A recent study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that more than 12 percent of Louisiana drivers operate their vehicles without auto insurance. This forces drivers involved in an accident with an uninsured driver to absorb the cost of property damage and injuries from the accident. In severe accidents, the cost of property damage, medical treatment, and lost wages can total tens of thousands of dollars, potentially bankrupting victims and their families.
If you have sustained injuries in a traffic accident with a driver who does not have insurance, you should contact an experienced Louisiana auto accident attorney who can discuss your legal options with you. Until you have the opportunity, this guide provides more information on Louisiana insurance requirements, uninsured motorist (UM) insurance, and recouping your losses after an accident with an uninsured motorist.
Louisiana has few insurance requirements compared to many other states. However, those who register a vehicle must have liability coverage. The minimum coverage is as follows:
Louisiana drivers can purchase a wide range of add-on coverage that protects them in different circumstances. These options include:
Medical payments coverage in Louisiana pays for medical expenses after a car accident. Coverage typically specifies a timeframe and is only good up to your policy limit. You can receive benefits from your medical payments coverage regardless of who caused the accident. Also, your family members and other occupants in your vehicle are covered if an accident occurs. Medical payments coverage also includes funeral expenses in the event of a fatal car crash.
Collision coverage is part of what is commonly referred to as “full coverage.” It pays for damage to your vehicle that occurs because of an accident. You can receive benefits from your collision coverage after an accident, regardless of fault, after meeting your deductible.
Damage your vehicle sufferers from any event that is not an accident with another vehicle typically falls under your comprehensive coverage, which is another aspect of full coverage. Comprehensive typically includes damage from falling objects, floods, fires, explosions, vandalism, and theft, but your policy might have limitations or exclusions.
Your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage in Louisiana is also combined with underinsured motorist (UI) coverage. Your UM/UI coverage pays out benefits to you when you suffer injuries, or your vehicle suffers damage from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Whether friends or family, anyone who is a passenger in your vehicle during an accident is also covered under your UM/UI policy. In many cases, your UM/UI coverage will also pay benefits if a hit-and-run driver causes an accident. UM/UI coverage works similar to a driver’s bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage, except coverage is under your policy instead of the other driver’s.
UM/UI coverage often includes damages for pain and suffering and other non-economic costs. In Louisiana, you can opt to purchase economic-only UM/UI coverage that only covers the actual cost of your injuries, such as medical bills and lost wages. It also pays benefits for the cost of injuries of any occupants in your vehicle. Similarly, economic UM/UI coverage will also cover property damage to your vehicle up to $25,000 or your vehicle’s cash value, whichever is less.
Your auto insurance policy pays when you get in an accident with an uninsured driver, but the exact order of coverage and timing depends on your policy and which add-on coverage you have purchased. If you have medical payments coverage, you can immediately receive benefits up to your policy limit if your claim is approved. This will cover your medical bills up to your policy limit, and if you have minor injuries, you may not need further coverage.
Unfortunately, auto accidents sometimes lead to severe injuries that quickly meet or exceed medical payments coverage. In these situations, your insurance carrier will investigate the accident, the same as the driver’s carrier would if they had insurance. If your carrier approves your claim, they will pay economic and non-economic damages up to your UM/UI policy limit.
Investigating an accident can take some time, so you might not immediately receive benefits under your uninsured motorist coverage. Your health insurance will likely cover some of your immediate treatment costs until you resolve your insurance claim. Regardless, you need to communicate with your medical provider and let them know your situation if you cannot cover your medical expenses. Sometimes they will put accounts on hold or make a payment plan, both of which keep them from sending your account to collections and adversely impacting your credit.
If you do not have UM coverage, your only recourse to recover damages after a car accident with an uninsured driver is to file a personal injury claim. If you directly sue the uninsured driver, any negotiations will occur with his or her lawyer. You could settle, but if the driver had the resources to pay you directly, he or she would likely have insurance. If your case goes to trial and a jury finds a verdict in your favor, your jury award could include:
Accidents involving uninsured drivers can leave victims without the funds they need for medical treatment and cause further economic and non-economic loss. Contact Charbonnet Law Firm today online or at (504) 888-2227 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your accident, your injuries, and the ways we may be able to help you recover damages.