Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

When An Accident Happens Out Of The State, Which State’s Law Governs?

Tourists love Las Vegas!!!  Many tourists come here to see the hotels, the casinos and the shows.  But after a while the hotels, casinos and shows all start to look alike.  So tourists are known to rent cars and go wandering the Wild West to take in the natural wonders just a few hours from town, including Death Valley in California, the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Zion National Park in Utah.  That’s a lot of travel across many state lines.  So when an accident happens outside of Nevada in a Las Vegas based rental car, which state’s law will apply?  The law of Nevada, where the tourists rented the car?  The law of state in which the tourists reside?  Or the law of the state in which the accident happened?

Choice of Law Nevada, Nevada Coverage Law, Nevada Bad Faith Law, Mills & Associates Nevada Insurance and Coverage Lawyers, Las Vegas Insurance and Coverage Lawyers 702-240-6060This subject is known as Choice of Law.  In personal injury actions, Nevada used to follow the “overwhelming interest” test contained in Motenko v. MGM Dist. Inc., 112 Nev. 1038, 921 P.2d 933 (1966).  This required an analysis of the following four factors:

(1) is it the place where the conduct giving rise to the injury occurred;
(2) is it the place where the injury is suffered;
(3) do the parties have the same domicile, residence, nationality, etc. and is it different from the forum state; and
(4) is it the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered?

But in 2006 the Nevada Supreme Court revisited the choice of law doctrine that it would follow in tort actions.  In General Motors Corp v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 122 Nev. 466,134 P.3d 111 (2006), the court decided that it would follow the rule found in the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws called the “most significant relationship” test. Section 146 of the Restatement (Second) says that in personal injury cases the parties are to be governed by the “local law of the state where the injury occurred” unless “some other state has a more significant relationship” to the occurrence. This is a flexible analysis.  The presumption that the law of the state in which the accident happened can be rebutted in the face of compelling evidence.

So in a case involving our rental car tourists, determining which state has the most significant relationship might prove difficult. At Mills and Associates we can advise you on which state’s law the court is most likely to apply and the ramifications of this decision.  This is a critical analysis as it can involve things as basic as whether the court will apply a pure or modified comparative negligence standard. We stand ready to assist you with this rather technical analysis at the outset of any claim.

Please feel free to give us a call at 702-240-6060 if you have a choice of law question.