New Orleans Car Accident Guide
New Orleans Car Accident Lawyer
You’re on your way home from work in New Orleans. Traffic is heavy but not too bad. You estimate you’ll be home in about half an hour. You’re are paused at a stoplight, waiting for it to change, when suddenly the car behind you slams into you.
The other driver wasn’t paying attention. Perhaps they were approaching the stoplight too quickly and didn’t leave themselves enough time to stop. Perhaps they were texting someone while they were driving. Perhaps they were fiddling with the radio. It doesn’t matter. You have been involved in a car accident in New Orleans, Louisiana. What should you do?
Louisiana has very specific laws about what happens after a car accident and how compensation is paid. It may be a minor accident or a mild fender bender. Perhaps there’s been no damage to either car. Or it may be more serious and you’re going to require a good New Orleans car accident lawyer who specializes in collisions.
The Question of Fault
Almost every accident that happens across the state of Louisiana, or across the country for that matter, boils down to driver error. In many states, if a driver is more than 50% responsible for the accident, they may not claim damages of any kind. But Louisiana uses a Pure Comparative Fault rule. This means that even if a driver is 99% at fault for an accident, they may still file a claim for damages for that 1%.
So what kind of car crashes can occur? Here are some of them:
- Rear end collisions: Fender benders are by far the most common kind of car accident. In fact, 30% of all car accidents are fender benders. The driver of the rear vehicle is normally at fault, but that fault may be mitigated if the taillights in the first vehicle were faulty and not working, meaning the driver of the rear vehicle may not have been aware that the car in front was stopped.
- Hitting an animal or stationary object: Deer frequently try to cross roads when cars are approaching. If a driver hits one, they may lose control of the car. Even if they maintain control of the car, hitting a deer can cause substantial damage. During adverse weather, when roads may be wet, cars can hydroplane off the road and strike a barrier or an object like a tree.
- Multicar collisions: These are accordion crashes, where you’ll see four or five cars that have all slammed into each other. This normally occurs during rush hour when many drivers are going a little too fast and a little too close to the car in front of them. One car stops for a red light, or an animal in the road, or a pedestrian and a line of cars, and they crash into each other. This is a particular problem in areas that have a lot of fog or during bad weather conditions.
- T-bone crash: T-bone crashes happen most often at intersections. The light has changed and one driver is trying to sneak through at the last second but then hits another car that has started across the intersection on a green light. Four-way stops are another frequent site of T-bone crashes.
- Rollovers: This is a serious issue with young and inexperienced drivers. They will be going too fast into a sharp turn and try to over-correct to stay on the road, causing the car to literally lose its balance and roll over.
- Head-on collisions: It goes without saying that these are the most serious and often deadly form of car crashes.
What Happens When You Have a Car Accident in New Orleans or anywhere in Louisiana?
The rules for what to do after you have been in a car accident apply in almost every situation regardless of where the accident took place:
- Remain on the scene: If you been involved in a motor vehicle accident, never leave the scene of the crash, no matter how minor. If you had a serious accident, and you have not suffered any harm but the other driver is injured, you are required by law to provide assistance. Even if no one has been hurt in the crash, you cannot leave before you exchange information with the other driver or talk to a police officer.
- Move your vehicle to the side of the road: Louisiana’s laws indicate that, if you can, you and the other driver should move your vehicles to the side of the road so you don’t endanger yourselves or other drivers on the road.
- Call 911: The first thing to do after an accident is to check on the condition of your passengers and the driver of the other vehicle and its passengers. Then call 911. You’ll need to relay your location to the operator and give them any additional information about which direction you were driving, any visible landmarks, mile markers or the nearest intersection. This will give them a better chance of locating you. If anyone has been injured, request immediate medical assistance. Calling 911 is also an important step in terms of any future insurance claim and helping determine liability. A 911 operator will send police to your accident location. A police report is key to any future claim.
- When the police arrive: Once police are on the scene, provide as accurate a description as possible of what happened. It is very important that you do not invent facts. It is also important that you do not admit fault even if you think you may have been partially responsible for the accident. Simply describe what happened. When the police ask if you’ve been injured but you’re not sure, never say that you are okay. If you’re not sure if you hurt, that’s what you need to tell them. Many people who have been involved in even minor car accidents don’t realize they been injured until a day or two after the actual accident.
- Record as much as you can about the incident: Most people these days carry smartphones that include cameras. Take as many pictures as possible of the accident scene, especially if damage to your car is visible. You also want to take pictures of the other driver’s car. Take a picture of their license plate, their driver’s license and insurance card when you exchange information. If you or your passengers have been injured and you feel well enough to take pictures, take pictures of these injuries as well. Take pictures of the road condition, especially if the weather was inclement, as well as any surrounding landmarks or road signs. Remember: only take these pictures at appropriate times. Don’t get in the way of the police while they are investigating the accident.
