Monday, June 23, 2014

What Should I Bring to my Initial Meeting with my Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyer?

When you select a personal injury attorney to meet with, there are a few things that you need to bring to your initial meeting to make the best use of your meeting. Here is what you should bring to your consultation:

Pictures. If you are involved in a car accident and took pictures with your cell phone, you should bring your cell phone to your initial consultation. You will then be able to show your attorney photographs of your car and other vehicles involved in the accident. Once your personal injury attorney has seen the photographs, they will have a better understanding of the accident. You will then be asked to email those pictures to your attorney.

Police Printout. If the police were called to the accident scene, you will be given a printout concerning the accident. This is not the official police report, but it called the “Traffic Collision Information” sheet. It is about the same size as a receipt. This sheet lists where and when the car accident happened, as well as who was in the cars, including the drivers and all passengers. This information sheet will also list the insurance information for all vehicles involved in the car accident.

Hospital Medical Records. If you were taken the hospital immediately after the accident, then the hospital will supply you with a printout of some of your medical reports. By having a copy of these records and bringing them to your initial consultation, it makes requesting your complete urgent care medical records much easier for your personal injury attorney.

Insurance Information. If you have more than just the basic liability insurance policy, then it is important for your auto accident attorney to review your insurance policy. Your attorney will only need to look at one page. This important page is called the “Declarations Sheet”. This is the piece of paper your insurance company gave you that says how much you are paying for insurance and what insurance coverages you have. I have a previous blog post on insurance coverage, if you want more information on why this is important for your personal injury attorney to review at the time of your initial meeting.

Your attorney will go over the above documents with you, as well as go over what happened in the accident and your injuries. From there, you and your attorney will discuss the next steps in getting you the medical care you need and your car repaired.

Next time, we will discuss how a personal injury case is valued by your Las Vegas personal injury attorney.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What Does Hearsay Mean in Las Vegas, Nevada Personal Injury Cases?

Hearsay is basically a statement that was not made in the courtroom, but that someone wants to discuss while on the witness stand. So anytime you hear someone say, “you’ll never believe what Joe told me . . .”, Joe supposed statements would be called hearsay in a court of law. Since you could be making up gossip about Joe, the court wants to make sure this information is true. However, there are a lot of exceptions to this general rule that second hand information cannot come into a trial.

Chapter 51 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (“NRS”) governs hearsay and what statements are allowed to come during a trial. Including the basic hearsay rule, there are about 40 different sections to Chapter 51! Today, we are just going to go over the sections that come up frequently in personal injury cases.

In an example of an auto accident case, where our driver, Joe, is sitting in his car on his way to work, stopped for a red light. Zoe, who is driving up to the intersection where Joe is sitting, doesn’t realize the light has turned red and rear ends Joe’s car. Immediately after the accident, Zoe is startled and gets out of her car.

Making sure Joe is okay, Zoe goes over to Joe’s car and apologizes for causing the car accident. Zoe tells Joe that she was looking at a website on her phone and not paying attention to the light. Zoe’s statement immediately after the accident, could be argued to be “present sense impression” or an “excited utterance” and therefore not excluded by the hearsay rule. See NRS 51.085 and 51.095. It also turns out that there was also a witness to the accident, Keisha, who was walking her dog and saw the entire accident unfold. Keisha gives Joe her contact information and tells him that she will testify on his behalf.

Since Zoe has overheard what Keisha told Joe, Zoe starts to be concerned, since she was driving her parents’ car and doesn’t want to get in trouble. Once the police arrive, Zoe gets nervous and changes her story. Zoe tries to blame the accident on Joe, saying that he pulled out in front of her, causing the accident. Although not bleeding, Joe has sustained serious injury to his spinal column and requires months of medical treatment. Since Zoe will not accept responsibility for the accident, Joe’s personal injury case against Zoe goes to trial.

Before the case goes to trial, Joe’s personal injury lawyer takes Keisha’s deposition testimony. (See my previous blog article on depositions if you are unfamiliar with them).   However, when the time for trial arrives, Keisha has moved and has not left a forwarding address. Since Keisha is nowhere to be found, her statements made in her deposition can be heard by the jury. See NRS 51.055 and 51.325.

