Monday, July 28, 2014

How Are Complaints Drafted in Las Vegas Accident Court Cases?

When your personal injury attorney files a lawsuit in Las Vegas, she has to file what is called a “Complaint”. A Complaint is the actual document that starts a lawsuit. If the insurance company will not settle your case for a reasonable amount, then your personal injury lawyer will file a Complaint on your behalf.

It is important to note that Nevada is what is called a “Notice Pleading Jurisdiction”. A ‘pleading’ is any written court document. ‘Jurisdiction’ is what gives the court authority to hear the case. In personal injury cases, jurisdiction is generally determined by physical location (city, county, etc.) and what is in controversy (monetary amount). Although Las Vegas has many courts (please see previous postings for a discussion), most injury cases will be filed in District Court. Our District Court hears injury cases that are valued at over $10,000.00.  Las Vegas is located within Clark County, Nevada. As such, if you case is valued over $10,000.00, then your Complaint will be filed in Clark County’s District Court. 

To establish jurisdiction, there must be language in the Complaint to indicate to the Court that it has jurisdiction to hear the case. As such, your injury attorney will state in the Complaint, that the accident took place, or the parties are located, in Las Vegas (Clark County). Additionally, the amount at issue, over $10,000.00, needs to be stated in the Complaint. However, even if your case has a value of over $50,000.00, your injury attorney is still required to put in the Complaint, that your case has a value in excess of $10,000.00, not the specific amount you are claiming.

As a Notice Pleading Jurisdiction, the Complaint needs to a have a short, plain statement of the case. Your injury lawyer will state that what happened in the accident and legal causes of action relevant to your case, negligence, etc. Since we are a notice pleading jurisdiction,  all of the witnesses and the entire history of your medical treatment, is not needed to be included in the Complaint. Once the Complaint is filed, then your accident attorney will serve it on the at-fault party and your litigation will proceed. 

Next time we will discuss common causes of action in Las Vegas personal injury cases.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What is “Discovery” in Las Vegas Car Accident Court Cases?

“Discovery” in a Las Vegas court cases is a term used for the exchange of information and documents. This exchange of information can be in written form or via personal means. The major areas of discovery will be looked at today.  

If your injury was due to a injury causing location, then a “site inspection” will  be coordinated with your personal injury attorney and opposing counsel.  A site inspection means, an investigation of the scene where your injury took place, will be conducted. Your injury lawyer will also ensure that any necessary experts are secured, to also investigate the accident scene. 

Discovery also consists of written questions, including Interrogatories, Request for Admission and Request for Production of Documents. Interrogatories are written questions that generally ask you what your injuries are, if you have any lost wages and related items.  Your answers will be typed up, and you will review your typed up answers for accuracy.  Since these are your answers, they must be attested to and signed by you. Your personal injury attorney will have a notary on hand, where you can set up an appointment and sign your answers in the presence of a notary. 

The other types of written questions are called Request for Production of Documents and Requests for Admission. In both of these, your accident attorney will prepare the responses, as your verification of them is not required by law. In Request for Production of Documents, the other side will ask for all documents related to your injury claim. For example, they may ask for all of your accident related medical treatment, documents supporting your claim for lost wages, and any relevant pre-accident injury records. 

With respect to Requests for Admission, the other side may ask you to admit certain facts. For instance, they may ask you to admit that you have completed treating for the injuries you sustained in the accident or to admit that you were stopped at a red light, when the accident took place. Your injury lawyer will answer these questions, based upon the facts of your individual case.

Additionally, if you are suffering from an ongoing, permanent injury, then the at-fault party’s attorney, the defense, may ask that you undergo a medical exam. The medical examination will be conducted by a defense expert doctor of their own choosing. However, the defense medical examination will be coordinated at a date and time that works with your schedule.  

Your deposition will likely also be taken in Las Vegas litigation cases. As you may already know, a deposition is a statement under oath. Here, you will be asked questions by the opposing attorney.  A court reporter will be present typing all of the questions asked and your answers. Of course, your personal injury attorney will prepare you prior to the deposition on what to expect and will be present during the entire deposition process.

Next time, we will discuss initial lawsuit documents in Las Vegas injury court cases.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Is My Medicare Status Relevant in a Las Vegas Personal Injury Case?

