Negligent drivers can abruptly and unexpectedly injure almost anyone. You may not even be on the road. Negligent motorists are a threat to pedestrians, and they sometimes crash into buildings. There is almost nowhere you can be one hundred percent safe from a driver who is negligent.
In 2017, over 47,000 accidents involving injuries were reported in this state. If you're injured by a negligent driver in Louisiana, how much will your own traffic accident case be worth? There is no single answer. A variety of factors will have to be considered.
What steps should you take if you are injured by a careless driver? Will you be compensated for your injuries, lost income, and other damages? What about “punitive” damages? Will you need a Lafayette personal injury lawyer's help? Keep reading, and you'll learn the answers to these questions.
In Louisiana, the victims of negligent drivers are entitled to full compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and all related damages. If a negligent motorist has injured you, a Lafayette personal injury lawyer can explain your rights and may recommend taking legal action.
WHAT DETERMINES THE VALUE OF AN INJURY CLAIM?
Here is how the value of a personal injury claim is determined. With your attorney's help, you'll have to total up all of your quantifiable financial losses – medical bills and lost wages, for example – and then also decide on an amount to cover your personal pain and suffering.
When you and your attorney arrive at a specific dollar figure, you must be able to prove that the compensation amount you seek is reasonable, just, and fair.
An injured victim of negligence will have records and receipts for medical bills, lost wages, and auto repairs, but when an accident causes long-term or permanent disability, as you might imagine, the victim will usually need the maximum amount of compensation that is available.
Personal injury claims are typically resolved out-of-court before a trial can commence, but when the other party denies liability or fails to make a reasonable settlement offer, the case may go to trial. When an injury lawsuit prevails at trial, the negligent party is ordered to pay compensation.
WHAT CAN THE VICTIMS OF NEGLIGENCE SEEK AND EXPECT TO RECEIVE?
In Louisiana personal injury cases, these are the “compensatory” damages that the injured victims of negligent drivers may seek and expect:
- Medical: Injury verdicts and settlements almost always cover a victim's medical treatment and the projected costs of treatment that will be needed in the future.
- Lost income: Verdicts and settlements reimburse victims for the salary or wages lost due to injury and for any projected loss of earning capacity in the future.
- Property: When anything of value is damaged or destroyed by a negligent driver – a victim's vehicle, for example, or anything of value that a victim had in that vehicle – the property owner is entitled to reimbursement for that property's replacement or repair.
- Physical and emotional pain, suffering, and distress: Personal injury victims may be compensated for their emotional and physical suffering and pain in and immediately after a traffic collision.
- Enjoyment of life: When injuries prevent the enjoyment of hobbies, outdoor pursuits, and other recreations, an injury victim may seek damages for “loss of the enjoyment of life.” Loss of consortium damages may be sought if the injuries impair spousal intimacy.
ARE PUNITIVE DAMAGES AWARDED IN TRAFFIC ACCIDENT CASES?
“Punitive” damages – meant to deter negligent parties from negligent conduct in the future – are rare in Louisiana injury cases. However, these damages may be awarded to victims who were injured by intoxicated drivers.
If the driver who injured you was intoxicated, you may qualify for punitive damages along with your “compensatory” damages. Your attorney can explain more about punitive damages if your case qualifies.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN AN ACCIDENT HAPPENS?
If you are involved in a traffic collision, no attorney will be on the scene to give you advice. To make sure that you are in the best possible position to prevail with a personal injury claim, here's what you must do – if you're not incapacitated – after an accident happens:
- Call for medical assistance at once if anyone appears to be injured.
- Summon the police. Find out when and how you can get a copy of the police accident report.
- Exchange insurance and personal contact details with the other motorist or motorists. Get as many details as you can.
- Get plenty of photographs of the crash site and the vehicle damages. If eyewitnesses saw the accident, try to get names and contact details. If you take legal action later, your attorney may need the testimony or statements of the eyewitnesses.
If you're hurt by a careless driver, you have two immediate priorities. The first thing you must do is seek medical attention. The second thing you must seek is a good attorney's advice.
WHAT IF YOU WERE PARTIALLY AT FAULT FOR THE ACCIDENT?
Traffic crash victims in Louisiana should know that if they're partly at fault for an accident, their final compensation amount will be reduced by that percentage of fault. How does that work? Louisiana uses the pure comparative negligence rule in traffic crash cases. Here's an example.
Let's say that you are exceeding the speed limit by five or seven miles per hour when an impaired driver moving at twenty miles per hour over the speed limit careens through a red light and crashes into your vehicle. How will pure comparative negligence work?
If the case goes to trial, a jury may decide that because you were exceeding the speed limit, you were ten percent at fault for the accident and for your own injuries. If your damages total $100,000, your damage award would be reduced by ten percent, and you would receive $90,000.
And under pure comparative negligence, even if you were the driver who was ninety percent at fault, you could still receive ten percent of your damages.
Louisiana lawmakers have changed the personal injury laws several times. More changes may be made in the future. If a negligent driver injures you in this state, meet promptly with a Lafayette personal injury lawyer who offers the up-to-date, personalized legal advice that you'll need.
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Blase Inzina is a personal injury lawyer in Lafayette, Louisiana, and is a former insurance defense lawyer. He is licensed to practice in Louisiana and Arizona. The information on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should speak to an attorney before taking action.