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Lane Departure Warning Systems Can Prevent Accidents

Lane departure warning systems are among the new innovations auto manufacturers are building into their cars to help drivers avoid accidents. The systems use sensors built into the car to detect a lane and sound an alarm if the driver veers out of the lane. Some systems will even take partial control of the vehicle to keep the car moving in a straight line. For drivers who are distracted or tired, this feature can be a significant safety enhancement.

Lane departure systems raise interesting legal questions that can become important in the event that a vehicle equipped with such a system gets into an accident. Here are some potential issues that can arise:

  • The system doesn’t work as intended. Perhaps the most interesting question for drivers is how reliable a safety feature like lane detection really is. Will the car always know what a lane is? If the car can impede steering in some way, could that create its own safety hazards? For someone who is injured in an accident where a safety system may not have worked correctly, a products liability case against the manufacturer of the car or its safety system may be an appropriate remedy.
  • A driver disregards warning signals. How much liability does a driver have if a lane departure system provides an audible warning, but the driver ignores it? Drivers may have a good argument that having an optional safety system does not create an explicit legal obligation to pay attention to it. However, disregarding a car’s warnings may provide one important piece of evidence that a driver was not paying attention at the time of the accident. As such, ignoring the lane departure system may form at least part of a foundation for a claim of negligence against the driver.
  • The system was turned off at the time of the accident. Lane departure systems are typically equipped with a switch to turn them off. Some drivers don’t like to hear alarms every time they change lanes. Some don’t the idea of the car taking control. And as already mentioned, just because an optional system is onboard doesn’t mean that the driver has an obligation to use it. That a system is disabled could be a factor in an accident if a driver is used to having it on, but for whatever reason it has been turned off and the driver isn’t aware of it. In such cases, the driver may be relying on the system to drive in an irresponsible way, such as texting while driving with the expectation that the system offers a degree of extra safety. In a sense, this kind of driver may actually be less safe as a consequence of placing too much reliance on a safety feature.

When an accident involves complex questions of technology, it’s important to have an experienced accident attorney at your side. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury and accident cases. Reach out to us today for a free attorney consultation about your accident. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our site.

Using Cell Phone Memory as Evidence in an Accident Lawsuit

Cell phones are constantly gathering and sending data. Last year a Princeton study determined that some phones even track their users’ location if GPS and location tracking is manually disabled. An individual’s every screen view, not to mention texting or other forms of deliberate use, can be recorded in a phone’s memory. After an accident, all of this data can sometimes offer insights into the causes and responsibility for the accident.

In the aftermath of an accident the people involved in the incident typically turn to their insurance companies for help resolving issues of fault and compensation. In a minor accident, such as one involving damages that don’t exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits, questions of evidence may not arise. The two insurers may simply resolve the case following a routine process.

A more complex accident case, however, may hinge on a close analysis of the facts surrounding the case. This can be especially important if the accident involved significant personal injuries, where the amount of potential liability is large. In such cases, both sides have a substantial incentive to uncover evidence that is favorable to their position. Cell phone data can be one source of such evidence. Here are some examples:

  • Phone data that shows that the individual was texting or using data functions, like a web browser, at the time of the accident.
  • Data that contradicts testimony. For example, if a defendant is suspected of having been under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident, but there is no police toxicology report in evidence, the defendant’s phone may reveal that the defendant visited a pot dispensary shortly before the accident.
  • Data to prove concrete details about the accident itself. An individual may have taken video or photographs in the lead-up to the accident, or afterward. If those records don’t support the individual’s case, the individual may unlawfully try to delete them.

Getting ahold of cell phone evidence can be a challenge. Evidence can be subject to a subpoena, a court order that requires a party to provide the evidence to the other side even against objections. Some forms of data are not readily accessible to users and may require additional technical steps that require the help of outside consultants. If an individual has tried to delete information, the information may need to be recovered using special software. If the evidence can be used to prove a key component of a case, these efforts are worth the customary expense.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and accident cases. We are happy to provide free attorney consultations to individuals who have been injured in an accident. Call 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Why Attorneys Might Turn Down a Personal Injury Case

Someone who is searching for an attorney to represent them in a personal injury case may be surprised when, after an initial consultation, the attorney turns down the case. Despite the reputation of personal injury attorneys as people willing to take any case, the reality is that most attorneys have a process for evaluating cases. The evaluation process needs to take into account the interests of the law firm, but more importantly it needs to account for the interests of the client. Sometimes the client is better off working with a different firm.

