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Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel

Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving contributed to 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries nationwide in 2015. In response to this danger, many states have passed laws regulating cell phone use while driving. Nevada followed suit in 2011.

Handheld cell phone use while driving is illegal in Nevada

NRS 484B.165 regulates the use of handheld devices while driving in the state. The law makes it a misdemeanor to text, talk, or use data services on a handheld wireless communications device while operating a motor vehicle. A violation results in a fine: $50 for a first offense, up to $250 for repeat offenders.

The law provides a range of specific exceptions for when handheld phone use is not a crime. These include:

  • Use by first responders (police, firefighters, EMS) acting within the course and scope of their employment.
  • Use to report or request assistance with a medical emergency, safety hazard, or criminal activity.
  • Any use that is responding to a situation requiring immediate action to protect the health, welfare, or safety of the driver or another person, where stopping the vehicle would be inadvisable, impractical, or dangerous.
  • Use by licensed amateur radio operators in connection with a disaster or emergency, or a training exercise to prepare for a disaster or emergency.
  • An employee of a public utility who is using a utility-provided device and is responding to an emergency, including a power outage.

Unlawful cell phone use and personal injury lawsuits

A violation of NRS 484B.165 can be more than just a misdemeanor. The law’s purpose is to prevent unsafe behavior behind the wheel. A violation can be a significant factor in a personal injury lawsuit brought against a driver who causes an accident while distracted by a cell phone or other device in violation of the law.

Negligence per se is a legal rule that injured plaintiffs can use to create a presumption of liability against the defendant. It applies where the defendant violated a statute like NRS 484B.165, and the violation was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Barnes v. Delta Lines, 99 Nev. 688, 690 (1983). The rule may apply where a defendant’s cell phone records show that the phone was in use at the time of the accident and no hands-free device was in use. The causation question will depend on the facts of the case, but in cases of distracted driving can often be shown by the nature of the accident.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured in a car accident and have questions about how to pursue your case, our attorneys are available to help. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476, or reach us through our contact page.

Headphones and Personal Injury

Headphones and Personal Injury

Wearing headphones while walking on busy city streets, riding a bicycle, or driving a car can increase the risk of accidents. Headphones are potentially distracting and take away the ability to hear sounds like sirens, horns, and verbal warnings. When an accident does happen and serious injury results, the fact that one party was wearing headphones can be a factor in the process of determining legal liability.

Wearing headphones likely is not negligence per se in Nevada

People operating vehicles are not required to be able to hear, and in Nevada it is not illegal to wear headphones while driving or riding a bicycle. In the context of a lawsuit, this means that wearing headphones is not negligence per se absent a local ordinance that changes the default rule. Negligence per se can be used to shift the burden of proof from one party to the other, by showing that a party was violating a law or regulation at the time of the accident. But someone involved in an accident with a person wearing headphones probably can’t use this theory.

So, can wearing headphones be negligence?

Whether headphones contributed to an accident in a way that constitutes negligence will depend on the circumstances. Headphones might contribute to someone not paying close attention in dangerous situations. For example, a commercial truck that is backing up will have a warning signal that someone with headphones might not hear. A pedestrian or bicyclist might not hear a siren and get in front of a speeding emergency vehicle. Someone might not hear a warning horn given by a driver.

In each of these examples, there’s the possibility that the person wearing headphones committed contributory negligence. In a situation where headphones are actually a distraction and not just cancelling out someone’s hearing, this theory could be used by the other party in litigation to shift some or all of the liability for an accident.

Nevada is a modified comparative negligence state. The potential compensation available in a lawsuit will be reduced by the extent to which a plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the damages the plaintiff is seeking to recover. If a jury finds that under the circumstances wearing headphones constituted negligence, it might assign a percentage of fault to that fact. A plaintiff who is 50% or more at fault cannot recover anything from the defendant.

GGRM is listening

Because the law doesn’t require that anyone be able to hear (for obvious reasons), proving that wearing headphones was a negligent act can be difficult. An experienced personal injury lawyer can examine the facts of an accident to determine the best legal strategies for recovering compensation. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served clients in the Las Vegas area. Our attorneys are happy to answer your personal injury questions. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.

The Types Of Negligence Recognized In Nevada

The Types Of Negligence Recognized In Nevada

Negligence is a commonly used legal standard in many kinds of lawsuits, including personal injury cases. For non-lawyers who are researching their legal options, negligence can be a confusing topic. That is in part because negligence has several variants with their own rules. In this piece we look at the types of negligence that can be found in Nevada civil lawsuits.

“Ordinary” negligence

The most common type of negligence is sometimes called “ordinary” negligence. All other forms of negligence to some degree refer back to the elements of ordinary negligence. A plaintiff who brings suit under a claim of ordinary negligence must show the following elements:

  • The defendant acted negligently by “failing to exercise that degree of care which an ordinarily careful and prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.” J.I. 4.03.
  • The plaintiff suffered an injury or property damage.
  • The defendant’s negligence was a proximate or legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
  • The plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages that can be compensated through a legal process (in other words, the plaintiff’s injuries can be reduced to a dollar value).

