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Challenges to Suing a Homeowner’s Insurance Policy for Personal Injury

Someone who suffers an injury at a private home may be entitled to coverage under the homeowner’s insurance policy. Insurers are experts at denying claims and will frequently look for reasons why an injury did not qualify under the homeowner’s insurance policy. Policies are written to provide insurers with numerous ways of escaping liability. As a consequence the insurer may need to be sued, often along with the homeowner. In doing so the injured plaintiff can face a number of challenges. Here are two examples.

Coverage limits may not fully compensate the plaintiff

The first challenge can simply be the coverage limits built into the policy. It should be no surprise that a homeowner’s policy is deliberately designed to limit the financial exposure of the insurer to risk. Policies do this in part by placing strict caps on how much the insurer will pay out for different events. The details of these caps can draw fine distinctions between who qualifies for coverage, how much coverage will be given to specific types of injuries, and so on.

A policy will always specify how much the insurer will pay for a given injury (normally some factor of $100,000). Many policies include “umbrella” provisions that add an extra catch-all value on top of the itemized coverage. The insurer will not pay more than the maximum amount of coverage. The first challenge for plaintiffs is often that the amount available under the homeowner’s policy is simply not enough to cover all the costs associated with an injury. A policy with a coverage limit of $100,000 per incident and a $500,000 umbrella provision will not make a plaintiff whole if the plaintiff is facing $1 million in damages.

Plaintiffs may not be covered in some situations

A second challenge can arise if the plaintiff is not within the scope of coverage. Some policies may distinguish between full-time residents, guests, and contractors. It may also disclaim responsibility for specific types of injury. As a hypothetical example, a policy might specify that the insurer does not cover accidental electrocution of someone who is working on electrical systems without the appropriate professional license.

One area where this “category” problem can be important is cases where the injured person was performing services for the homeowner at the time of the injury. Many homeowners’ insurance policies disclaim responsibility for injuries to contractors, with the idea being that the contractors will already have their own insurance. If a neighbor is injured while helping a landowner clear brush, the insurer may look for ways to characterize the neighbor as a contractor. One way it might succeed in doing that is if the neighbor was being compensated in some way for the work. For example, if the neighbor is helping out as a way to repay the landowner for lending the neighbor a tractor, that might be enough to place the neighbor outside the coverage scope.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

Being injured at another person’s home raises a lot of difficult questions, not least of which can be how to preserve the relationship with the homeowner despite being in a legal dispute. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. We work with clients to examine the complete picture of each case to ensure that the client’s personal and financial interests are protected. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Suing for Childhood Sexual Abuse in Nevada

The results of various studies suggest that victims of childhood sexual abuse rarely see justice done to their attackers. The reasons for this are as sad as they are complex. Very young victims may not understand that they have been abused, may be afraid of speaking up, or may simply lack the vocabulary to express what has happened. Abusers may be otherwise trusted friends or family members who escape discovery by carefully maintaining a veneer of respectability. But when victims grow up they do not need to accept what happened to them when they were young without fighting back.

Nevada is one of many states that has adopted a special statute of limitations for civil lawsuits brought against perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse. Statutes of limitations set strict deadlines by which a lawsuit must be filed to be valid. For many civil causes of action, like negligence, Nevada’s statute of limitations is two years from the time the plaintiff knew about his or her injury.

In recognition of the special nature of childhood sexual abuse, Nevada has extended the statute of limitations that applies to causes of action that arise from it. Under NRS 11.215, a victim of childhood sexual abuse must file a civil suit within the later of twenty years of reaching the age of 18, or within 20 years of discovering that an injury, such as psychological trauma, was caused by the abuse. This latter provision provides recourse for individuals who only recall their abuse through the assistance of a therapist.

Nevada law defines “sexual abuse” broadly. In addition to the sort of behavior that need not be described, it includes behavior that is done “with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires of [the] person.” NRS 201.230(1)(a). The laws governing sexual abuse are criminal statutes, meaning that the perpetrator may be prosecuted and sent to prison for an extended period if convicted. Unfortunately, in many instances the lack of evidence makes criminal prosecution less likely.

Even if prosecutors do not pursue a case the victim of childhood sexual assault should consider filing a civil lawsuit. Quite often the victim has suffered a range of long-term psychological consequences following the abuse, for which they should be compensated. To recover damages in civil court a victim of sexual abuse must be able to show by clear and convincing evidence that the abuse occurred.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. We understand that childhood sexual abuse is a complex and difficult topic. Our firm is committed to providing every client with personal, caring attention. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Medicaid and Personal Injury Lawsuits in Nevada

In the course of a personal injury lawsuit the aim is always to get the injured person the care they need and financial compensation for the costs associated with the injury. In the course of every case a client works with attorneys to make decisions that can have long-term consequences. Clients who are Medicaid recipients often face a crucial choice between pursuing financial compensation and staying eligible for Medicaid.

