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Calculating Pain and Suffering in Personal Injury Cases

The category of damages called “pain and suffering” can sometimes be the eye-catching part of a personal injury trial’s outcome. For example, a recent case awarded a plaintiff $10 million for pain and suffering in connection with a severe injury suffered by a teenager on a homeowner association’s badly maintained swing set. Someone who has been injured and is considering filing a lawsuit should take a moment to understand what pain and suffering damages are and what their limitations rae.

The categories of damages in Nevada civil litigation

Civil trial damages are divided into three categories:

  1. Economic (or compensatory) damages can be thought of as the consequences of the defendant’s wrong actions that can be reduced to a firm dollar figure without resorting to abstraction. Past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, and property damage are examples of economic damages. The scope of economic damages can itself be a controversy at trial. For example, a person’s future earnings are contingent on many factors, like the person’s age, years to retirement, and career path.
  2. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in cases where the defendant has acted especially badly. The aim of punitive damages is to make an example out of the defendant to deter others from behaving in the same way.
  3. Noneconomic damages tend to be difficult or impossible to quantify using commonly accepted formulas. Examples of noneconomic damages include humiliation, anxiety, grief, and loss of enjoyment. Pain and suffering are just two closely related variations of noneconomic damages.

The types of damages that a plaintiff can seek in a case depend on the nature of the claim, the parties involved in the case, and other factors. Economic damages tend to be available in almost every case that isn’t simply barred on other grounds. But noneconomic damages can be subject to caps or even prohibited altogether. Such restrictions are usually contained in statutes that are designed to limit the liability risk of certain activities. For example, Nevada law limits noneconomic damages in professional negligence cases (e.g., medical malpractice) to $350,000. NRS 41A.035.

How are pain and suffering damages calculated?

A plaintiff’s claim for pain and suffering, or other forms of noneconomic damages, must be fair and reasonable and may not exceed any applicable statutory cap. Like all damages, pain and suffering also must be proven with evidence. The greater a showing the plaintiff can make of the tribulations suffered due to the defendant’s wrongful actions, the greater the potential damages award. Unlike a plaintiff’s medical bills, pain and suffering isn’t so much a matter of math as one of reasoned argument.

Proving pain and suffering requires a careful collection of hard evidence, like photos and medical records. Documentation of the plaintiff’s medical condition, such as x-rays, can be especially persuasive. Oral testimony can also be vitally important. The plaintiff’s family members, friends, occupational therapists, and others can help to paint a picture of how the plaintiff’s life has changed after the incident.

GGRM is an experienced personal injury law firm in Las Vegas

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have been injured in an accident and would like to speak to an attorney at no cost, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.

Seeking Compensation for Child Care After an Injury

Parents and other guardians of children can find that caring for a child after a serious injury is significantly harder than it was before the injury occurred. Routine tasks like lifting, driving, doing laundry, or cooking may no longer be possible while recovering from the injury. As a consequence, it may be necessary to hire outside help. Plaintiffs in this circumstance sometimes wonder if they can include the cost of child care in their personal injury lawsuit claims.

Nevada law allows plaintiffs in personal injury cases to include “replacement services” in the scope of the damages that are demanded in a lawsuit. Replacement services essentially covers things that the injured person used to do for themselves, but now must hire an outside person to do. This includes cooking and cleaning, and also includes taking care of children.

Replacement services are a form of economic damage, because they can be tied to real-world numbers. The actual cost of hiring a nanny or housekeeper, hiring a driver to take the kids to school, or hiring someone to cook can be proven with actual invoices or, if the plaintiff hasn’t been able to afford such services before the lawsuit begins, with reference to estimates or averages taken from services available in the plaintiff’s community.

As with other forms of damage, the cost of replacement services must be proven with reasonable certainty to be recoverable. Making a full accounting of the cost of child care will require consideration of a range of factors that include the anticipated likelihood of the plaintiff’s recovery to resume providing child care, and the age of the children involved (i.e., how long replacement services will be needed).

