Monday, October 27, 2014

What is the Law Allowing the Police to Not Respond to Car Accidents?

You are in a car accident and you call the police. They ask you if you are injured. At that moment, you are in a state of shock and are not feeling any pain. The police tell you to exchange insurance information with the other driver.

Many people want to know, what gives the police the right to no longer come to all car accidents scenes. The answer may surprise you. It was actually the Nevada State Legislature who said that no report is needed in these types of car accidents. Nevada Revised Statute, (NRS) §484E.070, establishes the right that no report need to issued in any minor, “non-injury” causing auto accident. The key provisions of NRS §484E.070:   NRS 484E.070 Written or electronic report of accident to Department by driver or owner; exceptions; confidentiality; use as evidence at trial.
 2.   . . . the driver of a vehicle which is in any manner involved in an accident on a highway or on premises to which the public has access, if the accident results in bodily injury to or the death of any person or total damage to any vehicle or item of property to an apparent extent of $750 or more, shall, within 10 days after the accident, forward a written or electronic report of the accident to the Department. ….

So, if no one is injured, no accident report is required. However, if there is substantial property damage, which appears to be $750 or more, then a report is required.

Next time, we will discuss what happens when your renewal sticker is not on your license plate.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What is the Law on Car Rental and Loss of Use in Las Vegas Auto Accident Cases?

You are in a car accident. Your car is damaged, needing extensive repairs. You need your car to get to work, take care of your family and do every other errand to manage your life.  But the at-fault driver’s insurance company is dragging their feet on getting you a rental car. So, you rent a car yourself. After weeks of rental car, you decide you can no longer afford it.  You rely on friends and family for another week, while your car is being repaired.

It turns out the insurance company never gets their act together and you have three property damage losses:1. Car Repair costs; 2. Rental Car Costs; 3. Vehicle Value and 4. Loss of Use for your own car while you didn’t have your car or a rental car. The seminal case on car issues after a car accident is Dugan v. Gotsopoulos, 117 Nev. 285 (2001)

Car Repair Costs. This is the easiest property damage to prove. Evidence of the car repair costs from the car repair shop can be used to document your out-of-pocket car repair costs.

Rental Car Costs.  In Dugan, the Nevada Supreme Court determined that the lower trial court should have allowed Dugan herself to testify about rental car costs. Furthermore, the court held that expert testimony is not required when discussing car rental costs. Here again, any out of pocket expenses can be documented through the rental car receipt.

Loss of Use. ‘Loss of Use’ is a term of art used to describe the situation when you do not have your own car (as it is in the car repair shop), but cannot afford to rent a car, after a car accident. In Dugan, the Nevada Supreme Court determined that the lower trial court should have allowed Dugan to recover loss-of-use damages. The Nevada Supreme Court stated that a party may recover loss-of-use damages for the time period in which that party has lost use of her personal vehicle as a result of damages to her automobile. These damages may be measured by reasonable rental car costs for a reasonable period within which to repair the vehicle. A party need not actually rent a vehicle to recover loss of use damages if that party is financially unable to rent a substitute vehicle. "The owner has suffered compensable inconvenience and deprivation of the right to possess and use her chattel [personal property] whether or not a substitute was obtained."

Moreover, in order to establish loss-of-use damages, expert testimony is not required. A party is permitted to testify about rental car rates, as long as that person had some basis for the valuation. Loss-of-use damages may also be awarded for the inconvenience of loss-of-use based on individual circumstances, to which the party can testify. If you rented a car for a period of time, using that daily rate would be a good starting point for the value of “Loss-of-Use”.

Vehicle Value. The Nevada Supreme Court also stated that the Kelley Blue Book could be used as evidence of the vehicle's value. They cited NRS 51.245, which  provides:  “Market quotations, tabulations, lists, directories or other published compilations, generally used and relied upon by the public or by persons in particular occupations, are not inadmissible under the hearsay rule.” The Nevada Supreme Court stated that Kelley Blue Book is a publication that is generally used in the automobile industry as a price list and generally relied on by persons in the trade to determine the value of an automobile. Therefore, the damaged party is allowed to present the value of her automobile through the Kelley Blue Book.

