The Legal Process In A Las Vegas Accident Claim
An Initial Consultation With A Las Vegas Lawyer
The first step in the process is to consult with a Las Vegas Lawyer who can evaluate your Las Vegas personal injury claim. In your consultation, a Las Vegas Attorney will ask you many questions about your accident. Also, a Las Vegas Lawyer will discuss your injuries and how you injuries have affected your life. Discussing the impact of your injuries is important because part of the compensation you receive can be based on losing the ability to enjoy certain sports, hobbies and activities which you enjoyed before you were injured in an accident in Las Vegas. The first meeting is the time when you can ask a Las Vegas Lawyer any questions you have about the legal process including: settlement, litigation, costs, fees, filing deadlines, legal theories and any other information you want to learn about. You can also ask a Las Vegas Injury Lawyer how many cases like yours he or she has settled or taken all the way through a jury trial. This is a time to evaluate your case and to evaluate whether you think the attorney and the law firm will give you the representation you need to succeed in your claim for personal injuries in Las Vegas.
A Las Vegas Lawyer Will Send A Demand To Get You Compensated
As soon as you and a Las Vegas Lawyer have agreed that the attorney will represent you in your Las Vegas accident claim, the lawyer will usually send a representation letter to the person and/or company responsible for the accident which caused your injuries. Normally, the person or company will have insurance coverage for the accident in Las Vegas. If coverage was in place, the Las Vegas Injury Attorney will deal with the insurance company's adjuster to negotiate a settlement of your Las Vegas injury claim. A formal demand for settlement is not made until you have completed your medical treatment. This is because once your case is settled you will sign a release and before you release your right to file a lawsuit, you need to be sure that you do not need any further medical treatment. Once you have finished treating, a Las Vegas Lawyer will send a settlement demand. The demand letter will outline how the other party was responsible for the accident. The Las Vegas settlement demand letter will include all of your medical bills and the records showing the extent of your injuries and the treatment you received. Also, the demand letter will ask for a specific amount for the settlement of your Las Vegas personal injury claim.
A Las Vegas Lawyer Will Negotiate To Get You A Settlement
After the insurance company receives the settlement demand letter, all of the information will be reviewed. After ample time for file review has elapsed, a Las Vegas Lawyer will contact the insurance company's adjuster to see if a settlement offer will be made. Once the settlement offer is made, a Las Vegas Attorney will contact you to explain the settlement offer and tell you how much you will receive after all of the medical bills, costs and fees have been paid. If you think the offer is too low, a Las Vegas Lawyer can attempt to negotiate a higher settlement by making a counter-offer to the adjuster for the insurance company. Once you have agreed to take a certain amount for the settlement of your Las Vegas accident claim for damages, the insurance company will send a settlement release form which basically allows that you agree to release the party (and the insurance company) from any claim you have in exchange for the money they are paying to settle the lawsuit. Once the release is signed, the insurance company will send a check. Your Las Vegas Lawyer will disburse the money from the settlement check to pay off any bills, fees, costs and to pay you the balance you are due.
A Las Vegas Lawyer Can File A Lawsuit On Your Behalf
If the other party refuses to settle, A Las Vegas Lawyer can file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for the injuries you received in your accident in Las Vegas. A Las Vegas Attorney will start the litigation by filing a Complaint. The Complaint must be served on each defendant along with a Summons. This process assures that the defendants actually received the document which begins the lawsuit. Service is extremely important and a party can actually have the claims dismissed if he or she is not served within 120 days. A Complaint is a legal document which states the facts of the accident and several distinct claims against the other party. Each claim is called a cause of action. In a Las Vegas accident case, there is usually a claim for negligence. There may also be claims for emotional distress and loss of consortium. If the other party violated a rule of law, a claim can be made for negligence per se which is also known as violation of statute. This is a favorable claim because it makes liability less of an issue in your lawsuit. There are many other claims which may apply to you case such as respondeat superior, professional malpractice, negligent hiring-training-supervision, etc. A Las Vegas Lawyer will discuss each claim with you so you have an understanding of what the cause of action is based on.
The Other Party Must Answer The Complaint For Damages
After a Las Vegas Injury Lawyer files a Complaint with the District Court, the defendants named in the Complaint must each file an Answer. The Answer should address each allegation of the Complaint and either agree, disagree or state that they cannot answer at that time due to lack of knowledge. Also, the Answer usually includes many affirmative defenses. In a Las Vegas injury case, the Answer will often use the affirmative defense that the Plaintiff (person who is suing) caused the accident and that the Complaint fails to state a valid claim. Many of these affirmative defenses are listed (even though they may not eventually be applicable) in order to preserve them in the event they do apply. Normally, the Answer must be made within twenty days after service of the Complaint. If a party is served and refuses to file an Answer within the deadline, it is possible to get a Default Judgment after going through several steps. Once the Answer has been filed, the lawsuit is set in motion and each party begins to assemble their case with the goal of proving (or disproving) each cause of action in a jury trial.
The Discovery Process In Las Vegas
Soon after the lawsuit is filed, the parties have certain duties to confer and to exchange documents related to the lawsuit. Each party has a right to get information from the other party. Getting the information to prove or disprove a claim is known as discovery. Discovery can include any of the following:
The Arbitration Process In Las Vegas
- Requests for Admissions
Admissions are useful because you can get a party to admit that they wrote a document or did some act critical to the accident.