The element of proximate or legal cause can be the lynchpin of a negligence case. In formal terms, a proximate cause produced the injury “in the natural and continuous sequence.” Nev. J.I. 4.04. Proximate cause is sometimes referred to as a “but for” test: but for the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff would not have been injured. Legal arguments around proximate cause often focus on intervening causes that might have disrupted the “natural and continuous sequence” between the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injury.

A legal cause is simply a cause that was “a substantial factor in bringing about the injury.” Nev. J.I. 4.04A. A legal cause argument is used in place of the proximate cause test when the plaintiff’s injury may have had two causes, and either of those causes would’ve caused the injury by itself. Wyeth v. Rowatt, 126 Nev. 446, 464-65 (2010).

Other forms of negligence

There are several other kinds of negligence that you may run across. A lawsuit may claim more than one type of negligence, hoping to prevail on the most serious one.

  • Gross negligence is a variety of negligence that can apply where a defendant has acted especially badly. What differentiates gross negligence from ordinary negligence is the degree to which the defendant has acted without care. Nev. J.I. 6.21. The Nevada Supreme Court has described it as an “indifference to present legal duty . . . [an] utter forgetfulness of legal obligations so far as other persons may be affected.” Hart v. Kline, 61 Nev. 96 (1941).
  • Negligence per se is a special variety of negligence that arises in cases where the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injury by violating a statute that was designed to protect a class of persons to which the plaintiff belongs. Barnes v. Delta Lines, 99 Nev. 688, 690 (1983). An example of a negligence per se situation might be a car accident caused by someone running a red light.
  • Comparative negligence is a legal defense that a defendant uses to reduce the amount of damages they owe by the extent to which the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the injury. A jury will assign the plaintiff’s negligence a percentage of responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries. Under Nevada’s modified comparative negligence statute, NRS 41.141, if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, he or she cannot recover anything.

Talk to a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer about negligence

The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have deep experience with negligence cases of every stripe. If you have questions about how negligence might fit into a dispute, we are happy to help. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or reach us through our contact page.

A Bicyclist’s Responsibilities After Causing an Accident in Nevada

A Bicyclist’s Responsibilities After Causing an Accident in Nevada

As bikes have grown in popularity as day-to-day transportation, accidents involving bicyclists have also become more common. A bicyclist faces a lot of dangers: mechanical problems with the bike, hazards in the roadway, and the other vehicles sharing the road. But a bike can also pose a danger to pedestrians, other cyclists, and even motorists. Bicyclists must be mindful of how Nevada law assigns accident liability.

Bicyclist responsibilities in Nevada

The question of fault for many traffic accidents in Nevada often focuses on whether the individuals involved in the accident were obeying the applicable rules of the road at the time of the incident. Quite often, a bicyclist who causes an accident is breaking one or more state or local rules.

Although Nevada law doesn’t characterize bicycles as “vehicles,” their riders still must obey traffic signals and signs, which includes speed limits. In most places in the state it’s lawful to ride a bike on sidewalks as well as on the road, but local regulations can alter this default rule. Cyclists must pay careful attention to roadway signs. Cyclists are also required to use hand signals to indicate when they are turning.

Ordinarily, cyclists are required to ride as far to the right as possible in the roadway. This rule doesn’t require cyclists to ride on the shoulder, which is often full of hazards. It also doesn’t require cyclists to ride through debris, potholes, or other obstructions. On multilane roads, cyclists are allowed to take an entire lane. On the other hand, if a roadway includes a clearly marked bike lane, cyclists are required to use them.

Riding a bicycle at night can be especially dangerous. Nevada requires cyclists who ride at night to have a front-mounted white light, a red rear reflector, and reflectors on both sides.

Negligence per se

When a cyclist causes an accident while breaking a law or regulation, like running a red light or speeding down a hill in excess of the posted limit, the injured party likely will argue that the cyclist committed negligence per se. In Nevada, negligence per se applies if the defendant has violated a statute that was designed to protect a class of persons to which the plaintiff belongs, and as a consequence of the violation proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury. Barnes v. Delta Lines, 99 Nev. 688, 690 (1983).

If the injured plaintiff can show these elements, the burden of showing why the events of the accident were not negligence per se shifts to the defendant cyclist. The cyclist must show that the actions leading to the accident were excused (for example, the cyclist swerved to avoid hitting a child and instead hit the plaintiff). Alternatively, the defendant can try to prove that the plaintiff isn’t in the class of people the traffic law was designed to protect. Needless to say, these are often challenging standards to meet, requiring careful marshaling of facts.

Get legal advice right away after an accident

Whether you have been in an accident involving a cyclist or you are a cyclist who has potentially caused an accident, consulting with a local attorney who knows Nevada accident law is essential to preserving your legal rights. The personal injury attorneys at GGRM have given personalized legal advice to members of the Las Vegas community for over 45 years. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request on our contact page.