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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.

Leaving Kids in Hot Cars in Nevada

Leaving Kids in Hot Cars in Nevada

It’s extremely dangerous to leave children for any significant amount of time in a hot car. Even on cloudy days the sun’s heat can rapidly raise temperatures inside a car to unsafe levels. Each year an average of 37 children die from heat-related injuries after being left in hot cars. More suffer from heat stroke and other complications, which at a young age can have lasting consequences. Because of the risks, many states, including Nevada, have adopted laws that provide for criminal penalties for responsible adults who leave children unattended in cars.

Nevada’s unattended child law

Nevada’s “hot car” law was passed in 2005. It provides for criminal penalties for people who violate the law. It applies to parents, guardians, or other people who are responsible for a child who is seven years old or younger. It is a crime to knowingly and intentionally leave such a child unsupervised in a vehicle where “conditions present a significant risk to the health and safety of the child.” It is also unlawful to leave a child under the age of eight unattended in a car if it is running or if the keys are in the ignition.

The parameters of this law are in fact quite narrowly constructed. Whether someone can be criminally prosecuted for violating the law will depend on the state’s ability to prove a number of things:

  • Intent. It isn’t enough that a parent or other responsible adult accidentally leaves a child in a hot car. The decision to leave the child in the car must be knowing and intentional. This gives an otherwise liable adult a potentially strong excuse that he or she simply forgot that the child was in the car. This brand of forgetfulness is more common than one would expect.
  • Conditions were unsafe. This piece of the puzzle may be relatively straightforward: the outside temperature was over 100 degrees, the car was parked in the sun, and all the windows were rolled up. But if the car was parked under a large shade structure, perhaps the child was not particularly at risk. Note that risk involves more than just heat. Leaving a child unattended could increase chances of other kinds of injury and could expose the child to kidnappers.
  • The child was unsupervised. If the responsible adult left the child in the car but was standing a short distance away within visual contact, a crime probably wasn’t committed at least with respect to the hot car law. However, the adult who ignores the risks of the hot car may have broken other laws, such as negligent supervision or child endangerment.

Pursuing civil action

Whether or not a crime was committed, parents of a child who is injured in a hot car may wish to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim against other adults who were responsible at the time of the incident. If the responsible adult was violating a law at the time of the event a plaintiff will have a relatively easy road to making a successful claim. A criminal conviction creates a presumption of liability in the civil context.

Why would someone wish to pursue a civil case in these cases? One reason is that criminal prosecution, even if it is successful, cannot grant the scope of damages that is available in civil trials. When a child is injured or killed a parent’s pain and suffering can be a significant component of damages, but pain and suffering is only available through a civil trial.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has prided itself on providing compassionate, personalized services to clients in personal injury cases. If your child has suffered an injury in a hot car and you would like to discuss your legal options, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Towing a Trailer Legally and Safely in Nevada

Towing a Trailer Legally and Safely in Nevada

With summer in full swing Nevada’s roads are full of vehicles towing trailers. Drivers who tow trailers behind their vehicles need to be mindful of state laws governing safety and installation requirements. Failure to comply with the law can create a dangerous situation that leads to property damage, personal injuries, and expensive litigation.

Nevada’s minimum requirements for trailers

Nevada law has a number of rules that drivers must follow when towing trailers on roads in the state.

  • Reflectors and lighting. All trailers in the state must have two red tail lamps on the back. The lamps must be bright enough to be visible for at least 500 feet to the rear. Trailers also must have stop lamps that are activated when brakes are applied. Stop lamps need to be bright enough when activated to be visible during the day. Most trailers built in the last 50 years are required to have turn signal lights. Rear red reflectors are also required, either separately or as part of the rear lights. NRS 484.551, NRS 484.555, NRS 484.557, NRS 474.553.
  • Trailers that weigh 1,500 pounds or more and were built after July 1, 1975, are required to be equipped with service brakes on all wheels. The brakes must be able to stop the trailer for at least 15 minutes should the trailer be disconnected from the vehicle. NRS 484.593.
  • Wide loads. Trailers over 80 inches wide must comply with additional lighting and reflector requirements. NRS 484.561.
  • Safety chains. Trailers must be installed with safety chains connected to their towing vehicles to prevent runaways.
  • In Nevada trailers are separately titled and registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Managing risks involving a trailer

