Published: April 23, 2024 | Jack Bernstein

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Las Vegas and are seeking compensation, you may be surprised to hear the other side claim that someone else – someone not even in the courtroom – is actually responsible for your injuries. This tactic, known as the “Empty Chair” Defense, is a complex legal strategy that can have significant implications for your personal injury case. To navigate this challenging situation and protect your rights, it’s crucial to have an experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney like Jack Bernstein on your side.

Key TakeawaysWhat That Means for You
The “Empty Chair” Defense blames an absent party for your injuries.The defendant is trying to avoid responsibility by shifting blame.
In Nevada, the defendant must prove the “empty chair” is 100% at fault.This “all-or-nothing” rule makes the defense a high-stakes gamble.
Any fault assigned to the “empty chair” reduces your compensation.If the defense succeeds, you may recover less than you deserve.
The defense is often used in hit-and-run cases to minimize payouts.Insurance companies may exploit this defense to avoid responsibility.
Strong evidence, including witness statements and expert testimony, can counter this defense.Gathering compelling evidence is crucial to fighting back.
Never speak to insurance companies alone.Have your attorney handle communications to protect your interests.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can challenge the defense and prove the defendant’s negligence.Skilled legal representation is essential to safeguard your rights.
The outcome of an “Empty Chair” Defense case depends on the unique facts and evidence.While there are no guarantees, a strong legal strategy can make the difference.
Understanding the defense empowers you to make informed decisions.Knowledge is power in protecting your legal rights.
If you’re facing this defense, always seek a legal consultation.An experienced attorney can navigate the complexities and fight for your deserved compensation.

What is the “Empty Chair” Defense?

In a personal injury case, the “Empty Chair” Defense is a tactic used by the defendant (the person you’re suing) to shift blame for your injuries to someone else – someone who’s not even in the courtroom.

The Basics of the “Empty Chair” Defense

A Simple Explanation
Imagine you’re in a courtroom, telling your story of how you were injured. The person you’re suing, the defendant, points to an empty chair and says, “It’s not my fault. It’s the fault of the person who should be sitting in that chair.” That, in essence, is the “Empty Chair” Defense.

Shifting ALL the Blame
The key thing to understand is that the defendant isn’t just saying the absent party shares some of the blame. They’re arguing that this “empty chair” is 100% responsible for your injuries, completely absolving themselves of any fault.

Why Do They Use This Defense?

It’s All About the Money
The main goal of the “Empty Chair” Defense is to reduce or completely eliminate the amount of money the defendant (or their insurance company) has to pay you for your injuries. If they can convince the court that someone else is entirely to blame, they can walk away without paying a dime.

Nevada’s Unique Rules

An “All-or-Nothing” Approach
Nevada has specific laws about shared fault called “comparative negligence” laws. In most cases, these laws allow fault to be split among multiple parties. But when it comes to the “Empty Chair” Defense, Nevada takes an “all-or-nothing” approach.

A High-Risk Gamble
Under Nevada law, for the “Empty Chair” Defense to work, the defendant must prove that the absent party is 100% at fault. They can’t just argue for 50% or 75% fault – it’s all or nothing. This makes the “Empty Chair” Defense a high-stakes gamble for the defendant.

If they can’t convince the court that the “empty chair” bears all the blame, they could be on the hook for 100% of your damages, even if they argue the other party is 99% responsible. It’s a risky strategy, but one that defendants are often willing to take to try to avoid paying out on a claim.

How Does the “Empty Chair” Defense Hurt My Case?

The “Empty Chair” Defense can have a significant impact on your personal injury case, potentially reducing the compensation you receive for your injuries. Here’s how.

Your Compensation Could Be Reduced

Nevada’s Modified Comparative Negligence Rule
In Nevada, the amount of compensation you can receive in a personal injury case is directly tied to the percentage of fault assigned to each party. This is known as “modified comparative negligence.”

Under this rule, any fault assigned to the “empty chair” directly reduces your potential payout. The defendant is only responsible for the percentage of damages equal to their percentage of fault.

A 30% Reduction Example
Let’s say you’re in a car accident and you’re suing the other driver for $100,000 in damages. The defendant uses the “Empty Chair” Defense, claiming that a third party who fled the scene was actually responsible for the crash.

If the jury decides that this absent third party (the “empty chair”) is 30% at fault, your maximum compensation is reduced by 30%. So instead of potentially receiving $100,000, the most you could get is $70,000, even if the defendant is found to be 70% at fault.

Hit-and-Run Accidents and the “Empty Chair”

A Common Tactic in Hit-and-Runs
The “Empty Chair” Defense is often used in hit-and-run accidents. The fleeing driver, who is not present in court, becomes an easy target for the defense to shift blame to.

