Motor vehicle accidents cause injuries every day across Nevada. Figuring out if someone else is at fault for an accident that left you injured, however, is not always so simple. One indicator that another driver’s actions caused a crash that upended your life is that the other driver violated a traffic law.
Drivers who break the rules of the road can end up owing money damages to those they injure. That is why the lawyers at Benson & Bingham want to bring you up to date about some changes to Nevada traffic laws that went into effect on October 1, 2019 (and outlined here, courtesy of the Department of Motor Vehicles).
If a violation of one of these new laws led to an accident that injured you, then you may have rights to significant compensation. Contact a car accident lawyer to learn more.
Laws Against Reckless Driving in More Places
Believe it or not, until recently a driver could only be convicted criminally of reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter stemming from an incident that took place on a public road. That does not mean it was legal to drive recklessly in other areas, such as in parking lots or garages, or on privately-owned roads (such as those you might find in private housing development), but it did make it potentially harder to prove the fault and legal liability for damages of a someone who caused an accident in one of those settings.
With the change in the law, however, a person who drives recklessly and/or causes an accidental death in any driving setting to which the public has access, even if that setting is privately-owned, can be prosecuted under Nevada criminal law. That, in turn, also makes it easier for motor vehicle accident attorneys to prove to an insurance company or a jury that the driver owes damages to anyone harmed by his criminal conduct. That is good news for victims of reckless drivers.
Pleading Guilty to Traffic Citations: Does that make me civilly liable for the personal injury matter?
Under NRS 41.133: A Conviction is, “conclusive evidence of all facts necessary to impose civil liability for the [victim’s resulting] injury.” This statute is designed to allow victims in personal injury matters to show the perpetrator’s guilt as a way of proving the civil liability. This is primarily only true in the realm of felony convictions like rape, DUI resulting in substantial bodily injury, assault & battery, etc., where a person’s criminal actions have been adjudicated—thus, the resulting civil liability is straightforward for those criminal acts. However, in a traffic accident, the Nevada Supreme Court reasoned that given situations of comparative negligence, it would be unfair to simply state that a guilty plea for speeding was in fact a true admission of guilt and would be attributed to a driver’s liability or cause of accident because it does not consider the comparative fault of others that may have contributed to the accident, and given the notion that driver’s may plead to deal with such infractions, as a matter of convenience, the conviction may not be truly valid. For example, the victim may be driving on the wrong side of the road, or turning on a yellow light and that action may have also contributed to the crash. Pleading “no contest”, or guilty to a traffic citation may be used to show liability in a traffic accident case, however, the Nevada Supreme Court stated, “Because NRS 41.133 does not apply to misdemeanor traffic offenses, convictions entered upon traffic citations may not be used to conclusively establish civil liability. Langon v Matamoros, 121 Nev. 142, 111 P. 3d 1077 (2005). Thus, the citation itself is not conclusive proof of liability.
A Crackdown on Trick Driving and Riding
Many Las Vegas residents and visitors have had the unsettling experience of witnessing motorcyclists roar down the Strip in packs, performing stunts, blowing through stop lights, slowing traffic, and scaring pedestrians and motorists alike. These packs of “trick” drivers and riders put themselves and others at risk of serious injury. Lawmakers had finally had enough.
Under a new law, trick driving and riding counts as reckless driving and can be prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor. The law defines this behavior as “diverting or slowing traffic on a public highway to enable stunts or having stunts filmed.” A conviction for the new offense comes with a minimum $1,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, possible jail time, a driver’s license suspension for up to two years, and a 30 day impoundment of the violator’s vehicle.
Speeding Is (Finally?) Its Own Violation
In another “believe it or not” change to Nevada law, legislators specifically made it illegal to “drive at a rate of speed that results in the injury of another person or of any property.” Most Nevadans probably assumed that was the case long ago, but in fact, historically drivers who injured someone by speeding were prosecuted under reckless driving laws. While this does not represent a drastic change to the law, it does make it easier for lawyers to prove liability by targeting speeding that causes injury, specifically, as a crime.
(Another change to the speeding laws may come as good news to drivers who find themselves facing a huge ticket blowing through a “speed trap.” State law now caps fines for speeding at $20 for every mile per hour over the speed limit.)
Slow Down and Move Over for Traffic Incidents
In another common sense traffic safety move, the legislature passed a law that requires drivers to slow down to below the speed limit, and to move over to an adjacent lane if available, whenever they approach the scene of any kind of traffic incident. The law helps to ensure the safety of anyone who has to pull over to change a flat or call a tow, or who gets in an accident.
It likewise protects the tow drivers and first responders who come to the scene of a breakdown, crash, or other traffic incident. The new law also makes it easier to demonstrate someone’s liability for causing injuries by failing to take reasonable precautions in passing a traffic incident.
Also, a Word About Helmet Use
As Nevada motor vehicle accident injury lawyers, we routinely get a front-row seat to the tragedy of traumatic brain injuries sustained in road accidents. Helmet use has long been required for motorcyclists in Nevada, and for good reason. Wearing a helmet significantly reduces your risk of death and serious brain injury in a wreck. A new law now expands those helmet requirements to riders of mopeds and tri-mobiles with handlebars and a saddle seat.
We recognize that helmet laws inspire some intense emotions, and we do not begrudge bikers who insist that not wearing a helmet is an expression of personal freedom. All riders should now recognize, however, that they take their lives into their hands by riding without a helmet. With the expansion of the new law, any rider who goes without a helmet risks limiting his or her ability to recover damages in an accident in which the failure to wear a helmet contributes to serious injury.
Find Legal Help if You Need It
The team at Benson & Bingham hopes that you never fall victim to any accident in which the laws above come into play. Unfortunately, through long experience, we know that motor vehicle accidents will continue to happen on Nevada roadways.
If you find yourself the victim of another driver’s illegal driving, then we urge you to contact an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible.
You may have rights to recover significant compensation from the at-fault driver (or that driver’s insurance company) if you act quickly.
Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC
626 S 10th St
Las Vegas, NV 89101