Las Vegas car accident lawyers file hundreds of complaints each year, all of which involve the tort of negligence. The rules pertaining to this tort provide the basis for the vast majority of personal injury cases filed in Clark County. Las Vegas car accident lawyers must be well-versed in all aspects of negligence. The rules, nuances, and limitations of this tort must be mastered and understood by all Las Vegas car accident lawyers who seek to successfully advance their client’s case. In light of the fact that virtually every car accident case involves this tort, it is important that each client understands some basics about this very common cause of action.
The tort of negligence is particularly appropriate for driving situations where people often make careless decisions such as inattentive driving, speeding, failure to follow at a safe distance, failure to yield right-of-way, turning from an improper lane; and perhaps the most egregious of all driving-related sins, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The most skillful Las Vegas car accident lawyers are able to take each of these scenarios (and many more – the list is not exhaustive), apply the elements of the tort of negligence to the facts, and obtain a successful case outcome.
What needs to be proven in a Car Accident Case?
Each of the elements of the tort of negligence must be proven to the jury by a preponderance of the evidence. A solid understanding of the various elements which constitute the tort of negligence and burden of proof all Las Vegas car accident lawyers must meet at trial can help make the personal injury litigation process much more manageable for most clients. It has been our experience that generally the more informed the client, the less stressful the client finds the litigation process.
What is Preponderance of the Evidence and how does it apply?
Before launching into the cause of action, it is critical that a discussion occurs which explains the concept of various levels of proof that apply in cases. For basics to be properly addressed, it is important for all clients to understand the level of proof that will apply in their car accident case. It is not enough to simply accuse someone of carelessly causing your injury; you must prove it by the requisite standard. The standard of proof which all Las Vegas car accident lawyers must meet in every case which proceeds to trial is proof to the level of the preponderance of the evidence. Unlike the beyond a reasonable doubt standard which applies in criminal cases, the preponderance of the evidence is a lesser standard which requires an entirely different and lower quantum of proof necessary to prove one’s case. In layman’s terms, the preponderance of the evidence can be thought of as “more likely than not.” It is simply such evidence when weighed against that opposed to it, has a greater probability of truth, or in other words, evidence which is more likely true than the alternative which opposes it.
Important to understand this level of proof is the fundamental principle that preponderance of the evidence is not linked to the size of the respective cases-in-chief. The law in Nevada explicitly provides that the “testimony of one witness worthy of belief is sufficient for the proof of any fact and would justify a verdict” even if a number of witnesses have testified to the contrary. If the jurors believe the accuracy and honesty of a single witness outweigh the cumulative testimony of a number of witnesses who testify to the contrary, the jury is completely within their rights to accept the single more credible witness’s testimony as fact. So long as the jurors carefully assess the circumstances surrounding the testimony and consider the respective credibility of the witnesses, they can disregard the larger number of jurors and find that the testimony of the single most credible witness resolves the factual issue in dispute.
What is Duty and how does it relate to my car Accident Case?
The first two elements of negligence are duty and breach. Duty and breach go hand-in-hand and must be understood thoroughly by both clients and practitioners. The duty principle of negligence law establishes that all persons are under a duty to act in such a way that they do not create unreasonable risks to others. We owe our fellow citizens a duty to act with reasonable care in conducting our affairs. In other words, we have a duty to avoid injuring others by careless conduct. Specifically, within the context of an automobile accident case, in Nevada, it is the duty of the driver of any vehicle to operate his vehicle safely and to avoid placing either himself or others in danger. I like to think of duty in these terms: Every driver on a public highway is required to use reasonable care for his safety and for the safety of others. The exercise of reasonable ordinary care is the objective – the standard which cannot be deviated from if you will.
Perfection is not required
Remember that as it pertains to negligence, the law does not demand perfection, rather the exercise of reasonable ordinary care. Las Vegas car accident lawyers who have expertise in trying cases know that expressing these rules and ensuring that jurors clearly understand and can apply them to the facts of a given case are two different matters. I cannot overstate how critical it is that jurors understand the general duty of care that applies to all drivers. If jurors cannot correctly apply this basic, foundational rule, inevitably the plaintiff will lose the case. It is the job of the plaintiff’s lawyer to ensure that the rules of duty and breach – and all others critical to the resolution of a car accident case – are understood by the jurors to the point that they can easily apply them to the facts of the case.
