Popular Questions Resulting from a Car Accident in New Orleans
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans experience a car accident of some kind. From fender-benders to multi-car collisions, car accidents are a fairly common occurrence. Whether your accident has become an annoying pain in the neck or a severe issue in your life, it is vital that you understand your rights and obligations when involved in one.
Here at the Charbonnet Law Firm, we have years of experience handling various car accident cases in New Orleans and throughout the State of Louisiana. Our firm is committed to helping you fight for compensation owed to you after a car accident and ensuring your insurance policy properly pays out your claim. Below is a list of common questions we get from clients daily.
What should I do when I get involved in a car accident?
Although car accidents are a common occurrence, there is a good chance you have never been involved in one yourself. Therefore, when you first experience a car accident, you should not panic. Instead, you should call 911 for medical and emergency assistance. If you feel injured or feel uncomfortable moving, sit tight and wait for emergency services personnel to assist you. Once on the scene, medical personnel will provide you with the proper treatment and determine whether your injuries are severe enough to require further treatment at a medical facility.
During this time, you should also exchange insurance information with the other driver, file a report with a law enforcement officer, contact your insurance company about the accident, and contact an experienced car accident attorney regarding next steps.
Should I apologize to the other driver, passengers, law enforcement, or my insurance carrier if I think I was at fault?
NO. You should never utter the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” to anyone during or after a car accident. Doing so may be seen as an admission of guilt, which could hurt you during any subsequent legal proceedings arising from your car accident. The final arbiter of who is at fault in any Louisiana car accident case is the judge or jury tasked with determining fault in a court of law. Never admit to fault because you are not able to make that determination.
If, however, you want to check on the well-being of the other driver or any passenger, you are within your right to do so. Just do not apologize for the accident. Instead, let the legal system sort out fault and cooperate with your legal counsel to resolve your car accident case.
Should I call 911 if I am in a car accident?
Yes, you should always notify law enforcement or call 911 when you first realize you have been in a car accident. It is essential to call 911 for two reasons. First, depending on the severity of the accident, you, any passengers, and the driver and passenger(s) of the other vehicle may need medical assistance.
The second reason to call 911 is to create a record of the accident. Although you may think you have a good memory, your recollection of the accident after months or years may fade. This hurts the presentation of evidence during legal proceedings. Unlike your memory, police reports provide fact finders with a contemporaneous telling of the accident and provide vital evidence for legal proceedings.
Should I report my car accident to my insurance carrier?
Yes, it would be best to inform your insurance carrier that you were in a car accident. This provides your insurance carrier notice about the accident and commences the insurance claim process. However, it is best to contact an attorney before relaying any information to your insurance company. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, having an experienced Louisiana car accident attorney can help counsel you through the process and negotiate on your behalf. Insurance companies will find any number of loopholes or defenses not to pay out an insurance claim. In addition, simple misstatements or inconsistencies by a reasonable person can prompt them to challenge paying anything for your accident.
If the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, you should inform them to contact your insurance company or communicate directly with your attorney. Any information you provide them is not privileged and can be used against you during subsequent legal proceedings.
What is the insurance claims process like?
Having insurance is a fact of life. Most people cannot live a normal and productive life without insurance: car insurance, homeowners’ insurance, medical insurance, pet insurance, the list goes on. Insurance gives us peace of mind that we are covered when things go wrong. However, if you have been unfortunate enough to deal with your insurance company regarding a claim, you know the struggle.
Putting in an insurance claim can be a relatively easy process but can quickly become very complex. Typically, once you contact your insurance company, they will want information about your car accident, including documentation like a police report, medical bills, and the other driver’s insurance information to process the claim. Next, an insurance adjuster (an agent tasked with processing your claim) may have an investigator come out and inspect any property damage arising from your accident. Then, the adjuster will likely determine fault and act accordingly. Finally, your insurance company may pay all, some, or none of your expenses, or they may want to pursue action against the other driver or the other driver’s insurance company.
Even if you believe you were 100% not at fault, an insurance company may see things differently. This is why it is best to have legal representation at your side to help advocate on your behalf. Our Louisiana car accident attorneys at the Charbonnet Law Firm have years of experience negotiating on our clients’ behalf when addressing insurance claims.
Should I contact an attorney if I am involved in a car accident?
Yes, you should always contact an attorney if you are involved in a car accident. Although there is no legal requirement to contact an attorney, having one advocate on your behalf can protect your interests. Addressing a car accident can be a complicated affair. That is why we suggest always contacting an attorney, which can help you understand your rights as a policyholder with your insurance company, evaluate the level of fault between you and the driver, and appropriately counsel you through complex legal proceedings.
