswalk (marked or unmarked) if the distance between safe crossing points if very large. However, these are challenging cases and typically the police report blames the pedestrian. If we take such a case our fee is 40%.
One issue that always comes up in cases of pedestrians hit by a car at night is how visible the pedestrian was. Was the pedestrian wearing all dark clothes or was the pedestrian wearing light colored clothing?
FINALLY A BIT OF HOPE FOR A PEDESTRIAN HIT BY A CAR: If you are a pedestrian hit by a car and you own your own car and have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or if you are an insured driver under a family member's uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, that uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will come into play if the driver who hit you doesn't have insurance, doesn't have enough insurance, or is a hit and run driver.
Bicycle Riders Hit by a Car:
Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in bicycle fatalities in Clark County. For example, on June 30, 2015 KNPR reported that so far that year 7 cyclists in Clark County had died in accidents. Nevada law requires that cars give cyclists 3 feet of space when passing them, but this law if often broken. Sports cyclists riding in the road typically increase their odds of survival by wearing helmets, bright clothes, riding in the morning, and using flashing red and white lights. (A flashing red tail light powered by AAA batteries will gives many, many hours of service on one set of batteries.)
Riding on the sidewalk is permitted in some areas of town and apparently tolerated in other areas provided the rider is courteous to pedestrians. One issue with sidewalk riding is the pedestrian walk light. As mentioned, a pedestrian walk light may be "green" for pedestrians at the same time the overhead traffic light is green for a right turning car crossing the pedestrian walkway. Although the car driver is supposed to look before crossing the pedestrian walkway, the car driver may argue he or she did not see a fast riding cycle approaching the crosswalk. Most pedestrian crosswalk lights allow adequate time for a pedestrian to cross on foot. However, there is a dedicated bicycle path parallel to much of the 215 in Las Vegas. Where that bicycle pathway crossed W. Charleston there is no overhead bridge; instead there is a crosswalk and crosswalk light which is not on long enough to allow a cyclist or pedestrian to walk across the intersection with the pedestrian crosswalk light.
A cyclist injured by a car while bicycling who owns his own car with uninsured/underinured motorist coverage, may be able to use that coverage if a car with inadequate insurance injures the cyclist.
Note: you may have to pay the opposing party's attorneys fees and costs in the event of a loss. This is why it is important to have competent legal representation, and to always cooperate with your lawyer. We do not take cases on contingency fees unless we believe the case is worth money to us and our client.
Police Reports in Traffic Accident Cases
Driver 1 vs. Driver 2
In a collision involving two or more vehicles, when the Police write up the collision report, one driver always has to be labeled "Driver 1." By convention, "Driver 1" is the driver the police investigator thinks was at fault, unless it is a no witness situation where each of two driver, for example, claims the green light.
A police report is not a conclusive determination of fault. However, the police are presumed to be a neutral third party and usually an unfavorable police report will cause the adverse insurance company to refuse to make any payment, forcing the case to trial.
Naturally, in a big enough case, it may be worthwhile to challenge police conclusions with expert and other witness testimony. However, without very serious injuries it is usually not worthwhile to finance that kind of effort. Of course, the passenger in either car is never at fault (unless the passenger was interfering with the driver) so the passenger can always claim against one or both drivers.
If both drivers are at fault or if it simply cannot be determined who was at fault, a jury might decide to blame each driver for 50% of the fault. In that case, each injured driver would be awarded 50% of his or her damages. In a case with broken bones, where the pain and suffering award could be large compared to the medical bills, even an award of 50% of the damages could be valuable--keeping in mind the need to pay medical bills--out of the settlement. In a soft tissue injury case where the pain and suffering award is not usually large compared to the medical bills, an award of 50% of the damages might be insufficient to provide much compensation after repayment of medical liens. Also, if both drivers are at fault, if the jury finds one driver more than 50% at fault, even by a small amount, then that driver will get nothing.
First Car in the Intersection
Nevada Police generally assume that a vehicle which enters an intersection on a yellow light has the right of way in the intersection until it clears the intersection--even if it entered with insufficient time to clear the intersection before the light turns red. This is based on N.R.S.484B.250(1) which says the driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection shall yield to one already in the intersection and upon N.R.S.484B.253 which states that a driver turning left at an intersection, if the driver waited until it was safe to make his turn, now has the right of way with respect to other vehicles approaching the intersection. So, if the traffic light facing you turns green as you approach an intersection and you hit the gas and head into the intersection, you may be at fault if you collide with a car already in the intersection.