The defendant might argue that the hit-and-run driver caused the accident and then fled, leaving them (the defendant) to take the blame. This can be a persuasive argument to a jury, who may feel it’s unfair to hold the defendant 100% responsible when another party was involved.

Insurance Companies and the “Empty Chair”
Insurance companies are notorious for using the “Empty Chair” Defense aggressively in hit-and-run cases. Their goal is to minimize the amount they have to pay out on a claim.

By shifting blame to the absent hit-and-run driver, insurance companies can argue that their insured (the defendant) is only partially at fault or not at fault at all. This can significantly reduce the amount they have to pay you, leaving you with far less compensation than you might deserve.

In these situations, it’s crucial to have a skilled personal injury attorney who can counter the “Empty Chair” Defense and fight for your right to full and fair compensation.

When is the “Empty Chair” Defense Used?

The “Empty Chair” Defense can be used in a variety of personal injury cases. Let’s look at some common scenarios where you might encounter this tactic.

Common Scenarios for the “Empty Chair”

The Phantom Vehicle in a Car Accident
Picture this: You’re stopped at a red light when suddenly, you’re rear-ended by the car behind you. You suffer whiplash and your car is damaged.

You sue the driver who hit you, but in court, they argue that a “phantom vehicle” suddenly swerved in front of them, causing them to crash into you. This “phantom vehicle” is the “empty chair” – the defendant is trying to shift the blame to this unknown driver who is not present in court.

The Unknown Spiller in a Slip-and-Fall
Imagine you’re shopping in a store when you slip on a puddle of liquid and injure yourself. You sue the store for failing to keep their premises safe.

In court, the store argues that an unknown customer must have spilled the liquid just moments before your accident, and they didn’t have time to clean it up. The store is using the “Empty Chair” Defense, attempting to shift the blame to this unknown customer who is not in court.

The Rowdy Casino Patron
Let’s say you’re at a Las Vegas casino when another patron, who’s clearly had too much to drink, stumbles into you, causing you to fall and injure yourself. You sue the casino for overserving the patron and failing to provide a safe environment.

In response, the casino argues that an unknown third party, not present in court, actually tripped the drunk patron, causing them to stumble into you. The casino is using the “Empty Chair” Defense, trying to shift the blame to this unknown third party.

In all these scenarios, the common thread is that the defendant is trying to avoid or reduce their liability by pointing the finger at someone who’s not there to defend themselves. It’s a tactic designed to create doubt and confusion, and it can be very effective if not countered properly by a skilled personal injury attorney.

Fighting Back: How to Protect Yourself

If you’re facing an “Empty Chair” Defense in your personal injury case, don’t despair. There are ways to fight back and protect your right to fair compensation.

Evidence is Your Best Defense

One of the most effective ways to counter the “Empty Chair” Defense is with strong evidence that supports your version of events.

Witness Statements
Statements from anyone who witnessed the accident can be incredibly valuable, even if they didn’t directly see the actions of the alleged “empty chair” party. Their testimony can help establish the overall circumstances of the incident.

Photos and Videos
Visual evidence can be powerful in refuting an “Empty Chair” Defense. This might include security footage, traffic camera video, or even personal photos of the accident scene. These can help prove that the defendant’s version of events is inaccurate or implausible.

Expert Testimony
In complex cases, testimony from expert witnesses like accident reconstruction specialists can be crucial. These experts can analyze the physical evidence and provide professional opinions that support your account of what happened.

Never Talk to Insurance Alone

Their Goal is Not Your Goal
After an accident, the other party’s insurance company might reach out to you for a statement. It’s crucial to remember that their goal is to minimize the amount they have to pay, not to ensure you’re fairly compensated.

They may try to get you to say things that could be used to support an “Empty Chair” Defense, like admitting uncertainty about exactly what happened or agreeing that a third party could have been involved.

Always Have Representation
This is why you should never talk to an insurance company alone. Your personal injury lawyer can handle these communications for you, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you don’t say anything that could undermine your case.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

Proving Negligence
A skilled personal injury attorney will work diligently to prove that the defendant’s actions directly caused your injuries. They’ll gather evidence, interview witnesses, and build a strong case that establishes the defendant’s negligence.

Challenging the “Empty Chair”
Your lawyer will also work to challenge the “Empty Chair” Defense. They’ll argue against the idea that the absent party’s actions would have made a significant difference in the outcome. They’ll use evidence and expert testimony to poke holes in the defendant’s story and show that the “empty chair” is not relevant to the case.

Jack Bernstein’s Expertise
At Jack Bernstein Injury Lawyers, we have extensive experience handling cases involving “Empty Chair” defenses. We know the strategies insurance companies and defendants use, and we know how to counter them effectively. If you’re facing an “Empty Chair” Defense in Las Vegas, Jack Bernstein and his team are ready to fight for you.

