Definition of Negligence in Nevada

Negligence lawsuits in Nevada require that plaintiffs prove four things:

  1. The defendant had a duty of care;
  2. The defendant breached this duty;
  3. This breach caused the plaintiff's injuries
  4. These injuries resulted in a financial loss
If successful, the plaintiff may be able to recover the following money damages:

Plaintiffs who were partially to blame for their injuries may still be able to win damages under Nevada's modified comparative negligence laws. But the plaintiff must make sure to file suit before the two-year statute of limitations in Nevada passes.

In this article, our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys define negligence in Nevada personal injury cases:

Also see our article on negligence per se lawsuits in Nevada personal injury cases.

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One of the most common claims in Nevada personal injury lawsuits is negligence.

1. Nevada's legal definition of negligence

Negligence occurs when somebody falls short of the obligation to care for another person's safety -- and that person gets harmed as a result.

Most negligence cases arise out of an accident where no one meant for anyone to get hurt. But intentions are irrelevant in negligence cases.

Whenever someone's "breach of duty of care" harms another person, that victim may have a viable negligence claim.

Negligence is one of the most frequently litigated claims ("torts") following these accidents:

2. Potential defendants in negligence lawsuits

There are often multiple parties responsible for a person's injury. And the victim can sue them all.

After a car crash for example, the victim may have grounds to sue not only the other driver(s) involved. The victim may also have a negligence claim against:

  • The city, if poor road maintenance or signage contributed to the crash;
  • The last mechanics who serviced the car, if their actions caused the car to become defective; and/or
  • The at-fault driver's employer, if the driver was on duty at the time. Employers usually have much deeper pockets than their employees. Therefore, they may be able to offer a much higher settlement. (Learn more about employers' vicarious liability in Nevada personal injury cases.)

The victim's personal injury attorney can help identify which people and businesses carry blame for the accident.

3. Proving negligence in Nevada

Most negligence cases settle out of court. But should the case reach trial, the plaintiff (victim) would need to prove the following four "elements."

  1. The defendant (the at-fault party) had a legal duty of care to the plaintiff;
  2. The defendant breached that duty of care;
  3. The defendant's breach caused the plaintiff's injuries;
  4. The plaintiff's injuries resulted in damages1

The burden of proof in negligence cases is much lower than in criminal cases. Criminal prosecutors have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But civil plaintiffs only have to prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence.2

A preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable. In other words, "the weight of the evidence" indicates that the defendant is liable to the plaintiff.

Learn more about proving negligence in Nevada.

3.1. First element: Legal duty of care

A legal duty of care is the obligation a person or company has to protect another person's safety. The following are common examples of duty of care in negligence cases:

  • All drivers have a duty of care to drive carefully so others on the road are safe.
  • Hotel owners have a duty of care to keep the premises safe for patrons.
  • Restaurant workers have a duty of care to keep their food safe to prevent food-borne illnesses.
  • Dog owners have a duty to keep their dogs from biting other people.
  • Store owners have a duty to keep their floors dry so no one slips.

How best to prove duty of care turns on the circumstances of the case. Oftentimes, this duty is self-evident depending on the plaintiff's and defendant's relationship.

3.2. Second element: Breach of duty of care

A breach of duty of care is what it sounds like. The defendant fails to meet its legal obligations towards the plaintiff. The following are common examples of breaches of duty of care in negligence cases:

  • A driver texts while driving.
  • A hotel is overdue in getting a maintenance appointment to check its elevators.
  • A waiter leaves meat out un-refrigerated for several hours.
  • A dog owner fails to keep its dog on a leash while out on the street.
  • A grocer fails to clean up a spill in one of the aisles.

Common evidence to prove breach of duty includes surveillance video, eyewitnesses testimony, and/or maintenance records.

3.3. Third element: Causation

A breach of duty by itself is not negligence. The plaintiff has to show that this breach caused his or her injuries. The following are common examples of a breach of duty causing an injury:

  • A texting driver swerves into another lane, hitting another driver.
  • An un-serviced hotel elevator suddenly drops, causing an occupant to hit his head on the elevator ceiling.
  • Spoiled food at a restaurant causes a customer to get food poisoning.
  • An unleashed dog runs towards a pedestrian and bites her.
  • A grocery store customer slips on a spill.

