Monday, August 25, 2014

What Happens When the Police Do Not Respond to a Car Accident Scene?

You were involved in a car accident. You called the police, but since you aren’t bleeding on the roadway, they won’t come to the accident scene. What should you do after the car accident, while you are still at the accident scene? If you were involved in an auto accident and the police have declined to respond to the accident scene, there are few steps you can take to document the accident.

Step 1
Exchange Information.  After an accident, ask the other driver for their insurance information. They are required by law to have it with them at all times while they are driving on the Las Vegas roadways.

Step 2
Witnesses.  Sometimes, the word of a disinterested witness can decide your case. If there were any witnesses to the car accident, get their names and contact information. Only you can get this information. Ask them for their cel phone number and email as well as their home address and where they work. People tend to move or change phone numbers. So, if you have multiple ways to contact the person, if one way is no longer good, you will have other ways of getting a hold of that person, when it comes time for them to provide their version of events.    

Step 3
Take Pictures.  Take pictures of the areas of your car that were damaged in the accident. Also, remember to take photos of the damage to the other car involved in the accident. It would also be important to photograph the accident scene, including the intersection and the location of where both of your cars ended up after the crash.

If you are injured, seek immediate medical attention and speak to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.  

Next time, we will discuss what qualifies someone to be an Arbitrator in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What Is the Process of a Deposition Las Vegas Car Accident Court Cases?

Today’s discussion centers on the ground rules for a deposition in Las Vegas injury court cases. A deposition is just a statement under oath. For more information on depositions themselves, please see my previous discussions of them. 

Transcript. When a deposition starts, the court reporter will ask you to raise your right hand and affirm under the penalties of perjury, that you will testify to the truth. In a deposition, the court reporter will take down all questions asked and your answers. So, the final product will look like a play. Although the deposition will likely take place in a conference room, you need to be mindful that a deposition is considered an official court proceeding and anything you say will be part of the court record.

Best Testimony. The attorney asking the questions will ask you if you have taken any medication on the day of your deposition and if so, what medications. This question is asked to see if you can give your best testimony, or if the deposition should somehow be re-scheduled. If you are on heavy pain killers on the day of your deposition, it may affect your testimony. At minimum, the attorney taking your deposition, must be entitled to that information.

Information Reviewed. As part of the deposition process, the attorney may ask you what materials you reviewed and with whom you may have spoken to about your upcoming testimony. So, if you reviewed the Traffic Accident Report or spoke with any witnesses prior to your deposition, the opposing attorney would be entitled to know that information. Of course, any conversations you had with your own personal injury attorney would be excluded, as subject to the attorney-client privilege.

Verbal Responses. The person who is taking your deposition, will tell you what are called “admonitions”. These are basically the rules of the road during a deposition. One the first admonitions, is that since the court reporter is typing down all of your answers, your answers must be verbal. So, no nodding of the head or shrugs the shoulders will do in a deposition. If you want to answer affirmatively, you must actually say “yes”. Also, since the court reporter is typing everything down, they cannot take down hand gestures. So, if you want to indicate how much crush damage there was to your car in the accident, instead of using your hands to indicate two feet, you must actually verbally say “two feet”.

Answering Questions. If you do not understand a question, you have the right to ask the attorney to re-phrase the question. However, if you answer a question, then the opposing attorney will have the right to argue that you understood the question.

One Person at a Time. Also, since the court reporter is taking everything down, you must wait for the attorney to finish asking their question before providing your answer. The court reporter can only take down one person at a time. In everyday speech, we have a tendency to anticipate where a question is going and simply jump in and provide the answer, to make the conversation go faster. You must resist this urge during a deposition, as the questioner could take the question in a different direction. But, even if you correctly guessed where the question was going, you must let the court reporter type the question in full, before providing your answer.

Best Estimate. Also, the lawyer asking the questions in a deposition, is entitled to your best estimate of times, dates and distances. However, they do not want you to guess. The classic example of the difference between an ‘estimate’ and a ‘guess’ is that you could ‘estimate’ the length of the table you were sitting at while the deposition is proceeding, but since you had never been to the questioners home, you would be ‘guessing’ as to the length of their dining table.

Breaks. During the deposition process, you are allowed to take as many breaks as you need to use the restroom, or step outside for a break. However, if a question is pending, you must respond to the question before taking a break.

Testimony Changes. A deposition is a statement under oath.  After the deposition is over and the court reporter has provided a typed playbook of the questions and answers, you will be entitled to make any changes you feel are necessary to the transcript. However, if you make any substantive changes, changing your answer from a “yes” to a “no” in response to a question, then the opposing attorney can comment negatively on your credibility at the time of trial. Also, if you change your answer to a question at the time of trial, then the attorney can again say that you were either not being truthful at your deposition or at the trial. So, it is important to answer all questions carefully and honestly at your deposition.

