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What to Ask a Lawyer About Your Car Accident

At the Law Office of John W. Redmann, L.L.C., in Gretna, Louisiana, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss your car accident case. The following are examples of questions our New Orleans car accident attorneys often receive from accident victims.

What Should I Do After I Am In a Car Accident?

Immediately after a vehicle accident, your top priority is your health and safety. Ensure the scene is safe and call the authorities. The next step is to seek medical attention, even if you think your injuries are not severe, you should still consult with a doctor.

After consulting with a physician and receiving any medical treatment, you should call an attorney. An attorney can guide you through the legal steps of filing a claim against the responsible party or parties. Typically, a car accident claim will involve a negligent party, an attorney knows all the elements necessary to prove that a party was negligent. They can also help with collecting evidence and negotiating with the insurance company.

What Information Should I Keep or Collect?

Personal injury attorneys representing those who have been involved in car accidents want to preserve every detail of your accident, case, and injuries. Inquiring with an attorney about the kinds of pictures, evidence, witnesses, documents, and other information that will best assist your case will help you understand what you can present at court or in your claim against the responsible party.

  • At the scene of the accident, you should take as many pictures as you can. The more evidence of the damage, the more you will be able to seek in compensation.
  • Also, you should collect the information of any eyewitnesses in the area to help provide evidence of what happened and who was at fault.
  • Next, make sure you get a copy of the police report and the other driver’s insurance and information like their driver’s license.
  • Additionally, if you require any medical attention at the scene, you should keep a record of that information and any associated costs.

Finally, any medical bills whether past, present, or ongoing, you should keep a diligent record of these. You will be able to include any costs associated with the injuries you incurred from the accident in your claim for damages.

What Kind of Damages Can I Recover After a Car Accident?

Every car accident is unique, and the amount of compensation owed varies dramatically from each case. While most vehicle accident cases seek damages such as medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and property damage, your lawyer should be able to specify exactly what damages you may be entitled to depending on the details of your accident and injuries.

However, you should be aware of the different categories of damages and when you can collect certain damages vs. other damages. The two main categories of damages in an auto accident case are economical and non-economical.

The physical and objective losses you suffer as a result of the vehicle accident are referred to as economic damages. Noneconomic damages are losses or injuries sustained by the car accident victim that are not quantifiable in terms of money. The noneconomic damages are directly related to the negligent driving that caused the car accident.

  • Economic damages include:
    • Past medical expenses
    • Future medical expenses
    • Lost wages
    • Property damages
    • Disability accommodations
    • Physical therapy
    • Any other costs associated with your injury
  • Non-Economic damages include:
    • Pain and suffering
    • Mental anguish
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • PTSD
    • Loss of enjoyment of life
    • Loss of future earnings and ability to earn an income

In some situations, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are awarded by courts to punish the culpable party for deliberate and wanton, intentional, or fraudulent acts.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Claim in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, the statute of limitations for an automobile accident case is one year from the date of the accident. If you were injured in an automobile accident, you may have a legal right to seek damages for your losses.

You must file your claim before the statute of limitations runs out in order to receive compensation for your injury. If you do not file in a timely manner, your entitlement to damages for your injuries may be lost.

However, even though the statute of limitations in Louisiana for car accidents is normally one year, there are certain exceptions.

  • First, if a driver under the age of 18 is harmed in an automobile accident, the one-year statute of limitations does not start running until the minor reaches the age of 18. This exception is applicable regardless of the age of the person at the time of the accident.
  • Second, when many cars are involved in a collision, another typical exception to the deadline may apply. In this scenario, it may be important to conduct a thorough investigation to discover who is to blame for your injuries. Although you must file your case against at least one liable person before the statute of limitations runs out, you may be allowed to add additional defendants to your complaint after the time has passed if they are also responsible for your injuries.

It is not always in your best interest to rely on exceptions, and if you can, you should always file your case within the one year deadline provided by the Louisiana statute of limitations.

What Can a Personal Injury Attorney Do for Me After a Car Accident?

After a car accident, a skilled personal injury lawyer can be incredibly beneficial in navigating the often hectic and complicated world of insurance claims and damage settlements. When it’s time to battle for your best result, an attorney provides in-depth understanding of the law, the ability to put your best case together, and comfort in the negotiation trenches.