There’s no hiding that law firms are businesses, and attorneys naturally do their work in part because they need to earn a living. Naturally there are firms that only accept cases that are worth a certain amount to the firm. But money matters rarely are the sole reason why a law firm turns away a potential client. Other reasons include these:

  • Lack of merit. From time to time a potential client will come to a law firm with questions about a circumstance that, after a closer look, turns out to not meet minimum standards for filing a lawsuit. A client in this circumstance often has a real grievance, but for one or more technical reasons the lawsuit isn’t going to work. A firm’s ethical obligation is to tell the client why the case probably won’t succeed. In extreme cases, attorneys can be disciplined or disbarred for filing frivolous lawsuits.
  • Conflicts of interest. From time to time a client will come to a firm with a case that turns out to raise conflicts with other clients of the firm. For example, if a firm represents a moving company on unrelated matters and is approached by a person who was hit by a truck owned by the moving company, the firm will face a conflict of interest problem if it decides to take the injured person’s case. In some circumstances a firm may be able to take the case despite a conflict of interest, but in others it’s more appropriate for the firm to turn down the work.
  • Lack of necessary expertise. A firm that doesn’t have the right skills to appropriately handle the client’s case should turn the case down. Oftentimes a firm can recommend another firm that might be able handle the case.
  • Insufficient resources. A firm should not take a case that it can’t devote the necessary time and resources to. Some firms take every case with the expectation of following a cookie-cutter approach that might save the firm some money but ultimately doesn’t give the client the best possible representation. Other firms overload their attorneys, with a similar result. A firm should recognize when it is spread too thin to take on new work and caution potential clients that they may be better off finding representation elsewhere.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury cases. We are happy to discuss the issues related to your injury to determine if our firm is the right one for you. Please call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Is Eating While Driving Negligence?

Anyone who spends a lot of time driving, or who has to squeeze meals into a commute as part of a busy schedule, often ends up eating while driving. Like so many bad driving habits, the risks associated with eating can be easy to dismiss for someone who hasn’t experienced the consequences of those risks. At the same time, eating and driving isn’t necessarily unlawful, but it can lead to negligent behavior in some cases.

Eating can be a big distraction

Eating while driving is on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) list of dangerous driver distractions. The NHTSA offers three types of distraction that drivers can experience:

  • Visual distractions draw the driver’s eyes away from the road.
  • Manual distractions require the driver to do something with his or her hands other than controlling the vehicle.
  • Cognitive distractions involve mental processes that aren’t related to driving.

Eating while driving potentially involves the first two items, and could involve the third as well. Glancing down at a bag of chips could be enough to make a driver not see the stopped car out ahead. Eating a burger requires using hands that might otherwise be on the steering wheel. And if the burger falls apart and drops a big mess into the driver’s lap, the driver may suddenly be worried about how to clean up and not about what’s happening outside the car.

Distracted driving is not, by itself, unlawful, but . . .

Prohibiting distracted driving isn’t practical, but that doesn’t mean that a distracted driver can’t be held responsible if his or her distraction leads to an accident. The NHTSA’s statistics show that distracted driving is a common cause of accidents. Nevada’s prohibition of cell phone use by drivers is an example of a specific case where lawmakers have found a way to address a source of distraction. But eating while driving is a different case. Eating while driving is common. Its potential for distraction falls on a spectrum, from relatively minimal distraction to the extreme case of being burned by spilled coffee.

Being distracted by food can lead a driver to make other mistakes that do qualify as negligence. Every driver owes other drivers and pedestrians a basic obligation to pay reasonable attention to the roadway. Failing to do so may be negligence, regardless of its underlying cause. Failing to comply with traffic laws, by swerving into an adjacent lane or running a stop sign, is negligence per se, meaning the fact that the defendant broke those specific rules creates a presumption that the driver was behaving negligently.

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in accident cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Accidents with Food Delivery Drivers: Who Pays?

Like so many professions, food delivery is undergoing a rapid evolution. These days a food delivery driver might be doing the conventional work for a pizza chain or a single restaurant, but he or she could also be working for an Internet-based service like GrubHub. Because delivery workers drive for their jobs, they have a certain risk of being in accidents. For someone who gets into an accident with such a driver, the question of liability can raise interesting issues.

Who is liable?