Surveillance video and eyewitness testimony can go a long way in proving causation. The plaintiff can also hire an accident reconstruction expert to testify how the defendant's failures led to the plaintiff's injuries.

Learn more about causation in Nevada personal injury cases.

3.4. Fourth element: Damages

For a negligence case to be viable, the plaintiff's injuries must result in money damages. The following are common examples of damages in negligence cases:

  • A victim hit by a texting driver sustains a broken arm and a damaged car door. This results in medical bills and body shop bills.
  • A broken elevator occupant sustains a traumatic brain injury in Nevada. This results in medical bills and loss of future earnings.
  • A food poisoning victim rushes to the ER and misses work for a day. This results in medical bills and a day's lost wages.
  • A dog bite victim suffers from a large gash and PTSD. This results in medical bills and psychotherapy bills.
  • A slip-and-fall victim breaks her leg. This results in medical bills.

In addition, all these victims arguably have a claim for pain and suffering as well.

Plaintiffs can prove their medical bill damages by producing invoices from hospitals and doctor's offices. And plaintiffs can prove their property damage by producing invoices from auto repair shops or other repair services.

The best proof of lost wages is past pay stubs. And plaintiffs can help prove loss of future earnings by projecting how much they would have earned based on their education, experience, and past salary.

Pain and suffering is the toughest type of damages to quantify. There are discussed in more detail in the next section. 

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Negligence has four elements that plaintiffs must prove if the case goes to trial in Nevada.

4. Damages in Nevada negligence cases

Accident victims who sue for negligence may be able to recover the following compensatory damages in Nevada:

  • Medical bills. This includes hospital stays, doctor's appointments, home health care, medication, medical equipment, and rehab.
  • Lost wages. This includes all the salaries, tips, and bonuses the plaintiff missed out on while he or she was too injured to work.
  • Loss of future earnings. This includes all the salaries, tips, and bonuses the plaintiff will miss out on while being too injured to work.
  • Pain and suffering. This includes emotional distress, physical disfigurement, and the anguish of coping with the injury. Attorneys generally quantify pain and suffering by multiplying all the other damages by a certain number such as 1.5. Or they can multiply the number of days the plaintiff was in pain by a certain dollar amount, such as $100.

If the defendant acted in a particularly reckless way, the court may also order that the defendant pay punitive damages in Nevada.

The sole purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant. Punitive damages are also meant to deter other people from acting like the defendant.

Personal injury attorneys always pursue punitive damages because they can be much bigger than compensatory damages. In many cases, punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages.3

5. Nevada's comparative negligence laws ("shared fault")

Negligence victims often share some of the blame in causing their injuries. But victims can still win a negligence lawsuit as long as the defendant was at least 50% at fault.4

Examples of how negligence victims may have contributed to their own injury include the following:

  • A victim hit by a texting driver was also texting and therefore did not notice the other driver swerving.
  • A person injured by a falling elevator was jumping inside of it it, which caused the already weak cable to snap.
  • A food poisoning victim who ate spoiled meat also drank too much alcohol with the meal, which made her even sicker.
  • A dog bite victim had taunted the dog by growling at it.
  • A grocery slip-and-fall victim could have avoided walking on the spill had she not been distracted by her phone.

When a plaintiff is partly to blame for his or her injuries, the court will reduce the damages in proportion to that amount of blame. So if a plaintiff was 50% at fault, the court will award the plaintiff only half the damages. But when a plaintiff is blameless, the court will award the plaintiff 100% of the damages.

6. Statute of limitations in Nevada negligence cases

Nevada accident victims have two (2) years to file a negligence lawsuit after they discover their injuries.5 In many cases, a victim's injuries are apparent right after the accident. But in some cases, injuries may take weeks or longer to manifest.

In any case, accident victims are advised to see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Doctors can order scans and tests that may detect injuries the victims are still unaware of.

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Legal References

  1. Turner v. Mandalay Sports Entm't, LLC, 124 Nev. 213, 180 P.3d 1172 (2008)
  2. Johnson v. Egtedar, 112 Nev. 428, 915 P.2d 271 (1996).
  3. NRS 42.005.
  4. NRS 41.141.
  5. NRS 11.190.

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