Next time, we will discuss when the police must respond to a Las Vegas auto accident.

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Are Arbitrators Selected in Las Vegas, Court Mandated, Arbitration Personal Injury Actions?

The Nevada Arbitration Rules (“NAR”) govern arbitrations in Clark County, Nevada. Rule 6 describes how an arbitrator is actually selected in your personal injury case. First, the arbitration commissioner gives both parties identical lists of 5 arbitrators. These 5 arbitrators are randomly chosen from the arbitration commissioner’s global list of approved arbitrators in Las Vegas.

Each party only has 10 days to strike up to 2 arbitrators on the list. If both sides strike 2 different arbitrators each, then the remaining fifth arbitrator will be the arbitrator that decides your case. If both parties have stricken the same arbitrators on the 5 person list, then the arbitration commissioner will randomly pick an arbitrator from the remaining names.

It is important to note that the parties are able to bypass this 5 arbitrator list if they choose to do so. This is done by the parties jointly selecting an arbitrator from the arbitration commissioner’s global list or a private arbitrator. If this is done, the willing arbitrator must submit an affidavit to the arbitration commissioner, stating that they have agreed to arbitrate the case and will comply with Nevada’s arbitration rules.

Next time, we will discuss getting a rental car after you have been in a Las Vegas car accident.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What Are Mediations and Settlement Conferences in Las Vegas Personal Injury Court Cases?

Mediations and settlement conferences are one of the most useful tools in your injury attorney’s tool belt to settle Las Vegas litigation cases. Both are ways to settle your case and avoid trial. In Las Vegas personal injury cases, a mediation is meeting, with an experienced personal injury attorney and/or former judge, to possibly settle your case.  All of the parties and their attorneys will be present during the mediation.  

Prior to the mediation, each parties’ attorney will submit confidential mediation briefs, discussing the case and providing all necessary supporting documentation. The mediator will have received and reviewed these briefs prior to the date and time set for the mediation. This way, the mediator will have a thorough understanding of your case, before you even walk into the door to meet the mediator. During the mediation, the mediator will meet with each side privately in an attempt to bring the parties together for a successful resolution of the case. This process may take hours as the mediation goes back and forth between each party. If the mediator is successful and the parties have reached a settlement agreement, then the parties will put their agreement in writing. At the end of a positive mediation, each side will have avoided a costly and uncertain outcome at trial.

There are a few differences between mediations and settlement conferences in Las Vegas injury cases. Settlement conferences are just like mediations, expect for a few key differences. In a settlement conference, a current judge, sitting in Clark County’s District Court, acts as the “mediator”. However, they are called a “settlement conference judge” instead of a mediator. The title is different, but the role is the same. Additionally, since judges are paid by our tax dollars, the judge acts as the mediator without additional payment from the parties.

In settlement conferences, the judge who is acting as the “settlement conference judge”, is NOT the judge who would hear your case, if your case proceeded to trial. The settlement conference (aka mediation) is conducted by different trial court judge, randomly assigned by the courts, based upon availability. 

A “settlement conference judge” is therefore a current sitting trial court judge, while a mediator is private attorney or former judge, who devotes much of their time in their role as mediators. Depending on the complexity of the case, the parties may agree to hire a private mediator. A private mediator may have more time to review a very complex case. Additionally, in a settlement conference, the parties generally cannot choose which trial court judge will actually mediate their case. As such, sometimes the parties want to know ahead of time, who their mediator will be in their case. Whether you have a mediator or a “settlement conference judge” to facilitate settling your case, this decision is made on the specific facts of your case. You can discuss this choice with your experienced injury attorney

Next time, we will discuss Arbitration Selection Lists in Smaller Las Vegas Personal Injury actions.