Medicaid is a need-based program that offers health insurance coverage to individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford it. In Nevada a household with an annual income that is up to 138% of the federal poverty level may qualify for the program. The federal poverty level varies according to the number of individuals in a household. For a family of four in 2018 a household making up to $33,383 annually may qualify for Medicaid coverage. Note that the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, extends coverage to children in households with annual incomes up to 200% of the poverty guideline.

A financial award resulting from a lawsuit, whether obtained through settlement negotiations or as the result of a trial, is a financial asset of the prevailing plaintiff. This is true even if a significant portion of the award will go toward outstanding debts. Medicaid recipients are required to report the change in their available resources to the Department of Health and Human Services by the fifth day of the month following the finalization of the award. Quite often these awards exceed the qualifying threshold for Medicaid, meaning a plaintiff must choose between continuing to qualify for Medicaid or accepting the award.

However, there are alternatives to losing Medicaid coverage:

  • For relatively small awards a plaintiff may have the option of simply spending enough money within the month to stay below the qualifying maximum.
  • Recipients of larger awards may have the option of forming a special needs trust. A special needs trust is a separate legal entity that is created to own assets for the benefit of a person who receives needs-based assistance, like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Assets placed in the trust can only be used for specific purposes that Medicaid doesn’t cover. Special needs trusts are subject to complex rules and need to be crafted by an attorney.
  • Plaintiffs can use awards to pay off debts owed under caregivers’ service contracts provided that the contracts are properly drafted. There can be a range of consequences for doing things this way, which a lawyer can help the plaintiff understand.

Medicaid recipients who have been injured in an accident should not hesitate to talk to a personal injury attorney. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. If you would like to speak to an attorney about your injury, call us today for a free consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Suing for Invasion of Privacy in Nevada

Privacy is a broad concept that reaches into every part of our lives. Physical privacy—that is, the ability to be alone and unobserved—is just one component of a larger picture. In our technological age privacy also comes into play with respect to photos and videos. People also expect privacy with respect to certain personal information, like details of their medical history.

Having one’s privacy violated can be a traumatic experience. The victim of an invasion of privacy may suffer a range of consequences, from psychological disturbance to real and lasting personal and professional consequences. In some situations a lawsuit may be appropriate to seek compensation for the serious consequences that can follow an invasion of privacy.

In legal terms, “privacy” is a complex topic with several specific categories, each with their own set of rules. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Intrusion upon seclusion. The law provides a general protection for each individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Whether an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy is a complicated question, due in part to the history of judicial precedent covering this question. There are some clear cases where a person can reasonably expect privacy: inside a stall in a public restroom, inside one’s own home, inside a tent at a campground. As with many abstract concepts, this notion of privacy has fuzzy edges that require careful analysis. In general, a lawsuit based on intrusion upon seclusion requires that the defendant have acted intentionally. A neighbor who happens to glance through a window that faces onto the street may not be intruding upon seclusion, but if he climbed a fence to peek through the window the case would probably be different.
  • Appropriation of likeness or identity. Nevada law prohibits anyone from using a photo or film of an individual, or an individual’s name, for commercial purposes without the individual’s prior consent. The law provides an exception for newsworthy items. For example, an evening news show is allowed to display a photo of individuals present at a car crash without first getting their consent.
  • Public disclosure of private facts. One of the important categories of privacy covers all the information that each person accumulates about himself or herself that one expects will remain private. Financial information, medical records, family photos, and even a personal diary can all be examples of this sort of information. This cause of action requires that the defendant have disclosed the information to the public in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive. Unlike the previous cause of action, there is no newsworthiness exception to disclosure of this kind of information.