These are written questions which each party will answer. These questions can be used to probe the strength of a party's case or defense. Some interrogatory answers (or the inability to provide an answer) can justify a motion by either party to establish or knock out a cause of action. These questions can be very critical and a Las Vegas Attorney may want to discuss each question with you.
- Requests for Production of Documents
Generally, each party has the right to any relevant documents (with the exception of communications between the attorney and the client). Since you are claiming injuries, the defendants' attorneys should have access to your related medical records. This seems like an invasion of privacy, but some documents must be produced even if they can be judged inadmissible at trial. If a document request is completely irrelevant or extremely intrusive (some medical records or income tax returns), a Las Vegas Lawyer could file for a protective order to avoid production.
A deposition is an oral examination where one attorney gets to ask questions of the other party or any person who can provide information about the accident. Some people get nervous thinking about a lawyer asking them questions for several hours. A Las Vegas Lawyer may discuss an upcoming deposition with you so you know what to expect and are less nervous. Mainly, you should give a sufficient answer, but don't volunteer any information. Your Las Vegas Attorney can make objections to certain questions, but you usually still have to answer the questions from the other attorney. Your Las Vegas Lawyer will have the chance to depose the defendants who caused your accident. You can attend these depositions if you want to.
Many Las Vegas Accident cases must go through an arbitration before proceeding to a jury trial. If your claim exceeds $40,000 or qualifies for an exemption, you may not have to go through arbitration. In a mandatory Las Vegas arbitration case, each party selects an arbitrator from a list of several candidates. Once the parties agree to an arbitrator, the arbitrator makes contact with the attorneys and creates a schedule for discovery and the date of the arbitration. After conducting the discovery, the parties all attend the arbitration where they put on their case for the arbitrator. The arbitrator is a neutral fact finder who will listen to the arguments of the attorneys - examine all the evidence - and make a decision on the case. The arbitrator may award a specific amount of damages to the plaintiff who was injured in an accident in Las Vegas. Although the other party can pay the award, the other party can choose not to pay and decide to go for a jury trial of the case. Sometimes, an arbitration loss will make a party see the futility of going further and cause that party to settle the case. On the other hand, the right to still have a jury trial can be used if a party thinks they will do better at trial than they did at arbitration. If a party makes a trial request after arbitration (trial de novo), that party could owe attorney's fees if the trial award is not better than the arbitration. The arbitration process can be a useful tool to show the other side the strength of your case and to force them to the bargaining table. Your Las Vegas Lawyer can discuss any questions you have about an arbitration in Las Vegas.
Preparing For A Trial In Las Vegas
If the other party refuses to settle, your case will likely be heard in a trial in Las Vegas. It can take several years to get a trial date in Clark County District Court. Once a trial date is set, your Las Vegas Lawyer will get with you before the trial to begin preparing to put on your case. Trial preparation includes assembling the relevant documents - contacting the doctors and accident experts who will be testifying - preparing questions to ask the other party and the other party's experts - meeting with you to prepare you for questions the opposing attorney will ask you - filing motions to exclude evidence from the other party (motions in limine) - having pictures, exhibits and models made to show the accident and your injuries - putting everything together so your case can be effectively litigated. A "bench trial" is a trial where there is no jury and the Judge will listen to the arguments - assess the evidence and testimony - and make a decision on the outcome of the Las Vegas accident case. A "jury trial" involves a panel of jurors who will decide your case.
Going To Trial On Your Accident Claim In Las Vegas
One of the first stages of a Las Vegas trial is jury selection. Your Las Vegas Attorney can move to strike some jurors who it appears may have some bias in deciding your case. Once the jury is selected, each side will put on their case and the Judge will preside over the proceedings. Both attorneys will probably make many objections during the proceedings and the Judge may either sustain or deny each objection. The attorneys will make an opening statement which should be a road map to proving or disproving each claim made by the the Las Vegas accident claimant. Then, each side will call parties, witnesses and experts to the stand. After an attorney calls someone to the stand to testify, the other lawyer has the right to cross-examine that person. An important factor in a jury trial is credibility. If you are claiming that an accident happened a certain way, you may be the only one who was present when the Las Vegas accident happened. This means that it is important for the jury to believe what you are saying. Once all the testimony has been heard and all of the evidence has been entered, the attorneys will give a closing argument. Each attorney will discuss whether each cause of action was proved or disproved. After closing arguments, the Judge will talk to the jury and explain their duties and give them instructions. Before this occurs, the attorneys have argued over which jury instructions the jury will use. Jury instructions are very important because they tell the jury what they can or must do if they find certain facts. For example, in a Las Vegas slip and fall accident case, there is a jury instruction which states that water on a floor cannot be deemed obvious. This could be crucial in establishing fault for the accident. After the Judge has charged the jury, the jurors go to a jury room where they will discuss the case and render a decision. If the jury's decision is wrong as a matter of law, the Judge may set it aside. If this does not happen, the jury's decision will become a judgment which can be enforced. The trial process has many steps and can be very expensive. Contact a Las Vegas Lawyer if you have any questions about a trial to obtain compensation for your accident injuries.
If you want to learn more about settling or litigating a personal injury claim in Las Vegas, you can get a free consultation with David Matheny, Esq. of the law firm of Dempsey, Roberts & Smith, Ltd. Our office is located in Las Vegas, Nevada and we provide legal representation for personal injury claims throughout Nevada.
David Matheny, Esq. for a free consultation.