There are a few related components to the question of who is liable when a delivery driver gets into an accident. The first question to ask is whether the driver was “on the clock” at the time of the accident. A driver who is out making a delivery or driving back to the restaurant to pick up more food probably is being compensated for that time. But the employer may argue that people working outside of those boundaries was driving on personal time. For example, accidents during normal commutes typically fall on the side of personal time.

A second question that can be a factor in these cases is whether the driver is an employee or an independent contractor of the employer. From a legal standpoint this distinction shouldn’t really matter as far as the plaintiff is concerned, but it can add a layer of complexity to the case. Businesses are increasingly trying to shift obligations onto their workers by categorizing them as contractors. Part of this trend has been to make contractors more responsible for their mistakes. The reality is that an injured plaintiff should be able to overcome the employer’s attempt to hide behind a contract, but it may require a bit of extra work. For most cases where these issues arise, the question of ultimate liability may be resolved between the employer and contractor without the injured plaintiff’s involvement.

A third component to the analysis can be the ownership of the vehicle involved in the crash. The owner of a vehicle used for business purposes has an obligation to maintain it in good working condition. If the driver also owns the car the driver may bear special responsibility if the accident was the result of a mechanical failure. One thing to note is that the employer will look for strategies like this to shift blame away from itself.

Insurance for food delivery drivers

Every driver in Nevada is required to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance that protects other people in the event that the driver causes an accident. The minimum coverage limits ($25,000 per bodily injury per person, $50,000 for bodily injury to more than one person, and $20,000 of property damage) are quite low. On the one hand this makes policies affordable for people who work in low-wage jobs, like food delivery. On the other hand it can leave injured people under-covered in the event that an accident causes serious harm.

The good news for people injured in this type of accident is that a driver who is working at the time of the accident should be covered by the employer’s insurance. If the employer’s insurance is inadequate to cover the full value of the plaintiff’s damages, the employer probably has other resources that the plaintiff can pursue to get compensation.

GGRM is here to help victims of car accidents in Las Vegas

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in accident cases. If you have been injured in an accident with a food delivery driver we can help you examine your legal options and begin the process of recovering compensation. Reach out to us today for a free attorney consultation about your case. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our site.

Obligations to Preserve Evidence After an Accident in Nevada

When someone is injured in an accident the first priority is always to ensure that the injury is promptly treated. As the aftermath of an accident unfolds, a potentially huge array of important information can be generated and recorded. Things like photos of the scene, the identities of witnesses, and specific conditions of the drivers and their vehicles can all play important roles in any ensuing litigation. If one side of the litigation deliberately or negligently destroys or loses track of evidence (what the legal community calls “spoliation” of evidence) the consequences for that side of the case can be significant.

Intentional versus negligent spoliation of evidence

Spoliation of evidence falls within a spectrum. At the most serious end are acts to deliberately destroy evidence that might serve to help the other side or hurt your own. For example, if a driver potentially caused an accident while distracted by his cell phone, he would commit spoliation if he threw away the phone to eliminate the possibility of it being investigated for evidence of his use at the time of the accident. In such cases the party that has committed the willful act of spoliation will be subject to a rebuttable presumption that the evidence so destroyed would have been adverse to the party. In short, the plaintiff in the case could rely on the defendant’s missing cell phone to prove that he was using it, even though the phone itself was not available. NRS 47.250.

At the less extreme end of the spectrum lies negligent destruction of evidence. In the cell phone example, if the defendant simply lost his cell phone, perhaps because it fell out of his pocket on the bus leaving the accident, he might argue that the loss of the phone wasn’t deliberate. Courts have leeway to hold negligent spoliation against the party that caused it, but absent proof of intent there may be more leniency given depending on the circumstances.

What sort of evidence should you preserve?

Spoliation of evidence works in both directions in a trial. The plaintiff and the defendant each have an obligation to take steps to ensure that evidence doesn’t get lost or destroyed before it can be analyzed and made a part of the litigation. Any evidence that could be used to tell the story of the accident and the injuries suffered by the plaintiff could be subject to spoliation. In addition to the cell phone example cited above, there are many other kinds of evidence that could be germane, such as these:

  • Photos taken after the accident.
  • Damaged cars themselves, especially if the damage tells a story and is repaired without at least first being photographed and documented.
  • Notes taken after an accident, especially if they include the names and contact information of witnesses who otherwise are unknown.

