If you have recently been involved in a motor vehicle accident in Louisiana and are beginning to navigate through how you will recover compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and property damages, it is important to understand relevant Louisiana laws and how they can impact you following an accident.
1. You must remove your vehicle from the roadway, if it is operable.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, Louisiana law requires that you move your vehicle off of the road and onto the nearest soft shoulder for the safety of other drivers and those involved in the accident.
2. You may be required by Louisiana law to give law enforcement notice of the accident.
Under Louisiana law, motorists involved in an automobile accident are required to report the accident to the local police department whenever an injury or death occurs, or there is over $500 in property damages.
Furthermore, under the terms and conditions of most automobile insurance policies, you are required to call the police after any motor vehicle accident. Doing so is not only required, but can be hugely beneficial to your case. The police officer will come to the accident scene, assess the damages and surroundings, take insurance and personal information from all parties involved, and question any available witnesses.
3. Take photos and detailed notes about the accident.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, it is crucial that you document as many details about the accident, parties, and scene as possible. If, like many people, you carry a smart phone, use it to take photos of the accident scene including damage to your vehicle, the other vehicle, any paint from other vehicles on your car, the street and surrounding area, traffic signage and lights where the accident occurred, visible injuries to you or your passengers, and any other relevant details.
Try to identify any potential witnesses to the accident. Ask these individuals what they saw and if they would be willing to provide their name and contact information. Particularly if you were hit from behind or did not have any opportunity to see the details of the events leading up to the accident, a witness with more information can be very helpful to your case.
It is also important to memorialize your own recollection of the accident including where your vehicle was located and what you were doing when the collision occurred, what you witnessed of the other driver before, during, and after the accident, how you reacted to the accident, and any immediate symptoms or injuries you experienced.
Seek medical care for your injuries and continue to document your symptoms or the onset of new symptoms following the injury. Obtain medical care for diagnosis, treatment, and documentation of your injuries.
4. Louisiana follows a “pure comparative negligence” system.
In Louisiana, fault and liability for a motor vehicle accident are determined based on a “pure comparative negligence” standard. This means that each driver involved in an accident is responsible for their relative liability or percentage of fault in the accident.
If you were injured or received property damage following an accident in Louisiana and you were partly at fault for causing or contributing to the accident, you will still be able to recover damages, but the amount of compensation you receive will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
For example, if you suffered $100,000 in damages from an accident and the court determines that you were 30% at fault for the accident and the defendant was 70% liable, the defendant will be responsible for paying you $70,000 in damages.
The pure comparative negligence standard of calculating awards for injuries and other damages can be used as a defense argument by the defendant. This is particularly relevant in accidents involving multiple defendants or vehicles.
5. Your claim might be denied initially.
It is very common for insurance companies to initially deny your claim or offer you much less than the true value of your claim. To do this, they typically invoke one of the following defenses: the accident was not caused by their policy holder, you are not actually injured, your injuries are not as extensive as you claim, your injury is attributable to a pre-existing condition, your injury occurred subsequent to the accident in question, or you were at fault for causing your injuries.
As the plaintiff in a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage caused by a motor vehicle accident, you have the burden of proving that the defendant had a duty to drive as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances, they failed to do so by driving negligently or recklessly, their conduct was the actual and proximate cause of the accident, and it resulted in damages to you.
Due to Louisiana’s pure comparative negligence standard, your contribution to causing the accident can eliminate or reduce the money owed to you in damages.
6. Motorists in Louisiana are required to have uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist insurance coverage.
Uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage covers policy holders who suffer injuries or property damage caused by a driver without motor vehicle insurance or whose policy limits are less than the total damages.
All motorists in Louisiana are required to have auto insurance and Louisiana law mandates that all insurance policies include UM/UIM coverage. Generally, insurance policy limits for uninsured motorist coverage should match the amount for liability coverage, but policy holders can elect a lower amount of bodily injury coverage, with a minimum of $15,000, or economic only protection for monetary damages like automobile repairs, lost wages, and medical bills. In order to select a lower amount or opt for only economic damages, an insured must complete a special form from the State of Louisiana, which must satisfy strict requirements.
7. Uninsured motorists are bound by Louisiana’s “No Pay, No Play” law.
As a matter of public policy to dissuade individuals from driving without auto insurance, Louisiana enacted a “No Pay, No Play” law, which prevents uninsured drivers from recovering a certain amount of damages when they are the victim of another driver’s negligence. An uninsured motorist in Louisiana may not recover the first $15,000 of damages for bodily injury or the first $25,000 in property damage.
There are a few exceptions to the “No Pay, No Play” law including claims brought by non-owner passengers involved in the accident, cars hit while parked legally, out-of-state drivers whose state did not require liability insurance at the time the accident occurred, and if the other driver was driving while intoxicated, fled the scene of the accident, was furthering the commission of a felony at the time of the accident, or intentionally caused the accident.
8. Louisiana is a ‘direct action’ state.
Typically, in most states, when you file a lawsuit for personal injury or property damages caused by a motor vehicle accident, you file the suit against the party who negligently caused the accident, rather than their liability insurance provider. However, under the Louisiana Direct Action Statute, a plaintiff can bring a direct action against a defendant’s insurance carrier, if the policy was issued or delivered in Louisiana or the accident or injury occurred in Louisiana, and the policy covered the risk.
The law also allows a plaintiff to bring an action against the insurer alone if the insured (negligent party) is insolvent, bankrupt, an uninsured motorist, or deceased, service of process cannot be made on the insured, or the accident was between children and their parents or between spouses.
9. You have one year to file a personal injury and/or property damage claim in Louisiana.
Claims for personal injury and property damage following a motor vehicle accident are time-sensitive. Under Louisiana law, the statute of limitations for filing a suit to recover damages from an accident is one year from the date of the accident. If you fail to file your claim before the statute of limitations runs, the defendant will be able to file a motion requesting the court to dismiss your claim against them.
10. There is no cap on the damages you can potentially recover from a car accident in Louisiana.
While many other states place limits on the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover from an at-fault defendant following a motor vehicle accident, Louisiana law does not, in general, place a cap on a plaintiff’s recovery as it related to motor vehicle accidents. One exception to this are claims brought in small claims court, which must be less than $3,000.
Typically, the at-fault party’s insurance provider will pay the claim up to their policy limitations. After that point, the injured party’s insurance may cover an additional amount under an underinsured motorist provision, if the circumstances meet the policy’s criteria. The injured party can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover any remaining damages. Keep in mind that the amount of plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to the plaintiff in causing or contributing to the accident.
It is extremely beneficial to consult a personal injury lawyer after being involved in a motor vehicle accident in Louisiana. Insurance companies, unfortunately, always have an interest in maximizing their profits by limiting their payment to you as much as possible. A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney has handed countless motor vehicle claims and is familiar with the defense arguments insurance companies make and applicable Louisiana law.
If you have been injured or suffered property damage due to the negligence of another driver, contact our firm today for a complimentary consultation of your case.