Once I contact an attorney, what documentation should I provide them?
An experienced Louisiana car accident attorney will explain the next steps, including the proper documentation to bring during your first consultation. For most car accident cases, you would typically bring the following documentation: a copy of your driver’s license, your insurance information, a police report of the accident (which you should get from the officer that responded to your 911 call), photographs taken at the scene of the vehicles involved in the car accident, and any notes of the accident.
Further, if you require medical assistance or treatment due to a car accident, you should bring that as well. Finally, if the injuries you sustained required you to miss work, it would be a good idea to bring any relevant information regarding your employment, which can include a description of your job, your current employer, salary information, and the period of time you missed because of the accident.
Can I get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses as a result of my car accident?
Yes. One of the reasons many people pursue legal action resulting from their experience in a car accident is because someone is requiring them to pay out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatment or to fix property damage. Although pursuing legal action may not be ideal for your situation, it may be the only way to ensure you are not the one on the hook for expenses that were not your fault. At the Charbonnet Law Firm, we advocate on our clients’ behalf to ensure that they are properly compensated based on the circumstances of their accident.
If I cannot operate my car after my accident, and I need a rental, who pays for that?
We have been asked this question many times before. Many of our clients are regular people with the same responsibilities that you likely experience on a daily basis. Sometimes, the car involved in their accident was their only mode of transportation. Thus, when they are awaiting their car to be fixed or replaced, they still need to travel to work, drop off their kids at school, and go to the grocery store for food and household necessities.
In the State of Louisiana, it is not a legal requirement for your insurance company to offer you unfettered access to a rental car. However, some policies do include provisions for car rental. You may want to take a look at the policy, or ask your attorney to determine if you have any right to a rental under your policy.
Do I have a time limit on when I can file a lawsuit?
Yes, many states, including the State of Louisiana, have what is called a “statute of limitations” to file these claims. A statute of limitations is simply a set period of time, established by statute, that requires an injured person to file a lawsuit arising out of an incident that caused their injury. For car accidents, that period of time is one year. So, if you are unable to resolve any outstanding claims with your insurance company and you want to file suit against the other driver, you have one calendar year from the time of the accident to file suit.
Are there alternatives to filing a lawsuit?
Yes, many people involved in car accidents never see the inside of a courtroom. Most cases are so routine that motorists and insurance companies usually reach an amicable solution and settle claims out of court. Filing a lawsuit and pursuing litigation is one avenue to resolve these issues. This is why it is always best to have an attorney advocate on your behalf. Simple claims can be made complicated by a multitude of factors, and an experienced car accident attorney can counsel you through the process to ensure routine claims get handled appropriately, and complex claims are handled with your interests in mind.
How does a court determine who is at fault in car accident cases?
Louisiana is what is known as a “comparative fault” state. For many years, courts in many states would evaluate the law and facts relevant to a particular personal injury case and determine that one party was at fault. However, the trend of the last few decades has been to incorporate a comparative fault framework, allowing a court to render multiple parties at fault and award damages accordingly.
For example, let us say you get in a car accident with another driver. A court finds that the other driver was mostly at fault—80% to be exact. However, because of circumstances involving the accident, the court also finds you were 20% at fault. If the court awarded you $100,000, then you would only get $80,000 because you were 20% responsible for the accident.
Even if you think you were at fault, that still does not mean you were 100% in the wrong. This is why you should always be truthful when interacting with law enforcement, your insurance company, and your attorney. Although you may be at fault, there is no guarantee you were 100% liable and lying will only cause further problems down the road.
What types of injuries can occur because of car accidents?
Car accidents can cause any number of injuries to the human—both physical and psychological. Common injuries we see the in course of representation of those involved in these accidents includes:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- Paralysis and other long-term injuries to the spinal cord.
- Neck and back injuries, including whiplash.
- Burns, bruises, and lacerations.
- Broken and fractured bones.
- Knee, foot, and ankle injuries.
- Organ damage and internal bleeding.
- Shoulder injuries.
- Hand and wrist injuries.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Can I recover lost wages if I take time off work because of my car accident?
Yes. Louisiana law allows an injured party to seek lost wages as a form of damages resulting from a car accident. Typically, once you sit down with a car accident attorney, they will ask how your life has been impacted by the accident. If you sustained physical injuries that require you to take time off work, you will need to provide documentation.
What does “pain and suffering” mean, and can I seek compensation for it in my car accident lawsuit?