When a defendant causes spoliation of evidence the plaintiff can gain a significant advantage. Someone who has been injured in an accident and feels that important evidence has been lost or destroyed should not give up hope of recovering compensation. An attorney can examine the facts of the case to determine whether a claim of spoliation is likely to succeed.

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and auto accident cases for over 45 years. We are happy to provide free attorney consultations to help injured individuals examine their legal options. Call us today at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

Legal Liability Issues for Motorcyclists

Everyone who rides a motorcycle is aware of the risks riders face when they hit the road. In some sense, the risks are part of the thrill that draws people to motorcycles in the first place. But motorcyclists may not be as aware of the special legal risks that come with riding motorcycles.

The limits of insurance

Probably the most significant source of potential risk for motorcyclists is inadequate insurance coverage. Like drivers of cars and other passenger vehicles, a motorcyclist in Nevada is required to carry a minimum level of insurance. The current minimums in Nevada are $25,000 of bodily injury per person, $50,000 of bodily injury per accident, and $20,000 of property damage. For someone on a minimal insurance plan, there are several important considerations:

  • A minimal insurance plan covers injuries and damage caused by the motorcyclist to others, that is to say, when the motorcyclist is at fault. It doesn’t necessarily cover the motorcyclist as well.
  • The minimum coverage amounts are quite low when compared to the significant risk of injury faced by motorcyclists.
  • Policies may have special rules governing passengers that motorcyclists will need to consider before they accept passengers.

Taking out an insurance policy that features higher coverage limits is a good idea. So is taking out additional policies to protect against the possibility of other drivers not having adequate coverage (so-called “underinsured motorist coverage”) can protect against being left without coverage after an accident. Motorcyclists also need to understand how their coverage will change if they are at fault in an accident. Will their policy cover their injuries as well as injuries to others? Will the policy provide for legal fees in such an event? If not, how will the motorcyclist plan for this sort of risk?

Lane splitting and fault in Nevada

Motorcycles are subject to all the usual laws of the road. A particularly important rule for motorcyclists in Nevada to understand is that Nevada law prohibits the practice of lane splitting. The technical definition of lane splitting is simply passing another vehicle within the same lane, or passing between two vehicles down the center of a lane. If a motorcycle gets into an accident while lane splitting the driver is more likely to be considered at fault.

Getting into an accident while violating a traffic rule gives rise to a claim of negligence per se. In such cases the other side of the dispute can make the driver who committed the violation responsible for proving that his or her violation of the rule wasn’t the cause of the accident. This burden can be difficult to overcome absent compelling facts that can show how other drivers involved in the accident also committed negligent acts.

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in accident cases for over 45 years. If you have been in an accident with a motorcyclist, or you are a motorcyclist and you’re wondering how to handle your legal case, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Drinking and Self-Driving Cars

As the technologies in self-driving cars reach maturity it seems almost inevitable that there will come a time when actively driving a car will feel optional. For some it will be tempting to think of a self-driving car like a taxi. But thus far, the safety record of self-driving cars has left open doubts about how much drivers can rely on them without keeping an eye on what’s going on around the car. An important issue related to this is whether it will be safe to operate a self-driving car after drinking enough alcohol to be over the legal limit.

The legal framework for self-driving cars is still in its infancy. Given the enormous complexity of a self-driving car’s technologies, lawmakers probably will be slow to allow fully autonomous vehicles to hit the roads. Nevertheless, many states, including Nevada, have adopted preliminary rules that provide guidance for driver-operators and the manufacturers of self-driving vehicles. There are two key reasons why “drunk operating” is not a legal option:

  1. There is no exception for drunk driving and driverless cars. Being behind the wheel of a self-driving car is still driving, even though the operator isn’t touching any controls and may even be ignoring the roadway. Although in theory operating a self-driving car may be a safer alternative to driving drunk, it is still not legal. Operating a self-driving car while drunk is a crime and can lead to accidents and injury liability.
  2. Safety mechanisms rely on an alert driver. Under existing law, a self-driving vehicle in Nevada must include a safety system that will turn control of the vehicle over to the operator in the event that the car’s systems cease to function as expected. This means that the operator always needs to be ready to take control. Many of the accidents involving self-driving cars have featured situations where the driver was not paying attention to the road. A driver who is reading a book or sleeping can’t do anything in the event that the car’s sensors fail to detect a pedestrian. A drunk operator’s reaction times will be even slower than those fo a sober operator.