  • Most injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means they only get paid if your claim is successfully resolved.
  • Unless your injuries are small and the other party admits culpability, handling a vehicle accident claim on your own might be risky.
  • If your own negligence contributed to the accident, an attorney can advise you on the shared blame rules in your state and how they can affect your case.
  • Your lawyer will be able to file a lawsuit on your behalf and will know how to counter any potential defenses presented by the other party. Furthermore, once your lawsuit begins, your lawyer will be crucial in preparing your case for trial—and even in taking your case to trial if it does not settle.
  • Even while a lawsuit is rarely necessary, the fear of legal action provides a great deal of negotiation power when it comes to reaching a fair settlement.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, having a competent attorney on your side levels the playing field, especially when you’re up against a huge insurance company’s experience and resources.

How to Prove Negligence in a Car Accident Claim?

When it comes to proving fault in an automobile accident, the drivers, their insurance companies, and their lawyers are likely to depend on the legal concept of negligence to make their arguments for a successful claim.

Negligence is thoughtless behavior that results in the injury of another person.

  • A person can be negligent in a car accident by doing something he or she should not have done, or
  • By failing to do something he or she should have done.

To avoid causing damage to other motorists, passengers, or pedestrians, a driver must exercise reasonable caution. If a driver fails to exercise reasonable caution and someone is injured as a result, the driver may be held financially accountable for the injuries and other damages sustained by that person.

Car accidents usually involve negligence, especially when they involve more than one vehicle. In order to prove negligence, all four elements must be shown:

  1. Duty of care
  2. Breach of that duty
  3. Proximate Causation (or just causation)
  4. Damages

Every driver owes a basic duty of care to other road users. By law, drivers must operate motor vehicles with caution and care in order to avoid injuring others. Proving a duty of care is easy and if there was some wrongdoing or accident, you will have no trouble showing a breach of duty. As long as you can show that a reasonable person would not have reacted in the same way, then you will have proved the second element that the defendant breached their duty of care.

Next, you will need to prove that the defendant’s actions or failure to act caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In order to assess the viability of your case, the court system requires proof of this loss. You must establish that the defendant was the actual and proximate cause of your injuries. In terms of actual causation, you must establish that you would not have been harmed had it not been for the defendant’s activities (“but for” test).  Not only that, but the defendant had to be the proximate cause of the injury – the harm had to be foreseeable. 

Once you have proven all other factors, showing damages is relatively easy. You and your attorney will be able to easily prove negligence as long as you collected all relevant evidence and documentation.

I Don’t Know If My Injury Is Serious. Should I Still See a Doctor?

Sometimes, injuries are more serious than you realize. Here are two examples:

  • You may not experience symptoms of muscle strains and sprains until swelling reaches its maximum impact, which may be hours or even days following an accident. These injuries can last for weeks or months and require professional medical care.
  • You may have suffered an injury to a disk in your neck or back, or even a hairline fracture to a vertebra. To avoid making a bad situation worse, have your doctor verify that you are not in danger.

Medical prudence and common sense says to go to your doctor and have him or her give you a clean bill of health and send you home. We would rather see you healthy than wealthy after a serious accident.

What If I Don’t Have Medical Insurance?

If we believe someone else is accountable for your injury, we will be able to help you obtain excellent medical care and attention without you having to pay upfront.

Should I Provide a Recorded Statement to The Insurance Company?

The short answer is no, don’t give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company or even to your own insurance company.

You may want to believe that the insurance company will be reasonable and pay what it should, but that is simply not the case. In asking you to provide a recorded statement, the insurance companies are hoping you will say something that will give them an excuse not to pay or to pay less than you deserve. They may ask you to explain the accident multiple times and then put all of your answers side by side, under a microscope. If there are any minor differences, they will accuse you of changing your story.

In our decades of experience, it is best to explain the accident to your lawyer and let your lawyer explain it to the insurance company.

Should I Accept a Settlement from The Insurance Company?

Most personal injury cases settle without the need for a trial. However, if you are not represented by a capable and respected attorney, according to proven research, you are likely to be offered a small fraction of what your case is worth. Even if you do not have to pay lawyer fees, statistically you are going to pocket far less than if you have an attorney represent you.

