Trusted Legal Representation For New Orleans Car Accidents
Whether taking a trip to the grocery store or picking up our children from school, we rely heavily on cars and trucks every day. This reality means that we spend a considerable amount of time in our vehicles every day. While driving is a necessity for our lives, being behind the wheel increases the chances of being involved in an auto accident.
Most people follow the Louisiana traffic laws and operate their vehicles with safety in mind. However, many people do not, which is what makes driving so incredibly dangerous. Indeed, an average of 38,000 people dies in automobile accidents every year, which is a rate of 12.4 deaths per 100,000 people living in the United States.
There are countless causes of car accidents, but some of the most common reasons are distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding, hit and run, and reckless driving. And, sometimes accidents are caused by poorly maintained roadways, vehicle defects, or poorly maintained vehicles. Even a safe driver who follows all traffic laws can be involved in an accident when these external factors come into play.
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car accident, you will likely have many questions and have no idea what to do. Here are the answers to various questions that you may have following an accident.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Whatever the cause, if you’re involved in a car accident, there are several things you can do to protect your rights and stay safe at the accident scene:
- First, but only if it can be done safely, move your car to the side of the road to avoid oncoming traffic.
- If other drivers or pedestrians require medical attention, call for an ambulance.
- Don’t leave the scene until you call local law enforcement and report the accident.
- Make sure to get the other driver’s insurance information.
- Wait for law enforcement to arrive to issue an accident report.
- Don’t discuss the cause of the accident with anyone other than the responding law enforcement officer.
- Take photos or document any damage done to your vehicle or any other personal property and the road conditions at the time of the accident.
- Make sure that you immediately seek medical attention for any issues that you.
What Is the Usual Fee for an Auto Accident Lawyer?
There is no charge for you to discuss your case. If I decide to accept the representation, we will then come up with a fee arrangement.
The most common fee structure in personal injury and other plaintiff litigation is a contingent fee. Meaning, the client pays nothing unless money is recovered (either through a settlement or a trial verdict).
Assuming there is a recovery, the lawyer will then take a percentage of that as a contingent fee. The law firm will also be reimbursed for any litigation costs spent during the case (such as filing fees, investigation costs, expert costs, and deposition fees). But, if there is no recovery, then the client owes nothing.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Louisiana Car Accident Case?
Louisiana has a “prescription” concept (the statute of limitations in other states) that gives you a specific amount of time to file a lawsuit after an accident. In Louisiana, you have one year from the date of your auto accident to file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. If you fail to file a lawsuit within that one-year period, you will likely have your case dismissed, and you will lose all of your rights to recover damages for your car accident.
It is crucial to remember that you must file a lawsuit in court. It is not enough to have filed an insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance company.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Louisiana Car Accident?
The Driver of the Vehicle Causing the Auto Accident
First and foremost, the driver of the other vehicle is the most likely person to be held responsible for a car accident case. They are the ones who were actually being negligent in operating the automobile and should therefore be held liable for it.
The Insurance Company for the Driver Who Caused the Auto Accident
The liability insurance company that provided insurance for the negligent driver can be held liable for the accident and can be sued directly in Louisiana (pursuant to Louisiana’s “Direct Action Statute,” La. R.S. 22:1269).
Those insurance companies are responsible for the injuries and/or damage that you suffer up to the amount of their policy limits. One thing that is certainly worth noting is that sometimes drivers will have multiple insurance policies.
The first level of insurance (often called the “underlying insurance policy”) would be liable up to its policy limits. If, and only if, those policy limits are exhausted, an excess (or “umbrella”) insurance policy would be liable for damages that exceed the underlying policy limits. Most drivers do not have excess policies, but if they do, it can be a very good way for seriously injured car accident victims to be made whole for their damages.
The Employer of the Driver Who Caused the Auto Accident
The employer of the negligent driver can likewise be held liable for the injuries that you suffer. Louisiana has a concept called “respondeat superior,” which makes the employer liable for the negligence of its employees.
So, if the driver is negligently operating the vehicle, the employer can be held responsible for that negligence. Unlike with most drivers, however, companies, particularly larger ones, often have multiple levels of insurance that can provide remedies for injured drivers.
The Manufacturer of the Vehicle or Parts of the Vehicle That Caused the Car Accident
Sometimes it is not the other driver who causes the accident but rather a failure of some part of the vehicle. There are a variety of defects that can occur in the component parts of an automobile, such as tire failures, brake failures, and airbag failures. These failures can either lead to accidents or, in the case of airbag failures, make the resulting accidents significantly worse.
