Automobile Accidents FAQs

Q. How long do I have to file a claim if I've been in a car accident?

A. Under Louisiana law, you have one year from the date of the accident to file a claim against the other driver. You have two years from the date of the accident to file a suit against your own uninsured motorists insurance company.

Q. Who can recover damages in an automobile accident?

A. Anyone who is injured in a car accident may bring a lawsuit against any other driver or party at fault. If a person dies in a car accident, Louisiana survival and wrongful death law applies. See Wrongful death.

Q. What if more than one driver is at fault?

A. If several drivers are responsible for the accident, the injured person can sue all of the persons at fault. Each person sued then owes the injured person compensation for the injuries caused by his or her percentage of fault. For example, if it has been found that the injured person's case is worth $1,000,000 and Driver A is found to be twenty-five percent (25%) at fault, Driver B is found to be twenty-five percent (25%) and Driver C is found to be fifty percent (50%) at fault - Drivers A and B will each pay $250,000 in damages and Driver C will pay $500,000.

Q. What happens if I am at fault for causing the accident?

A. If your own fault is the only cause of the accident, you are one hundred percent (100%) at fault and you will not be able to recover. Louisiana is a "comparative negligence" state, however, and a person may still recover damages for their injuries if there is at least one other party at fault. The amount of your recovery is reduced by the percentage of your negligence. Thus if you were to receive $1,000,000 and you are found to be fifty percent (50%) at fault for causing your own injuries, you award would be reduced by fifty percent (50%) to $500,000.

Q. How is the fault determined?

A. Ultimately, if the case does not settle, a judge or jury will decide who is at fault and the relative percentage of fault of all of the parties.

Q. Can I sue the driver of the vehicle if I am a passenger?

A. Yes. The passenger in a vehicle, whether driven by a friend, relative or stranger can sue the driver of the vehicle if the driver is at fault.

Q. Is there anyone other than the drivers involved in a motor vehicle collision that I can sue for my damages?

A. Yes. Frequently in serious personal injury or death cases, the drivers involved in a collision will not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate an accident victim or the victim's survivors for all of their damages. In these cases it becomes particularly important to perform an investigation to determine if anyone other than the operator of the motor vehicle was at fault. Most commonly, attorneys will attempt to find out if a defective condition of the roadway played a factor. Further, there may be other defendants responsible, such as the manufacturer of a defective vehicle.

Q. What damages may I recover?

A. A person may receive compensation for his or her past and future medical bills, past and future wage loss and loss of earning capacity, past and future pain, suffering, and emotional distress, and, in cases where the person at fault was impaired by alcohol, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive Damages are increased damages meant to punish the person who caused the accident because he was impaired by alcohol consumption.

If the person dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses that result from the death of the loved one as well as emotional distress damages which come from the loss of love and affection and loss of society care and comfort of the person who died. If the survivors can prove that the person lived for a period of time between the accident and his death, they may bring an action for the deceased person's pain and suffering for that period of time, which could be brief seconds of time months, or years.

Q. What if I don't have insurance?

A. Even if you don't have insurance, if you are the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, you may still recover against the person who caused the accident. Further, the fact that you don't have insurance is not relevant if you're a passenger or a pedestrian injured by a motor vehicle. Louisiana law, however, is governed by the "no pay, no play" statute which bars motor vehicle owners from recovering the first ten-thousand dollars of any bodily injury or property damages as the result of a car accident.

Q. What if one of the other drivers has no insurance or insufficient insurance to cover my damages?

A. There are ways to be compensated for your damages if one of the other drivers doesn't have insurance.

First, an injured person can attempt to collect damages out of the personal assets of an uninsured or underinsured motorist. In most cases, the likelihood of recovery of sufficient monetary damages is not worth the time and cost to pursue the uninsured or underinsured person.

Plaintiffs who have an uninsured or underinsured motorist policy of their own may recover damages caused by another driver from their own insurance company. If the other driver is uninsured, a person may recover damages up to his or her own uninsured motorist policy limits. If the other driver has insurance, but not enough to cover the plaintiff's damages, then the plaintiff can seek to recover the difference between the other driver's policy limit and the plaintiff's own policy limit.

For instance, a plaintiff with a $100,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist policy who suffers a serious injury worth $100,000 can recover $75,000 from his or her own insurance company if the at-fault driver has a policy limit on only $25,000.

Q. Do I need an attorney?

A. In most cases, you should contact an attorney. If your injuries are minor and liability is easy to determine, you may be able to settle your case with your insurance company. An attorney would be able to assess you situation and determine whether a seemingly minor injury may have future complications and whether sufficient insurance exists to compensate you for all of your damages. Where there's insufficient insurance, an attorney may be able to determine whether other defendants or other avenues of recovery exist.

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