Although parents may seek to recover the highest possible compensation for child care services, courts may place some limits on what can be recovered. For example, a court may consider it unreasonable to provide plaintiffs with sufficient compensation to allow for a full-time, professional caregiver if the plaintiff’s circumstances would allow for a less expensive alternative. If prior to the injury the plaintiff shared child care responsibilities with another adult, the defendant may only be held liable for replacing the plaintiff’s services alone.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation for personal injuries. We are proud of our long history of providing caring, thoughtful service to each client. We work hard to take every part of a client’s life into consideration as we develop our cases. Please call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Personal Injury Lawsuits for Hearing Loss

Significant hearing loss can have profound consequences, from a life-long reliance on hearing aids to loss of enjoyment in music, challenges holding conversations, and other problems. Hearing loss can also be accompanied by pain and uncomfortable auditory conditions, like tinnitus. A wide variety of accidents can cause hearing loss. It’s easy to imagine someone suffering ear damage in a car accident, for example: a blow to the head, or exposure to very loud sounds, could lead to long-term hearing problems.

Because damaged hearing is a significant injury, it can be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit, or form part of a broader set of claims arising from a defendant’s negligent behavior. A claim for hearing loss will need to contend with similar issues as other forms of personal injury. Some of the common issues faced by a plaintiff in such cases include:

  • Causation. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury. How difficult this question is to answer will depend on the facts of the case. If the plaintiff suffered hearing damage during a car accident the relationship between the defendant’s actions and the hearing damage may be relatively simple. Other cases may require expert testimony to establish how the defendant’s actions led to hearing loss.
  • Actual injury. One of the challenges of proving hearing loss can be a lack of base-line information. This is a common problem in workers ‘compensation cases and why police, fire fighters, and other first responders are required to get their hearing tested regularly. If an event causes a sudden reduction in hearing the plaintiff may be able to recover compensation only for the amount of hearing that was actually lost as a consequence of the event. If the plaintiff doesn’t have a medically accurate measure of his or her hearing before the event, establishing the amount of loss may be more difficult and, therefore, full compensation may be more difficult to obtain.
  • Quantifying the injury. A challenge in any personal injury case is determining the appropriate amount of compensation that the defendant is responsible for paying to the plaintiff. Hearing loss often requires a range of concrete costs, such as specialist medical care and expensive hearing aids. It can also cause long-term ear pain and headaches. For some plaintiffs, especially musicians, loss of hearing can impact earning potential. Accounting for all these damages is important for ensuring that plaintiffs get the most from their claims.

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you have suffered hearing loss as a consequence of another person’s negligence and you have questions about your legal options, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Dogs and Injuries to Small Children

Small children love playing with dogs. But not every dog has the temperament to tolerate rough play from a child, and sometimes a child can trigger defensive instincts even in a mild-mannered animal. Parents and caregivers who plan to have a dog around small children should take care to follow a few simple rules:

  • Supervise. Dogs shouldn’t be left alone with small children. A common mistake is to take for granted that an easy-going dog will stay that way when a child is doing things that may provoke it, like climbing on the dog’s back, grabbing at the dog’s face, ears, or eyes, or pulling on a tail.
  • Control the environment. A high-energy environment, with loud noises and lots of people running around, can overstimulate a dog and lead to accidents. Bear in mind that dogs can get physical when they play: they will run around, jump, use their front paws to push and grab, and so on. A small child can be injured by playful behavior just as much as aggressive behavior.
  • Teach. Even children who haven’t learned how to speak can learn how to interact with dogs. Teaching children to pet dogs with open handed, gentle movements can help them develop a better relationship with the dog, while also reducing the chances that they’ll do something to startle the dog.
  • Intervene. Watch closely for signs that the dog is distressed. Wide eyes, lowered ears, and of course growling are all signs that the dog needs to be separated from the child. The best course is usually to simply pick up the child.

If a child is injured by a dog, seek medical attention for the child right away. Children may not be able to communicate the extent of their injuries and can suffer broken bones more easily than an adult. Children have remarkable resilience, but parents should also watch for signs of psychological harm, like lingering fear of dogs, that might need to be addressed.

