Louisiana Car Accident Lawyer
Motor Vehicle Collisions
The majority of car accidents can be avoided if every car driver acts in a safe manner. Unfortunately, not every motorist drives with care. All too often, innocent people are injured and killed not because of their own actions but those of other drivers on the road. When this happens, injured accident victims and the surviving family members of those wrongfully killed have the right to take legal action.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a car accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries, and Jones & Hill can help. For over 35 years, our firm has been representing the rights of motor vehicle accident victims in Lake Charles, Alexandria, Oakdale, Oberlin, and the nearby areas. Our Louisiana car accident lawyers have extensive experience and are willing to take your case to trial if that is what is needed to secure the full, fair recovery you are owed. We provide caring, client-focused representation, coupled with aggressive advocacy, both in and out of the courtroom.
What Are the Leading Causes of Car Accidents?
Every year in Louisiana, thousands of people are injured or killed in motor vehicle collisions. According to the Center for Analytics & Research in Transportation Safety (CARTS) at Louisiana State University, there were 742 fatal traffic accidents in 2020 alone, leading to 807 total fatalities. This marked an increase of 9% in the number of fatal crashes and an increase of 11% in the number of deaths from the previous year—a trend that is unfortunately supported by steadily increasing fatal accident rates in Louisiana since 2016.
But what has been causing this alarming trend?
Unfortunately, most motor vehicle accidents are the result of negligence. When other motorists fail to act with reasonable care, you can become involved in a serious collision, leaving you struggling to deal with life-altering injuries or even the death of a loved one.
Some of the most common causes of car accidents that can be attributed to negligence include:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Following too closely
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Unsafe or unlawful passing
- Disobeying stop signs, signals, and other traffic control devices
- Aggressive and reckless driving
- Changing lanes quickly or too closely
- Cutting off other drivers
- Unsafe turns
In some cases, accidents are caused or worsened by unsafe road or weather conditions, such as defectively designed or constructed roadways, potholes, heavy rain, sleet, and other hazards. In other instances, an accident victim’s injuries may be caused or worsened by auto defects, such as improperly installed seatbelts, defective airbags or tires, missing vehicle components, unsafe design, or faulty braking systems or accelerators.
At Jones & Hill, our Louisiana car accident attorneys know how to properly investigate motor vehicle accident claims to determine exactly what happened and what factors contributed to the crash. Whether another motorist was solely responsible, or fault was shared between multiple parties, we can help build the strongest possible case on your behalf.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Drivers have always been susceptible to distraction by food, passengers, or events outside the vehicle. However, in the age of smartphones, driver distraction has doubled as drivers now text, use social media, and adjust the GPS while driving.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately eight Americans die every single day due to distracted driving. Studies have shown that distracted driving impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle in the same way that consuming alcohol does; in other words, driving while distracted is just as dangerous as driving while drunk or intoxicated. However, many people do not realize the true dangers of distracted driving and continue to use cell phones and navigation systems, eat or drink, groom, and engage in other distracting behaviors behind the wheel.
To help counteract distracted driving caused by smart phone and other similar communications device use, Louisiana enacted a complete ban on texting while driving in 2011. By law, “texting” includes any form of reading, typing, or sending text-based communications on a hand-held communications device, including texting, emailing, and posting to social media. Additionally, drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use a cell phone for any reason while driving, including hands-free devices.
Establishing Negligence in Your Car Accident Case
Louisiana follows a fault-based (or “tort”) system when it comes to motor vehicle accident claims. Also known as a negligence statute, this means that accident victims must prove the other driver (or another third party) was at fault for the crash in order to file a claim and recover compensation for their damages. This typically involves proving that the other party was negligent or acted wrongfully in some way.
To file a car accident claim in Louisiana, you must typically prove all the following elements:
- The other driver or party (the defendant) was negligent
- You were injured/sustained measurable damages
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing your injury
Louisiana provides that every person has a legal duty of care to every other person. A court will look at whether a similarly situated driver would have behaved in the same manner while driving. If the accident resulted in injuries, the driver who acted negligently could be subject to a personal injury claim.
What If You Were Partly at Fault for the Accident?
While some auto accidents are truly the fault of a single negligent driver, many have multiple contributing factors. In some cases, a victim may share some of the blame for the crash. For example, if a person is hit by a distracted driver who runs a red light, but the person who was hit was speeding at the time of the collision, who is at fault? Can the person who was hit still file a claim and seek compensation for their accident-related damages even though they were speeding?
In short, yes, you can still file a car accident claim in Louisiana if you share some of the fault. Louisiana follows what is known as a pure comparative fault doctrine in situations like these. Under this rule, a person can file a claim for damages as long as they can prove that the other party was at least 1% to blame. However, an individual’s financial recovery will be reduced by their at-fault percentage.
So, using the example above, if the jury finds that the person who was speeding was going less than five miles over the posted speed limit and was, therefore, 25% to blame for the crash, the person who was speeding could recover up to 75% of the total amount he or she would have received if the jury did not find him or her to blame at all. If the person who was speeding suffered $10,000 in damages after being hit by the distracted driver, he or she could only recover up to $7,500.
How Long Do You Have to File a Car Accident Claim in Louisiana?
Louisiana provides an injured person a one-year period to bring a claim for damages. This one-year period almost always begins on the date of the accident. As such, it is important to begin discussing your car accident claim with an experienced attorney shortly after the accident.
The sooner you get in touch with our attorneys at Jones & Hill, the sooner we can begin investigating your claim and gathering evidence in support of your case. It is critical that we file your claim no more than one year after the crash, or you will almost certainly lose your right to seek compensation for your losses.
Compensable Damages in Car Accident Claims
If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident, you may be entitled to seek damages as a result of your injury. Louisiana provides that victims of an auto accident may seek actual (economic) and general (non-economic) damages after an accident.
Actual damages refer to any losses that have a specific dollar value, such as:
- Medical expenses
- Projected future care costs
- Lost wages
- Lost future earnings
- In-home care/assistance
General, or non-economic, damages refer to the psychological impact of the accident and includes emotional distress, pain and suffering, and related intangible losses.
Is There a Cap on Damages in Louisiana Car Accident Claims?
Louisiana does not impose a cap on the amount of damages an injured victim may receive after an accident. However, it is important to keep in mind that discussions with insurance companies could impact your ability to claim a settlement in the future.
Remember: The insurance company is not on your side!
Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and they will often try to get you to accept a settlement shortly after the crash to close the case. While the settlement may seem generous and may cover existing medical expenses, as well as a small stipend, the truth is, these initial offers are generally low-ball settlements that fail to consider the victim’s ongoing and future expenses, not to mention their pain and suffering. The insurance company will not be able—nor willing—to predict the ongoing medical care and treatment you may need in the future. They do not want to pay these costs, nor the expenses associated with future lost wages/income, disability, and pain and suffering.
At Jones & Hill, our Louisiana auto accident attorneys have years of experience handling car accident claims and can assist you throughout this process. It is important to consult with our attorneys as soon as possible after the accident since the statute of limitations begins tolling the day of the accident and extends for only one year.
If you wait too long to bring a claim, you may lose your ability to recover any amount from the negligent car driver. Contact our office today for a free consultation.