The fact that an operator of a self-driving vehicle was drunk at the time of an accident will be a major factor in any ensuing litigation brought by someone who was injured in the accident. The operator may attempt to lay the blame on inadequacies in the car’s design, and perhaps the plaintiff will want to pursue action there as well. But the operator is still responsible for causing the accident, even if he or she wasn’t actively controlling the car at the time.

If you or a loved one is injured in an accident involving a self-driving car, do not let the fact that the car was autonomous distract you from the human operator’s responsibility for the car. Accidents where the self-driving car is at fault will present new and interesting questions for lawyers to resolve. For over four decades the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have helped clients seek compensation for injuries caused by car accidents. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

Broken Hips After Slip-and-Fall Accidents

A broken hip is a devastating injury. Recovery of full strength and motion can take as long as a year, during which the patient may endure multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and significant mobility limitations. Elderly patients are especially prone to hip fractures. When a slip-and-fall accident leads to a broken hip, a lawsuit against the responsible party may be warranted.

Slip-and-fall accidents in Nevada

Slip-and-fall accidents fall within the scope of premises liability, a legal standard that holds property owners and other responsible parties (like tenants) responsible to varying degrees for injuries that occur on their property. The rules governing a situation depend on the location of the injury and its specific cause.

  • Homeowners and residential tenants owe a duty to visitors to take reasonable steps to ensure that visitors are not injured by hazards on their properties. The reasonableness of the steps taken by a homeowner to address a hazard will vary by the facts of the case. For example, a homeowner may or may not be required to warn visitors if a walkway is slippery during rainy weather.
  • Businesses that are open to the public are held to a higher standard of care than homeowners are. They are required to keep their premises reasonably safe for use. Unlike a homeowner, a business needs to take affirmative steps to ensure that its facilities are free of hazards. Textbook slip-and-fall cases usually involve things like poorly maintained stairs, a failure to clean up a spill, or inadequate safety precautions around dangerous conditions like broken floor tiles.

Damages recoverable for broken hips

A plaintiff who has suffered a broken hip in a slip-and-fall accident that resulted from the defendant’s negligence often can recover compensation for the damages associated with the injury. Damages include medical expenses, lost wages, transportation costs, short- and long-term modifications to a home, and physical therapy. Damages can also include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and other “personal” consequences of the injury.

Someone injured in a slip-and-fall accident has two years to file a lawsuit in Nevada. Victims of someone’s negligence shouldn’t wait anywhere that long to consult with an attorney. Quite often there are important pieces of evidence, essential witnesses, and time-sensitive strategies that need to be addressed as soon as possible following the accident.

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 and your options for filing a lawsuit. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Suing After Discovering Hidden Injuries Following an Accident

Victims of car accidents are often surprised to discover significant injuries well after the accident. In the rush to treat immediately obvious problems like cuts or broken bones, less obvious wounds can go undetected. Being injured isn’t normal, so people who are hurt often don’t realize that the symptoms they are experiencing are caused by something they don’t expect. Doctors may not have the right tools to discover “hidden” injuries, or they may not detect signs that ordinarily would justify further testing.

A personal injury lawsuit following an accident aims to get the injured plaintiff compensation for the damages resulting from his or her injuries. Damages can include medical costs, lost wages, and the cash value of personal consequences like pain. Ideally the plaintiff’s initial lawsuit claims the full scope of damages associated with the accident. But what if the lawsuit is already pending, or has already settled, when the plaintiff discovers a new injury?

While the litigation is ongoing a plaintiff may amend his or her complaint to add new claims that are relevant to the case. Adding claims may delay resolution of the case, as evidence related to the new injury gets exchanged. But at this point the door is still open to recover full compensation from the person who is at fault.

If the litigation has already ended, getting compensation for the newly discovered injuries can be more difficult. Most personal injury cases settle. As part of a settlement agreement plaintiffs typically are asked to sign releases that prevent them from pursuing further litigation for claims arising out of the accident. Under normal circumstances, such waivers prevent the plaintiff from “reopening” a case against the original defendant or his or her insurance company.

Even if a release was signed as part of a settlement the plaintiff may have options. In rare cases the plaintiff might get a court to throw out the settlement, if the defendant committed fraud or didn’t negotiate in good faith. The plaintiff may also have the option of suing other defendants. A doctor who failed to diagnose a significant injury may be liable for professional negligence. Perhaps the injury was caused by a defective product. Or perhaps the original lawsuit left out potentially liable parties that could be sued.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. Reach out to us today for a free attorney consultation about your case. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our site.