Someone who feels that their privacy has been violated should consider consulting with an attorney. Before filing a lawsuit there are a number of important questions that need to be considered, such as the extent to which the victim’s harm can be quantified, whether the invasion of privacy is ongoing, and the motivations of the potential defendant.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation for their injuries. If you have questions about your privacy case, please call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

A Marijuana Dispensary’s Liability for Negligent Sales

With the decriminalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada much of the conversation about the topic of marijuana use and sales has shifted to the nonmedical side of the business. But medical marijuana has been an important resource for patients who have been prescribed its use under Nevada’s 2001 law authorizing its use. Like a conventional pharmacy, a medical marijuana dispensary can make mistakes that can have serious consequences for patients.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are required to follow a range of protocols designed to prevent unauthorized sales and protect patients from improperly tested products:

  • Dispensaries may only sell to individuals holding valid medical marijuana cards issued by the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. The DPBH maintains an online registry of cardholders, meaning there is even less of an excuse for dispensaries that run afoul of this rule.
  • Nevada law requires dispensaries to have all of their products tested by an independent testing laboratory prior to their sale to patients. These labs are required to test every product (including edible products) for four things: (1) the concentration of active ingredients in the product, (2) the presence and identification of molds and fungus, (3) the composition of the product, and (4) the presence of chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides. NRS 453A.368.
  • Every product sold by a medical marijuana dispensary must be labeled with disclosures about the source of the marijuana used in the product, the product’s potency, and other information.

A well-run dispensary shouldn’t ever make obvious errors like dispensing to a patient who does not have a lawful medical marijuana card. But one can imagine various ways that a dispensary could make errors or, out of lack of caution or neglect, dispense the wrong product. A patient who is expecting a relatively low-dose product but instead receives a high potency one could experience overdose symptoms, including panic attacks, confusion, and increased heart attack risk.

When such mistakes occur the patient who is injured by them should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The personal injury attorney will need to have as much information as possible about the incident as well as the patient’ medical condition. The physician who issued the medical marijuana prescription will be an important resource in developing the case, in part because the patient may need to establish a “base line” against which the effects of the improperly dispensed product can be compared.

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you have been injured as a consequence of negligent actions by a marijuana dispensary, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Tools for Proving Brain Injury

Before a plaintiff in a personal injury case can recover compensation, he or she must prove that the injury exists, and that it was caused by the defendant’s wrongful actions. The existence and scope of many kinds of injury can be proven in straightforward ways: a broken bone can be proven with an x-ray, a burn can be proven with photos of scars, and so on. Brain injuries can be more difficult to prove, because they aren’t always visible and the technology that can reveal changes to a brain’s structure is not readily understood by people outside the medical industry.

Physical proof of brain injury

Some forms of traumatic brain injury can be revealed in much the same way as a broken arm. Advances in medical imaging technologies allow astonishing detail to be reduced to photographs that can be admitted as evidence at trial. There are a number of tools available to capture images of the brain’s structure. These include computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Each of these technologies reveal different things, ranging from an MRI’s three-dimensional picture to a DTI’s microscopic analysis.

There are challenges associated with using evidence from these scans. The first is that they need to be available at all. In some cases the injured plaintiff doesn’t have access to these technologies, or the access was not timely enough. A second problem is that an untrained person often can’t tell when an image shows damage to a brain. Therefore expert witnesses are often required to help the court interpret the output of the scans. Whenever expert witnesses are involved there’s always a possibility that the defense will bring their own experts to contest the testimony of the plaintiff’s experts. Issues like these can be overcome by experienced personal injury attorneys, but they can complicate a case.

Proving brain injury when physical proof isn’t definitive

Modern scanning technology doesn’t always provide a definitive answer to what is happening in the brain. In many cases the output of a given scan may be interpreted in multiple ways, leaving significant doubt about the existence of the injury. Despite the apparent lack of “photographic” evidence, the person suffering from such injuries knows that something is wrong.

A common approach in such cases is to present evidence of how the plaintiff’s life has changed as a consequence of the injury. Doing this requires building a narrative of change by developing a picture of how the plaintiff behaved before the injury and how that behavior has changed. The plaintiff’s friends, family, and coworkers may be good references. In the age of cell phone video, a plaintiff may have a lot of video to show, for example, that a particular speech impediment was not present before the accident. The plaintiff’s health care providers are often crucially important witnesses in such cases.

Talk to an experienced personal injury law firm about your case

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. We are committed to providing each client with personal attention and care. If you have suffered a brain injury and need help sorting through your legal options, please contact us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

Can a Personal Injury Plaintiff Recover Compensation for Weight Gain?

Weight gain is a common side effect of injuries and long-term illnesses. Pain and loss of mobility often limit the injured person’s ability to stay active. Some people, especially those who are normally very active, like runners, find that their ordinary diet gives them more calories than they need. And some medications used to treat pain also can also contribute to weight gain. There are strategies that can help mitigate the problem, but in many cases weight gain is outside the individual’s control.

When an injury leads to a civil lawsuit the object of the plaintiff is to recover compensation from the defendant for the consequences of the injury—what in legal terms are called damages. Among the things that a plaintiff must prove to recover for any form of damages are two important requirements: justiciability and causation.