It’s also extremely important for you to be aware of issues such as medical liens, federal government liens, whether you are entitled to future lost wages and medical bills, and whether punitive damages might be due. Do yourself a favor and get a free consultation with a respected attorney before you attempt to settle your case on your own. Consider the age-old adage, “Any person who attempts to represent himself or herself has a fool for a client.”

When Should I Settle My Case?

The answer depends on a lot of factors, including the status of your medical care and prognosis and the negotiating positions of both parties, but it mostly depends on the advice of your counsel. You should have 100 percent faith in the advice of your counsel.

What are the Fault Laws for Louisiana Car Accidents?

Louisiana, like many other states, has a typical fault-based insurance system, which means that whoever is judged to be at fault in a vehicle accident is responsible for the losses suffered by individuals wounded in the accident.

This usually entails using one’s insurance to pay for medical bills and lost wages. However, an uninsured or underinsured driver who causes an accident will be held personally liable for all losses, including those to people or property. The money for damages to provide compensation is taken directly from their wallets, regardless of insurance coverage (or lack of).

What If the Other Driver Is Uninsured?

Even though the law requires every vehicle in Louisiana to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, many do not have it. In this case, other sources of coverage may be available. For example, if the driver of the car was not the owner, he or she may have coverage through another vehicle. You may also have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

It costs you nothing to consult with an attorney and find out what coverage may be available.

Unless you have uninsured motorist coverage (UIM), if you are in a car accident caused by someone else and that person does not have insurance, you may be left to foot the bill for your accident-related bills.

If the other motorist does not have insurance or is unable to pay, this vehicle insurance coverage permits you to submit a claim with your own insurer.

Additionally, underinsured motorist coverage provides you with the additional funds you require when the other driver just has the bare minimum of coverage and your expenses surpass that amount.

What If I Didn’t Have Insurance at The Time of The Accident? The Accident Wasn’t My Fault.

Louisiana is a “no pay, no play” state. If you do not have insurance, the first $15,000 of your personal injury and vehicle damage claim is excluded. However, there are exceptions in cases of DUI, hit and run, and accidents that occur in furtherance of committing a felony. In addition, you can still recover compensation for damages above $15,000. We offer a free initial consultation to evaluate your case.

What is Louisiana’s “No Pay, No Play” Law?

If a driver is uninsured or underinsured, they can still be held personally accountable for the harm they caused to other person or property. However, if you, the victim, do not have auto insurance, you could lose your right to reimbursement in the event of a collision, even if there is no fault on your part. 

If a victim of another driver’s negligence is uninsured at the time of the accident, Louisiana’s No Pay, No Play statute prohibits them from recovering the first $15,000 in physical injury damages and the first $25,000 in property damage.

The law is to encourage drivers to obtain insurance. However, it only requires a basic level of insurance, and a driver is not obligated to obtain any additional motor insurance.

Are There Exceptions to the “No Pay, No Play” Law?

There are many intricacies and specific provisions to the no, pay, no play law. Some of the complexities around the law are the exceptions it allows. There are quite a few exceptions to the no pay, no play law that could govern your case, some of those include:

  • If specific laws have been broken, the law does not apply. If the at-fault motorist was driving while intoxicated, purposefully caused the disaster, fled the scene, or was committing another crime at the time of the crash, the uninsured driver may be entitled to compensation.
  • Only the bare minimum of liability insurance is required by law. The bare minimum coverage is required, not full or comprehensive coverage.
  • Out-of-state drivers are exempt from the statute. If either driver is from a state with differing insurance requirements, the law may not apply.
  • The law does not apply to a vehicle’s passenger. Unless the wounded passenger is a co-owner of the uninsured car, the passenger has the right to sue the at-fault driver for damages.
  • The law does not apply to cars that are legally parked at the time of an accident. This is true for property damage insurance claims.

If My Case Goes to Trial and Loses, Will I Owe Anything to My Lawyer?

For every personal injury claim at the Law Office of John W. Redmann, L.L.C., we get paid only if we make a recovery. You will not be charged any fee or cost if we are not successful.

Contact Our Louisiana Car Accident Lawyers

To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call our office at (504) 500-5000. We serve clients in Gretna, Harvey and Greater New Orleans, throughout Louisiana and across the United States.