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
Nevada Police generally take the view that any pedestrian who is outside of a crosswalk is at fault for getting hit by a car. However, where two streets intersect, there is a "statutory crosswalk" which is an imaginary continuation of the sidewalks on each street thru the intersection even if it is not striped as a crosswalk and even if the streets don't have sidewalks. Those of us who live in Las Vegas know that many car drivers don't respect pedestrians in crosswalks and the Las Vegas Police even demonstrate this fact periodically with a sting operation in which an officer dressed in some colorful attention getting costume tries to cross the street at a crosswalk and has to dodge cars. So you might think if pedestrians get no respect in a crosswalk maybe it is safer to cross the street between intersections where you only have to look for cars in two directions instead of every which way. But, you can count on Metro to always blame a pedestrian hit by a car outside of a crosswalk. Our firm has on occasion won cases involving a pedestrian hit outside of a cross walk, but we are very selective about taking such cases.
If you are a pedestrian hit by a car outside of a crosswalk, either marked, or statutory as described above, it helps if there is a very long stretch between crosswalks. In one successful case we had,a crippled old man was dropped off from work by a co-worker on the opposite side of the street where he lived. It was hundreds of feet to the nearest crosswalk and he was dropped off on a hot summer afternoon. We still had to prove that the driver who hit him was careless.
Moving versus Non-Moving Violations
"Moving violations" are violations of the law that contributed to the cause of the collision such as speeding, failure to yield the right of way, etc. "Non-moving violations" are things such as expired car registration, no proof of insurance, etc. As a general rule, in Nevada, non-moving violations don't effect who is at fault for the collision.
Collisions on Private Property
Police generally won't respond to a car collision on private property such as a parking lot unless there is major injury or a claim of intentional assault or drunk driving. If there is a taxi cab involved, the taxi cab authority may send out an investigator.
Refusal of Police to Investigate Collision on Public Roads
In the Spring of 2014, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department changed its practice of investigating all collisions on public road and now generally will only send an office to investigate if there is a claim of an injury or if one driver claims the other won't cooperate in showing ID and insurance information. It is generally in your interest, if you believe you are not at fault, to have the police investigate a collision you are in. The reason I say this is because most people aren't comfortable lying. If a driver knows he or she is at fault and 30 minutes after the collision an authority figure is asking them what happened, most people will tell the truth unless they are hiding something serious like drunk driving or driving a stolen car. But, if these same people, leave the collision scene, talk to their friends, and then two weeks later are asked about the collision I think they are more likely to lie.
What is a Police Report?
When the police investigate a collision, they usually give the drivers involved a print-out about 3 or 4 inches wide that identifies each driver and his or her insurance company. This is not the police report. Later the investigating officer will write up an actual report analyzing the collision. This report will be several normal size pages.
The different police jurisdictions in the Las Vegas area have different policies on giving out police report. For example, the City of Henderson Police and Nevada Highway Patrol take the view that police reports are public documents available to anyone. The City of Henderson may even send out a report by e-mail for free. Most police agencies charge a fee of several dollars for a copy. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department demands a notarized authorization from a client to get a report, or else the person named in the report must go in person to get a copy.
Necessity to Report an Accident:
See the next section: Collisions must be reported.
Duty to Report Collisions
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident on public roads or property to which the public has access, you are required to promptly stop if there is a death or personal injury. You must render first aid if necessary to an injured party and notify the police. Failure to do so is a Class B Felony with a prison term of 2-15 years under N.R.S. 484E.010. This severe penalty is designed to discourage drunk drivers from leaving the scene while they sober up as well as to insure aid to injured people. Personal injury is not defined by this statute so it presumably includes minor personal injury such as small cuts or "whiplash."
NRS 484E.030 requires you to stop immediately if you hit an attended vehicle even if there is no injury.
If the vehicle you hit is unattended, NRS 484E.050 requires you to immediately notify the police.
If you are involved in a collision with another driver and you stop, render any necessary aid, exchange identifications and insurance information, then under NRS 484E.070(2) you have a duty file a police report within 10 days if there was any personal injury or if the property damage was at least $750.