When discussing car accident cases, it is also worth noting that the same duty of care applies in Nevada to common carriers. A common carrier is another name for taxis, Uber, Lyft or other services which provide transportation to the public at large. When presenting a case to a jury all competent Las Vegas car accident lawyers will stress the Nevada rule pertaining to common carriers which is that common carriers owe passengers the highest degree of care. In other words, a Lyft driver, or a taxi driver does not get a break because of their status – one would reasonably assume otherwise after witnessing them regularly swerving, speeding, cutting off and otherwise wreaking havoc on Las Vegas roadways – and have a lesser standard of care. In fact, they have the same significant legal responsibility as the rest of us to operate their motor vehicles with care and to take all reasonable precautions to ensure that neither their passengers nor other persons are injured as the result of their carelessness.
What is Breach?
Breach is a relatively simple element to understand in car accident cases. Whenever someone falls below the standard associated with the duty of care, the breach element has been satisfied. Essentially whenever someone engages in unreasonably risky conduct, they are in breach of the duty of care. The ways in which a driver can breach the duty of care are virtually limitless. Many people are routinely careless in their personal lives so it’s not a surprise when their inherent carelessness carries over to operating a motor vehicle. It is the job of Las Vegas car accident lawyers who handle these types of cases to carefully identify provable incidents of breach of the duty to drive safely and to develop those incidents into viable causes of action.
Common Examples of Breach
In a large majority of car accident cases, if a breach of the duty to drive carefully is present in the fact pattern, it is easily identifiable. For example, if a person decides to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes an accident that injures another person, it’s abundantly clear that they are not adhering to established standards of safe driving. Similarly, if a driver is speeding 50 miles in excess of the speed limit and kills a pedestrian because they cannot stop in time, a breach is glaringly obvious. Some cases, however, present more nuanced facts pertaining to liability. This is where the best Las Vegas car accident lawyers can make a difference. The most talented Las Vegas car accident lawyers will be able to develop the facts that establish the careless driver’s deviation from the standard of care and present those facts in a compelling and persuasive way.
What is Causation?
For the purposes of negligence, causation consists of two parts: actual cause and proximate cause. The actual cause is also sometimes known as cause in fact. To prove the actual cause component of causation, Las Vegas car accident lawyers must prove that “but for” the defendant driver’s negligent driving, plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred. This is a factual issue. The car accident lawyer must prove that the harm (injury) would not have occurred absent the conduct. That, however, is not the end of the causation analysis. For purposes of proximate cause, the jury must find that the plaintiff’s injury was the result of the foreseeable conduct. In other words, a sufficiently close connection must be established between the negligent conduct and the injury suffered by a plaintiff. Understanding causation is sometimes slightly more difficult for clients but it is certainly a concept which can be readily understood if carefully explained and shown how it applies to the facts of the client’s case. So long as the client can visualize how it applies to his or her situation, we believe they will have a sufficient understanding of the issue of causation. Remember, the goal is not for the client to be able to recite a law school appropriate answer on causation rather that he or she understands causation to the extent that they can assist trial counsel in preparing for litigation. A rudimentary understanding of this element is more than sufficient.
What are Damages in a Car Accident Case?
The final element requires Las Vegas car accident lawyers to prove the various forms of legal damages which flow from the defendant driver’s negligent conduct. When a client is injured as the result of someone else’s careless conduct, they frequently have expenses related to past and future medical treatment, wage loss issues, and other types of damages which all flow from the accident. All possible avenues need to be explored. It is essential that clients are thoroughly canvassed as to every expense they have incurred and will yet incur which is the result of the negligent defendant’s conduct. Only when a client understands the myriad of ways the law allows for the recovery of damages can they adequately and intelligently assist counsel in identifying all possible items appropriate for recovery.
Why these concepts matter
A client would be reasonable in wondering why they need to be bothered with concepts of liability and other legal standards pertaining to their lawsuit. If I hire someone, I’m paying them to solve the problem and to involve me as little as necessary. That is simply not possible in the context of a lawsuit. We have found that in a large number of cases, that the most informed and involved clients invariably do the best whether it is in a deposition, court hearing, or jury trial setting. We fully understand and appreciate the time constraints most persons are under and will not ask for you to come in and prepare for us unless we believe it absolutely necessary. An attorney-client relationship is unlike most other agency type relationships, especially when the lawyer and client are preparing for a trial. It is a team effort that requires input and understanding on both sides. The Las Vegas car accident lawyers that get the best outcomes for their clients almost always spend substantial time and effort making sure their clients are informed as to the important legal standards applicable to their case. Informed, prepared clients are indispensable. Clients that are best positioned to assist counsel in securing a successful case outcome are almost always those that counsel has diligently prepared. A jury trial is a team effort. Always be willing to put in the time and effort to ensure that the client is in the best possible position to help you win their case.