In Nevada, someone who is at fault for an auto accident is responsible for compensating the other people involved in the accident for their personal injuries and property damage (usually through the at-fault driver’s insurance). Determining whether someone is at fault in a car accident is a legal question requiring a careful examination of the facts of the accident, the drivers involved, and the surrounding circumstances. In Nevada the rule applied to most car accidents is modified comparative negligence. To understand this rule it helps to break it down into its constituent parts.
Basic negligence in car accidents
Most car accident cases in Nevada rest on the initial question of whether the at-fault driver acted negligently. Negligence is a common legal standard in many kinds of civil lawsuits. In a negligence case, the plaintiff (that is, the injured party) tries to prove that the at-fault driver (the defendant) was not driving with a reasonable level of care in light of the circumstances, and as a consequence injured the plaintiff. Quite often the facts of the accident determine what a “reasonable level of care” means. A cell phone distraction looks different depending on whether it took place on a sunny day at normal speeds or on a rainy night at speeds well in excess of the limit.
Comparative negligence can offset some liability
But basic negligence doesn’t account for an important feature of car accidents: it’s relatively rare for one driver to be exclusively at fault. In response, Nevada applies the rule of comparative negligence, which offsets the at-fault driver’s responsibility by the extent to which the other driver (or drivers) contributed to the accident. For example, say the defendant swerved into the plaintiff’s lane and caused the plaintiff to smash into a guard rail. If the plaintiff was distracted by a cell phone at the time of the accident, the defendant could argue that the distraction impeded the defendant’s reactions and therefore contributed to the accident by, say, 20%.
The modified rule protects victims
Nevada applies a modified comparative negligence rule to car accident cases, in the sense that if the fault analysis concludes that the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault, the defendant doesn’t owe any damages at all. The modified comparative negligence rule discourages lawsuits that seem to flip accidents on their heads, putting the accidents’ victims in the role of defendants while the truly at-fault driver seeks recovery. Of course, in practice even a seemingly clear case can grow uncertain if the factual analysis begins to edge the defendant’s contribution to the accident toward the 51% cutoff point.
It’s important to talk to an attorney after a serious car accident
Although the facts of a car accident may at first seem straightforward, they can undergo complex interpretations in the hands of attorneys who are working to protect the interests of their clients. In a lawsuit, understanding how to handle bad facts and take advantage of good ones requires the expert guidance of an experienced lawyer.
Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented victims of car accidents in Las Vegas for over 45 years. If you have been in an accident and you have questions about your legal options, our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.