- Exchange information: If neither you nor the other driver are injured seriously and do not require any kind of medical assistance, it’s important that you exchange information with the other driver. This includes your insurance information, your name, address and how you can be contacted, your license number and your license plate number. You should also give this information to the police.
- If there are witnesses, talk to them: Depending on where the accident happened, there may be witnesses to your collision. If there are, politely ask them for their name and contact information — especially if you believe the accident was the other driver’s fault. If they are reluctant to give you their information, do not press them. Just say thank you and move on to any other possible witnesses.
- Call your insurance company: Once you have determined if anyone needs medical attention and have exchanged information with the other driver and spoken to the police, call your insurance company. Most insurance companies require that you report any accident as soon as it happens. Even if you think the accident is a minor one, still call the insurance company. If you realize in a day or two that you suffered whiplash from a minor collision, the company will be less likely to cover you if you have not already reported the collision.
- Medical assistance: If you have been seriously injured in a car crash in Louisiana, emergency medical personnel will treat you at the scene and then transport you to the nearest hospital. But even if your injuries do not require hospitalization, it is important that you see a doctor as soon as possible. Whether you visit an emergency room or make an appointment to see your personal physician, make sure you tell them that you were involved in a car accident. Give accurate details about what happened, especially if you lost consciousness after the accident. Medical records will play a very important role in determining liability and the amount of compensation for which you will be eligible.
What Happens Next?
What you do in the next few days after an accident will play a key role in any future liability claims that you will make. Make sure you document every step. Here’s how:
- Record detailed notes about the medical treatment you receive, when you received it and where you received it. These notes will be of great assistance to your New Orleans-based lawyer in helping you make sure you receive all the compensation from your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company for which you are eligible.
- Document the name of any doctor or healthcare professional that you visit for your medical treatment after your car accident.
- Keep notes about how you think your injuries are affecting you. Don’t exaggerate. Be as clear and straightforward as possible. If you record that every day you feel your pain level is a 10 throughout the day, your insurance company may ask why you didn’t go to the hospital. Record your pain level when you get up in the morning and how it progresses throughout the day and the way it affects your normal activities.
- Keep a copy of every letter, email or text that you exchange with your doctor. Record notes during phone calls or immediately afterward.
- Save every bill for medical treatments as well as the receipts. This includes any money you may have paid for prescriptions, any special medical equipment that you need because of your injury or any copayment for a doctor’s visit.
- Record all travel needed to receive medical treatment, even if the doctor’s office is just around the corner.
- Record all the wages you have lost as a result of your injury.
- If you need to attend a meeting that involves the lawyers for the insurance company, get the names of everyone in the meeting and their contact information, and then find a quiet place and make notes about the meeting as soon as possible after you leave it.
Yes, there is a lot of notetaking and recording. But the possible benefits for you are enormous. These records and notes will help your New Orleans-based lawyer prepare a solid case and help them successfully argue your liability claim.
How to Avoid Missteps
Car accidents don’t happen every day. You may only be involved in one or two during your entire lifetime — or, if you’re lucky, none at all. Your past record as a driver may be spotless, but if you’re involved in an automobile accident in or around New Orleans or any place in Louisiana, there are several things you should do, or not do, if you don’t want to negatively affect any liability claim you may make.
Here are the basics of what to do. Keep these keep top-of-mind as events unfold:
- Be polite.
- Be concerned about the other driver.
- Don’t t lose your temper.
- Above all, don’t apologize.
The list of what not to do at the accident scene is just as important to remember:
- At the accident scene, never admit fault: The people of Louisiana are known for their politeness and generosity towards others. It’s only human nature to want to apologize to another person in a difficult situation even if you don’t think you’re responsible. This is not a good idea if you are involved in a car crash.
- Don’t tell your insurance company that you think the accident may have been your fault: When you contact them, just give as accurate a description of the situation as possible. Your New Orleans attorney will work out all the details with the insurance company in the future.
- Don’t agree to a settlement until all your medical treatment is completed: Insurance companies will try to settle an accident claim as soon as possible. This is true both of your own insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company. As tempting as it may be to get your hands on that cash quickly, don’t do it. It is extremely important that you wait until all your medical treatments are done so you have a better idea of what the total cost of your injuries are and what cost you may have to pay in the future. The statute of limitations to file a claim in a car accident is only one year in Louisiana. Wait as long as possible before filing the claim.