The state does not impose special insurance requirements for trailers. However, it’s a good idea to check with your liability carrier to confirm that your policy covers damage caused by a trailer. Drivers can get into trouble towing trailers in a number of ways:

  • Jackknifing, fishtailing, and other loss of control. Driver error can lead to a trailer going out of control. Understanding how to respond to these situations is essential to being a responsible trailer owner. Know the maximum safe speed at which your vehicle to can safely tow your trailer, taking into account how its behavior can change depending on its load and road conditions. Proper maintenance, including keeping tires adequately inflated, is also an important part of maintaining control.
  • A properly installed trailer shouldn’t break away from the towing vehicle, but mistakes happen. A breakaway at slow speeds may be a manageable problem, but at highway speeds or on steep grades it can create a serious hazard. This is especially true of old trailers that don’t have braking systems that are required in new equipment. Safety chains hopefully prevent the worst-case scenarios, but the best solution is to avoid breakaways by double checking all connections before getting underway. Failing to do so could be a form of negligence that creates serious legal liability.
  • Drivers who lack experience working with trailers often have a hard time controlling them, especially when backing up. Drivers who will operate trailers regularly can benefit from specialized training courses. If a driver who lacks experience will operate the towing vehicle, take care to keep speeds under control and avoid complex situations as much as possible.

GGRM is a Las Vegas accident law firm

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez is a Las Vegas personal injury and accident law firm. If you have questions about an accident involving a trailer, call us today for a free attorney consultation. Reach us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Drowsy Driving and the Law

Drowsy Driving and the Law

We’ve all done it at some point: pushing through fatigue to keep driving despite the risk of falling asleep and causing an accident. Every year drowsy driving causes hundreds of fatalities and many more non-fatal injuries throughout the country. A tired driver can fall asleep for intervals as short as a few seconds, which is enough time for an accident to occur.

How Nevada law handles drowsy driving

A few states have enacted legislation that specifically addresses fatigued driving. For example, in New Jersey someone who drives after not sleeping for 24 hours is deemed to be a reckless driver and treated in the same way as someone who is driving while intoxicated. N.J. Stat. § 2C:11-5(a). Nevada has not enacted such a law, and the example from New Jersey suggests why. New Jersey’s measure of fatigue—24 hours without sleep—is an extreme case that doesn’t come close to capturing the full range of tired drivers. Legislating for ordinary tiredness is difficult and would be hard to enforce.

As a practical matter what the lack of specific laws means is that a tired driver is held to the same standard that applies to all drivers. Every driver on Nevada’s roads has a range of legal duties. These include obeying traffic laws and rules, such as following signs and complying with signals. Drivers must give pedestrians right-of-way. And all drivers owe a general duty of care to operate their vehicles in a reasonable way to protect pedestrians, other drivers, and personal property on and around the roadway. Driving while fatigued is arguably an unreasonably dangerous way to operate a car.

Breaching any of these duties can be a basis for a claim of negligence against the driver. Someone who is found liable for negligence will be responsible for paying medical bills and other damages to injured parties. Even if the driver’s insurance covers some of these expenses, the driver can expect to have long-term financial consequences as a result of the accident.

In extreme cases fatigued driving may also be a crime. If a fatigued driver falls asleep and causes an accident that leads to someone’s death, the driver may be charged with vehicular manslaughter, a crime punishable by jail time and a suspended or revoked driver’s license. NRS 484B.657.

Pull over, rest, or change drivers

The essential thing to bear in mind about drowsy driving is that it’s very difficult to overcome sleepiness without taking a real break. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends pulling over to take a 20-minute nap as a good short-term solution for fatigue. It’s better to switch drivers if possible.

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped victims of car accidents recover compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured in an accident with a driver who was asleep at the wheel and you have questions about your legal options, our attorneys can help. 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.