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Can a Bicyclist Injured by a Pothole Sue?

Riding a bicycle on city streets exposes the rider to many kinds of hazard. Distracted drivers, pedestrians walking dogs, roadway debris, and even other cyclists can all pose dangers. Issues with the surface of the road, like potholes and cracked pavement, can be especially dangerous. But if a cyclist is injured by a fall caused by a pothole, can the person or entity responsible for maintaining the road be sued?

Nevada’s recreational use statute limits suits against private landowners

Under NRS 41.510, someone who is injured on private property while engaged in a recreational activity, including riding bicycles, cannot sue the property’s owner, lessee, or occupant for injuries caused by the inadequate maintenance of the property. A private property owner has no obligation to keep roadways safe for use as cycling paths. Nor is the owner required to post warning signs or take other steps, like applying bright paint around hazards. This is true even if the owner has given express permission to the person using the road, unless the rider paid the owner a fee for access.

An exception to this rule will apply if the owner has maliciously or deliberately created an unsafe condition or done nothing to remedy a known, serious hazard. For example, if the owner of a property digs a trench across a roadway but doesn’t take steps to cover the trench or provide warnings, a cyclist who falls into the trench probably has a good cause of action despite Nevada’s recreational use statute.

Limitations on recovering from state and local government agencies

The state of Nevada has waived the sovereign immunity of the state and its political subdivisions, theoretically allowing individuals to bring lawsuits to recover for damages caused by a government agency’s negligence. NRS 41.031. However, state law has limited when government agencies or the employees can be held responsible for civil damages. For example, government agencies are shielded from liability for failing to inspect roadways for potential hazards. NRS 41.033.

Potholes can develop rapidly, especially on heavily used roadways. The agency responsible for the roadway’s maintenance may not discover the hole in time to do anything about it. However, once an agency has actual notice of a hazard, the shield against liability no longer applies. This rule gives cyclists an added incentive to call cities or counties to report roadway problems.

Cyclists should note that in lawsuits against both government agencies and private landowners the most that can be recovered in a lawsuit is $100,000. NRS 41.035. Damages can only be calculated based on the plaintiff’s actual costs (medical bills, lost earnings, etc.). An important lesson to take from this limitation is that cyclists need to make sure their personal health insurance policies cover cycling injuries, which can pile up medical bills well in excess of $100,000.

GGRM is a Las Vegas accident law firm

The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez are experienced in handling personal injury and accident cases. If you have been injured in a bicycling accident we would be happy to talk to you about your options. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.

Liability for Accidents Involving Pregnant Women

Pregnant women who are injured in accidents face unique risks. Injuries to the fetus from seatbelts and steering wheels are responsible for four out of five fetal deaths that are trauma-related. Even injuries that don’t directly affect the fetus can complicate pregnancy. If an accident leads to litigation, pregnancy-related injuries can have important consequences for the liable party.

Pregnancy and damages

In a personal injury case a plaintiff can seek compensation for all of the costs that are associated with the injury caused by the defendant. Pregnancy-related injuries are no different. The defendant must compensate the plaintiff for pregnancy-related complications to the extent the defendant is responsible for causing them. Among these damages can be the cost of recovering from emotional trauma.

Nevada law also permits plaintiffs to recover for injuries to an unborn fetus. In White v. Yup, 85 Nev. 527 (1969), the Nevada Supreme Court adopted the rule that a plaintiff may sue for damages on behalf of an unborn fetus, including for wrongful death. As a threshold matter the fetus must have been viable at the time of the accident. If the child is stillborn following the accident and the plaintiff can establish that the accident caused the still birth, wrongful death may be the appropriate cause of action. In such cases the plaintiff can recover medical and funeral costs. In some cases punitive damages may also be awarded, but under Nevada’s wrongful death statute a plaintiff may not recover damages for pain and suffering. NRS 41.085(5)(b).

Pregnant women are at higher risk of accidents

The special dangers of injury during pregnancy make it especially important for pregnant women to take precautions. One study found that women were 42% more likely to get into a car crash during their second trimester than they were during the three years prior to getting pregnant. Paying attention to seatbelt positioning, seat adjustments, and other precautions can reduce some, but not all, of the risk of injury.

