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Five people are dead, and another one lies critically injured, after an explosive ping-pong crash on U.S. 95 not far from Amargosa Valley.

The wreck occurred between State Route 160 and S.R. 373. A northbound car moved into the southbound lanes to pass a pickup. The passing driver collided with an oncoming car almost head-on. The force of that collision propelled the passing car back into the pickup, which overturned. Both people in the northbound car died almost instantly when it burst into flames; the two people in the southbound vehicle were also killed. The pickup driver died and the passenger was seriously injured.

Authorities say that the wreck took place in a legal passing zone.

Establishing Liability in a Las Vegas Car Crash

Even though the above collision took place in a legal passing zone, the driver who triggered the fatal wreck, or more precisely the driver’s estate, may still be responsible for damages. The victim/plaintiffs must simply establish the five elements of a negligence case, which are:

  • Duty: Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. This duty is a lawyer-ly version of the Golden Rule which Nevada schoolchildren once had to memorize. Commercial drivers, like Uber drivers and taxi drivers, are common carriers in Nevada. So, they usually have a higher duty of care.
  • Breach: Drivers usually breach the duty of care when they fail to follow the rules of the road and do not drive defensively. The jury determines what constitutes a one-time lapse and what is a breach of the duty of care. For example, adjusting the air conditioner is technically distracted driving. But most Las Vegas jurors do not consider this behavior to be very serious.
  • Cause in Fact: There must be a connection between the breach of duty and the damages. Lawyers sometimes call this element “but-for causation,” as in the crash would not have occurred “but for” the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) negligence.
  • Proximate Cause: The victim/plaintiff’s injuries must be a foreseeable result of the crash. It’s foreseeable that a car might hit a pedestrian, but it’s not foreseeable that the victim/plaintiff’s wound will become infected.
  • Damages: In Nevada, the victim/plaintiff is entitled to money for both economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.

Usually, the victim/plaintiff must establish each of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Such evidence includes the police report, an accident reconstructionist’s conclusions, witness statements, medical bills, and the car’s Event Data Recorder. The EDR is basically like a commercial jet’s black box.

Some Insurance Company Defenses in Las Vegas

Once the victim/plaintiff establishes a preliminary case, the insurance company’s lawyers will present defenses.

Contributory negligence is one of the most common insurance company defenses in Nevada. Basically, the insurance company tries to shift blame for the crash onto the victim. For example, the defendant might admit that the tortfeasor was speeding while pointing out that the victim was intoxicated.

Nevada is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. Even if the victim/plaintiff is as much as 49 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor must still pay a proportional share of damages.

The last clear chance defense, which is an offshoot of contributory negligence, may be a complete bar to recovery. A tortfeasor is not liable for any damages if the victim had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash but did not do so. For example, in the above story, the insurance company could argue that the southbound driver could have avoided the passing car by pulling onto the shoulder.

The victim/plaintiff must have the last clear chance and not just the last possible chance. It’s not always advisable, or even possible, to take evasive action.

Work With an Experienced Lawyer

Even if drivers follow “the rules of the road,” they could still be liable for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Las Vegas, contact Naqvi Injury Law. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.