To establish a case of negligence under Nevada law, you must prove four things:
- The defendant had a duty of reasonable care;
- The defendant breached this standard of care;
- This breach was the proximate cause of your injuries
- These injuries resulted in a financial loss
If successful, you may be able to recover the following money damages:
If you were partially to blame for your injuries, you may still be able to win damages under Nevada’s modified comparative negligence laws. Though you must make sure to file suit before the two-year statute of limitations in Nevada passes.
In this article, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers define negligence in Nevada personal injury cases:
- 1. What is Nevada’s legal definition of negligence?
- 2. Who are the potential defendants?
- 3. How do I prove negligence?
- 4. What damages can I get?
- 5. What is comparative negligence (“shared fault”) in Nevada?
- 6. What is the statute of limitations?
Also see our article on negligence per se lawsuits in Nevada personal injury cases.
1. What is Nevada’s legal definition of negligence?
Under Nevada tort law, negligent acts occur when somebody falls short of the obligation to care for your safety — and you get harmed as a result.
Most negligence cases arise out of an accident where no one meant for anyone to get hurt. Though intentions are irrelevant under the theory of negligence.
What matters is whether the alleged wrongdoer (“tortfeasor”) failed to act as a reasonable person in similar circumstances would act in that situation.
Whenever someone’s “breach of duty of care” harms you, you may have a viable negligence claim.
Negligence is one of the most frequently litigated causes of action following these accidents:
- automobile collisions
- hotel accidents
- dog bites
- food poisoning
- medical malpractice
- construction accidents
2. Who are the potential defendants?
There are often multiple parties responsible for your injury. You can sue them all.
After a motor vehicle crash for example, you may have grounds to sue not only the other driver(s) involved. You 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.)
Your personal injury attorney can help identify which people and businesses carry blame for the accident.
3. How do I prove negligence?
Most Nevada negligence cases settle out of court. Though should the case reach trial, you (the victim) would need to prove the following four elements of negligence:
- The defendant (the at-fault party) had a legal duty of care to you;
- The defendant breached that duty of care;
- The defendant’s breach caused your injuries;
- Your 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. Though you 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 you.
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 your 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 your relationship with the defendant.
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 you by not acting with due care. The following are common examples of breaches of duty of care in negligence actions:
- 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 their 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, eyewitness testimony, and/or maintenance records.
3.3. Third element: Causation
A breach of duty by itself is not negligence. You have to show that the defendant’s actions (the breach) caused your 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. You can also hire an accident reconstruction expert to testify about how the defendant’s failures led to your injuries.
Learn more about causation in Nevada personal injury cases.
3.4. Fourth element: Damages
For a negligence case to be viable, your 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.
You can prove your medical bill damages by producing invoices from hospitals and doctor’s offices. You can prove your property damage by producing invoices from auto repair shops or other repair services.
The best proof of lost wages is past pay stubs. You can help prove the loss of future earnings by projecting how much you would have earned based on your
- experience, and
- past salary.
Pain and suffering is the toughest type of damages to quantify. These are discussed in more detail in the next section.
4. What damages get I get?
If you sue for negligence, you 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 you missed out on while you were too injured to work.
- Loss of future earnings. This includes all the salaries, tips, and bonuses you 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 you were 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. What is comparative negligence (“shared fault”) in Nevada?
You often share some of the blame for causing your injuries. Though under Nevada’s comparative fault laws, you 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 you are partly to blame for your injuries, the court will reduce the damages in proportion to that amount of blame. So if you were 50% at fault, the court will award you only half the damages. Though when you are blameless, the court will award you 100% of the damages.
See our related article, Is Nevada a “no-fault state” when it comes to car accidents?
6. What is the statute of limitations?
You have two (2) years to file a negligence lawsuit after you discover your injuries.5 In many cases, injuries are apparent right after the accident. Though in some cases, injuries may take weeks or longer to manifest.
In any case, you are advised to see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Doctors can order scans and tests that may detect injuries you are still unaware of.
Call a Nevada personal injury attorney…
If you have been injured in an accident, contact our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys. We will fight for the maximum possible settlement. And you pay us nothing unless we win your case.
See our related articles on wrongful death, strict liability, assumption of risk, and contributory negligence.
- Turner v. Mandalay Sports Entm’t, LLC, (2008) 124 Nev. 213, 180 P.3d 1172. See also Porchia v. City of Las Vegas (2022) 138 Nev. Adv. Op. 4 (“Gross negligence is a “very great negligence [as opposed to ordinary negligence].”). See also Montanez v. Sparks Family Hosp., Inc. (2021) 499 P.3d 11.
- Johnson v. Egtedar, (1996) 112 Nev. 428, 915 P.2d 271 (1996).
- NRS 42.005. See also Cain v. Price, (2018) 134 Nev. 193, 415 P.3d 25, 134 Nev. Adv. Rep. 26.
- NRS 41.141. Cox v. Copperfield (2022) 138 Nev. Adv. Op. 27.
- NRS 11.190.