Just because a pregnant woman faces higher risks doesn’t mean that she bears responsibility in the event that she’s injured by another person’s negligence. Although in accident cases an injured person’s comparative negligence can be a factor in determining a defendant’s liability, the mere fact that the plaintiff was pregnant at the time of the accident is not going to be enough. On the other hand, if the plaintiff was suffering from particularly severe morning sickness there may be an argument that she should not have attempted to drive.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured in an accident call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

Should You Sign an Insurer’s Damage Release Forms?

One of the ways an insurance company manages its risk of losses is to require insured people to sign damage release forms. A damage release provides that the insurer has satisfied its obligations with respect to a particular claim. The typical case where a release form is requested comes when an insurance company makes a payment which, in its view, satisfies its obligations toward the insured with respect to a claim.

In a simple case, such as when the insured has made a claim for well-understood and easily quantified property damage, providing a release may have little downside. But in more complex cases, damages may only come to light over time. Cases involving personal injury are often like this, simply because recovery doesn’t always follow a predictable course. People who are dealing with complicated situations should be mindful of a couple important features of damage releases.

The first is that a release may not be completely obvious. Although an insurer may risk being accused of bad faith or unfair tactics, it may nevertheless try to “hide” a damage release. It might do this by incorporating the release into a bigger document that it asks the insured to sign. Or it may make the release automatic upon the insured cashing a check. Reading everything the insurance company sends to you is critically important. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

A second important feature is that a valid damage release may prevent reopening a claim. The reason insurance companies ask for releases is to give them certainty that their obligation with respect to a claim is finished. There are perfectly valid reasons why insurers want to do this. It helps them close their financial books and keep tabs on their risk. But for the insured it can also create a significant problem if the initial claim didn’t capture the full scope of losses from an incident. By signing a damage release the insured may close—and lock—the door to getting additional coverage for a loss. A sympathetic agent at the insurer may have no option to reopen the claim once the release has been signed.

In a case where the injured person is being helped by an attorney the best course of action is to let the attorney handle the insurance process. An experienced personal injury attorney has the training to understand the technicalities of insurance claims and can recognize when something isn’t right. Protecting clients from inadvertently signing away their rights to better coverage is just one small part of the bigger picture.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. Our attorneys are available for free consultations to discuss your injury, your insurance options, and the legal particulars of your case. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

How Getting Hurt While Drunk May Affect a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Quite often the focus of discussions surrounding drinking and injuries is on the injuries caused by the drunk person. Alcohol abuse can lead to serious consequences, especially for drivers. But a drunk person can be injured in contexts other than where he or she was driving. The injured person may be hesitant to pursue a personal injury claim because of the stigmas associated with excessive drinking. But the fact that someone was drunk does not excuse the bad behavior of others.

A plaintiff’s drunkenness as a defense

Personal injury lawsuits typically seek to prove that the defendant behaved negligently and, as a consequence, caused the plaintiff’s injury. Whether the defendant behaved negligently requires a close look at the circumstances of the injury itself. What obligations did the defendant owe to the plaintiff at the time? How did the defendant fail to meet those standards? Questions like these primarily focus on the defendant, not the plaintiff.

If the plaintiff was drunk at the time the defendant caused the injury it is possible that the defendant will want to use the plaintiff’s drunkenness as a defense. Nevada is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that a defendant can ask a court to reduce the amount the defendant is responsible for by a percentage that the court attributes to the fault of the plaintiff in causing the accident. If the court finds that the plaintiff was more than fifty percent at fault, the plaintiff won’t be allowed to recover anything from the defendant.

Examples

A key question in any comparative negligence case is the extent to which the plaintiff’s behavior really factored into the injury. Sometimes a plaintiff’s drunkenness isn’t relevant. Here are some examples where that might prove to be the case:

  • The defendant was lawfully crossing the street when the defendant ran a red light and struck the plaintiff.
  • The defendant, a grocery store, left a puddle of cooking oil on the floor of an aisle and the plaintiff slipped on it.
  • The defendant’s dog wasn’t leashed and attacked the plaintiff.

The more the plaintiff’s alcohol use factors into the injury, the more difficult it will be to avoid at least a portion of the liability being placed on the plaintiff. Here are some cases where the plaintiff’s drunkenness might matter:

  • The defendant, a shopping mall, failed to block off a section of floor that was under repair and visibly unsafe, and the plaintiff stumbled into it.
  • The plaintiff unexpectedly stumbled into the street and was struck by the defendant driver.
  • The plaintiff fell after climbing onto a ladder that the defendant had left standing against a wall.