When you are required to immediately notify the police, I don't know if the legislature had in mind a 911 call, but I would recommend it just to make a record to protect yourself. Or, perhaps, better, you can call 311 which is a non-emergency line that is usually answered promptly. It doesn't matter if the only property damage is your own car, or if the property damage is slight. Over the years I've had two clients get smacked by these statutes or their predecessor statutes. In one case the driver was prosecuted for failing to report damage to his own car under circumstances in which the police suspected he was drunk and waited to sober up before reporting the accident. In the other case, a college professor driving to class hit an elementary school kid on a bike. The kid was not hurt. The kid was riding the wrong way on the street. Both the kid and the professor were on their way to class and didn't want to be late. The professor was driving a pick-up and the kid's bike was inoperable after the collision. So the professor offered to put the bike in his truck, drive the kid to class, and meet the kid when he got out of class. When the professor returned at the agreed upon time and place a police officer was waiting for him along with the kid and his mother. The kid's mom had freaked out and assumed the professor stole the bike and wouldn't show up. The police officer concluded that the accident was the kid's fault but wrote the professor a $630 ticket for failing to report the accident and a second $630 ticket for failing to render first aid. (The kid wasn't hurt; I sometimes think that if the police get called out, they try to make it "worthwhile" for the city or county. In this case the college professor pointed out to the police office that no one was claiming the kid was hurt, but the cop just told him the Judge would give him a break. I thought this was terrible policing.) I went to court for this professor and I won't mention the court but it seemed to be a court that only cared about collecting money and did not care about justice, so the professor plead guilty to a parking fine and paid $630 because the professor did not want to risk a misdemeanor conviction which could have jeopardized his government consulting. (Yeah, the Judge did drop the phony failing to render aid citation.)
Another client hit a kid on a bike with her car. The kid said, "I'm fine and I'm not supposed to be riding in the street. My mom will kill me if she finds out. Let me just leave." But this adult immediately called 911; the police came, cited her for the accident and she got sued by the kid's mother who took him to a chiropractor for treatment. But, on the plus side, this client wasn't cited for anything more than a minor traffic violation and her car insurance took care of the kid's claim. On a happy note for this client, her car insurance was not affected because the amount of property damage in a chargeable accident, not whether their are injuries, is usually what determines if there will be a rate increase and there was either no or negligible damage to the bike. (This varies from insurance company to insurance company. I recently had an American Family insurance agent tell me that now the company may increase rates if the total payout on an accident (property damage plus personal injury) is more than $1,000.)
Over the years I have had many clients who have been involved in a fender bender and then both drivers agree to exchange information and not wait for the police to investigate. In these days of cell phones I believe you are technically violating the law if you don't at least call 911 or 311, explain the situation, and ask if you should wait for an investigating officer. While the police may agree that in a no-injury or minor injury situation it is not necessary to send an officer to investigate, if you are in the right, you may compromise your legal situation by missing the chance to have an independent person investigate the accident and assign fault. The other driver who verbally apologizes or admits fault may well deny being at fault later on. Usually if there is an accident on public roads, even without injury, the police will eventually come and investigate if requested. I would play it safe and phone in any traffic accident rather than end up like the professor I talked about above. (As discussed above with the example of the Las Vegas Metro Police, some police agencies won't go the scene to investigate "minor" collisions but other Nevada police agencies will.)
If you and the other driver advise 911 dispatch that there is no injury and only minor property damage and neither of you want to wait for a police officer, they will probably tell you to just exchange driver information and you will have protected yourself against some claim of failing to report. While I hate to urge an unnecessary 911 call, the example of the college professor and the unreasonable cop and what I think was the unreasonable judge suggests it is always important to protect the record.
Should You Go the Emergency Room?