Being involved in an accident presents a lot of challenges. But, if you are on Medicare then that is another issue that must be addressed after your accident. However, it is important to note that your personal injury lawyer will handle that aspect of your case for you.

When you come in for your initial visit, your accident lawyer will have you sign a Medicare form, to determine whether you are currently on Medicare. If you are not on Medicare, you will simply sign the form, indicating that you are not on Medicare. But, if you are on Medicare, then you will be required to provide your Medicare number. The reason this is done, is due to the fact that the at-fault party’s insurance company will require this before any settlement funds can be distributed.  

Your injury attorney will want to make sure the end of your case goes as smoothly as the beginning case. As such, your efficient accident lawyer will want you to sign this form at the start of your case. Your attorney will then provide it to the insurance company immediately.

By law, the insurance companies can and do ask about your Medicare status. This is also done because many insurance companies will contact Medicare before issuing the settlement monies. Also, even if you are not currently on Medicare, but will be eligible for Medicare within the upcoming two years from the date your personal injury case settles, then Medicare will have to be contacted as well.

If Medicare actually paid for any accident related treatment, then Medicare will require that they be re-paid for the accident related treatment they provided. Even if Medicare has not paid for any of your accident related treatment, some insurance companies will require a written letter from Medicare, that Medicare is not requesting re-payment of any of your treatment. This process will be handled by your injury attorney and the at-fault party’s insurance company. Since it may affect your case, it is something to keep in mind.

Next time, we will discuss effective communication with your personal injury lawyer.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What is a Release of All Claims in a Personal Injury Case?

When a Las Vegas personal injury case is settled with the insurance company, the insurance company will require you to sign a document, called a “Release of All Claims”. This document is often referred to as a “Release”.

A Release is a document which completely ends your personal injury case against the other party. The Release spells out all of the settlement terms, in writing. As such, the Release sets forth the date of the accident and the amount of settlement for the injuries you sustained in the accident. The Release will also state that the settlement being offered, is the full and final amount you will receive from the at-fault person and their insurance company. 

A Release is usually a short document discussing the above. However, before you sign it, your accident attorney will review and go over the Release with you. The insurance company will usually require that you sign the Release in front of a Notary Public, which your personal injury attorney will have available.

Once the Release is signed by you, your lawyer will mail the original Release, as they will not accept photocopies, to the insurance company. When the insurance company receives the signed Release, they will then mail out the settlement check to your personal injury attorney.

Next time, we will discuss what happens when you are Medicare eligible, or will be eligible for Medicare within the upcoming two years from the date your case settles in Las Vegas Nevada.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How is a Personal Injury Case Valued by My Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney?

A common question that comes up in my law practice is how a personal injury case is valued. There are many variables that go into a case valuation. Each of the main variables are discussed today.

Medical Bills. Your medical bills make up the first part of how your case is valued. Any accident related treatment you have received would be considered past medical bills and figure into the analysis. Additionally, if you have any future medical costs that have been attested to by your doctor, then those future medical costs will be part of your case valuation.

Lost Income. The next part of the analysis is if you have sustained any lost wages or other monetary losses. So, if you were off work due to accident related surgery, then those losses would be considered part of your past monetary loses. There must be documentation of your past lost income, which may include a letter from your employer and your prior and current tax returns. In serious cases, if your ability to work has been altered, then those future economic losses form part of the equation. In those cases, an expert economist is usually hired by your personal injury attorney, to properly calculate those future economic losses. 

Pain and Suffering. Your overall “pain and suffering” is also part of how a case is valued.  This is determined by the extent of your injuries and medical treatment. If you have only sustained a “whiplash” type of injury, then that would have a lower pain and suffering value, than if you required surgery due to your injuries. Also, if you have fully recovered from your injuries, that would have a lower pain and suffering value, than if you have ongoing pain and will require accident related medical treatment in the future.

Scars. If you were involved in a slip and fall incident and had scarring to your body, this would also be included as part of your damages. The location and size of the scar is also important. For example, scarring on your face would have a higher value than a scarring on your legs.

The above list make up the main variables that go into calculating the amount of your losses. However, each case is looked at individually by your accident attorney, as no two cases are exactly alike. 

Next time, we will discuss Release of All Claims in your Las Vegas accident and injury cases.