The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. We are happy to help people who have been injured resolve questions about whether a personal injury lawsuit is appropriate for their case. Call today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

Cyclists Face Significant “Dooring” Risk from Parked Cars

Riding along side parked cars is one of the riskier circumstances a cyclist can encounter on the road. “Dooring” happens when a driver or driver-side passenger swings open his or her door in front of an unsuspecting cyclist. The cyclist faced with a sudden obstruction may have no ability to stop or change course before hitting the door. The results can be catastrophic for the cyclist, who can be thrown over the top of the bicycle and land hard on his or her head or shoulders.

Mitigating the risk of dooring has become a focus for members of the cycling community in recent years. New cyclists are often counseled by more experienced riders to watch for people sitting in parked cars, and if possible to allow plenty of room for parked cars even if no one appears to be sitting in them. Driver education programs are also underway. For example, the Dutch Reach Project is working to train drivers to open their doors with their right hands. This simple change forces the body to turn, allowing for an oncoming cyclist to enter the driver’s peripheral vision. The practice is taught as a matter of course in the Netherlands.

For the cyclist who has been injured in a dooring accident, a lawsuit to recover compensation for medical bills and other costs associated with the injuries may be warranted. Cycling accidents raise a number of specific legal issues that attorneys may examine as part of their initial review of the case. These issues can include:

  • Assumption of risk. Over the years defendants in cases involving cyclist injuries have had some success arguing that the cyclist assumed the risk of injury by choosing to ride a bike in a dangerous circumstance. Assumption of risk is predicated upon the idea that the rider knew about the risk of being doored and continued to ride anyway. The argument may go that the rider had the option of taking the entire lane but was unsafely hugging the edge of the roadway, where the risk of being doored was greater.
  • Comparative negligence. Another common defense in auto accidents is the argument that the plaintiff bears at least some of the responsibility for the accident. Under Nevada’s modified comparative negligence rule, if the defendant can show that the plaintiff’s negligence was at least 50% at fault, the plaintiff will not be able to recover anything. For example, the cyclist might have been riding in a negligent manner if he or she was trying to send a text message on a cell phone at the time of the accident.
  • Time and circumstances. Any auto accident case needs to be evaluated in light of all the facts surrounding the accident. Was the accident during the day or at night? Was the cyclist using a light or other safety equipment that the driver might have seen and ignored? What traffic conditions were present at the time of the accident? Questions like these may shape how the case proceeds.

For over four decades the Las Vegas law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in accident and personal injury cases. We can help cyclists who have been injured in accidents examine their legal options and seek compensation for their injuries. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Road Rage Accidents in Nevada

Violent and aggressive behavior by drivers is a significant source of risk on the roadways. Something about being behind the wheel disarms some drivers’ normal social filters, making them prone to extreme anger and frustration that can lead to accidents. “Road rage” is a pop culture term applied to this phenomenon. In legal terms, when someone’s road rage pushes them into aggressive driving behavior that causes harm to others it can give rise to a lawsuit.

What causes road rage?

An analysis published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that incidents of road rage may be overreported in the media, giving the impression that it is a more serious problem than it is. But for the victims of a serious accident caused by an aggressive driver, the only statistic that matters is that they are among the people who will be counted in that year’s accident figures.

The NHTSA’s report offers a valuable insight into the causes of road rage. It lists the following contributing factors that can lead to aggressive driving, which includes speeding, weaving through traffic, running traffic signals, and tailgating:

  • Traffic delays.
  • Running late.
  • Disregard for others.
  • Habitual or clinical behavior.
  • Disregard for the law.

Road rage may lead to gross negligence

In personal injury lawsuits associated with traffic accidents the key question is typically whether the at-fault driver was driving in a negligent way when the accident occurred. Some forms of negligent driving are established by traffic laws. For example, speeding can be negligence per se, which places the burden on the defendant to prove that despite breaking the law his or her behavior was not negligent under the circumstances.

In a road rage incident the at-fault driver may have driven especially aggressively out of anger or frustration. If doing so was especially reckless and completely disregarded the potential danger to others, the driver may be liable for gross negligence. Gross negligence can entitle plaintiffs to additional compensation. An example of gross negligence might involve deliberately running a red light into cross traffic.

GGRM is a Las Vegas accident law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients who have been injured in car accidents. Someone injured in a road rage incident may be dealing with fear and anxiety in addition to the pain and inconvenience of recovering from an injury. We give each client personal, caring attention to ensure that their needs are addressed. If you have been injured in an accident call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Should You Carry Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Nevada?