If you are involved in a car collision use common sense in deciding whether to go a hospital emergency room. If you incurred the same injury in a no-fault situation would you go the Emergency Room? A visit to the Emergency Room can generate bills of a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars even for injuries that turn out to be pretty minor. We've even seen $30,000 emergency room bills. Your attorney will be obligated to pay these bills (to the Emergency Room Doctor Service, to the Radiologist who reads the x-rays and to the hospital) out of any settlement and if you don't have medical insurance the bills will have to be paid either in full or almost in full and in some cases can eat up a giant part of any settlement you get. (If you do have insurance, in most cases the insurance will be able to pay off these bills, except for the ambulance bill, at huge discounts. While the health insurance company will have to be paid back, if it got the bill chopped a great deal, they can help your case. The amount of discount that your insurance can get varies. We have seen some fairly low discounts under some of the Obamacare plans. On the other hand, Medicare and Medicaid usually get huge discounts. For example, one client on Medicare got a $1273 bill just from the Emergency Room doctor, but Medicare paid $140.31 and the client got billed $35.79 and the rest was written off as a Medicare discount.) Some injuries are not medical emergencies, but can be treated at a doctor's office. Quick Care clinics are a lower cost alternative to Emergency Rooms, although some doctors feel the quality of care at an Emergency Room is on average better. Unfortunately, uninsured patients may have to choose between risking their health and incurring a huge financial liability. (And as discussed at the top of the page, we have recently been encountering minor Obamacare insurance companies that can't get much of a discount off ER bills.)
If you don't have health insurance, even if you are making a collision claim against someone's insurance, private hospitals have to give you a 30% discount off their very high rates. (An insurance company would most likely get a much bigger discount.) However, University Medical Center in Las Vegas, being a county hospital, is not obligated to give any discount in this circumstance. They will give a 50% discount to uninsured residents, but only if you are not making an injury claim; if you are making an injury claim they will demand the full amount.
How Fault Determines Whether you Can Get Paid for Injuries in an Auto Collision
Usually the passenger of a motor vehicle is not at fault for any collision. Therefore, the passenger can collect for injuries regardless of which driver was at fault provided there is insurance as discussed below in the section, "What is 'full insurance coverage'"?
Applying N.R.S. 41.141 to a two vehicle collision, one driver could collect personal injury damages from the other driver provided that the driver seeking damages is not more at fault than the other driver. The driver seeking damages will have their recovery reduced by the percentage the driver seeking damages is at fault. For example, a driver who is 50% at fault can collect 50% of the normal personal injury damages. A driver who is 20% at fault can collect 80% of the normal damages. A driver who is 51% or more at fault can not collect any damages. The only case in which both drivers can recover from each other if they are each 50% at fault in which case each will collect half of their damages. This statute is a type of "comparative fault" statute.
In contrast to Nevada, California has pure comparative fault. For example, a driver who is 90% at fault can collect 10% of his damages from the other driver.
But, as a practical matter, a good collision personal injury case requires that the plaintiff to be almost free of fault. The reason for this is that there will be medical liens and often limits on available insurance so in order for the client to put a decent settlement in his or her pocket after attorneys fees and liens, it really helps if the Plaintiff is fault free or almost fault free. Of course, if the Plaintiff has been catastrophically injured and there is substantial insurance, it may be worthwhile for the Plaintiff to pursue his or her claim even if the Plaintiff is half at fault for the collision.
Fault determinations are made either in negotiations or by a judge or jury or arbitrator. If one party has violated a statute relevant to the collision, for example, failure to yield, speeding, etc., a conviction for violating the statute—for example, paying the failure to yield ticket—can be used as evidence in any civil case. If the person who got a citation succeeds in having the citation dismissed, the citation will not be automatic evidence of negligence, but the other side can still argue the issue.
How is Fault Determined?
We often get questions about specific fact situations. Suppose a car traveling 75 mph on a rural highway rear ends a car traveling 35 mph in the fast lane of the highway. How is fault determined? Ultimately it comes down to what a judge, jury or arbitrator would think a reasonably prudent person would do. Taking into account the road surface (Was it icy or wet or clean and dry?), the visibility conditions (Was it clear or foggy?), how far ahead could the driver behind see (Was the road flat and straight or was it a roller coaster of hills and valleys?), what was the speed limit?, why was the slower moving vehicle in the fast lane?, etc., a fact finder could assign a lot of blame to the slower moving car or none at all. Once all the facts of this collision are known, it might be that most lawyers and insurance adjustors would roughly agree on how fault should be assigned. But even if this were the case no one could know for sure how any particular judge or jury or arbitrator would decide the case.
How are Money Damages for Physical Injury Determined?
