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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.

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.

Suing for Psychological Harm After an Accident

An accident that results in serious physical injuries often does considerably more harm than what may be outwardly visible. People who have been in an accident can suffer a broad range of psychological effects from the accident. Some effects stem directly from the accident itself, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Others can be a consequence of living with the limitations that come with a serious injury, or from side effects of treatment. Depression, emotional imbalances, and struggles with interpersonal relationships are just a few examples of the kind of psychological harm an accident can cause.

Accident victims may have the option of pursuing damages for their psychological suffering as part of their lawsuit to recover compensation for other costs associated with their injuries. In a personal injury lawsuit, damages typically fall within one of two categories. Economic damages cover concrete costs that have been or are reasonably expected to be incurred by the injured plaintiff as a consequence of the defendant’s negligence. Economic damages include things like medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Noneconomic damages capture the more abstract categories of harm for which a straightforward “invoice” isn’t readily available. Compensation for pain and suffering is an example of noneconomic damages.

A psychological injury may have components of each type of damages. To the extent that the plaintiff’s psychological harm can be established as a medical problem, its associated costs may be regarded as a form of economic damages. If the psychological harm is less a matter of medical diagnosis and more a question of subjective opinion, it may be more likely to fall within the scope of noneconomic damages, as a form of “suffering.”

The distinction between economic and noneconomic damages is important in part because Nevada caps the amount a plaintiff can recover for certain types of damages. For example, in Nevada a plaintiff cannot recover more than $350,000 for pain and suffering damages. If a damages cap applies to a specific category of damages it’s important for the plaintiff’s attorney to ensure that damages are not miscategorized to the client’s detriment.

Proving psychological harm can be a challenge in any personal injury case. Psychological problems are often difficult to diagnose. Among other things, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the psychological harm was caused by the defendant’s negligence and not another cause. For example, a plaintiff who had an existing alcohol problem before the accident may have a hard time arguing that the accident triggered a more serious alcohol dependency. To prove psychological harm, the testimony of a psychiatrist can assist the court’s analysis. Testimony from friends and family about how the accident affected the plaintiff can also be valuable.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and accident cases. We take care to ensure that each client is given the attention they deserve. In pursuing our clients’ interests we take into account every aspect of their wellbeing, including the kinds of psychological effects that the accident may have had. For a free attorney consultation about your case, please call us today at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Proving Causation in Challenging Personal Injury Cases

In every personal injury case the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant’s actions (or inactions) was the legal (or “proximate”) cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Causation is always an issue, even if it is relatively simple. Not every case is as straightforward as “A struck B and B was hurt.”

When connecting the dots from the defendant’s negligence to the plaintiff’s injury is not easy, the plaintiff’s attorneys must focus on establishing a strong case for causation. Tracing the consequences of a defendant’s negligence can be difficult for a number of reasons. That is because causation is complicated by a number of related factors:

  • Time. When time passes between a defendant’s negligent action and the resulting injury, showing causation can be more difficult. This is partly because important evidence can be lost to time, as physical evidence can be destroyed, memories can fade, and important witnesses cease to be available (for example, if a key employee of a business defendant is no longer working there).
  • Intervening causes. For a defendant to be held liable for an injury there must not be an intervening act of negligence that could also have caused the injury. Sometimes the plaintiff’s own negligence may have contributed to some or all of the damages suffered by the plaintiff. Other times another person’s wrongful actions were the real cause of the injury, but that person hasn’t been identified. The more time that has passed, the more likely the defendant will argue for intervening causes.
  • Scientific proof. Causation can require a highly technical analysis. The analysis may be of mechanical evidence, such as the failure of a product’s components. Or it may be medical, as in cases involving cancer or other illnesses that are slow to develop. When specialized knowledge is required to prove causation, the plaintiff’s team must make provision for it in their case if they hope to prevail.

Plaintiffs faced with complex causation challenges can overcome them using several approaches. The first is simply the process of uncovering evidence through discovery. In discovery both sides in the litigation ask for documents and conduct interviews (depositions) of individuals with knowledge about the facts of the case. Discovery often uncovers important facts that can be useful for establishing causation where it might otherwise remain hidden.