Nevada law requires every driver to carry liability insurance to cover injuries and property damage. A driver who fails to comply with insurance laws is subject to penalties include fines and suspension of their license and vehicle registration. Uninsured drivers also create significant risk for other people on the road. They must bear the cost of damage they cause in an accident, and quite often an uninsured motorist can’t afford anything close to the cost of medical bills that can result from a serious crash. The result can be that the injured person ends up bearing most of the financial burden of an accident that was not his or her fault.

How uninsured motorist coverage works

Uninsured motorist coverage is one way to protect yourself from this situation. Such coverage kicks in whenever the other person in an accident lacks insurance and is also at fault. Someone who has uninsured motorist coverage can drive with less worry that other drivers aren’t complying with their legal obligations.

Coverage limits are an important consideration for anyone who buys insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage needs to be robust enough to cover property damage (i.e., damage to your car) as well as the expenses that come from injuries to the driver and passengers. An insurance company can offer guidance about how much uninsured motorist coverage is appropriate for a given driver’s circumstances.

Also consider taking out underinsured motorist coverage

The question of coverage limits is vitally important in every auto accident case. This is true even if the at-fault driver has legally compliant insurance. The minimum coverage requirements under Nevada law are $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 bodily injury coverage per accident, and $20,000 of property damage. In a major accident involving serious injuries, these limits may be inadequate to cover the full scope of costs. The responsible driver may need to be personally sued in hopes of seeking compensation for medical costs that can easily exceed $100,000 for complicated injuries like spinal or brain trauma.

One solution is to take out underinsured motorist coverage. Like uninsured motorist coverage, this type of coverage only kicks in if the responsible driver’s policy isn’t sufficient to cover all the costs associated with the accident. One demographic of drivers that is likely to carry only the minimum level of insurance is young people. Young people are also more likely to cause accidents due to their lack of driving experience. Put in this light, underinsured motorist coverage looks like a good idea.

Whether these add-on coverages make sense for a driver is often a question of cost. Because they are contingent, they should not be particularly expensive. Drivers with dependents should give special consideration to taking out these policies not only to protect themselves but also their children or other loved ones.

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury and auto accident cases. To learn how we can be of help in your case, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Chain Reaction Auto Accidents in Nevada

In a chain reaction accident a single event leads to a string of occurrences. A typical case involves a car ramming into the back of the car in front, causing the leading car to smash into the car in front of it. Chain reactions can also involve pedestrians or cyclists who happen to be near the first event in the chain. Here is an example from last year, in which a vehicle crossing a center line caused a series of collisions involving four cars.

What causes chain reaction crashes?

Chain reaction accidents tend to be the result of a bad mix of factors. Examining the cause of a given crash can be difficult, because in many cases the factors contributing to the “chain” are difficult to separate. But these are some of the common causes:

  • Distracted driving. Someone who is busy looking at their phone, adjusting the radio, or chatting with a passenger may not see the vehicle in front of them slow down in time to apply the brakes. Many chain reaction crashes are caused by rear-endings that are a consequence of distracted driving.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or while tired. Alcohol and drugs slow responsiveness and can have similar consequences o being distracted. Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Road conditions. Wet or dirty road conditions can multiply stopping distances in unpredictable ways. Drivers who don’t slow down in response to unsafe conditions increase the risk of a crash. Because impacted vehicles are also subject to the slippery conditions they are more likely to become part of an accident chain.

The legal consequences of chain reaction accidents

Although the scale of a chain reaction accident can feel larger than one involving only two vehicles, the same basic rules apply. The police should be contacted, help provided to anyone who has been injured, and so forth. All the drivers involved in the accident should exchange insurance information, photos should be taken, and witnesses asked to provide their contact information.

If a chain reaction accident leads to a personal injury lawsuit the central question typically will be whether the defendant in the case was negligent in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. Although the driver of the first vehicle in the chain may have been negligent, it’s possible that other people involved in the accident also were negligent. Each person’s state of mind at the time of the accident, and their response to it, will need to be examined to determine if the first driver is truly at fault for the entire chain of events, or if an intervening act of negligence also contributed.