Failing to take reasonable steps to keep a child safe from a dog could lead to legal liability for someone who has responsibility to keep the child safe. When a dog causes a child serious injuries that require medical intervention, the child’s parent or guardian may be forced to sue to recover compensation from the dog owner’s insurance policy or directly from the owner. To protect themselves and others, people who own dogs should verify that their insurance coverage will protect them in the event of a dog-related injury.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases, including injuries caused by dogs. If your child has been hurt by a dog and you are wondering about your legal options, please call us for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our site.

How Getting Hurt While Drunk May Affect a Personal Injury Lawsuit

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

A plaintiff’s drunkenness as a defense

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

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

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

Patient Advocates as Witnesses in Professional Negligence Lawsuits

People who are hospitalized with serious illnesses and injuries often can benefit from having an advocate—a family member, friend, or even a paid professional—who looks out for the patient’s interests. Advocate can help to improve patient care in a number of ways. They serve as intermediaries between hospital staff and the patient, helping to resolve confusion and answer questions that the patient may not be able to answer. They help the patient evaluate treatment options. And they keep an eye on how well the patient is being treated.

If a patient is injured during a hospital stay the advocate may also become an important witness in any ensuing litigation against the hospital or its doctors for professional negligence (a.k.a. medical malpractice). An advocate need not have medical training to offer essential insights into events leading to the patient’s injury. This is especially true if the patient is not capable of testifying to the facts of the case, for example because the patient has severe dementia.

For a patient advocate the focus of time in the hospital should naturally be on ensuring that the patient is getting the best care possible. Anticipating litigation isn’t the advocate’s job. But there are things advocates routinely do that can help attorneys should the need arise. Keeping good notes is a valuable step. Notes can record the treatment options that have been offered, diagnoses, medications, and so on. They can also include the names of the people involved in the patient’s care. Some of these details will be reflected in the hospital’s formal logs, but other details may slip through and only be available in the advocate’s notes.

If litigation becomes necessary the advocate’s role as a witness likely will focus on the facts surrounding the patient’s care. The advocate who has served as the patient’s eyes, ears, and voice during the treatment process now serves, in a sense, as the patient’s memory.  Who made decisions, and when? How did staff respond to emergencies? What questions were asked? Having access to answers like these from a witness who is not tied to the hospital or other defendants can be extremely valuable in developing a case.

An advocate isn’t going to be asked to give opinions about medical matters. A professional negligence claim often rests on failures by defendants to follow established protocols. The claims need to be backed up with affidavits and testimony from experts who are qualified to speak about the defendant’s specific field of practice. The advocate may be asked to help an expert witness analyze the case to determine if negligence has happened.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. We are happy to answer your questions about potential professional negligence in a hospital setting. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Personal Injuries at Sporting Venues

There are a number of sources of personal injury at major sporting venues like stadiums and basketball arenas. Like any other public venue, sporting arenas can have physical problems that make them unsafe: wet floors, broken railings, inappropriately locked doors, and so on. Spectators can be injured by balls or other equipment flying into the stands. Spectators can also end up hurting each other, whether deliberately (in fights) or by accident. These circumstances each require a separate legal analysis, but all may offer injured people the option of suing for compensation.

  • Premises liability. Any business that is open to the public is required to take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable injuries to visitors. In the context of a sports venue, this generally means making sure that the facility is well maintained. This includes having a process in place to address common hazards. For example, spectators can be expected to spill drinks. A stadium should be routinely checking for water on floors that are likely to be slippery if they get wet. Similarly, venues should maintain their stairways and address broken infrastructure, even if it means shutting down a portion of the venue while the repairs are underway. Someone who is injured by a condition that should’ve been anticipated—for example, slipping on a wet floor—may have legal recourse against the owner or operator of the facility under a theory of premises liability.
  • Injuries to spectators. Major sports venues print liability waivers on the backs of their tickets. These waivers typically provide that spectators assume the risk of injury by sitting close to the action. The waivers are intended to discourage people from suing if they are hit by a stray baseball or hockey puck, or a basketball player falls over them and hurts them. Under Nevada law the enforceability of a liability waiver will depend on the facts of the injury. An ordinary situation, such as a tipped basketball flying into the stands, may be the sort of thing that a waiver would cover. But if a player deliberately flings a ball into the stands, perhaps with the intent to hurt a heckler, the waiver probably would not apply.
  • Injuries caused by other spectators. Some injuries at sports venues are caused not (or at least partially not) by the venue’s negligence but by actions of other patrons. In these cases it can be appropriate to sue the individual who caused the injury. For example, a spectator who drops an object from a high deck might be liable for injuries to people who are struck down below. Such cases may also implicate the venue, if the venue hasn’t taken reasonable precautions against the injury. Large stadiums often build netting under their upper decks to prevent objects as well as people from falling.