- Avoid unnecessary discussions about your accident: We live in a world of social media with the temptation to tell everyone about what is happened to you during your day. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, avoid talking about it online or anywhere else. In fact, unless you’re talking with your spouse, your parent, your medical provider, a police officer or your insurance company, do not discuss the accident in detail or any claim that you are making as a result of it. Insurance companies look for any small crack that they can use to avoid paying you the benefits for which you are eligible. If you told your next-door neighbor over the fence that “I think I may be partially responsible for the accident,” you can count on the fact that the insurance company will find them and use that quote against you.
What Do I Need to Know About the Laws Regarding Accidents in Louisiana?
For any incident involving an insurance claim in Louisiana, the state uses the fault system. This means you’ll need to prove the other driver was at fault before you can recover any damages for your car or for your injuries.
Louisiana also has a compulsory coverage rule (more commonly referred to as “pay to play”). If you do not have insurance, you cannot recover damages for the first $15,000 of bodily injuries or for the first $25,000 of property damage. Drivers sometimes think they can save money every month by driving without insurance. Louisiana’s compulsory coverage rule makes that a very bad idea.
On the other hand, Louisiana’s pure comparative fault system, which we mentioned above, can be quite generous. Under this rule, if a driver is less than 100% responsible for any accident, they can recover a portion of the damages. So even if a driver is 70% responsible for an accident, they can still recover 30% of their eligible damages.
In most cases, Louisiana has no damage caps on car accidents. The one exception is if the accident involves a government agency. In that case, the state has a limit of $500,000 on any damages you may receive.
You also need to know that Louisiana has a state-imposed law on medical malpractice. This could prevent you from recovering all your damages if you been seriously injured and need a hospital stay. If your doctor makes your injury worse, you can only sue them for up to $100,000 and you can receive only $500,000 for your total recovery.
How Long Do I Have to Report a Car Accident in Louisiana?
Louisiana has a relatively short period in which you can file a claim for a car accident: one year. This is why it’s important to find a good car accident lawyer in New Orleans to work with you as soon as possible and help prepare your case.
Should I Get an Attorney If I’ve Been Involved in a Car Accident Near New Orleans or in Louisiana?
The answer is “yes” — for all kinds of reasons. Even if you think your car accident is only a minor one, there are still many good reasons to speak with a New Orleans car accident lawyer. Here are some of them:
- Most people are not involved in many car accidents during their lifetimes. But insurance companies deal with car accidents every day. They know how to work the system so that, if it’s at all possible, they don’t have to pay you a penny. Or if they do have to pay, they will make every attempt to pay you as little as possible. You need an experienced car accident attorney who knows how to deal with the insurance company in these kinds of situations. They understand these tactics because they had to overcome them before.
- Louisiana’s relatively short statute of limitations and the entire process of preparing a claim can be quite confusing. Forms must be filled out, documents must be filed on time, medical records need to be obtained and statements have to be taken. An experienced New Orleans car accident lawyer knows how to prepare and obtain these documents. They will also know the right time and the right place to file a car accident lawsuit in New Orleans.
- You’ve been in a car accident. This is not a normal situation. You may have been hurt and you may have been hurt seriously. Even if you weren’t, you are likely suffering a bit from shock, particularly if there’s been any damage to your car. You could be worried about how this is going to affect your family or your job. Your doctor may have prevented you from engaging in normal activities. You need to have time to recover and heal. A good New Orleans car accident lawyer will prepare your case and do all the necessary legwork, giving you time to get better.
- When should you hire a car accident lawyer in New Orleans? The sooner the better. Remember that one-year statute of limitations. You might think a whole year sounds like a long-time, but it will go by in a flash. That’s why it’s important to hire a lawyer as soon as possible.
How Much Do Accident Lawyers Charge in Louisiana?
Most attorneys in Louisiana work on a contingency fee basis. This is a fee that is a contingent upon the damages paid to the client. It also means that if the client does not receive any money at the end of the legal process, the attorney does not receive any fee.
How much do lawyers take from a settlement? In New Orleans, the standard rate is about 33% to 40% of the damages awarded to the client. It is possible, however, to negotiate a lower fee with your attorney.
Let Irpino, Avin & Hawkins Law Firm Help You With Your Car Accident Claim
If you need an attorney who is experienced in dealing with car accident claims, you should contact the New Orleans law firm of Irpino, Avin & Hawkins. If you want to make sure you get the fair amount of compensation that you deserve after an accident, our auto injury accident lawyers in New Orleans know how to manage an accident case. In 2017 the American Institute of Personal Injury Lawyers named us one of the 10 best law firms dealing with car accidents for client satisfaction.
If you would like to talk about your car accident and a possible claim for damages, please call us at 1-800-7500-LAW or visit our contact us page, where you can give us more details about your incident. A member of our firm will contact you as soon as possible.