In many cases an expert witness can help the plaintiff provide technical analysis of the causal elements related to an injury. Experts are often invaluable in assisting judges and juries as they examine issues that require more than a commonsense understanding of the facts. Experts are hired by the plaintiff’s attorneys and their fees are typically taken out of the final award, but because their input can be decisive, they are often worth the expense.

Proving causation is at the core of a personal injury attorney’s practice. Experienced attorneys know how to use the tools at their disposal to craft winning arguments. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our site.

Admissions of Fault After an Accident in Nevada

Although it isn’t necessarily enough to build an entire case upon, a defendant’s admission of fault can be a powerful piece of evidence in litigation following an accident. An admission of fault might be as simple as an apology, or as detailed as a description of exactly how the fault took place. After an accident if the at-fault driver says something like, “I wasn’t looking where I was going and ran into you!” that statement will be a key part of making sure the defendant is held responsible for paying for the plaintiff’s damages.

An admission of fault can come in several forms. Any of these could be used as an admission of fault:

  • Apologizing after an accident. Although many states have what are called “apology laws” that prevent a simple “I’m sorry,” from being used to prove fault, Nevada is not one of them. That means that an apology can be used to help show fault.
  • Posting about an accident on social media. After accidents many defendants make the mistake of admitting fault to their friends and family in emails or social media. Such admissions are discoverable by plaintiffs in litigation, and can undermine the defendant’s contrary arguments in court or in depositions.
  • Admitting fault outside privileged contexts. Beyond electronic communications, admitting fault in a conversation that isn’t covered by a legal privilege—a discussion with an attorney, for example—can serve as evidence just as effectively as a social media post. OF course, the plaintiff needs to know about the conversation to use it.

Just because the defendant admitted fault doesn’t mean that the plaintiff has a slam dunk case. A defendant can always provide countervailing evidence that explains the alleged admission in a variety of ways. A reflexive “I’m sorry” may have little evidentiary value once examined in the context of other facts. The admission may have been made before the individual had a chance to fully understand all the facts of the accident.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation for injuries suffered in auto accidents. If you have questions about your legal options following a serious accident, we are happy to examine your case. Please call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

I Don’t Recall: Handling an Imperfect Memory in Litigation

The fallibility of memory has far-reaching influence on how the legal system works. It is one of the important justifications for statutes of limitation, which limit the amount of time someone has to file a lawsuit. It shapes rules governing how evidence is gathered and used. And it plays a significant role in shaping the burdens each party to litigation must bear as they work to establish the facts of the case.

Memory is almost always an issue in litigation. Oral testimony about events necessarily requires witnesses to remember events that happened months or even years before. Mistaken impressions can render a particular memory unreliable. For example, it’s easy to not see every detail of the roadway even in normal driving conditions, but someone who has been in an accident may be sure about important details that in fact were quite different than what memory retained: a light that she remembers being red was actually green, and so on. But intervening events can also shape memory. People telling their stories about events may embellish facts, and in time those embellishments could become part of the memory itself. People will also protect themselves from painful memories by unconsciously forgetting or changing details.

Everyone has a different aptitude for remembering things. At one end of the spectrum are people with the rare gift of remembering tiny details many years later. At the other end of the spectrum are people suffering from brain injury or disease, who might not be able to remember what happened to them just a short time earlier. Most people fall in the middle: they’re able to remember important facts, but they might not recall the small details that are critically important to the case. Because memory is so complicated and diverse, attorneys use a number of strategies to verify information, including these:

  • Giving witnesses access to records. If it’s helpful to a witness, lawyers can provide them with documents that are already in evidence, such as letters, notes, emails, and so on, to give them a reference that might help them remember important details. This process always requires care, because showing a witness a record can alter the witness’s memory. The adversarial context of litigation serves to limit the potential for distortion.
  • Finding corroborating evidence. If oral testimony raises inconsistencies it can be helpful to examine other sources of information to compare with what witnesses have said. As they say, a photograph is worth a thousand words.
  • Examining the witness. In some cases, especially those where the most important evidence is oral testimony, the witness may be asked many questions that are designed to test the witness’s overall reliability. Ultimately the power of oral testimony is determined by how reliable it appears to be. Attorneys may try to undermine the value of a given witness by demonstrating that the witness’s memory is highly faulty.

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in cases involving personal injury, workers’ compensation, and other controversies. Our attorneys work with clients to determine how memory may play a role in their case, so that solutions can be found to potential challenges before they become problems. 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.