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

Suing Corporate Defendants for Personal Injury in Nevada

When a business is responsible for causing a personal injury, the injured person often needs to sue a legal entity—a corporation, limited liability company, or other business type—either on its own or in addition to individuals who may bear liability. For someone outside the legal field the idea of suing a corporation may sound daunting. It’s common to hear people speak of corporations as huge, powerful organizations that ordinary people can’t hope to defeat. The truth is often quite different.

What are business entities?

There are a lot of different legal forms a business can take. The simplest are sole proprietorships (owned by one person) and general partnerships (owned by more than one person). These forms of entity are the “default” whenever someone conducts business, regardless of whether they are organized in a meaningful way. The owner of a sole proprietorship, or the owners of a general partnership, are personally liable for the obligations of their business. For example, if a delivery service is operated as a sole proprietorship by the individual who owns it, the individual owner can be sued individually in the event that she causes an accident while working. In these “personal liability” forms of business, the owners’ personal assets are exposed to the risks of the business.

Corporations and other “limited liability” forms of business entity, including limited liability companies (LLCs), limited partnerships, and specialized business forms like limited liability partnerships (LLPs), put a legal fiction between the owner and the business. These business forms require their organizers to file special paperwork with the Secretary of State, as well as compliance with numerous other rules. A properly organized corporation “owns” most kinds of liability that arise in the course of its business. Its owners typically aren’t personally responsible for the corporation’s debts.

How lawsuits against limited liability entities work

Suing a corporation or other limited liability business entity requires knowing at least the name of the entity. Organizations that do business in Nevada are required to be registered with the state, regardless of whether they are organized under Nevada law or under the laws of another state. As part of registration, a business must provide the Secretary of State with an agent for service of process, which may be an officer of the company or a business that serves the purpose for others. The agent for service of process provides individuals with the address where lawsuits can be properly served against the corporation.

Among the challenges of suing a corporate defendant can be a lack of assets sufficient to cover a court judgment. In some cases it may be possible to reach beyond the corporation or other limited liability entity to sue its owners, a process called “piercing the corporate veil.” This process requires certain facts to be true, such as improper governance practices on the part of the corporate owner or personal involvement by the owner in wrongful activities. Identifying the owners of a business can itself be a challenge, as owners are often able to stay anonymous in public records, and a business may itself be owned by another business entity. In fact, large businesses often have complex structures that need to be pieced apart by a plaintiff’s attorney to find the proper entity to sue.

A person who has been injured by a business should not let the “corporate” nature of the responsible party deter them from exploring a lawsuit. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. We are used to dealing with the complications of suing corporate defendants and can help you understand what may be involved in recovering compensation for your injuries. Call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

How Much Does Expert Testimony Cost in Personal Injury Cases?

In civil litigation expert witnesses can be an essential source of information for litigants, judges, and juries. The role of an expert witness is to “assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or determine a fact in issue.” Common examples that come up in personal injury cases include testimony from an engineer about the design of a defective product, from a physician about a complex medical condition, or from an accountant about complicated damages questions. To qualify as an expert a person must have specialized training and expertise, and as such they typically charge a high price for their services.

Just how much an expert witness may “cost” will depend on the individual expert and how much work they must do in support of the litigation. The Expert Institute (a witness clearing house) offers a “calculator” tool that presents national averages and, sometimes, state-specific information about how much experts in different fields typically demand. Their approach divides fees into three components: the initial review fee, the deposition fee, and the court fee. This can be a helpful way to examine how costs work:

  • Initial reviews. For an expert witness’s testimony to hold up under adversarial scrutiny it needs to be based on a rigorous analysis using well-established, objective standards. The initial review phase of an expert witness engagement typically involves providing the witness with information about the case and answering questions to help them assess the facts. At this phase a witness may reach a conclusion that isn’t helpful to the case—after all, the expert is there to provide a neutral opinion, even though a party to the litigation is paying for his or her services with a particular goal in mind. The complexity of an initial review can be very high in cases where the expert needs to conduct research or physical exams.
  • Depositions. Expert witnesses don’t necessarily need to testify in person in a courtroom. A deposition is essentially a formal pretrial questions-and-answers session where the witness responds to questions (interrogatories) by attorneys for both sides in the litigation. Preparing for a deposition can require the witness to prepare exhibits, compile references, and so forth. Depositions can be as short as a couple hours to as long as several days, depending on the complexity of the case and the topics at issue.
  • Court fee. Few personal injury cases actually go to trial, so it’s unlikely that an expert witness will need to personally appear in court. Still, when they do experts are entitled to charge a higher than normal fee.

According to the Expert Institute, the range of hourly fees varies dramatically according to the type of expert. Hourly rates range from about $190 for an initial review by a nursing expert to over $1,000 for medical specialists. Cases that involve really complex medical issues often generate high expert fees.

For plaintiffs the important thing to remember is that personal injury attorneys will include the fees they expect to pay expert witnesses into their assessments of the case. When a plaintiff prevails in a case (whether in settlement or at trial) the witnesses will be compensated by the law firm from the compensation award. A plaintiff facing a case that will require expert testimony needs to ask their attorney early on how witnesses will be paid. Attorneys can structure engagements in a number of ways. Clients may be required to pay expenses, which often includes witness fees, if the litigation doesn’t go well or the client decides to drop the suit.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. Our experience helps us evaluate the need for expert testimony so we can give clients a fair assessment of the potential costs and final recovery they should expect. To receive a free attorney consultation about your case, call us at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

How Emergency Situations Alter Liability in Nevada

Almost by definition, emergencies like large fires, floods, and hurricanes break down the ordinary course of things. In an emergency people can find themselves well outside their familiar boundaries, placed in situations that are radically unfamiliar and potentially frightening. As a consequence, people facing an emergency can end up doing things that cause harm to themselves or others. Once the emergency is over, someone who was injured by another person’s negligence may have the option of pursuing a personal injury claim.

Taking actions that are reasonable under the circumstances

A personal injury lawsuit needs to put forward a legally sound claim to recover compensation for an injured plaintiff. There are numerous causes of action that might underpin a personal injury lawsuit, with negligence being the most common. Broadly speaking, in a negligence suit the plaintiff’s aim is to show that the defendant breached a legal duty toward the plaintiff, and as a consequence the plaintiff was injured. In an emergency situation there are a number of factors that may determine the applicable parameters for evaluating whether the defendant behaved negligently.

An ordinary person with no special training probably owes others only a duty to avoid causing harm to others by taking actions that are reasonable under the circumstances. The key question here is whether an ordinary person facing a similar situation as the defendant at the time of the alleged negligence would have behaved in a similar way. This standard offers defendants with a strong case if their negligent behavior happened in response to an emergency. For example:

  • While fleeing a rapidly moving wild fire the defendant was driving well over the speed limit and struck the plaintiff, who was walking down the middle of the road and obscured by heavy smoke. Under these circumstances, the defendant may have been acting reasonably to be driving quickly.
  • After a major car accident the defendant pushed the plaintiff to the ground to get him away from a burning car.

Negligence of professionals

The parameters of negligence can shift in some situations if the defendant has specialized training or is acting a professional capacity. Licensed professionals, like doctors, and members of the first responder community typically fall under specialized laws that generally make it more difficult to sue them for personal injuries that are caused during emergencies. For example, doctors, emergency medical staff (such as ambulance crews), and paramedics are shielded from suits based on ordinary negligence for injuries they cause while providing emergency assistance.

A professional may nonetheless still be held liable for an injury if the professional acted recklessly—that is, without regard to the injured person’s safety. For example, a doctor arrives on the scene of an accident and renders emergency assistance to a seriously injured person. In the course of providing care, the doctor ignores basic principles of first aid and roughly moves the person, making the injuries substantially worse.

Someone who has been injured in an emergency situation should speak to a personal injury attorney to better understand the available legal options. 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 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.