The justiciability (practicality) of weight gain damages

“Justiciability” simply means that the issue in question is of the sort that a court can solve as a legal and practical matter. There are lots of things that a court can’t do. Some of these things come from the legal rules governing the courts, from constitutional principles to specialized rules of procedure. Other things are simply practical limits. A court can’t order a defendant to take the plaintiff’s excessive weight away.

This is why damages for things like pain, suffering, or weight gain need to be reduced to dollar figures. Ordering someone to pay another person money is a straightforward and concrete solution to many problems. But putting a monetary value on a nonmonetary problem (in legal terms, noneconomic damages) is not always easy. A plaintiff who claims noneconomic damages bears the burden of proving that the damages have been calculated fairly and accurately. For weight gain, this calculation might include factors like long-term health consequences, emotional or psychological challenges related to weight, and so on.

Causation and weight gain

To recover any kind of damages the plaintiff also must show that the damages were caused by the defendant’s wrongful action. After all, if the defendant didn’t cause the harm, it would be unjust for the court to include it in the damages award. It is sometimes relatively straightforward to draw the link between damages and the defendant’s behavior. If the defendant ran a red light and smashed into the plaintiff’s car, there’s a clear connection between that event and the plaintiff’s resulting medical bills.

Causation can be a tricky area for weight gain. Unlike a broken arm, weight gain is a slow process that can have a wide range of causes. To avoid liability for the plaintiff’s weight gain the defendant could raise a number of arguments. A common strategy is to find another, intervening cause of the problem. For example, if the plaintiff began to eat a lot of high-calorie food after the accident, despite a doctor’s recommendation to stay on a restricted diet, perhaps the plaintiff was responsible for the gain.

Plaintiffs who want to claim weight gain among their damages must anticipate arguments like these. Each case requires its own set of solutions. Testimony from the plaintiff’s doctors, scientific evidence of how weight gain is a consequence of the injury, and other forms of evidence can be used to show the causal relationship between the defendant’s actions and the weight gain.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. We treat each case with the personalized care it deserves, and help clients recover compensation for the full range of damages for their injuries. Call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

How Not Wearing a Seatbelt Can Affect Accident Lawsuits

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States for people under the age of 40. Over half of the people killed in crashes were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the accident. As in every state, Nevada law requires drivers and passengers in most motor vehicles to use seat belts. Children under the age of six who also weigh less than 60 pounds are required to be restrained in safety seats, ideally in the back seat. Failing to follow these rules can lead to devastating injuries in the event of an accident.

Although Nevada law requires passengers and drivers to wear seat belts, it also limits how a failure to wear a seat belt can be used in a civil lawsuit. Under NRS 484D.495(4), a violation of the seatbelt requirements “may not be considered as negligence or as causation in any civil action or as negligent or reckless driving.” In practical terms, what does this mean?

  • Not wearing a seatbelt is not a form of contributory negligence. In a personal injury lawsuit the defendant may want to argue that the plaintiff contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries by committing an independent act of negligence. Contributory negligence typically involves some breach of a legal duty, like not using a hand-held cell phone while driving. NRS 484D.495(4) specifically prevents defendants from raising this argument in cases where a plaintiff has been injured in an accident in which the defendant was at fault but the plaintiff’s injuries were made worse by the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt.
  • Not wearing a seatbelt is not an intervening cause of injury. One of the hurdles for bringing a successful personal injury lawsuit is the requirement that the plaintiff prove that the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries. If the defendant can argue that the injuries were caused by something other than the defendant’s actions, the defendant can’t be held liable. For example, a plaintiff’s car might have suffered a major mechanical problem during the accident that was more to blame for the plaintiff’s specific injuries. But the fact that the plaintiff wasn’t wearing a seatbelt can’t be used in this way.

These rules offer a legal shield for people who were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of an accident in which they were injured. A defendant who was responsible for the accident cannot reduce or eliminate liability by using the mere fact that the plaintiff wasn’t wearing a seatbelt to raise two standard and powerful defenses.

The short takeaway is that people who were not wearing seatbelts at the time of their accident should not be deterred from pursuing legal action. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation in auto accident cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

What to Do if a Defendant Doesn’t Pay

Getting a favorable court judgment in a personal injury lawsuit, whether as a result of a full trial or through a settlement agreement, often is not the last challenge for injured plaintiffs. Collecting on the judgment can, in some circumstances, be a challenge as well. Some defendants aren’t able to pay the amount they owe, while others are willing to risk being held in contempt by withholding payment out of spite. In a negotiated settlement agreement, plaintiffs can require defendants to deposit funds into an escrow account as part of the settlement, but absent such an arrangement plaintiffs sometimes need to take extra steps to recover what they are owed.

