"Low-impact defense" in Nevada car accident cases

Car accident defendants may try to claim the "low-impact defense," which is that the collision was too insignificant to have caused the plaintiff's injuries. In truth, even accidents with little-to-no property damage can result in major physical harm, such as fractures, tears, and spinal injuries.

A common way to fight a low-impact defense in Nevada is to employ experts who can demonstrate how the injuries resulted from the collision. Examples of these experts include accident reconstruction specialists, biomechanical engineers, and doctors.

Car accident defendants who are found negligent for causing the plaintiffs' injuries may be on the hook for various compensatory damages, including:

Victims injured in a car accident are advised not to negotiate with an insurance company without an attorney, especially in seemingly low-impact cases. An experienced lawyer can substantially increase victims' odds of getting a winning settlement that covers all their expenses and more.

In this article our Las Vegas Nevada personal injury attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about the low-impact defense in Nevada car accident cases, including the definition and how to fight it. Click on a topic to jump to that section:

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"Low-impact" car crashes can still cause severe injuries.

1. What is a "low impact defense" in Nevada car accident cases?

Like it sounds, a "low impact defense" is when a defendant in a car accident lawsuit argues that the collision was too minor to have caused the plaintiffs' injuries. In short, the accident was too "low impact" to have caused harm.[1]

Defendants typically employ the "low impact defense" in seemingly inconsequential car accident cases. These often include sideswipes and fender benders that occur at 10 mph or slower and cause minimal property damage.

2. Can "low impact" car accidents in Nevada cause injuries?

Absolutely. A typical sedan weighs one ton, so even a slow collision can result in an "impact force" of nearly twice that. And in rear-end collisions, the principle of "magnification of acceleration" causes car accident victims to absorb even more force: Occupants necks and backs are thrown backwards and forward, resulting in unnatural body contortions.[2]

Victims in seemingly minor car accidents can sustain injuries to their heads, neck, spines, joints, and limbs such as:

  • soft tissue sprains,
  • broken bones,
  • muscle tears,
  • ligament tears, and/or
  • tendon tears

Depending on the car occupant's position and whether his/her head was rotated, the strain from these injuries may cause chronic pain and permanent disability. And people with preexisting injuries or the elderly are even more vulnerable to the severe repercussions from a low-speed collision.

3. How do I recover damages for a "low impact" car accident in Nevada?

Car accident victims typically bring a negligence lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident (defendant). Negligence is made up of four "elements," and the victim (plaintiff) is required to prove all of them in order to win the case:

  1. The defendant(s) owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
  2. The defendant(s) breached this duty;
  3. This breach caused the plaintiff's injury; and
  4. This injury resulted in damages.[3]

All drivers have a duty of care to others on the road to drive safely. Drivers breach this duty by causing a collision. Even a collision with minor property damage can cause significant physical injuries to the driver. And these injuries can cost them significant economic and non-economic losses.

3.1. Damages for low-impact car crashes

Plaintiffs who prevail in negligence lawsuits for low impact car accidents may recover such compensatory damages as:

  • doctor's bills;
  • lost wages;
  • lost of future earnings; and/or
  • pain and suffering (capped at $350,000)
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Note that defendants are liable for only up to $100,000 if they were government employee acting in the course of their jobs.[4]

Also note that car accident victims who were partially responsible for the car accident might still be able to recover damages. Under Nevada's comparative negligence laws, the victim just had to have been less than 50% responsible for the accident in order to get any money.[5]

4. Can I get punitive damages after a "low impact" car accident in Nevada?

Yes, if the court finds that the defendant intentionally caused the accident. However, Nevada caps punitive damages at:

  • $300,000 (if the compensatory damages is less than $100,000), or
  • Three times (3) the compensatory damages (if the compensatory damages is at least $100,000).[6]

Drivers who deliberately cause a car accident also face criminal charges.

5. How do I prove that a "low impact" car accident in Nevada caused my injuries?

One way to try to prove that a seemingly "low impact" car accident caused the plaintiff's injuries is to hire expert witnesses. For example, accident reconstruction experts, biomechanical engineers, and certain medical doctors may be able to give persuasive testimony during depositions and trial.


Hiring expert witnesses is certainly not necessary, but they are often very helpful in showing how an outwardly minor car crash can result in serious bodily harm. And they may be the only way to convince a skeptical insurance adjuster that a claim is valid.

Note that Nevada law does not require defendants in car accident cases to use an accident reconstruction expert or other expert testimony to mount a "low impact defense." If the case goes to trial, defendants can simply ask the jury to use their common sense to determine whether the accident could have caused the plaintiff's injuries.[7]

6. How long do I have to sue for a "low impact" accident in Nevada?

People harmed in "low impact" car accidents have a two (2) year statute of limitations in Nevada from the date of the accident to bring a personal injury lawsuit.[8]

Call a Nevada personal injury attorney...

If you have been injured in an automobile accident in Nevada, call our Las Vegas low impact personal injury attorneys. No matter how minor the collision, we will work with some of the best expert witnesses in the industry to fight for the highest money damages possible. And we get paid only if you get paid. 

 Legal References:

  1. See Rish v. Simao, 368 P.3d 1203 (Nev. 2016).
  2. See Meridel Gatterman, Foundations of Chiropractic: Subluxation, p. 407 (2005); also see National Traffic Highway Safety Administration.
  3. See, e.g. Scialabba v. Brandise Const. Co., 112 Nev. 965, 921 P.2d 928 (1996).
  4. NRS 41.035.
  5. NRS 41.141.
  6. NRS 42.005.
  7. Rish v. Simao, 368 P.3d 1203 (Nev. 2016) ("common-sense correlation").
  8. NRS 11.190.

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