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.
Common Car Accident Injuries
The immense force of a car accident can cause injury to nearly every area of the body. In some cases, even low-speed collisions can have life-altering consequences for those involved. While every collision is different, some of the most common injuries from car accidents include:
- Head injuries: The force of impact can cause a person's head to whip violently and strike the steering wheel, windows, or other objects in the vehicle. This can result in varying levels of head trauma such as concussions, skull fractures, or traumatic brain injures.
- Whiplash: The same whipping motion responsible for head injuries can also cause injuries to the ligaments and soft tissues in the neck and upper back, causing severe pain.
- Internal injuries: Internal organ damage and hemorrhaging can be life-threatening conditions if not treated quickly. Common car-accident-related internal injuries include brain bleeds, cracked or broken ribs, lung punctures, ruptured spleens, and damaged blood vessels. Since some internal injuries can go unnoticed for hours or even days after a crash due to the body's adrenal response, it is critical you see a doctor as soon as possible after being involved in any type of crash—even if you feel fine.
- Spinal cord injuries: A car accident can cause a sudden blow to the spinal cord or the surrounding tissues, causing discs, vertebrae, and ligaments to be crushed, torn, or dislocated. Any type of spinal cord injury can have potentially devastating consequences, ranging from minor impairment to complete paralysis.
- Psychological injuries: Car accident injuries frequently extend beyond the physical and can cause long-lasting psychological damage to those who survive, especially if the collision involved. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety related to car accidents are often much more difficult to treat than physical wounds and can potentially require years of therapy to overcome.
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.
Louisiana Car Accident FAQ
Being injured in a car accident is an experience that is bound to come with several questions. To help guide you through this difficult time, our attorneys have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about car accident cases in Louisiana.
When should I see a doctor after a car accident?
Seek medical help as soon as possible after being involved in a wreck, even if you feel fine. There is a chance you may have suffered serious internal injuries but are numb to the effects due to your body's adrenaline response. Prompt medical care can help your physical health as well as minimize the chances that the insurance company will doubt the cause of your injuries.
What happens if the other driver doesn't have insurance?
If the driver that hit you does not have insurance, or if you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you may be able to pursue compensation through your own insurer. Louisiana law requires every auto insurance policy issued in the state to include uninsured motorist coverage, unless the driver rejects the coverage in writing. Uninsured motorist coverage essentially takes the place of liability coverage in the event that a negligent driver fails to carry, compensating you for your economic losses.
If you waived this coverage, your options are far more limited. You may be able to pursue a civil claim against the driver directly, though collecting on any judgment you may receive may be difficult as many uninsured drivers have little in terms of personal assets. For this reason, it is critical you opt to purchase uninsured motorist coverage.
How long will my auto accident case take to resolve?
Every case is different, therefore it is impossible to predict how long it will take for your car accident case to be resolved. If a claim is uncontested and liability is clear, it can take about six months for a claimant to receive compensation. If back-and-forth negotiations are necessary, a claim could take up to a year to resolve. Finally, if litigation is required, the timeline can extend quite a bit, taking anywhere from 12 to 36 months to end. While there is no definitive way to predict the timeline of your case, our attorneys can help keep your case on track and prevent it from unnecessarily slowing down due to mistakes or complications.
Will I have to go to court?
Possibly, but this is unlikely. Most car accident injury claims are settled far before they need to go to trial, but it is always a possibility. Generally speaking, litigation is only necessary in situations where the insurance company refuses to offer a settlement that fully compensates you for your damages, the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance, or if there is particularly complex case law that applies to your situation.
The insurance company is already offering me a settlement. Should I accept it?
While you may be led to believe otherwise, you are under no obligation to accept the insurance company's first settlement offer. Most initial settlement offers are intentionally low and are made in an attempt to resolve your case as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Once you accept a settlement, your case is over and you will be unable to pursue any further compensation even if your long-term losses exceed the amount received. Do not accept any settlement offer without first consulting with an attorney.
How much does it cost to hire a car accident lawyer?
Jones & Hill accepts car accident cases on a contingency fee basis. In short, this means that we will only charge attorney's fees if we are successful in securing financial compensation on your behalf. We will cover all upfront costs of handling your case, and if your case goes to trial and we lose, you will not pay us a dime for our services. This ensures that our interests are aligned with yours, allowing you to focus on your physical recovery with peace of mind.