Using Demonstratives to Prove your Personal Injury Case

Demonstrative evidence can be a powerful tool for establishing a legal case. In broad terms, demonstrative evidence refers to materials prepared by a legal team to summarize or illustrate other forms of evidence—raw data, witness testimony, collections of photographs, and so on—in a way that will help a judge or jury interpret and understand it. Demonstrative evidence might come in the form of chart, a table, or a map. Critically, demonstrative evidence has been prepared specifically for trial in reliance upon an underlying set of information.

Because demonstrative evidence is created by a party in the litigation it must meet strict standards to be admitted in court, as determined by Nevada’s evidence law. In simplified terms the evidence needs to have the following characteristics:

  • Relevance. The evidence must have a connection with a material fact that is at issue in the case.
  • Identification and authentication. The sources of facts included in the evidence must be identified and authenticated. In other words, the demonstrative item must not include information that is not otherwise already established in the case. If the evidence presents information that is based on expert analysis or testimony, a qualified witness may need to confirm its accuracy.
  • Usefulness. Evidence needs to be useful to the fact finder (the judge or the jury) to be admitted. “Useful” means, among other things, that the information is presented in a clear and accurate way. By definition, the evidence can’t be deceptive, misleading, or confusing. A chart that distorts a critical piece of information, for example by displaying it in particularly large text compared to the rest of the chart, might be deemed misleading.

Demonstrative evidence always poses a risk that it may unfairly prejudice a jury in ways that are out of proportion to the information that is presented. A stark example of this might be a barrage of explicit photographs of an injured person, formally presented to show the extent of the person’s injuries but strategically intended to evoke sympathy. Courts have the option of limiting or excluding demonstrative evidence that might have a disproportionate or unfair effect.

In a personal injury case the central questions tend to be whether the defendant behaved negligently in causing the plaintiff’s injury, and the extent to which the plaintiff has proven the damages that he or she has claimed. Demonstrative evidence can be useful in both areas. Once witness testimony and documentary evidence has been presented to the court, it can be helpful to summarize it in a chart to show how the defendant’s wrongful behavior led to the plaintiff’s injury. Likewise, preparing a table showing all the ways the injury has harmed the plaintiff, from medical costs to pain and suffering, can help the court form a complete picture of all the ways the injury has affected the plaintiff’s life.

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 develop winning strategies for taking on difficult challenges. 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.

Using a Cell Phone to Record Details of an Accident

Cell phone cameras are valuable tools for gathering evidence after an accident. The first priority after an accident should be to call police and emergency services, stabilize any injuries, and get clear of hazards like burning vehicles. Once those essential steps are taken, and provided that circumstances allow for it, taking photos or even video can help attorneys, insurance companies, and police investigators analyze the accident.

What sort of photo evidence is useful?

The short answer to this question is: all of it. A photograph can reveal things that our minds don’t process in the moment. While we’re focused on the damage to a car we may not see an important detail that is outside the focus of our vision. A photograph may capture this detail and make it available later.

There are limitless possibilities about what may be important to photograph at the scene. Here are some important examples

  • All visible damage to the vehicles involved.
  • Roadway conditions, like debris, skid marks, or spilled oil or other chemicals that might have contributed to the crash.
  • The scene of the accident, including the location of traffic signs and signals, the address, weather.
  • Personal injuries, but note that before taking pictures of an injured person it’s important to first get their consent.

Moving around the scene to capture photos from many angles is important for building up a complete record of the scene. One area where this can be important is if the two drivers involved in the crash have different recollections of how the crash occurred. Having photos from various angles of damage to the vehicles may help investigators determine what actually happened.

Be mindful of the photos as evidence

Once photos of the scene are on your phone it’s important to take steps to preserve them. Getting them downloaded to a computer or uploaded to cloud storage should be a priority. It’s very important to preserve the photos in their original format: editing a photo may raise doubts about its authenticity later on.

Also take care before putting accident photos onto social media sites. The best approach is to avoid making any statements about an accident online, but this can be especially true of photos, which may have unintended consequences, such as offending the privacy rights of an injured individual.

GGRM is a Las Vegas accident law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients who have been injured in auto accidents recover compensation. If you have been injured in an accident please call us for a free, no obligation attorney consultation. Reach out to us today 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.