As soon as your safety and the safety of your passengers permit you should call the local police authority or 911 if you are uncertain. You should report any injuries that occurred in the accident, the location of the accident, the time of the accident and your name and telephone number. Do not discuss the facts of the accident with anyone except the investigating officer at the scene of the accident. Do not give any statement concerning the accident unless you are asked by the police officer to do so. If you are aware of any witness who you believe actually saw the accident occur, you should attempt to get their name, telephone number and address (this can be extremely important in the event of a dispute later). Again, do not discuss the facts of the accident or your injuries with anyone other than the police officer and, if called, the ambulance attendants if so requested.
What are my rights when another motorist causes an accident that results in damage to my vehicle?
Louisiana law is clear that a motorist who is negligent must pay for the losses caused by that negligence. Usually that payment is actually made by the insurer of the negligent motorist. Concerning damage to the vehicle, the first issue will be for the insurance company to determine whether the vehicle is “totaled”. A vehicle is considered totaled when the damage that has been sustained is equivalent to 75% or more of the current NADA Handbook market value [La. R.S. 32:702 (13)]. Generally with older vehicles that have experienced high mileage, smaller damage can result in the vehicle being declared totaled than with a new or late model vehicle. In the event that the vehicle is totaled, the negligent motorist and his insurer owe the cost of the vehicle, the amount of sales taxes on that cost and a reasonable charge for a rental vehicle (exclusive of fuel, insurance and mileage charges) during the time it takes for the insurance company to determine that a “total loss” occurred. Wher e a vehicle is repairable the recovery includes (1) the cost of repairs, (2) a reasonable rental vehicle during the time of repairs and (3) the diminished value of the vehicle after the repairs are completed.
What are my rights when a negligent motorist causes injury to me or my family?
The law of Louisiana allows a recovery of all personal injury damages reasonably caused by an accident through the fault of a negligent motorist. The items of damages typically include:
- A sum of money to reimburse the cost of past and future medical expenses.
- A loss of earnings or earning capacity.
- A loss of enjoyment of life.
- Physical and mental pain and suffering.
- Other damages unique to the case.
What should I do to preserve the evidence necessary to recover my damages?
In the confusion that often follows an accident, especially one causing personal injury, much important evidence can be lost. Be certain to gather and record the name, address and telephone number of any witness who you believe actually saw the accident occur. Take photographs of the scene of the accident if the condition of the roadway was, in your opinion, a factor in causing the accident. Take photographs of the damage to your vehicle preferably from various directions. If you suffered any visible injuries, you should have good photographs taken of bruising, cuts, swelling, etc., because these conditions may be important in diagnosing more substantial injuries and they may no longer be visible in a few days. Keep all medical bills, doctor’s instructions, emergency room materials, medicine receipts, etc., as these will be very important to you later. The investigating police officer should give you the name of the agency to which he will report the accident and the accident report or file number. Be sure to keep that information for later use.
Should I contact any insurance companies following the accident?
You should notify your own insurance company and give them the basic information concerning the accident. Note that if you wisely chose to pay for uninsured motorist benefits, your own insurer may be placed in a position of defending the actions of the other motorist, so even your own insurance company’s interest may be in conflict with yours. Nevertheless, you should give them all information that they feel is necessary to investigate the claim. If your insurance company insists that they must take a statement, ask them to show you the portion of your insurance policy that requires that you give a recorded or written statement; there probably is none. With respect to the other insurance company, you should make them aware of your losses and give them an opportunity to appraise the damage to your vehicle. Do not give them a recorded or written statement.
How do I get the police accident report?
It is a simple process to obtain the police accident report from the investigating agency by providing your name and the time, date and location of the accident. If the investigating officer gave you a file number, you should be able to obtain the information from the investigating agency simply with reference to that file number. There may be a small charge for the report. Be sure to request that all written statements that were gathered by the investigating officer at the time of the investigation be included with the report.
How do I decide whether I need legal representation?
If your injuries are substantial, it is extremely unlikely that the insurance adjuster will be authorized to make a settlement offer to you that approaches the reasonable value of your losses. Initial claims adjusters simply do not have that authorization. If you believe that the insurance company is not going to adequately compensate your losses, you should contact an attorney. Insurance company adjusters are very well trained at representing the interests of their insurance company so as to minimize the payment that you receive for your losses. Do not be misled into believing that the insurance adjuster’s aim is to be fair in handling your claim. On the contrary, everything in the training of the adjuster is designed to minimize the payment that he makes to you for your losses.
How do I pay for my medical treatment?
There may be several means through which you can fund your medical treatment. If you are part of a group health program or otherwise have health insurance, that is your first resource. If the automobile in which you were riding at the time of the accident or the one that you were driving includes “medical expense benefits” as part of the coverage, that is also available as a resource to you. That coverage generally can best be used to pay your “deductible” that is not funded by your health carrier if you are so insured. If you were in the course of your employment at the time of the accident, your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier should pay for your medical expenses. Ultimately, if the negligence of the other driver caused your injuries, you will be able to recover your losses including your medical expenses from that driver’s insurer.
How do I recover my lost time from work?
Most liability insurance companies will not pay for lost wages until a final settlement is made on a claim. You should therefore look to other resources to get through the period during which you are unable to work. Some of these resources include:
1. Worker’s compensation benefits, if you were in the course of your employment at the time of the accident.
2. Private or group disability benefits (short term and long term).
3. Social Security Disability Benefits if you are totally disabled and that disability is expected to last for at least one year.
What are my rights if I am injured while in an automobile accident during the course of my employment?
If you are injured while you are on the job, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company must pay two-thirds of your average weekly wage during the time of your disability from work (subject to a maximum limit) and all of your reasonable medical expenses. This area of the law is highly governed by bureaucratic rules, and it is important that you seek the advice of an attorney to determine whether you are being properly compensated should this occur. If your injuries were caused by the negligence of another motorist, you will be able to recover your full loss of earnings and medical expenses from the insurer of that motorist, but you must reimburse at least a portion of your worker’s compensation benefits from that recovery.
Can I receive financial assistance to pay for medical treatment?
Attorneys are prohibited by professional rules of ethical conduct from agreeing to pay anything including medical expenses in order to be retained on a case. However the rules do permit attorneys to advance the cost of medical treatment as long as a promise to do so is not made as a condition of hiring the attorney.
How do I choose a law firm with the experience and resources to be successful in handling my auto/trucking accident claim?
Experience is the chief factor that you should look at in selecting an attorney. You should ask the attorney about other cases that he has successfully tried before judges and juries. You should ask friends and relatives about their knowledge of the attorney. If you know a judge or someone involved with the court system, ask those individuals about the reputation of the attorney. Broussard & David, LLC has placed a lot of the information about our experience in handling different types of cases on our website. If you are interested in the representation of our firm, you should review our record of which we are quite proud or call to discuss this with us.
My questions have not been answered.
We will be happy to sit down with you at no charge to discuss any questions that you might have concerning your case. Feel free to call our office at 337-233-2323 or toll-free at 888-337-2323 and request an appointment to meet with us directly. We will be happy to help you.