Car crashes occur in various ways. They range from minor collisions like fender benders to more severe accidents like head-on collisions or rear-end accidents. The more severe the collision, the more significant the property damage and severe the injuries.
In the first instance, drivers who rear-end leading vehicles are liable for the damages. However, investigations could point to negligence by the leading car’s driver that contributed to the accident.
Determining the cause of the accident is critical in proving who bears tremendous responsibility for the accident. Therefore, you can sue the at-fault driver to recover damages for your injuries or loss of property. At Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney Law Firm, we help victims of rear-end accidents recover damages for their losses. Contact our team today.
Negligence in Rear-End Accidents
Determining fault begins with establishing negligence. Under Nevada law, negligence describes actions that fall below the standard duty of care. Motorists should exercise due care by following traffic laws, practicing safe driving habits, and exercising caution when on the road. Failing to do this could cause a crash resulting in injuries and property damage.
As the plaintiff in the case, you have to prove the at-fault driver or defendant was negligent. Your attorney, therefore, must prove the following elements to prove negligence.
- Duty of care — This is an obligation on motorists to avoid placing other road users in harm's way. It is easy to prove that the at-fault driver owed you a duty of care since all motorists owe all road users this care.
- Breach of duty — The at-fault party must have breached this duty. Drivers breach this duty by disregarding traffic laws like failing to stop at a stop sign, speeding beyond the prescribed limit, texting while driving, or drunk driving. The list is not exhaustive. Your personal injury attorney will present to the jury the defendant’s actions that could be reasonably believed to put the lives of other motorists in danger. And in this case, this is the reason for the crash.
- Causation — Causation is proven through two forms, either cause in fact or proximate cause. Cause in fact is established through the “but for” test. That is, but for the defendant’s actions, you would not have suffered harm.
- Proximate cause, on the other hand, describes reasonably foreseeable circumstances that could lead to a crash, that is, could the defendant have reasonably foreseen that his/her actions could cause injury.
- Damages — You must have suffered loss or harm because of the defendant’s actions.
Parties at Fault for Rear-End Crashes
As pointed out earlier, the Prima Facie assumption is that the driver who rear-ended the leading vehicle is at-fault. However, investigations determine contributing factors that introduce other parties as potential defendants. Thus, it is not always true that the at-fault driver is always the one following the leading car.
Here is a look at the possible at-fault parties.
a) Rear Drivers
Rear drivers form a significant portion of responsible parties for rear-end collisions for the following reasons. Due to the number of rear drivers at fault for rear-end collisions, Nevada has laws that assign criminal punishment if found guilty. However, the criminal proceedings are independent of civil action pursued by victims of rear-end collisions.
Tailgating, a Violation of NRS 484B. 127
Driving too close to the leading car increases the possibility of a rear-end crash. You should maintain some distance from the vehicle ahead. This distance helps give you more time to react appropriately if the leading car stops suddenly.
The distance should be reasonable relative to the speed and the traffic situation on the road. Failure to do so is an offense referred to as tailgating. While tailgating is a criminal offense, it also features in civil proceedings against the defendant.
Tailgating is the most common culprit for rear-end collisions caused by rear drivers.
Las Vegas has assigned speed limits for different zones, including highways, residential, and school zones. Drivers can react accordingly and timely if they drive within the prescribed speed limits. If not, there is an increased likelihood of a crash with fatal consequences.
Note: Driving 30mph above the speed limit results in criminal prosecution.
Engaging in activities that take away your focus on the road potentially increases the risk of a crash. Familiar distracted driving activities most drivers engage in include:
- Texting while driving, a violation of NRS 484B.165 — This means prosecutors could also pursue criminal penalties for texting while operating a vehicle
- Holding your phone while on a call
- Reaching out for objects in the back of your car while the car is in motion
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and/or Alcohol
Inebriation reduces a driver’s reaction time and interpretation of the situation on the road. It, therefore, comes as no surprise when drunk rear-end drivers ram into or hit leading vehicles. Further, drunk driving is a criminal offense. Thus, most drunk drivers end up serving prison time over and above paying damages in civil court for the crash.
Aggressive driving is best defined as engaging in dangerous driving behavior or driving patterns that significantly increase the risk to human life. This definition includes activities like speeding, road rage, and reckless driving.
Knowingly Driving a Faulty Vehicle
The fault in question is an act that potentially increases the chance of causing a crash, like driving with faulty brakes.
b) Drivers of the Leading Car
In the following circumstances, lead car drivers can be at fault or partially responsible for the crash. He/she:
- Backed up illegally, which is a violation of NRS 484B.113
- Changed lanes without sufficient warning
- Engaged the reverse gear and accelerated accidentally
- Brake-checked a fellow motorist
- Knowingly drove the car with defective brakes
- Cut-off a rear driver without adequate warning or signaling
- Stepped on the brakes instead of the acceleration pedal, mistakenly
- Knowingly operated a vehicle with detective or broken tail lights
- Failed to turn the hazard lights on after stalling
- Failed to move their car promptly before stalling
- Stopped for no good reason or without warning
c) Third Parties
Additional factors could cause a rear-end accident other than the leading or rear drivers. They include:
- Hazardous weather that impairs visibility or affects the road condition. Common culprits include storms, fog, or snow.
