Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Can A Single Social Media Post Ruin my Personal Injury Case?

A single social media post can ruin your personal injury case. Your credibility matters more than anything else when making a claim for personal injuries. In order to show your ongoing pain and suffering, there is usually not a continuing broken bone or bloody limb to which we can point. Instead, most of the time, people silently suffer with an aching back or chronic pain. So, your credibility is paramount in a personal injury case.

It is the job of the insurance company’s attorney to attack your credibility. If you are claiming that as a result of the accident, you have daily back pain, yet you post a picture of yourself bowling with your friends and family, the defense attorney will argue that you are not in fact injured as you claim to be.

Any social media post, taken out of context, can and will be used against you in your personal injury case. What the online bowling post doesn’t say, is that you paid dearly for the night of bowling and pizza with your family, with increased pain and discomfort for many days after the fun night.

You may be thinking: “Only my “friends” can see my posts, so it doesn’t matter what I post.” In a Court case, your “private” online posts may not be shielded from the insurance company’s attorney. Even if only your “friends” can view your posts, the Court may still order you to turn over all of your posts, so the Court can review them for relevancy to your claims for injury. Simply put, the Court can order you to turn over any online posts to the defense attorneys, that relate to your physical condition or the accident at issue.

It is almost guaranteed that the insurance company and their attorneys will scour the internet to find any shred of evidence to attack you. An example from a family law case may help to illustrate the point: Your soon to be former spouse’s attorney finds one Facebook post, where you are out with friends, having a glass of wine with dinner. The attorney uses this one post to paint you as an alcoholic, that is unfit to care for your children. 

The best way to make sure that the insurance companies and their army of lawyers cannot attack your credibility, is to simply not post anything on social media from the time of the accident, until your case is completed over. Don’t let a single social media post derail your personal injury case. If you have any questions, speak to your personal injury attorney about it.

Next time, we will talk about how health insurance may affect your personal injury case. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When Are My Conversations with My Lawyer Not Protected Under the Attorney-Client Privilege?

It may come as a surprise to many, but conversations that you have with your lawyer may not always be protected under the attorney-client privilege. When can this come up in your personal injury case? Two times. The first time is when you are giving your deposition. The second time is at the time of trial. Both times happen when you are providing testimony to the other side concerning your case. We are all familiar with a person getting on the witness stand at the time of trial. However, you may not be familiar with the deposition process.

A deposition is simply a question and answer session concerning your case. The testimony you give during a deposition is similar to what you would do at the time of trial, in that you swear an oath to tell the truth. However, what you say at your deposition can be used against you at trial. 

A deposition generally takes place in a more relaxed setting than a courtroom. A deposition is usually scheduled in the conference room of the opposing party’s attorney’s office. During a deposition, a court reporter types all of the questions being asked and your responses to those questions. A booklet is then made of the question and answer session, and it reads much like a play. 

Depending on the complexity of your case, depositions can be completed in about an hour, or they can last all day. Any skilled personal injury attorney will meet with you ahead of time, to go over the deposition process with you.

It is key that preparation for your deposition or trial testimony, be done ahead of time. The courts have determined that they don’t want any “coaching of the witness” at the time of the witness is giving testimony. See Perry v. Leeke, 488 U.S. 272, 109 S.Ct. 594 (1989); see also Coyote Springs Investment v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 131 Nev. Avd. Op. 18 (2015).  The courts have also held that a party has no constitutional right to consult with their lawyer while testifying.

What does this mean? You cannot ask for a break to speak with your lawyer during a deposition or at trial. However, if the requested break was done to determine whether to assert a privilege, then your attorney must put certain facts on the record, to keep that conference private. 

However, if a break is not requested by you or your lawyer, then you can speak freely with each other. This can happen in one of two ways. First, the other side may request a break. If this happens, then your conversations with your lawyer are safe. Secondly, your attorney can request, pre-arranged breaks, in writing to the other side. If the breaks during your testimony are pre-arranged and agreed upon, then the shield of the attorney-client privilege should be held up by the courts. Your personal injury attorney will make sure to go over this with you prior to you giving testimony in your case. 

Next time, we will revisit how social media posts can sidetrack your personal injury case. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What are the Laws on Driverless Cars in the State of Nevada?

Today is the four year anniversary of driverless cars being allowed on Nevada roadways. During the 2011 legislative session, the Nevada State Legislature enacted Chapter 482A, entitled “Autonomous Vehicles”, allowing for driverless vehicles to hit the roads in Nevada. These laws went into effect on March 1, 2012.

Nevada was the first state to allow driverless cars to apply for their own drivers' licenses. However, the DMV currently only allows test cars on the road. So, autonomous vehicles are not currently available to consumers. To make sure safety comes first, Nevada requires two trained drivers to be in every car, one of them in the front seat prepared to take control of the car should an emergency arise. To get the green light to drive on Nevada roadways, companies also have prove that one or more of their automated cars have been driven for at least 10,000 miles. 

How can you tell if you are driving next to an automated car? Driverless cars have a red Nevada license plate, with an infinity symbol. In Nevada, who has these automated car licenses? Mercedez-Benz, Google, Kia, and the Freightliner Inspiration Truck are some of the companies testing autonomous cars in Nevada.

Thinking ahead, Nevada has said that when autonomous vehicles are eventually made available for public use, drivers will be required to obtain a special driver license endorsement and the DMV will issue green license plates for the vehicles. For more information, you can go to the DMV’s website at  http://www.dmvnv.com/autonomous.htm.

In addition to the Nevada State Legislature and the Nevada DMV, Governor Sandoval, has also recently said that he would allocate resources through the Office of Economic Development, toward the autonomous car industry, in a bid to become the leader in testing and development of driverless cars.

How safe are automated cars? There have been a few studies which show that driverless cars still get into accidents like normal cars. But, it is usually because of the fault of regular drivers. The most common accident type, is a driverless car being rear-end by a regular driver who thinks the driverless car is going to proceed through an intersection but doesn’t.  Also, in a recent test, a driver had to take over the wheel when an automated car wasn’t sure it could trust regular drivers to let it maneuver through a multi-lane roundabout.

Bigger issues have come up that involve human, ethical decisions. Since the cars have to be pre-programmed to make life-or-death decisions in an accident, questions have come up as to whether an autonomous vehicle should sacrifice its occupant by swerving off a cliff to avoid killing a school bus full of children. Other questions have come up as to whether its acceptable to tell the vehicles when it’s okay to break the rules, such as crossing a double yellow line to avoid a bicyclist or road workers. These issues have resulted in lawmakers requiring a driver to be in the car, to take over the wheel when necessary.

Google, one of the forerunners in automated cars, wanted to develop a car with no steering wheel or gas pedal. Nevada (and California) have both rejected this approach. This was much to the disappointment of Google.

This is an exciting topic and will be revisited when new developments happen in the advancement of automated cars.

Next time, we will discuss when your conversations with your lawyer may not be protected under the attorney-client privilege.