Repair Shops Who Perform Negligent Work
In addition to manufacturing defects, it is also possible that a repair shop can be negligent in how they complete repairs on a vehicle. If these shops fail to complete repairs on a car or truck properly, that vehicle may then be at a significantly higher risk of causing an accident. When an accident does occur, these repair shops can be held liable.
Your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Insurance Company
Many people carry uninsured and/or uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage can become vitally important if you are involved in an accident with a driver who either has no insurance or only has limited insurance.
In either situation, your UM policy steps into the shoes of the other driver and provide coverage for their negligence. This provides additional coverage and the added benefit of being your own insurance company, which in turn makes them liable for bad faith if they fail to fulfill their obligations under Louisiana law.
Where Can I File My Louisiana Car Accident Case?
Generally speaking, you can file your car accident case in state court or in federal court. If you file in state court, it will typically be in either the parish where the accident occurred or in the parish where the defendant is domiciled. There are other possible options, but those are the two most common choices.
There are also instances where a car accident case can be filed in federal court. Typically, if an accident involves either an out-of-state driver or an out-of-state victim, it might be filed in federal court. You may also file your lawsuit in state court, and then the defendant decides to transfer (or “remove”) the case to federal court.
Laws regarding jurisdiction and venue can be incredibly complicated so it is good to discuss this with an attorney to make sure that you are filing it in the best place possible for your particular situation.
What Do I Have to Show to Win My Louisiana Car Accident Case?
Generally speaking, you have to show that the other person was negligent and that their negligence was the cause of your damages. You might also show that you were not negligent and should bear no responsibility for your accident. What you need to prove will ultimately depend upon the facts of your particular case.
A New Orleans car accident lawyer will help you determine precisely what you need to prove and help you develop the facts of your case to prove those elements best.
What Damages Can I Receive for My Auto Accident?
Much like any personal injury case, there are a number of different types of damages that you can cover for a car accident case.
Car accident victims are entitled to recover the general damages that they suffer as a result of their accidents. This includes a wide variety of items, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, scarring, physical disability, and emotional distress.
Unlike special damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.), there is no easy way to quantify these damages and it is ultimately left to the judge or jury to decide the appropriate amount to award.
Victims of auto accidents also typically require medical treatment. This treatment may be as simple as visits to the urgent care or of a chiropractor or may be as significant as including long hospital stays and surgery costs. It is not just the expenses you incur right after the accident that is included but also those you may have in the distant future.
Sometimes accidents are such that car accident victims will require treatment for the rest of their lives. A Louisiana car accident attorney will be able to hire the right experts (such as life care planners) to help quantify the total amount of future medical expenses that may be needed because of your injuries.
Car accidents, particularly those that lead to surgeries and/or long-term disability, can impact your ability to make a living for the rest of your life. In extreme cases, you may never be able to work again. But even in seemingly less severe situations, you may be able to work but may not be able to do what you were doing before the accident, or you may have to change your long-term career path.
Again, a car accident lawyer will be able to help you quantify your lost wages by using a combination of medical and expert witness testimony. This will ensure that you are able to present the most compelling case to the judge or jury.
Louisiana generally does not allow punitive damages. However, drunk driving accidents are one exception to that rule. A driver who is drunk or on drugs can be held responsible for punitive damages if their intoxication causes a car accident.
Unlike the previously discussed damages (which are all meant to compensate you for your losses), punitive damages are meant to punish the driver for bad behavior. These damages can be significant, especially if the driver is highly intoxicated and the injuries are severe.
How Long Will My Car Accident Case Take to Resolve?
This is an extremely common question but one that does not have a clear answer. There are so many different factors that influence how long a car accident case will take to resolve. Most importantly, if the insurance company takes the position that they should not be liable for your injuries, you will likely need to file a lawsuit and then go through the discovery process (where both sides are able to depose witnesses and obtain documents and other information) before the case can settle.
Also, it may be that it will be some time before you know the full extent of your injuries because of surgical procedures and extended recovery timelines. Lastly, you may have a case where you and the insurance company are so far apart on how you view the case that the only option is to try it.
Generally speaking, simple cases that do not involve complex issues can be resolved in months, and complex cases that involve disputed issues can take significantly longer than that.
A car accident lawyer will be in a good position to evaluate your case and give you a realistic idea of how long it should take. Although, even that will just be an estimate because of factors (trial calendars, hurricanes in Louisiana, the Covid pandemic, etc.) that are entirely out of everybody’s control and can delay a case’s resolution.
Contact Car Accident Lawyer in New Orleans Mike Mahone
Car accidents happen every day, and victims frequently fail to make a claim or accept a quick settlement from an insurance adjuster. Don’t make these mistakes. If you’ve been injured in an auto accident in Louisiana, The Mahone Firm can help today. Call (504) 564-7342 for a free and confidential consultation with a New Orleans auto accident attorney.