GGRM is a Las Vegas accident law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients who have been injured in car accidents. Whenever someone has been involved in a car accident we always recommend that they contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that their rights are protected. This can be especially important in complex cases such as chain reaction accidents, where sorting through all the facts can be challenging. If you have been injured in an accident call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Illegal Urban Racing and Personal Injury

Whether due to movies like the Fast and Furious franchise, similar television shows, or video games, so-called street racing occasionally rears its ugly head in cities around the United States. During such races a driver is likely to exceed the speed limit, ignore traffic signals and signs, and place pedestrians and other drivers in significant danger. That is why street racing is illegal in Nevada and elsewhere. Someone who has been injured by someone who is competing in an illegal street race should consult with an attorney.

Nevada law on street racing

Driving or organizing “an unauthorized speed contest on a public highway” is a crime in Nevada, punishable by a fine, mandatory community service, and prison time. NRS 684B.653. By definition, driving in such a race is a form of reckless driving. A first-time offender may be fined up to $1,000, ordered to serve up to 99 hours of community service, and jailed for up to 6 months. The penalties go up for repeat offenders. Offenders can also have their drivers’ licenses suspended and their cars impounded. Note that these penalties are in addition to penalties for broken traffic laws, refusing to stop for police, and so forth.

A street racer faces significantly more serious penalties if he or she causes serious injury or death to another person in the course of a race. In such cases the driver may be imprisoned for up to six years and fined up to $5,000.

Criminal prosecution of illegal racers may not fully compensate victims

When someone is prosecuted for any crime the prosecution may ask the court to order the defendant to make restitution payments to the victims of the crime as part of the sentencing process. Such restitution can only be ordered for economic damages suffered by the victim: medical bills, lost earnings, and so forth. By law, criminal courts don’t get involved with so-called noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.

The criminal justice system may or may not protect the injured victim in other ways. The prosecution is not within the victim’s control. It may take a long time and ultimately may fail for reasons having to do with the high requirements for conviction.

People who are injured by illegal racers therefore have a strong incentive to pursue civil lawsuits to recover complete compensation for their injuries. Even if the criminal prosecution is ongoing, it can be worthwhile to also pursue a civil action. And if the criminal prosecution has concluded with a conviction, the conviction can be used in the civil case to prove the defendant’s liability.

GGRM is a Las Vegas accident law firm

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and accident cases for over 45 years. If you have been injured by a driver who was involved in an illegal street race, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Safely Riding Bikes with Kids

Teaching kids how to ride bikes safely is a great way to encourage them to develop life-long healthy habits. Putting children on bikes also involves a significant responsibility. Preventing accidents and injuries should be a top priority. Children can be at greater risk than adults for bicycling accidents. They don’t always ride in a straight line, may not have sufficient skill to respond to changing conditions, and may be easily distracted. Bearing in mind that many accidents can be prevented even by the people who are not legally at fault, here are a few tips for keeping kids safe on bikes.

  1. Check for mechanical problems. Kids’ bikes go through a lot. They get dropped, left outside for long periods, and so on. Before going for a ride in public places it’s a good idea to always check for mechanical problems, especially with brakes and any point of contact between the bike, the rider, and the road (such as seats, handlebars, wheels). A quick tightening of a loose nut may prevent an accident.
  2. Make children wear helmets. Nevada law doesn’t require cyclists to wear helmets. Although not wearing a helmet won’t result in a citation, it could result in a serious or even fatal head injury. Bear in mind that helmets do not prevent every kind of head injury, they only reduce the likelihood of severe trauma.
  3. Teach traffic safety. Bicycles are not regulated in the same way as cars in Nevada, but they are subject to traffic rules. Kids who will ride in public need to have a basic working knowledge of what signs mean. It’s especially important that kids know when they must stop. They also need to know to stay within designated lanes and when it is ok to leave them. When riding on roads, cyclists are required to stay within designated bike lanes if they are present, unless roadway conditions in the bike lane makes it unsafe to do so.

If a child is injured while riding a bike and someone else was at fault, there may be an option of suing for compensation for the child’s injuries. The facts of the accident will be vitally important for determining the outcome of the case. After an accident it is important to gather as much information as possible about the event, including the time of day, the location, details about the people involved, and so on. Of course, this is easier said than done when a child has been injured and needs medical help.

In any ensuing litigation the central question probably will be whether the person responsible for the accident was negligent. If the child was riding recklessly—for example, by running a red light into oncoming traffic—that may offer a partial or complete defense.

Talk to a Las Vegas personal injury firm about your case

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and accident cases for over 45 years. If you have questions about an accident involving a child on a bicycle, please contact us today for a free, no-obligation attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.