Money damages for physical injury are awarded based on specific claims:
First, there should be an award for medical expenses. This award is usually based on the actual bill, provided that the medical services were reasonable and necessary and caused by the action sued upon. The fact that the plaintiff (person suing for injury) may have medical insurance is usually irrelevant both as to the fact that the bills have been paid and as to the fact that the insurance company was able to pay the bills at a discount. This legal result is the "collateral source rule" and is based on the idea that the wrong-doer should not be allowed to benefit by the fact that the Plaintiff is paying for insurance to either pay or negotiate his bills. The defendant caused injury and must pay for the full medical bills. This award will cover past medical bills and a provision for future medical bills if future medical care is more likely than not to be necessary because of the collision. FYI, the "collateral source rule" is under attack by insurance companies. So far, the collateral source rule has remained intact in Nevada, except in medical malpractice cases where the statutory law says it does not apply, although this statute has been successfully attacked on occasions in court. An award for medical expense is not taxable income.
However, just because we still have the collateral source rule, and even though a jury may be instructed that the Plaintiff' unreduced medical bills should be considered in awarding damages, many jurors know that medical bills are often paid at a discount by insurance companies and this thinking may reduce the jury award. Unfortunately, there are some cases in which the medical bills are either not reduced or not significantly reduced, such as the Plaintiff having no medical insurance or a very poor medical insurance policy
NOTE: In the section above about whether you should go the emergency room, we discussed that some medical bills are sky high. Likewise, even though the law says that if you are not at fault in an accident you should get your medical bills paid at face value (before any insurance discount), in practice mainly cases on settled on the assumption that medical bills will be paid at a discount. But the discount available to one person may be very different than the discount available to another person.
NOTE: The defense always likes to make medical bills seems somehow "phony" or "suspicious" if the attorney referred the client to the doctor. However, many doctors refuse to treat even long standing patients for car accidents because these doctors are afraid of being hauled into court to testify (even though they can charge of lot of money for their time when they do so--some doctors just don't want to be involved in court cases.)
Second, there should be an award for pain and suffering. This is very subjective. This award can include both past and future pain and suffering. The type of medical care and billings enter into this. For example, a $20,000 hospital bill for care that involves broken ribs and stitches is much more impressive than a $20,000 hospital bill for a bunch of diagnostic tests that came out negative for injury. An award for pain and suffering is not taxable income.
Third, there may be an award for lost wages or income. Sometimes this is easy to calculate. For wage earners it may be straight forward to calculate how many days of work at a specific wage were missed due to a collision. A wage earner who has sick leave can still collect for missed work. But if the plaintiff had already been missing work because of other problems it could be more complicated. For self-employed people it is harder to calculate a wage loss since such people usually have variable income and don't work regular hours. In all cases the insurance company paying the damages will try to prevent payment to claimants who illegally don't pay taxes. The insurance company will demand copies of filed tax returns or an authorization to obtain filed tax returns. If the plaintiff hasn't been paying taxes the plaintiff has to admit the felony of income tax evasion or abandon the wage loss claim. An award for lost wages or income is taxable income.
Fourth, the injured person may in some cases be able to claim that they have been disabled from further work or from future work for a certain period of time. An award for future lost wages or income is taxable income.
Fifth, in some cases family members can make a claim for injury to one of their relatives. If a wage earner has been killed the spouse or children may sue for loss of support. In the case of serious injury a spouse may sue for "loss of consortium" which can cover both loss of sexual relations and compensation for other disruption to the marriage. A spouse or parent may sue for lost income from necessarily missing work to care for the injured person. An award for loss of consortium is not taxable income.
In all of these cases, if there is a substantial claim for future damages (lost income, pain and suffering, medical care) it may be necessary for your attorney to hire an economist to testify to the present value of these future claims.
Finally, there is the problem of whether your attorney will be able to collect the fair value of your damages. Typically, the only money collected in motor vehicle collision cases is insurance money. This is because people with money typically have large insurance policies to protect themselves and people without money typically have no insurance or minimal insurance. The two most important insurance coverages that come into play, discussed below, are liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Currently, the other driver's insurance company does not have to reveal its policy limits (amount of coverage) to you or your attorney until you file suit and the litigation starts. This reflects a change in the law that happened in 2015. Before this change, the other driver's insurance company had to reveal its policy limits after being provided with some of the injured person's medical records.
Failure to Wear a Seat Belt
Although drivers and passengers are required to wear a seat belt, the failure to wear one can not be used against car accident victims in any claim they make. This is provided for in N.R.S. 484D.495.
What is "full insurance coverage?"
