Personal injury is one of the broadest categories of civil law—these claims can encompass everything from defamation to dog bites to defective products. But when it comes to filing personal injury claims, what do Nevada attorneys tend to see the most often? The answers may surprise you. Below, we’ll discuss five common types of personal injury claims filed in Nevada’s courts, as well as what you’ll need to prove to recover damages.
Car accidents are the most common category of personal injury claims throughout the U.S. Each year, American drivers are involved in about six million car crashes—and while not all of these accidents are the subject of an eventual lawsuit, many are. Careless drivers who are deemed at fault in an auto accident can face civil penalties and, in some cases, criminal charges as well.
Some types of car accidents that can commonly lead to a personal injury lawsuit include:
- Rear-end collisions
- T-bone collisions
- Chain reaction collisions
- Parking lot collisions
Assessing fault in an auto accident can often be a challenge. You may need to rely on police reports, witness statements, a crash reconstruction, any toxicology results from the other driver, and even cell phone records that reveal whether the other driver was texting or surfing the web while driving.
Slip-and-Fall or Trip-and-Fall Claims
Another common personal injury allegation is the slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall claim. These claims can be filed when someone is injured by slipping, tripping, or otherwise falling on a dangerous condition in a business, home, or public property. Slip-and-fall claims can include falls in icy parking lots, skidding on slippery food or spilled water in a grocery store, or even tripping over a tree root or sidewalk crack.
It’s a landowner’s duty to keep their property free from known hazards, so to prevail in a slip-and-fall claim, the plaintiff will need to show that the property owner knew, or should have known, that a condition on their property posed a danger to visitors yet didn’t take the proper steps to protect visitors from this hazard.
Each year, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. Just as with auto accidents, this doesn’t mean that every dog bite victim will eventually file a lawsuit; but for those who are seriously injured or require expensive follow-up medical care, a lawsuit can help secure the compensation you need to fund your ongoing care.
Generally, a dog’s owners will be the ones held financially responsible for any dog bite injuries. Nevada adheres to the “one bite rule,” which essentially means that the first dog bite is “free.” But after a dog has bitten someone, if they ever bite another person, they’ll be deemed a dangerous dog and their owner(s) will be held legally and financially liable for any damages.
Medical malpractice covers any personal injury claim against a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider or professional. To prevail in a medical malpractice claim, you’ll need to show that the treatment you were provided fell below the standard of care and you suffered damages as a result. Medical malpractice can cover failure-to-diagnose and failure-to-treat claims, botched procedures, inadequate follow-up care, or unexpected side effects.
Like many states, Nevada has its own medical malpractice laws and procedures—these cases are different than the standard personal injury claim. Instead of simply filing a complaint with a trial court, you’ll need to file a complaint and a sworn affidavit from an expert medical witness who affirms that your malpractice claim has merit. Without this affidavit, your claim is likely to be dismissed.
Assault and Battery
A final common category of personal injury claims falls under the assault umbrella. Assault and battery are intentional torts, in that they involve one person deliberately hurting another; this makes them different from most personal injury claims, which involve unintentional or passive torts that rely on a showing of negligence and carelessness. In an assault or battery lawsuit, you may be entitled to recover your medical expenses, any lost wages, and other direct costs attributed to the altercation, as well as pain and suffering damages if they’re warranted under the circumstances.
These five claims only scratch the surface of common personal injury claims. Some runners-up in this category include:
- Premises liability claims
- Slip and fall claims are sometimes encompassed in this category, though pure premises liability can be much broader.
- Workplace accident and injury claims
- Workers’ compensation can sometimes cover the injured person’s medical bills and lost wages, but sometimes more is needed.
- Product liability cases
- Dangerous or defective products can cause serious injuries to both users and bystanders.
- Boating and recreational vehicle claims
- Boats, motorcycles, RVs, and ATVs can be just as dangerous (if not more so) than passenger vehicles. Operating an ATV without a helmet or a boat without a life jacket can increase the risk of injury.
- Wrongful death claims
- A wrongful death claim can be filed by the surviving family members in any situation where the deceased person could have filed a personal injury lawsuit if he or she had survived the accident.
- Trucking accidents
- Semi trucks and trailers are significantly heavier than passenger vehicles and take far longer to come to a stop. This can put drivers at risk of serious injury if they’re involved in a collision with a large truck.
These types of situations account for tens of thousands of personal injury claims filed in Nevada’s trial courts each year.
What You’ll Need to Prove in All Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury cases can encompass a range of injuries, but all claims boil down to a few key elements. To prevail in a personal injury case under Nevada law, you’ll need to show three things:
- The defendant(s) owed you a duty;
- They breached this duty; and
- This breach caused you damages.
These elements can be established through both direct and circumstantial evidence. To win a judgment, you’ll need to prove your claim through a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lesser standard than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard applied in criminal cases.
Some evidence you can present to support a personal injury claim includes:
- Medical bills and records documenting the type and extent of your injuries;
- Witness statements from those who saw the accident or witnessed your injuries afterward;
- Photos or videos of the scene of the accident, including dashcam and bodycam video;
- Photos or videos of your injuries;
- Expert witness testimony;
- Your own testimony, particularly about what you remember from the incident and how your life has changed as a result; and
- A vocational report indicating how your career prospects or earning potential may have been affected by the accident.
You may be able to introduce additional evidence depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. Your attorney will work closely with you to determine what evidence is available and what you’ll need to show to prove you’re entitled to recover damages.
Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases
Many personal injury claims are settled before the parties ever see the inside of a courtroom. These pre-litigation settlements are designed to avoid the cost and hassle of litigation for both parties. The defendant can cut its losses by paying a set sum rather than risking an unfavorable or unpredictable verdict at trial, while the plaintiff can have access to settlement funds now instead of spending months or even years in legal limbo.
The categories of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury claim include:
- Medical expenses already incurred
- Future medical expenses (like physical therapy or follow-up surgery)
- Prescription drug costs
- Lost wages
- Lost future earnings if the accident has impeded your earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
If you’re married, your spouse may also have a legal claim for “loss of consortium.” This claim can be brought for the loss of companionship, and care suffered by the injured person’s spouse, and any damages recovered for loss of consortium are awarded separately from the damages on the underlying personal injury claim.
Nevada’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
Under Nevada law, an injured person who is alleging they’ve sustained property damage and medical costs has only two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. This strict statute of limitations will bar any claim that’s filed more than two years after an accident, even if it’s clear that the defendant is the one at fault. Someone who only has a property damage claim has three years to file a civil lawsuit against the party responsible.
This deadline makes it even more important to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Waiting too long could leave you scrambling to file a lawsuit before the deadline. Getting your legal ducks in a row before you’re pressed to file can help you make the strongest possible claim against the person or entity at fault for your injuries, boosting your odds of a pre-trial settlement.