What If…? Addressing Your Worries

When you’re facing an “Empty Chair” Defense, it’s normal to have a lot of questions and concerns. Let’s address some of the most common worries.

What if the Other Driver Can’t Be Found?

It’s Still Possible to Locate Them
If the “empty chair” is a hit-and-run driver or someone who gave false information at the scene, you might worry that they’ll never be found. While it can be challenging, it’s not always impossible.

Police and investigators have resources to track down individuals, even with limited information. The success of their search often depends on the available evidence, like witness descriptions, surveillance footage, or vehicle information.

Financial Responsibility is Another Issue
However, even if the “empty chair” individual is located, their ability to pay for your damages is a separate issue. If they don’t have insurance or assets, it may be difficult to recover compensation from them directly.

This is why it’s often more effective to focus on holding the known defendant (like the other driver or the store owner) accountable, rather than pinning all hopes on finding the “empty chair” party.

What If I Share Some of the Blame?

Nevada’s Comparative Negligence Law
In Nevada, the law recognizes that sometimes, more than one party can be at fault for an accident. Under the state’s comparative negligence rule, you can still recover damages even if you’re partially to blame, as long as your percentage of fault is not greater than the defendant’s.

However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. So if you’re found to be 20% at fault, you can only recover 80% of your damages.

The Importance of Legal Counsel
This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to have a knowledgeable personal injury attorney on your side. They can assess the specifics of your case and work to minimize any assignment of fault to you.

Can I Still Win My Case?

No Guaranteed Answers
If you’re facing an “Empty Chair” Defense, you might be wondering about your chances of success. The truth is, there’s no clear-cut answer.

There’s a lack of centralized data on the success rates of “Empty Chair” defenses, largely because each case is unique. The outcome will depend on the specific facts of your case, the strength of the evidence, and the skill of the attorneys involved.

Skilled Representation Makes a Difference
While there are no guarantees in any legal case, having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side can significantly increase your chances of a fair outcome, even in the face of an “Empty Chair” Defense.

Your attorney will know how to build a strong case, challenge the defense’s arguments, and advocate for your rights at every stage of the process. They’ll work tirelessly to pursue the best possible result for you.

Next Steps: What Should I Do Now?

If you’re facing an “Empty Chair” Defense in your personal injury case, you might be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. Here’s some guidance.

Understanding Your Options

Knowledge is Power
The first step is to arm yourself with knowledge. By understanding what the “Empty Chair” Defense is and how it works, you’re better equipped to make informed decisions about your case.

You now know that this defense is an attempt to shift blame to an absent party, and that in Nevada, the defendant must prove that this “empty chair” is 100% at fault. You know that this defense can impact your potential compensation, but that there are ways to fight back.

This knowledge empowers you to take control of your situation and make the best choices for you and your case.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Navigating Complex Laws
The laws surrounding personal injury cases and the “Empty Chair” Defense in Nevada are complex. There are statutes of limitations, comparative negligence rules, and evidentiary standards that all come into play.

Trying to navigate this legal landscape on your own can be daunting and risky. A misstep could jeopardize your entire case.

The Importance of Legal Representation
This is why seeking legal representation is so crucial if you’re facing an “Empty Chair” Defense. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to navigate these complex laws and build a strong case on your behalf.

They can help you understand your rights, assess the specifics of your situation, and develop a strategy to pursue the compensation you deserve. They can handle communications with insurance companies and the defendant’s lawyers, ensuring that your interests are protected at every step.

Always Get a Consultation
Even if you’re unsure about hiring a lawyer, it’s always a good idea to get a consultation. Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations, where you can discuss your case and get professional advice without any obligation.

At Jack Bernstein Injury Lawyers, we’re always here to listen to your story and provide honest, straightforward guidance. If you’re in Las Vegas and you’re dealing with an “Empty Chair” Defense, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call us at (702) 633-3333 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today.

Remember, you don’t have to face this challenging situation alone. With the right legal support and guidance, you can fight back against the “Empty Chair” Defense and pursue the justice and compensation you deserve.

Our Location

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you have been injured in an accident, contact Jack Bernstein Injury Lawyers for a free, no obligation consultation with experienced Las Vegas accident lawyers. You will gain an advocate for every stage in the claims process until you have the compensation you deserve.

Jack Bernstein Injury Lawyers is available to help you handle your injury claim in the Las Vegas metropolitan area and beyond. Jack Bernstein and his team can offer you the personalized service and legal representation you deserve after an accident.

Call us at (702) 633-3333 or contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Get a Free Consultation!

Fill the form and we will contact you immediately. NO FEES UNLESS WE WIN
Contact Us
By submitting you agree to our Terms & Privacy Policy