If you are in a car accident there are many types of coverage which may be important. For damage to your own car there is collision insurance. This is no-fault coverage which provides for the repair of your car no matter who was at fault. If your car is leased or financed you must have this coverage. Usually this insurance has a deductible such as $100 or $500, or even $1,000. Your own insurance company may suggest to you that you not claim against your own company and instead claim against the other driver's insurance company. This is usually bad advice which can delay getting your property damage fixed. If the other driver was at fault and you claim against your own insurance company your own insurance company will collect what they pay from the other insurance company and even collect your deductible for you. Whether or not your insurance rates get raised will depend largely on who was at fault, not on whether you claimed against your own policy.
Collision insurance comes in two types. The most common collision insurance only obligates the insurance company to pay you the market value of your car minus the deductible. This leads to an unhappy situation where your vehicle is almost new but is totaled. Say you pay $30,000 for a brand new car and 3 months later it is totaled. Now your insurance company says, "Your 3 month old car was a used car and is worth $26,000, not $30,000." To avoid this you can buy or pay extra for full replacement cost coverage which is sometimes called gap insurance.
Comprehensive coverage, or comp, is also no-fault coverage to protect your car if the damage is due to something other than a collision. Comp coverage, for example, would pay for hail damage or theft or vandalism. Making a claim could raise your rates so might consider not making a claim for what could be a small amount of money after the deductible.
You are required to have liability coverage. This coverage protects other people if you cause injury to them or damage their vehicles in a collision at which you are at fault. Liability coverage also protects you because if you become financially obligated to someone else, the liability coverage takes over your obligation provided your conduct was only negligent and not intentional. (Also, if drive drunk and cause and injury your insurance will cover the ordinary damage claim but not a claim for punitive damages.) However, the minimum amount of liability coverage you are required to have according to N.R.S. 485.185 is only $15,000 for injury or death to one person, $30,000 for injury or death to any number of people in one accident, and $10,000 for damage to property. As you can see this amount of coverage is inadequate. It is a good idea to buy much higher limits. Some examples of higher liability limit coverages are $25,000/$50,000, $50,000/$100,000, and $100,000/$300,000. In each case the lower number is the maximum liability to any one person injured, the higher number the maximum liability the insurance company has to everyone injured.
Finally on the issue of liability coverage, if you want high limits your insurance agent will probably sell you an umbrella policy which supplements your regular liability limits. Your regular liability policy might have limits of $50,000/$100,000 and then you might have an umbrella policy that in effect raises each limit to $1,000,000.
But if you are a good driver, you are more in danger of being the victim than the cause of personal injury. A driver who hits you might be uninsured or under-insured because the driver has only the low limits mentioned above. Therefore it is a good idea to buy uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage. This insurance means that if another driver injures you and does not have sufficient liability coverage to compensate you, your own insurance company will compensate you up to the combined amount of your own uninsured/under-insured coverage plus whatever liability coverage the other driver may have. Your own insurance company must offer you according to N.R.S. 687B.145(2) uninsured/under-insured coverage in an amount equal to the liability limit you purchase. (BUT please note under N.R.S. 687B.145(5) if you buy an umbrella policy for liability coverage, your insurance company is NOT obligated to offer you uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage in the same amount. So, to summarize, for regular liability coverage your insurance company must offer you--and you can reject to save money--uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage in the same amount but this does not apply to umbrella liability policies. This uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage also protects you under N.R.S. 690B.020 in the event that you are hit by a hit and run driver or in the event that the other driver's insurance company goes bankrupt and can't pay you. In addition, most liability insurance only covers the insured driver and people using the vehicle with the permission of the insured driver. If someone uses an insured vehicle without the permission of the insured driver the liability coverage does not apply. This happens when the vehicle is stolen and sometimes happens when a friend or relative takes the vehicle without the owner's permission. (When a friend or relative uses the vehicle without express permission there is often an issue as to whether permission was implied.) If you are in a collision which is not your fault and the other driver was using an insured vehicle without the owner's permission, your uninsured motorist coverage will compensate you.
