Although Nevada’s highways are safer than those of some other states—like California and Texas—the Silver State has had 65 or more fatal crashes each year since 2018. And even crashes that don’t result in a death can have lifelong consequences for those involved.
What should you do after an auto accident in Nevada? What steps do you need to take to preserve your rights—and your health?
Below, we’ll discuss how to navigate the aftermath of an auto accident in Nevada.
What Happens After an Auto Accident?
If you’re involved in a car crash and you’re not injured—and the person who hit you gave you their driver’s license and insurance information—you may assume you’re good to go. However, many of the physical effects of a car crash may not reveal themselves for days or weeks, leaving you stiff, sore, and potentially facing time off work.
The effects of adrenaline at the scene of an accident can leave you feeling no pain. Unfortunately, adrenaline can also prevent you from thinking as clearly as you otherwise would. Reverting to “fight or flight” mode can mean you don’t recall key details of the accident even just a day or two later. This is one of many reasons it’s so important to file a police report after an accident, even if you’re not legally required to file one.
What Should You Do After an Auto Accident?
There are a few important steps to take immediately after an auto accident.
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you feel fine after an accident, it’s a good idea to be checked out by a paramedic or emergency room doctor to make sure there aren’t any lingering injuries that might come up later. Brain injuries in particular can have a slow onset but be especially risky if they go undiagnosed. By getting a medical diagnosis just after your accident, you’ll be better positioned to seek treatment and improve your odds of a full recovery.
It’s also important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for follow-up treatment. If your physician recommends physical therapy, rehab, chiropractic treatment, massage, or another follow-up treatment and you don’t follow these recommendations, the at-fault driver can seize on this as evidence that you—not them—are responsible for any physical pain or long-term injuries you’ve suffered.
Document the Scene
Regardless of whether EMTs or police are summoned to the scene of the crash, it’s important to document as much as you can as quickly as you can. Although you might not be in any shape to take photos yourself, if you have friends or family members nearby, they can snap some cell phone shots or get contact information for nearby witnesses. Some aspects of a crash that should be documented include:
- Damage to your vehicle
- Damage to the other vehicle
- Damage to any possessions inside your vehicle
- Any debris on the road
- Photos of the other driver’s vehicle registration, insurance information, and driver’s license
- Any visible physical injuries (like cuts, scrapes, and contusions)
If you’ve obtained the other driver’s phone number, test it by calling it before they leave to confirm it rings. Once the other driver leaves the scene, that may be the last chance you have to obtain certain important information you’ll need for a property damage or bodily injury claim.
If the accident has already been cleaned up before you can get back there, it’s still a good idea to snap some photos that show the general layout and conditions of the road around the time of your accident. It’s not uncommon for personal injury claims to take months or even years, and road construction and repair can transform a road or intersection over this period of time.
And if you can, shoot a short video while walking around the scene and showing all angles of the crash. If you ultimately decide to initiate an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, this evidence can be incredibly helpful in documenting exactly what happened and who was at fault.
Contact an Attorney
After an accident, the at-fault party’s insurance company will probably contact you to try to settle the claim. It’s in the insurance company’s best interest to settle a potential claim as quickly (and for as little) as possible, and they can use high-pressure tactics to achieve this goal. Talking to an insurance claim adjuster without seeking legal advice first could urge you to settle a claim for less than you deserve. An attorney, on the other hand, can thoroughly evaluate the facts and circumstances and assess just how much your claim is worth.
Do You Have to File a Police Report?
Under Nevada law, if police don’t come to the scene of the accident and provide you with a police report, you’re required to file a traffic crash report with the state DMV. This SR-1 report must be filed within 10 days of any crash in which one or more people are injured or killed or if there was $750 or more in property damage to one or more vehicles. This report must include a copy of your auto insurance information, any estimate of vehicle repairs or a statement of total loss, and medical records corroborating the injuries suffered by you or anyone in your vehicle.
However, you don’t need a police report to open a claim with your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company—though it can be helpful in speeding up the claims process and any decision on liability. An even better way to speed up the process is to have your attorney contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company, as this lets the other side know how serious you are.
Often, Nevada police won’t respond to private property accidents to create a police report. Private property includes just about anything that isn’t a public roadway—a home, a driveway, a parking lot, or a non-public road. If police do come to the scene of a private property accident, they’ll facilitate what’s called an information exchange—they’ll provide you with a small piece of paper that includes the name of the insured driver, the license plate number, and (if available) the driver’s auto insurance information. In these situations, it’s even more important to document the accident and any injuries that result.
Why is a Police Report So Important?
A police report can ensure you receive all the information you’ll need to pursue an insurance claim or civil lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If the driver is operating without insurance or using someone else’s vehicle, the police report can ferret out this information early in the process so you don’t head down any dead-end paths. A police report can also include a diagram of the scene as part of the investigation, and officers may take additional photos that will be helpful if there’s a dispute about liability. Police can assess injuries and note any vehicle or personal property damage.
And because providing a false vehicle registration or fraudulent insurance information to the police is a crime, you’re more likely to get accurate information through a police investigation than you are when trying to collect this data on your own. If the at-fault driver does provide false information, they could be facing criminal charges as well as a civil judgment.
When and Why Do You Need an Attorney After an Auto Accident?
As mentioned earlier, the at-fault driver’s insurance company has a vested interest in settling the claim for as little as it can. This often means moving quickly to make a settlement offer before you’ve even fully realized the extent of your injuries or property damage. And once you accept a settlement from the driver or their insurance company, you waive your right to seek any additional compensation later—even if you’ve suffered long-term physical damages from the accident that weren’t apparent when you entered the settlement.
An attorney can help you preserve any evidence supporting your claim and will also jump through the legal hoops that come with filing a personal injury lawsuit. Although you don’t have to have an attorney to sue an at-fault driver in Nevada, non-attorneys are held to the same competency standard as attorneys, and failing to follow the rules and regulations of Nevada civil procedure could result in the dismissal of your claim. Personal injury attorneys are well-versed in these rules and can navigate civil procedure more easily.
Under Nevada law, those who are injured in an auto accident (or any other personal injury claim) only have two years in which to file a lawsuit. This statute of limitations is a strict one; missing it by even one day can mean your lawsuit will be dismissed. And if you don’t have legal standing to file a claim against the at-fault driver or drivers, your odds of securing a settlement drop to next to nothing. By contacting an experienced Nevada auto accident attorney as soon as possible after your crash, you can get the ball rolling on your legal claim and ensure you get all the compensation you deserve.