In this car accident, Joe’s family and friends are also allowed to testify as to his physical condition after the car accident. When Joe’s sister, Kate, gets on the witness stand, Kate can testify as to Joe’s statements concerning how Joe was feeling after the car wreck. See NRS 51.105. Relatedly, any statements Joe made to his medical treatment providers, would also be allowed in, at the time of trial. See 51.115. From the above scenario, you can see that there are a lot of exceptions to the general rule that out-of-court statements, “hearsay,” do not come into a trial.

Next time, we will discuss what to bring and what to expect in your initial meeting with your Las Vegas personal injury lawyer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How Long Do I Have Before I Must File a Lawsuit in My Personal Injury Case, in Las Vegas, Nevada?

Depending on the type of personal injury case you have, there is certain time period in which you must file a lawsuit to protect your rights. Nevada Revised Statute 11.090(4)(e), is the law in Nevada that says if you have a personal injury action, that you must file your lawsuit within two years, otherwise you will be forever barred from doing so.

It is important to note that this section of the statute only governs the negligence of regular people, such as in car accident cases. For example, if a doctor is negligent in treating a patient, he is governed by a different rule and different time period. This statute only governs acts of negligence that we encounter in our everyday lives, such as slip and falls and car and truck accidents.

There are other parts of Nevada Revised Statute 11.090, which apply to different types of cases, such as contract cases. However, each type of case has it own, different, time period. Although this can be a bit confusing, it is important to note that in a personal injury case in Nevada, the statute of limitations in which to bring a lawsuit is two years.

Children who have not reached the age of 18 and people who are disabled (which disability prevents them from filing the lawsuit), the two year period does not start to run until they have reached adulthood or are no longer disabled. If you have a loved one who is disabled and are uncertain as to whether the time period is put on hold for them, seek the advice of an attorney immediately, so as to not harm their legal rights in any way.

Despite the fact that you have two years to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault person in the state of Nevada, you should seek the advice of a personal injury attorney immediately, as many things need to be done well in advance of the two year deadline, to ensure you have properly protected your rights. 

Next time, we will discuss “hearsay” in Las Vegas, Nevada Court cases.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How are Trials Dates Scheduled in Las Vegas, Nevada?

When you file a lawsuit in Las Vegas, Nevada, your case will actually take place in the Clark County, Nevada court system. As soon as you file a file lawsuit, your case will be automatically assigned to a specific trial judge. In Las Vegas, all trial dates are set by the trial judge assigned to your case. 

If your lawsuit is in Las Vegas’ regular litigation channels, once the at-fault party answers the complaint, the parties’ attorneys must meet and discuss what type of information needs to be exchanged before the case can proceed to trial. This exchange of information is called “discovery”. Once the attorneys meet, they must prepare what is called a Joint Case Conference Report and submit it to the Discovery Commissioner, who rules on all discovery disputes in the first instance (appeals are then brought to your individual trial court judge).  The Discovery Commissioner then prepares an Order regarding discovery, called a Discovery Scheduling Order.

Once the Discover Scheduling Order is signed by the Discovery Commissioner and filed with the clerk of the court, then a copy gets forwarded to your trial judge. Based upon how long when your discovery period is and the trial judge’s trial availability, that is when your trial date will be issued. 

When a trial date is issued, you are put on what is called a “trial stack”.  A trial “stack” means that many other cases are given the same trial date. Usually trial stacks last 5 weeks. This means, that if your case does not settle, you could go to trial anytime within that 5 week block of time.

Since most cases settle before trial, this has proven to be an effective way to schedule trials. So, for example, let’s say you have a trial “stack” date of July 1st. If your case has not settled, the week before you are scheduled to go to trial, your personal injury attorney will go to court for you and see if you are actually going to proceed with trial on that date or sometime within the following 5 weeks. That is called a “calendar call”. At the time of the calendar call, you will usually be issued a firm trial date. This is because, the judge knows which of the cases have settled and puts the remaining cases within that 5 week period, usually taking into account everyone’s schedules in the process. 

Next time, we will discuss statutes of limitations in Las Vegas, Nevada Court cases.