Interpreting N.R.S. 687B.145 and N.R.S. 690B.020 together is a bit confusing. According to an article in the Nevada Justice Association's Nov-Dec, 2010, issue of The Advocate by Mark C. Wenzel this offer of uninsured/under-insuredmotorist coverage must be in writing and must be made in writing every time the policy is renewed. I agree with Mr. Wenzel. This means that if you have liability insurance but not uninsured/under-sinsured motorist coverage your attorney may be able to force your insurance company to give it to you after your accident if the insurance company cannot prove that they offered you this coverage in writing both when you first got the policy and at every renewal of the policy.
A great additional benefit of uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage is that it oftentimes covers the insured when the insured is a passenger in a vehicle driven by another, and even when the insured is a pedestrian. Additionally, this coverage also applies to most people in the insured driver's house such as children.
Medical payments coverage (med pay) pays for your medical expense if you are involved in a car accident. If you are the victim of a car accident and the other driver is at fault you can legally and ethically collect twice for your medical bills if you have med pay, once from your own med pay and once from the other driver. There is no other situation with auto insurance that allows for this double collection. If we represent you and you have med pay, we demand that your insurance company either pay the full amount of the med pay coverage to you--common if the coverage has a limit of $1000 or $5000 and your bill exceed that amount--or not make any payments until further instructions from us. Here's why: Let's say you go the Emergency Room and you have health insurance and $1000 in med pay coverage. The Emergency Room doctor bills $950 to med pay. Your insurance company pays it. Now your med pay is almost all gone. Instead if your health insurance company had gotten the bill, they probably would have chopped it to $200. Although we would have to pay the health insurance company back out of the settlement (in most but not all cases), we would probably pay them back at a discounted $160. Spending $160 instead of $950 for the Emergency Room doctor is a big saving that lets you recover more.
Thus, med pay coverage can help you collect more if you are not at fault for a collision, and it can pay some of your bills if you are at fault. However, because of the low limits, med pay is not for everyone. You might want to use money you would spend on med pay coverage to buy increased uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, especially if you already have health insurance.
In addition to the type of coverage, it is also important to know the exclusions in your policy which can vary from company to company. As a general rule, a liability policy, even if it has greater limits than the inadequate state minimum ($15,000 for injury to anyone person, $30,000 total limit for injuries to any number of people, and $10,000 property damage) may have exclusions where in certain circumstances only the inadequate state minimum applies. An exclusion could provide, for example, that a visiting family member driving your car only has the minimal liability limits even if you are paying for much higher limits. In buying auto insurance you should pay attention to the exclusions as well as the price. Taylor Clinton at AMS Insurance (an independent insurance agent who can select from many different companies), 702-340-9776, can help you understand the exclusions in a policy.
What Can A Lawyer Do For You if You've Been in a Car Accident?
If you have been involved in a car accident it is important to talk to an experienced attorney as as soon as possible. Here is what happens if you don't hire a lawyer:
- The adverse insurance company, while acting very friendly, pumps you for as much information as possible and tries to take your statement. "Mr. Jones, you are trying to make a money claim for damages against our insured so we can't evaluate your claim unless you tell us how the accident happened and what treatment you are getting." You might think, "What's the harm if I tell the truth?" If the case were to actually go to trial, after giving your statement to the insurance company, you would be deposed (another more formal statement in front of a court reporter) before trial and then give your testimony at trial, possibly years later. Now the insurance company lawyer would have three different statements from you and any differences in the statements, however innocent, would be used to make you look like a liar. When we represent you and the insurance company asks for a pre-litigation statement we say, "OK, but only if you let us take a statement from your insured." That ends the conversation because the insurance company, being in the claims business, knows enough not to let us take a statement from their insured.
- The job of the most honest and ethical defense attorney in the world is still to try and make your case fail (if that's the orders from the insurance company). The more times you say what happened the more chance there is for an inconsistency that might make you look bad.
- Sometimes insurance adjustors lie about what kinds of medical treatment can be part of your claim and try to guide your treatment in a way that will minimize your claim.
- When you are ready to make a claim some insurance adjustors will lie about what you can get compensated for and what you can't get compensated for.
- Of course, not all insurance adjustors lie. But just as many police officers think it is their job to lie to criminal suspects to get them to confess, some insurance adjustors think lying is also part of their job. One insurance adjustor bragged to me about he successfully denied a life insurance claim. The husband died and the insurance adjustor called on the widow at her small apartment. After slathering on lots of sympathy, the insurance adjustor said, "This is a little embarrassing, but my stomach is upset from the flight. May I use your bathroom?" Of course the widow said yes. The adjustor then went thru the medicine cabinet and took photos of all the dead husband's prescription medications which hadn't yet been thrown away. He then used this information to deny the claim on the grounds that the husband had not been completely truthful in his life insurance application.