- Poorly maintained roads — In this case, the defendants in your suit will be city or county officials
- Mechanical defects — If the cash is determined to have been caused by a defective car part, you can sue a car manufacturer or a car part dealer to recover damages.
Evidence Establishing Fault
Juries require proof to substantiate your claim that the defendant(s) is responsible for your loss or injuries. Your attorney will introduce the following into evidence to support your claim.
- Medical records
- Eye witness testimonies, including video footage captured on their phones
- Surveillance footage from traffic cameras, surveillance systems from nearby buildings, and dashcam videos
- Testimony from accident reconstruction experts
- Medical experts’ testimonies
Nevada’s Modified Comparative Negligence Law
Negligence is divided into two, contributory and comparative.
Contributory negligence allows plaintiffs to recover damages even if they are partially at fault. Comparative negligence, however, is a shared fault system. Blame totaling 100% is apportioned to both the plaintiff and the defendant.
Comparative negligence falls into two standards, pure and modified comparative negligence.
Pure comparative negligence allows plaintiffs to recover damages regardless of their share of fault for the accident. The sum recovered is equivalent to the percentage of the defendant’s blame.
For example, Peter suddenly slammed on the brakes because he realized the light was red. His actions caused Jack, who was driving behind, to ram into him. At the time of ramming into Peter, Jack was texting. The jury determines that Peter was drunk and on a call while driving and only saw the red light at the last minute. The jury determines that Peter, the plaintiff, was 80% at fault while Jack is assigned 20% responsibility for the crash. Under the pure comparative rule, Peter will receive 20% of the damages awarded in the case despite being 80% at fault.
The pure comparative negligence rule allows plaintiffs to recover damages despite partly being responsible for the crash. It means that the defendant would still bear legal costs over and above paying the damages awarded in the case. Nevada considered this rule unjust and opted for the modified comparative negligence standard to remedy the unfairness of the pure comparative negligence rule. Under this standard, you can only recover damages if you are no more than 50% at fault for the car crash.
According to NRS 41.141, if the jury determines you to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you cannot recover damages. However, if the jury determines the defendant or defendants to collectively bear 50% (or more) responsibility for the crash, you will recover damages equal to the blame assigned to the defendant(s).
For example, if a jury determines the defendant to be 60% responsible for a rear-end accident and a plaintiff 40% at fault, a plaintiff will recover 60% of the damages awarded. If the jury awarded $1 million, the plaintiff recovers $600,000 (60% of $1 million).
Damages Awarded in Rear-End Accidents
You should file a lawsuit against the defendant(s) within two years from the accident date. Beyond that, you cannot recover damages. It is thus necessary to engage an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after the accident.
Victims of rear-end accidents can recover compensatory and punitive damages. As the name suggests, you will receive compensation for losses sustained in a rear-end accident. Punitive damages, on the other hand, punish the defendant.
Compensatory damages fall into two categories:
- Economic damages and
- Non-economic damages
a) Economic Damages
Economic damages cater for losses whose dollar value is easily determined. Most lawsuits seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and a lost earning capacity.
The injuries sustained in a rear-end accident range from minor to severe. These injuries come with a cost implication to treat them. You, therefore, will present medical invoices and receipts as evidence to detail the costs you incurred while seeking treatment for the injuries.
Additionally, the damages sought in your lawsuits include ongoing and future costs. You could be undergoing treatment for the injuries while pursuing the personal injury suit. Further, some injuries could require treatment past the date the jury awards you damages. All these costs need to be included in the lawsuit, and a personal injury attorney is best suited to help you determine your ask.
Some of the common injuries associated with rear-end accidents include:
- Spinal cord injuries — Depending on the severity of the crash, you can sustain mild to grave spinal cord injuries that could leave you paralyzed. The collision could affect the cervical (upper), thoracic (mid), lumbar (hips and legs), or sacral sections (pelvis and buttocks) of the spine. These injuries affect mobility, fertility, sexual, and bowel function other than pain. Treatment costs could be both immediate and future. It is difficult to quantify the loss in other cases, like loss of sexual function. Thus, this loss will feature in the non-economic damages.
- Traumatic brain injuries — Some effects suffered post-TBI injuries include seizures, memory loss, loss of consciousness, visual impairment, dizzy feeling, and pain at the point of impact on your head. Most TBI injuries require continuous treatment. Your attorney will enlist the services of an injury expert to determine the value of the necessary treatment.
- Fractured or broken bones — You can suffer fractures or broken bones in a rear-end collision. Your chest could hit the steering wheel and fracture your ribs, and the impact could break your wrist, hands, or legs. The severity of the injury depends on the severity of the collision.