This is a common term in many car accident cases and general tort (personal injury) litigation. “Pain and suffering” is a form of compensation collected by an injured party that has suffered physical ailments and/or emotional distress because of their involvement in a personal injury case. Louisiana, like many states, allows a person injured as a result of a car accident to recover pain and suffering damages.
Should I settle my case?
Settlement includes a multitude of factors dependent on the circumstances of each situation. Although settlement allows all parties to amicably resolve legal disputes that could cost thousands in legal fees and months (sometimes years) of time, settlement may not always be in your best interest. Because each case is different, the facts of your case may indicate settlement is not in your best interest. An experienced car accident attorney will counsel you along the way to ensure you can make informed decisions.
I heard this term: “No Pay No Play.” What does that mean?
Louisiana is one of a handful of states with this type of law on the books. In a nutshell, the law states that if a driver is injured and awarded damages because of the driver’s fault but does not have insurance at the time of the accident, the injured driver cannot claim a certain amount of funds owed to them based on that judgment.
Uninsured or underinsured drivers cannot collect the first $15,000 of their judgment for bodily injuries sustained during the accident and cannot collect the first $25,000 for property damage sustained during the accident.
However, Louisiana provides a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if the other driver committed one of the following actions, you may be entitled to partial or full judgment. For an exception to apply, the other driver must have:
- Drove while intoxicated;
- Intentionally caused the accident;
- Committed a felony during the accident
- Fled the scene of a crime; or
- Hit your car while it was parked.
Unfortunately, out-of-state drivers or drivers with out-of-state insurance are exempt from this law.
What if I was not the driver but a passenger when I experienced a car accident? Can I still recover damages under the law?
Yes, passengers can recover damages due to their involvement in a car accident. Passengers have many similar rights as a driver in car accident cases. In many cases, a passenger was riding with a family member or friend when another driver hit them. In these cases, the passenger, although injured, may not want to pursue legal action against the driver. Nonetheless, an injured passenger can pursue legal options against the driver’s insurance company, the other driver, the other driver’s insurance, or their own insurance company. An injured passenger of a Louisiana car accident should always contact an attorney to discuss their legal options.
What happens if my car accident aggravated a pre-existing injury?
This is a common question we get often. Depending on the accident’s severity, drivers or passengers with pre-existing illnesses or ailments are most likely to incur injuries because of a car accident. Those with pre-existing injuries should seek medical treatment after a car accident. Further, when contacting an attorney, let your attorney know that you suffer from a pre-existing illness. That way, your attorney can factor your illness into their legal representation.
If I seek medical care because of my accident and later get awarded damages, do I have to pay back my medical insurer?
The short answer is maybe. Some insurers will file medical liens or seek compensation regarding potential judgments for damages arising from your car accident. Every insurer is a little different and will take a different position depending on the circumstances of your accident. It is best to have an experienced Louisiana car accident attorney to help you with these claims in these cases.
What happens if the other driver or I was intoxicated while driving?
Unfortunately, with the litany of public safety announcements and campaigns out there pleading with people not to drink and drive, motorists still climb into their vehicles after consuming alcohol. If you are struck by a driver that has consumed alcohol or is intoxicated for any reason, it is best to call 911 and allow law enforcement to do their job.
An experienced Louisiana car accident attorney will know what to do when addressing drunk driving accidents. Although a judge or jury will likely fault the drunk or intoxicated driver, 100% of the fault may not fall entirely on them. Instead, a court of law could still find that the non-intoxicated driver was responsible for at least a portion of the accident.
If, however, a court finds that the drunk is at fault, the injured party may seek compensatory and punitive damages for the accident. Please refer to the question regarding compensatory damages in the FAQ. Punitive damages are damages usually included on top of existing compensatory damages. Punitive damages are used to monetarily punish a person at fault in many personal injury cases. Although Louisiana has eliminated punitive damages in most cases, those injured in DUI cases may still pursue punitive damages. Further, those damages are used as a deterrent to prevent people from driving while intoxicated.
Contact Our Experienced Car Accident & Personal Injury Attorneys Today
If you or a loved one have recently been involved in a car accident, contact a member of our team today for a consultation. At the Charbonnet Law Firm, we have years of experience handling all types of car accident cases across the state of Louisiana. Whether a drunk driver hit you, your insurance company denies your claim, or you have suffered a debilitating injury—our experienced car accident attorneys have seen it all. You can trust us to investigate your claim and provide the best quality legal advice to ensure your interests have been covered. Please contact us by clicking here and filling out our contact form or calling (504) 888-2227.