- If you are lucky enough to have medical payments coverage for your accident your attorney can show you how to use this usually limited source of payments in a way that will maximize your net recovery.
- A lawyer can in many instances help you negotiate discounts on medical liens better than you can do on your own.
A lawyer may realize things about your claim for personal injury that you would never think of on your own. Insurance companies often try to get unrepresented car accident victims to settle their case for far less than its really worth.
For example, one of our firm's lawyers helped settle a case involving a serious neck injury for $275,000. Before this client got a lawyer, the insurance company tried to convince him to settle for well under a $100,000. The attorney was also able to negotiate down this client's medical bills and health insurance reimbursement by tens of thousands of dollars.
Thus, even though this client paid a contingency fee, he still ended up with far more money than he would have if he had settled the case on his own. Of course, most cases are not worth six figures, and some cases are not worth anything. An experienced lawyer will be able to quickly analyze a case once all the relevant facts have been discovered and advise you accordingly. PLEASE SEE OUR WEB PAGE DISCUSSING OUR LOW NO GIMMICK 25% FOR CERTAIN AUTO ACCIDENT CASES at Low Fee for Favorable Police Report Cases.
At Reed & Mansfield, we usually represent car accident victims on what is called a "contingency fee" basis. This means that we do not charge any money to the client at the beginning of the case, and if it turns out that the case is not worth pursuing, we do not charge the client for our work. We only take a percentage of the gross recovery we obtain.
Although in some circumstances the client may be responsible for costs, and if the case went to court, possibly the other side's costs and fees. This is why it is important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible and to give your lawyer all the facts, to make sure you don't end up incurring costs that could have been avoided.
If you have been in a car accident, please call us right away. We will be very happy to discuss your case with you during a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.
Don't wait to discuss your claim with our firm or another because there are statutes of limitations and other deadlines than could prevent you from ever recovering any money if you wait too long.
Cell Phones and Other Electronics and Car and Truck Accidents
Truck drivers may be driving through intersections while punching information into a dashboard mounted or hand held computer. Car drivers may be texting. If you are hurt in a car accident or truck accident and we can't get you a good settlement offer fairly soon we can file suit and get the cell phone records or computer usage records from the phone or trucking company. Sometimes this can produce embarrassing information that makes the insurance company eager to settle the claim. Likewise, if you cause an accident while texting and driving this could possibly lead to a criminal conviction.
Don't let Social Media Hurt Your Case
Before social media and texting, Plaintiffs did not create written records about their thoughts on a car accident or other event sued upon and upon their physical condition. Now, it is common for a person who goes on a vacation to post a picture on Facebook or other media showing them snowboarding down a mountain, climbing to the summit of peak etc. Generally, once suit is filed each side can discover written documents or evidence from the other side. So, routinely, if a Plaintiff claims, say serious back injury from a car collision, the defense, after suit is filed, will demand to see all posts by the Plaintiff on Facebook in anyway describing that person's activities since the accident, ditto for texts and tweets, etc. If the Plaintiff does not respond honestly, the defense may hire a hacker to hack into the person's account. (That is technically illegal, but some courts don't get upset with that behavior if it proves the Plaintiff lied when asked to produce, say, their Facebook posts.)
SO WHEN YOU HAVE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM IMAGINE THAT EVERYTHING YOU SEND OUT TO THE CLOUD WILL BE AVAILABLE TO THE DEFENSE AT YOUR TRIAL IF YOUR CASE GOES TO TRIAL. YES, MAYBE, YOUR BACK REALLY HURT WHEN YOU TOOK THAT SKI TRIP, BUT IF THE FACEBOOK POST SHOWS YOU SMILING ON SKIIS, THE DEFENSE WILL TRY AND SEE IF THEY CAN GET JURORS TO BELIEVE YOU ARE FAKING OR EXAGGERATING YOUR CLAIM.
NOTE: If your lawyer directs you to keep a diary and you do not share it with anyone but your lawyer, the diary will be protected attorney-client work product and won't have to be given to the defense if suit is filed. This is different that social media posts because social media posts are not restricted to client and lawyer.