- Whiplash — The neck injury results from a forceful and rapid back-and-forth neck movement. This injury is mainly associated with rear-end accidents. Whiplash leads to more immediate effects like neck pain and stiffness, loss of range of motion, headaches, tenderness in the neck region, fatigue, and dizziness. Other victims experience long-term effects like difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, sleep disruption, depression, memory loss, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
- While the consequences of a whiplash injury dissipate within weeks, it is not guaranteed. It is thus crucial to have a doctor assess your hurt. His/her assessment will determine if the injury will only have a short-term impact or you should expect long-term consequences.
- Soft-tissue damage — Soft tissue injuries impact muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They cause significant pain, soreness, and discomfort. In other instances, you could suffer swelling, bruising, and stiffness. Symptoms could manifest within minutes of the crash, while some take days before noticing the damage. Some victims suffer chronic pain and discomfort long after the accident occurs.
- The full extent of soft-tissue injuries becomes apparent following Xrays, MRI, and CT scans are conducted. It is the basis of these reports that you can pursue damages for the adverse impact the injuries caused.
- Abrasions — Abrasions are open wounds resulting from the skin rubbing against rough surfaces. These injuries are mostly suffered when an individual slides across the asphalt, for example, when a rider is rear-ended by a car and is brown over a distance over asphalt. Most abrasions occur on shins, elbows, knees, ankles, and faces. Abrasions occur in either first, second, or third degrees. Simple first-aid can treat first-degree abrasions, while more extensive medical care is required for third-degree abrasions.
- Lacerations — Lacerations differ from abrasions. While lacerations are skin cuts, as are abrasions, lacerations do not lead to skin loss like in a cut from broken glass.
The most immediate property damaged in rear-end crashes is the mode of transportation (the vehicle or bike). Damages to other properties like fences or houses, if the impact of the collision caused one of the vehicles to crash into a home, will also be considered in the final figure.
Lost Wages or Earnings
Nevada personal injury laws allow plaintiffs to recover income lost due to the accident. This income includes the sum of money and benefits you could have earned during the recovery period or the lost job on account of you not being able to show up for work.
Lost Earning Capacity
Lost meaning capacity will compensate you for the lost ability to generate income as you did before the accident. Therefore, lost earning ability caters to future income loss while lost wages pay for past lost income.
Quantifying lost meaning capacity is challenging. It requires an expert whom a personal injury attorney can link up with. Their assessment includes projections of the income you would have generated, bonuses, and benefits you reasonably would have earned had it not been for your injuries.
Victims who suffer severe paralysis, severe brain injuries, or loss of limbs are candidates for lost earring capacity compensation.
b) Non-economic Damages
Some losses are not easily quantifiable but are losses that the jury acknowledges and requires the defendant to pay for. These subjective losses are referred to as general expenses and do not necessarily involve an out-of-pocket cost.
Juries determine an appropriate amount proportional to the subjective loss. Some losses include pain and suffering, disfigurement, unjust hardship, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and physical impairment.
c) Punitive Damages
Punitive or exemplary damages are not based on the losses you suffered. The jury issues them to punish the defendant(s) for egregious wrongdoing. Therefore, you have to prove that the defendant’s actions were fraudulent, oppressive, or malicious to recover punitive damages.
As the name suggests, punitive damages are significantly higher than compensatory damages. The value aims at discouraging members of society from engaging in behavior similar to the defendant. The jury determines the figure of the punitive damages based on what they believe to be a fair and reasonable sum. However, the judge can reduce the award if, in their assessment, the defendant is unable to pay or cannot pay.
Note: You will only receive punitive damages if you state the request in your lawsuit. Should the suit fail to include punitive damages, the court is under no obligation to grant punitive damages.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Should the rear-end collision result in a fatality, the victim’s surviving family can seek compensation through a wrongful death suit. In the lawsuit, the surviving family members or the executors of the deceased estate seek financial compensation for the losses incurred after the accident leading up to the victim’s demise. The lawsuit also seeks monetary settlement for the pain and suffering occasioned by the loss.
Wrongful death suits also require evidence that the defendant was responsible for the victim’s death or injuries that led to their demise. Further, Nevada law NRS 41.085 limits the potential plaintiffs in the suit to the deceased’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, or a close surviving family member who is not a sibling or a parent. According to the same law, fiancées, significant others, and close friends are ineligible.
Plaintiffs recover :
- Special damages that compensate them for medical costs incurred in treating the victim before his/her demise
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Compensatory damages the deceased would have recovered had he/she not died
- Compensatory damages to compensate the heirs (surviving family members) for their grief and sorrow, pain, and suffering occasioned by the loss of their loved one, loss of consortium, and loss of the financial support the victim would have offered
- Punitive damages the victim would have recovered had they not died
Note: Nevada law gives potential plaintiffs two years to file a wrongful death suit. Time starts running from the victim’s demise.
Find a Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Securing compensation for your injuries is challenging, especially when you are recovering. It is in your best interest to hire an attorney who will fight to secure a just settlement for you. Contact the Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney Law Firm team if you need assistance seeking compensation for your injuries. We invest our time, resources, and experience to fight for just compensation for our clients. Give us a call today at 702-576-0010.