If a defendant doesn’t pay within a reasonable time it can put the plaintiff in an increasingly difficult financial position. The reason the plaintiff has brought suit in the first place is to recover compensation for the costs associated with the plaintiff’s injury. Many people who suffer injuries take on debts for their immediate medical needs. They also often have to take time off work, which can force them to miss payments on credit card bills, mortgages or rent, phone bills, and so on. Late fees and the threat of worse—damaged credit ratings, foreclosures—will continue to mount until the defendant makes the plaintiff whole.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem. Personal injury lawyers help their clients pursue a range of avenues for collecting from unwilling defendants. There are a few mechanisms available:

  • Building collections into a settlement. As mentioned above, in some ways plaintiffs can protect themselves by reaching a settlement agreement with a defendant who may not be able or willing to pay on a judgment. Plaintiffs need not accept a settlement that doesn’t make adequate provision for the financial side of the deal. Settlements can provide for structured payment plans that can provide defendants with a practical way to pay down their liability, which can be especially attractive for defendants who must pay out of their personal assets (as opposed to an insurer).
  • Go after the defendant’s property with a writ of execution. The owner of a judgment can ask the court to issue what is called a writ of execution, which authorizes the plaintiff to take possession of certain specified property owned by the defendant, such as cash or investments. To enforce a writ of execution the plaintiff may need to hire a professional collection agent, who specializes in tracking down property that the defendant may not be willing to part with.
  • Garnish the defendant’s wages. If the defendant has a job the plaintiff can ask the court to order the defendant’s employer to withhold a portion of the defendant’s wages, up to a statutory maximum.
  • Place liens on the defendant’s property. Although a plaintiff may not be able to force a defendant to sell a primary residence to pay the value of a judgment, the plaintiff may be able to place a lien on the property so the defendant can’t sell without satisfying the judgment debt. Liens like this are typically junior to liens held by mortgage lenders, which means their primary purpose is to tie down the defendant’s assets while the debt is outstanding.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. We work closely with clients to help them recover what they are owed. If you have been injured and you have questions about your case, please reach out to us for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Supplemental Security Income Benefits and Personal Injury Settlements

The goal of most personal injury lawsuits is to make the injured plaintiff financially whole by requiring the person responsible for the injury to assume its associated costs. For a variety of reasons most personal injury disputes end up settling out of court. In filing suit the plaintiff makes claims for damages suffered in connection with the defendant’s negligence or other wrongdoing. Damages typically include medical bills and property losses. They also usually include lost earnings.

Plaintiffs who receive Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, can be surprised to learn that their personal injury settlement can affect their eligibility for continued payments under the SSI program. SSI is a program operated by the federal Social Security Administration that provides supplemental income to qualified individuals. To qualify an individual must, among other things, be disabled, blind, or over the age of 65. The individual must also “have limited income and resources.”

A straightforward cash payment as part of a personal injury settlement usually will push an individual out of qualifying under this second, asset-based requirement. An individual with qualified assets worth more than $2,000, or $3,000 for a married couple, is not eligible for SSI benefits. A significant number of personal assets are not included in this figure: the SSA does not count the value of a primary home, a vehicle, household goods, and business property. However, ordinary cash held in a checking or savings account does count toward the resources limit. As such, accepting a check in a settlement can instantly disqualify a plaintiff from continuing to receive SSI benefits.

The problem with this outcome is that the funds a plaintiff receives from a settlement generally need to be used straight away to pay off the costs associated with the plaintiff’s injuries. The settlement award is, therefore, not always a windfall but simply a way to pay down debts. If the award also renders the plaintiff ineligible for SSI benefits the effect can be the loss of significant and even vital monthly income.

One strategy for overcoming this problem is to create what is called a special needs trust to hold the settlement proceeds. Trusts are legal entities that are created by carefully preparing paperwork. The object of a special needs trust is to place strict limits on how the money in the trust can be used—in the case of an injury settlement, the usual purpose is to pay for expenses related to the plaintiff’s injury. By formally restricting how the plaintiff can use settlement funds a properly designed special needs trust can ensure that the settlement does not qualify as a “resource” that would disqualify the plaintiff for SSI benefits.

Problems like those faced by injured plaintiffs who receive SSI benefits are another good reason to work with an experienced personal injury law firm when pursuing a case. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. If you receive SSI benefits and you have concerns about how your personal injury lawsuit may affect your eligibility, we are happy to discuss your case with you. For a free attorney consultation call 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.