Las Vegas is famous for its exciting nightlife. It’s where people go to have a good time. So although nobody expects to get in a car accident, it’s no surprise that Las Vegas has a relatively high rate of car crashes.
In 2020, there were 42,060 motor vehicle fatalities in the U.S. Of these, 312 fatalities were in Nevada. Approximately 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of 2021, an 8.4% increase over 2020. An estimate of car accident fatalities for the first half of 2021 showed the largest six-month increase ever recorded in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. As of November 2021, there were 349 crash-related fatalities in Nevada, a significant increase from the previous year.
A car crash typically leaves those involved traumatized. They suddenly have pressing questions about Nevada car insurance. Most people have heard of no-fault laws, but many are confused about the difference between no-fault and fault states and what applies in Nevada.
Is Las Vegas in a no-fault state?
No. Las Vegas is in Nevada. Therefore, Nevada car accident laws apply. There are only 12 no-fault states and 38 fault states. Nevada is a fault, or tort-based, state, which means that the person who caused the accident is responsible for the damages. Therefore, someone injured in a car accident seeks benefits from the at-fault party’s insurer. It is also possible to purchase insurance that provides coverage in the event that the responsible party is uninsured or underinsured.
What is a fault vs. no-fault state?
In a fault state, an injured person seeking compensation for an accident must prove that another person or entity was at fault. Typically, the victim files a claim against the at-fault party through their insurance company. The insurer reviews the claim, and if they approve the claim, the company pays damages up to the limits of the insurance policy. However, if the victim and the insurance company do not agree on the amount of the damages, the victim can sue the at-fault driver for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. The injured person can seek compensation whether they were driving, walking, or riding a bicycle when the crash happened.
In a no-fault state, insurance compensation is not contingent on fault. Instead, each driver files an insurance claim with their own insurance company, which covers the damages, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. In no-fault states, drivers are usually required to carry personal injury protection (PIP), which covers various types of damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral costs. Generally, the car accident victim cannot sue the party who was responsible for the accident. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. In most no-fault states, this means that the victim suffered severe injuries or damages beyond a certain threshold.
Car insurance in Nevada
By law, all drivers in Nevada must purchase auto insurance and provide proof of coverage to law enforcement officers when requested. All drivers must carry minimum amounts of car insurance of at least $25,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 per accident, and $20,000 in property damage coverage. Failure to carry the required minimum amounts is against the law.
Liability insurance coverage only protects you if you are responsible for the accident and covers the injuries or property damage to others. It is possible to purchase more coverage protection than the minimum level of coverage required. For example, if you or your passengers suffer an injury in an accident in which the other driver is at fault and either does not have insurance (uninsured) or does not have enough insurance (underinsured) to pay all of your loss, Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage pays for the medical costs of you and your passengers. Medical Payments (Medpay) pays for the medical expenses of you and your passengers without regard to fault.
Why is fault important?
Fault is a vitally important issue because the car accident victim will be seeking compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, determining fault may be complex. Insurance adjusters will collect as much information as possible to establish fault, but it is important to remember that the insurance adjuster may not have the best interests of the injured person in mind. Therefore, they will probably do everything possible to minimize financial compensation, damages, and responsibility and shift all or part of the blame to the victim. They may consider such factors as police reports, witness statements, whether or not the victim disobeyed any traffic rules, and how soon the injured party obtained medical attention after the accident. Other factors include whether or not any drivers admitted fault, or made conflicting statements.
A determination of fault is based on evidence. It is best to collect evidence from the accident site as soon as possible. Evidence may include:
- Exterior and interior pictures of the damaged vehicles
- Pictures of the accident scene, including the positions of the cars, any road hazards, debris in the area, and skid marks
- Pictures of any traffic signs and signals
- Any video surveillance footage in the area that may have captured the accident
- Repair estimates and other reports prepared by any mechanics who worked on the damaged vehicles;
- Weather reports from the day and time of the accident
- Contact information for any eyewitnesses
- In complex cases, a trained accident reconstruction expert may investigate and report on the accident
Who else may be liable?
In some cases, car accidents result from the negligence of people other than the driver, for example:
Vehicle manufacturers. If faulty manufacturing or mechanical issues led to the accident, the vehicle manufacturer could be liable under the theory of product liability.
Accidents involving commercial vehicles. When the accident involves a commercial vehicle, an employer or others responsible for overseeing the truck or driver, may be liable for the accident.
Persons or entities responsible for road maintenance. If inadequate road maintenance, such as potholes, uneven roads, or poor signage, caused the accident, those responsible for maintaining roads could be liable.
