Nevada's Law on Negligence
A claim for negligence in Nevada requires that the plaintiff establish four elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care,
- The defendant breached that duty,
- The breach was the legal cause of the plaintiff's injuries, and
- The plaintiff suffered damages.1
To help you better understand how to prove negligence in Nevada, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers discuss the each of these elements in detail, below:
- 1. Duty of care in Nevada
- 2. Breach of the duty of care in Nevada
- 3. Legal causation
- 4. Proving damages in a Nevada negligence case
The first thing you need to prove in a negligence lawsuit in Las Vegas is that the defendant owed you a duty of care.
A duty of care is defined generally as “a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.”
Nevada law imposes a general duty of reasonable care to avoid causing physical harm to others.2
But a greater or more specific duty of care may be created by a Nevada statute or court decision.
Examples of statutes creating duties of care include:
- NRS 41A.015, under which doctors and other healthcare providers must use the reasonable care, skill or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced providers of health care;
- NRS 484B.270(5), which requires Nevada drivers to exercise due care and use their horn where necessary to avoid a collision with a someone riding a bicycle; and
- NRS Chapter 162, which imparts a fiduciary duty to executors of trust and wills.
Duties of care created by the courts include the “limited liability rule” for baseball stadiums, which provides, among other things, that stadiums must protect spectators located in the most dangerous parts of the stadium from being unduly hit by foul balls (such as directly behind home plate).3
Once you have established to the court's satisfaction that the defendant owed you a duty of care, you must prove that the defendant breached that duty.
Usually (though not always) the duty of care is a specific one set forth by a statute or court decision.
Your lawyer's job is to convince the jury (or the judge or the opposing lawyer) that the defendant did not meet this standard.
Ways to prove the defendant breached the duty of care include (but are not limited to):
- Expert testimony to establish what a reasonable person in the same circumstances would do.
- Testimony of other witnesses (including yourself).
- Documents such as medical or financial records.
- Police reports and other evidence of criminal behavior.
- Photographs and videos.
- Test results.
Example: Mary is suing her doctor and hospital for malpractice because they failed to diagnose her cancer before it required chemotherapy. Mary's lawyer will call a medical expert to the stand to testify as to what a similarly trained and experienced doctor would have done under similar circumstances.
Then the lawyer will introduce Mary's medical records to show that the doctor and other medical staff did not do those things, or did them incompetently. In other words, the lawyer will show that a doctor of reasonable skill and training would have caught Mary's cancer earlier.
The third element in a negligence suit is legal causation. In order to prevail on a Nevada negligence claim, you must show not just that you have suffered some injury, but that the injury was proximately caused by the defendant's wrongful actions.
Proximate cause is any cause which in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury complained of and without which the result would not have occurred.4
Example: Sid accidentally shoots Tom in the leg when he forgets to set the safety on his gun while they are both at an outdoor gun range. Tom would have survived the shooting.
As an employee of the gun range is driving Tom to the emergency room, however, they are hit by a truck and Tom is killed.
Tom's family sues Sid under Nevada's wrongful death cause of action, arguing that "but for" Sid's negligence, Tom would still be alive.
However, getting hit by a truck on the way to the ER is not a natural and foreseeable result of an accidental shooting. Getting hit by a truck is an intervening cause. Therefore Sid is not legally responsible for Tom getting killed.
An experienced Las Vegas accident lawyer would be able to help Tom identify the responsible party. Most likely, this is the truck driver and his insurance company. But if he was on the job at the time of the accident, his employer might also be liable.
And if the accident was the fault of the gun range employee who was taking Tom to the hospital, both he and the gun range could be liable.
This example illustrates why it is so important to retain an experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney if you are involved in an accident or otherwise injured because of someone's wrongdoing.
Your Nevada injury lawyer will help determine ALL the parties who may be liable for your injury so that you don't inadvertently leave money on the table.
Negligence awards are designed to compensate the injured party in full measure for the total harm proximately caused by the defendant's breach of duty.5
Nevada follows a “no harm, no foul” approach to negligence. Just because someone violated a duty of care owed to you, it doesn't mean you will prevail in an negligence case against them. If the violation did not harm you, you are not entitled to recover damages for the wrongdoer's negligence.
You can recover all or part of your damages as long as you are less than 50% responsible for the injury. Under Nevada's modified comparative negligence law, you are not entitled to collect damages for negligence if you were 50% or more liable for an accident or other injury.
Personal injury damages in Nevada generally fall into one or both of two categories:
- Compensatory damages (fixed economic expenses such as medical bills, costs of professionals to correct an original professional's mistakes, lost wages, etc.); and/or
- Non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering).
In most cases, you need to prove what your damages are. In some cases, however, Nevada law presumes you have been damaged, even if you cannot prove exactly what your damages were.
For example, in a Nevada defamation case, you must generally prove that a defendant's defamatory marks caused you to suffer damages such as lost business income.
However, in certain cases, a plaintiff can plead “defamation per se” -- for instance, when a defendant wrongfully accuses the plaintiff of a serious crime.
When defamation per se is proved, the court will assume the plaintiff has been damaged, even if the plaintiff offers no proof of actual harm. In such a case, the jury will award whatever damages it deems just and fair.
In cases of serious wrongdoing – defined as malice, fraud or oppression – a plaintiff may also be able to seek “punitive” damages in Nevada.
Often, plaintiffs don't fully appreciate the full extent of the damages they are entitled to collect.
A Las Vegas personal injury attorney can advise you on what type of damages you can expect in a Nevada negligence case and how you can best get them.
Injured by negligence in Las Vegas? Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been injured by someone's negligence, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
Our caring Las Vegas personal injury lawyers fight on behalf of clients throughout Nevada who have been hurt in an accident, by a dangerous product, or by defamation, fraud or other wrongful acts.
To schedule your free consultation, either fill out the form on this page or call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673).
The clock is ticking on the statute of limitations to sue for your injury, so don't wait… contact us today.
- See, e.g., DeBoer v. Senior Bridges of Sparks Family Hosp., Inc., 282 P.3d 727 (2012).
- Terracon Consultants W., Inc. v. Mandalay Resort Grp., 125 Nev. 66, 206 P.3d 81 (2009).
- Turner v. Mandalay Sports Entertainment 124 Nev. 213 (2008).
- Mahan v. Hafen, 76 Nev. 220, 351 P.2d 617 (1960); Drummond v. Mid-West Growers, 91 Nev. 698, 542 P.2d 198 (1975).
- Nelson v. Peckham Plaza Partnerships, 110 Nev. 23, 866 P.2d 1138 (1994).
- NRS 41.141. "In any action to recover damages for death or injury to persons or for injury to property in which comparative negligence is asserted as a defense, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff or plaintiff's decedent does not bar a recovery if that negligence was not greater than the negligence or gross negligence of the parties to the action against whom recovery is sought."