In a tragic case that also has intricate liability questions, two teenage boys were ejected from the family car and killed after a car crash.
The wreck happened in the East Valley, at the intersection of Judson Avenue and Marion Drive, not far from the house where 14-year-old Oscar Ayala and 16-year-old Moises Rivera resided. As the family Kia Soul pulled into the intersection, 36-year-old Pablo Torres-Esparza ignored a stop sign and smashed into the Kia. The force of the impact propelled the two boys out of the vehicle and into the desert, where family members searched frantically for them until emergency responders arrived. Two other people in the KIa were seriously injured.
Moments earlier, Mr. Torres left his boyfriend at the side of the road before driving away at a high speed; the two had apparently been drinking at a party when an argument ensued. Police said Mr. Torres was visibly impaired, and they charged him with DUI manslaughter.
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First Party Liability and Damages
All noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care, and in many car crash cases, there is more than one breach of that duty. For example, the above crash could be traced to a violation of the “rules of the road” (speeding and running the stop sign), distracted driving (the fight with the boyfriend), or substance impairment (consuming alcohol at the party).
From one perspective, a breach is a breach, and some attorneys might think that it makes no difference which one the jury applies. But from a damages perspective, there is a significant difference.
All drivers have exceeded the speed limit and rolled through stop signs at one time or another, so although jurors will not excuse the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s conduct), they are often receptive to a defense argument that the victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they may reduce the amount of damages awarded.
Distracted driving is one step up, because most all of us have used a cellphone or been otherwise distracted while driving, but most all of us would also agree that this conduct is dangerously unsafe.
Substance impairment is in a third category. Drivers who consume alcohol make a conscious choice, at least on some level, to put other people at risk. So, the full measure of compensatory damages is usually available in these extreme cases.
Moreover, if the tortfeasor had a high BAC or a history of drinking and driving, jurors often award additional punitive damages, to punish the tortfeasor and help deter future wrongful conduct.
Third Party Liability
Nevada has a rather narrow social host liability law that only applies if the tortfeasor was under 21. However, social hosts may still be liable for damages that their intoxicated guests negligently inflict, because of the negligent undertaking doctrine.
- Increased Risk of Harm: Social hosts who allow impaired guests to drive obviously make the roads more dangerous.
- Voluntarily Assumed Duty: At many parties, hosts set “ground rules” for alcohol consumption, like anyone who drinks cannot drive home.
- Reliance: This prong is difficult, though certainly not impossible, to establish in most social host liability cases.
The social host must also understand that s/he assumed the duty to protect third persons.
Reach Out to an Assertive Attorney
Maximum compensation requires careful preparation and aggressive advocacy. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas, contact Naqvi Injury Law. Our main office is conveniently located just off the 215 Loop.