Dram shop act violations. Some states have dram shop acts, that apply to businesses that sell, serve or provide alcohol. However, Nevada has a limited dram shop law. This law states that social hosts who knowingly supply alcohol to minors may be liable for harm caused by the minor’s intoxication.
Filing a lawsuit in a no-fault state
In a no-fault state, an accident victim must first exhaust all their own insurance and prove that they fulfill one of the exceptions needed to file a lawsuit. However, in fault-based states, the accident victim may file a lawsuit through the traditional tort system. A tort is a wrongful act or omission that injures another and for which the law imposes civil liability. Therefore, the accident victim could not only recover the full amount of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, but a lawsuit could be successful in providing compensation for other damages which may not be provided for in the car insurance policy, such as emotional pain and suffering.
Negligence in car accident claims
Negligence is a common cause of car accidents. It means “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” In practice, negligence may consist of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, reckless driving, or speeding through a stop sign. To establish negligence, the injured party must prove:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty
- The defendant breached that duty
- The plaintiff was injured
- The defendant’s breach caused the injury
What if the injured person contributed to the accident?
The issue of fault is also important because in Nevada, the at-fault party has to compensate in proportion to the fault. For example, if the injured party’s portion of the fault was 50 percent or less, they may still be able to obtain damages. However, the damages are reduced by their percentage of negligence. Nevada’s modified comparative negligence law provides that if the injured party’s liability is 51 percent or more, they are unable to obtain damages from the other party.
Types of car accidents in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is the most populated area of Nevada. Approximately 80 percent of the motor vehicle accidents in Nevada occur there and Las Vegas drivers are 21% more likely to have an accident than the national average. Common types of car accidents include:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute (NHTSA), head-on collisions are very common and frequently deadly. In 2019, there were 2.8 million head-on collisions. These happen when two vehicles traveling in different directions hit each other’s front end directly. Unfortunately, these typically result in severe personal injuries.
Rear impact collisions, when one driver hits another from behind, are the second most common type of car accident. In these accidents, the two vehicles are traveling in the same direction. Such accidents are often caused by distracted driving, or tailgating. Nevada law requires drivers to leave enough room to be able to stop for the vehicle ahead. Usually, a rear-end collision is the fault of the driver in the back, but not always. In some cases, the driver in front may cause an accident while backing up.
Left-side impact collisions are the third type of car accident that can lead to personal injury. These types of car accidents are most often caused by someone trying to turn left at an intersection. Any type of side-impact crash can lead to terrible physical injuries. These crashes frequently occur when a driver fails to yield the right of way.
Sideswipe accidents occur when two vehicles are traveling in the same direction on a multiple-lane road and the side of one car hits the side of the other car. These accidents commonly occur when a driver is changing lanes or merging. Drivers have a duty to stay in their lane of travel and not leave it unless it is safe to do so. For example, if one driver attempts to change lanes while another driver is already in the lane, the driver changing lanes is usually at fault. Unfortunately, a sideswipe might also cause a chain reaction that results in multiple injured victims.
A rollover crash occurs when a vehicle rolls over onto its side or its roof.
About 85 percent of rollover crashes are single-vehicle accidents. They frequently occur when a driver loses control of their vehicle or tries to turn quickly when traveling at a high speed. Any type of vehicle can have a rollover crash, but they are especially common in vehicles with a high center of gravity. These accidents are extremely dangerous and account for the highest fatality rate of all accident types.
Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
These accidents often happen when people are walking or biking along the strip or in other congested areas. Although drivers have a duty to be careful and aware of pedestrians and bicyclists, those on foot or riding bikes must also take care. Severe injuries may result from these accidents.
Parking lot collisions
Although it may seem less dramatic than a highway crash, parking lot accidents are a common occurrence in Las Vegas. In a crowded parking lot, there may not be a clear path of travel, or the driver may be careless. These accidents are especially dangerous when they involve a pedestrian.
Common causes of Las Vegas car accidents
Millions of people visit Las Vegas each year. As a result, the roads are often congested. Drivers may be unfamiliar with the roads or distracted by the famous sights along the Strip. In addition, the layout of the city streets can be hard to navigate safely. There are six-lane roads and many traffic lights. Traffic stops frequently. Frustrated drivers may be trying to beat the light and get to their destination. There are many factors contributing to car accidents. These include:
Driving under the influence.
Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is tragically common, in part because people often come to Las Vegas to party. There are thousands of arrests for drunk driving in Las Vegas each year. Statistics show that incidents of driving under the influence most likely to occur during 6PM and 6AM on the weekends. In addition to alcohol, driving under the influence can include illicit drugs, and prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious crime in all states. Drinking and driving are involved in about one-third of all fatal car crashes. Alcohol can influence driving ability after only one drink. It can result in accidents, injuries, and in some cases, death.
Distracted driving accidents
Studies report that one-third of all drivers say they have texted while driving. In addition, distracted drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in car crashes. However, it continues to be a growing problem. An estimated that 9 people die every day in distracted driving accidents, with an additional 1,060 severely injured.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the three types of distracted driving are:
- Visual – anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road.
- Manual – anything that causes a driver to take their hands off the wheel, and
- Cognitive – anything that takes a driver’s mind off the road.
Texting while driving is the most common form of distracted driving. In Nevada, it is illegal to manually type into a cell phone or other handheld wireless communication device while driving. This prohibition includes not only texting, but also using one’s hand to surf the web, instant message, or operate apps. It is also against the law to read from a handheld device while driving, or to hold a phone up to one’s ear to speak while driving.
Other examples of distracted driving include:
- Looking at or changing the GPS
- Talking to other people in the car
- Eating and drinking (even non-alcoholic beverages)
- Using a radio or other entertainment system
- Adjusting mirrors, temperature control or other systems
- Personal grooming
- Dealing with pets in the car
Distracted driving behaviors are particularly common among tourists. They may be unfamiliar with the rental car. Often they are unsure of the roads and rely more heavily on the GPS to get to their destination.
Failure to yield
When a driver fails to yield to another vehicle, accidents happen. These accidents happen frequently in Las Vegas because frustrated drivers who have to stop every mile or so are less likely to yield the right of way. In general, failure to yield accidents often happen because:
- A driver doesn’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks
- A driver disobeys or fails to see traffic signs or signals, such as running a red light or ignoring a stop sign
- A driver proceeds into an intersection when it is not their turn
- A driver makes an illegal turn
- A driver does not judge the speed of approaching vehicles or pedestrians when entering an intersection
Common car accident injuries
A car crash can result in a wide variety of injuries. However, there are some injuries that occur more often than others, such as:
- Head injuries. When an individual may suffer cuts or bruises when their head hits a window or steering wheel.
- Traumatic brain injuries. Car accidents also can cause traumatic brain injuries, which affects the tissue and blood vessels of the brain. Concussions are common, but severe traumatic brain injuries cause catastrophic brain damage.
- Neck and back injuries. The neck, back, and spine are complex. They also contain the spinal cord, an essential and delicate structure. Injuries to this area may include whiplash, a crushed spinal cord, and fractured vertebrae.
- Broken bones. Broken arms, legs, ribs and pelvis and common and painful injuries.
- Severe cuts and burns can lead to permanent scarring
- Catastrophic injuries may result in amputations, paraplegia, or quadriplegia.
What damages may be awarded in car accident cases?
There are three basic types of damages available to car accident victims in Nevada. They are economic, non-economic, and punitive.
- Economic damages. This category refers to compensation for financial losses after an injury, such as past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, and damage to or loss of property.
- Non-economic damages. After a severe injury, some of the greatest losses may be non-economic. However, these losses are more difficult to quantify. For example, non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and emotional distress, among others.
- Punitive damages. In addition to compensatory damages, the court may award punitive damages to a plaintiff as a way to punish the defendant for intentional or egregious acts. They are intended to deter bad behavior.
Nevada car accident legal duties
A driver who is involved in a motor vehicle crash in Nevada has five legal duties. They are:
- Stop and exchange contact and insurance information. A driver who flees the scene of a crash risks hit-and-run charges;
- Move out of traffic;
- Help any injured persons;
- Notify the police of any injuries; and
- For serious accidents, report the accident to the DMV (unless the police already reported it).
Statute of limitations
The statute of limitations is a time limit within which an injured person may file a lawsuit. In most cases in Nevada, the personal injury statute of limitations is two years after the date the accident occurred. If a victim fails to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, they may be unable to sue for damages arising from that accident. The statute of limitations is vitally important, so it is best to consult with a Nevada car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Also, the statute of limitation deadlines applies to filing lawsuits, not to filing insurance claims, which should usually be done as soon as possible after the collision.
Car accidents are traumatic, and the consequences may be life-altering. For more information, or a free consultation, consult the experienced, dedicated attorneys at Gena Corena & Associates at 702-680-1111, or contact us online.