Next time, we will discuss, what to do at an auto accident scene, if the police do not respond.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How Are Juries Selected in Las Vegas Car Accident Court Cases?

Many people wonder how juries are selected in Las Vegas auto accident cases. Potential jurors are questioned regarding their ability to act as jurors. This questioning is called “voir dire”. Most state court judges in Nevada, start this process off by asking questions of potential jurors to see if any of them could qualify to be on the jury. So, anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or has a felony conviction, would not be eligible to sit on a jury in Nevada.

When the judge asks their questions, it is usually of a broad nature. For example, if someone has a nursing baby at home and they therefore cannot be in a two week trial. These reasons to be off the jury are called “hardship” reasons and the judge may excuse a juror if severe hardship is present.

Once the judge finishes this initial canvassing, then each side gets to ask the jurors specific questions. If any juror is embarrassed or would like privacy when answering certain questions, then that particular juror can be questioned out of the presence of the rest of the potential jury members.

In most cases, strict time limits are not imposed on the time each side is allowed to ask questions of the jury. During this questioning process, both sides can seek to exclude potential jurors in two ways. The first way is for “cause”. The second one is called a “peremptory challenge”.

When a potential juror is excused for “cause”, it means that there is a specific reason that they would not be a fair and impartial juror. For example, if a juror knows one of the parties, then they would be unable to be a juror, since their personal relationship with one of the parties, could affect their verdict. Additionally, if a potential juror says that they cannot follow the rules of law as stated by the judge, then they too would be excused for cause. However, if a juror is excused for cause on a particular case, that juror could be asked to be a potential juror in another case. Once all of the potential jurors have been excused from service for cause, then both sides can simply exclude jurors without having a specific reason. 

Both sides take turns in using their peremptory challenge. A list gets passed back and forth between each side, with each side getting to cross off a potential juror off the list. The number of peremptory challenges varies in civil and criminal cases. Once the total number of strikes are made, then the judge has the remaining people enter the jury box and the case begins. Jury selection, called voir dire, is an important part of a trial and allows everyday citizens to take part in our justice system.

Next time, we will discuss what can you expect during a deposition in Las Vegas injury court cases.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Are Common Negligence Causes of Action in Las Vegas Car Accident Cases?

When a lawsuit is filed, your injury attorney will have to state causes of action that apply in your Las Vegas car accident case. A “cause of action” is a set of facts that, if proved, entitle you to relief. In Las Vegas, typical causes of action in personal injury cases are negligence, negligence per se and negligent entrustment. The elements of each cause of action will be discussed. 

Negligence. The most common cause of action in an auto accident case is Negligence. The legal elements of Negligence are (1) defendant (at-fault party) owed a duty to plaintiff (injured party); (2) defendant breached that duty; (3) defendant’s breach caused plaintiff’s injury; and (4) plaintiff suffered damages. So, each party has a ‘duty’ to act reasonably. If they ‘cause’ an accident, then they ‘breached’ that duty. If you were injured in the accident, then you sustained “damages”.

Negligent Entrustment.
In a car accident case, where someone was driving another person’s car and they caused an accident, your attorney may make a claim for Negligent Entrustment. The facts needed to sustain a claim for Negligent Entrustment are as follows:  (1) defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff; (2) defendant breached that duty of care to plaintiff by knowingly entrusting a vehicle to an inexperienced and/or incompetent person, the driving defendant; (3) the breach by defendant was the legal cause of plaintiff’s injuries; and (4) plaintiff has suffered personal and bodily injury damages in excess of $10,000.00.   

Negligence Per Se. When the defendant has violated a statute that was intended to protect persons such as an injured person in a car accident case, then a case for Negligence Per Se may be alleged. This cause of action should be alleged after you have set forth the basic facts of the car accident at issue. Once you have done that, then you can state the following to make a claim for Negligence Per Se: (1) the above complained of actions of defendant are negligent per se in that her blatant failure to use due care was in violation of NRS 484.363 (or your statute at issue) requiring operators of motor vehicles to decrease speed as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person or vehicle. This statute was intended to protect the rights of persons, such as plaintiff, from injuries and damages which are foreseeable and likely when the provisions of these statutes are disregarded and/or violated by persons such as defendant here; (2) as a direct and proximate result of all the foregoing negligent per se acts of defendant, plaintiff has suffered the damages complained of above; (3) as a direct result of the above mentioned negligence of defendant, plaintiff has suffered personal and bodily injury damages.

Although there are many potential causes of action, the above are some of the more common ones in your typical car accident case. Next time, we will discuss how are juries selected in Las Vegas auto accident cases.