Being in a serious car accident can be devastating to victims and their families. A vehicle accident can cause financial burdens to entire households, especially when the person who was injured provides some or all of the household income and is unable to work. Some medical bills may not be covered by insurance and missing work while recovering or receiving medical treatment means lost wages adding emotional and financial stress on top of the physical pain. Hiring a lawyer to seek compensation after a car accident will not undue the past, but it can help alleviate some or all of the financial burdens associated with being in an accident.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by another person’s negligence, or if you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident, you may have the right to sue for damages and be compensated for your injuries under Louisiana law. Below is a discussion of some of the most common types of claims made in a car accident.
The most common claim in a vehicle accident is the claim against the other driver that hit you and caused the accident. You would also be able to make this claim if you were riding a motorcycle, a bicycle, or were a pedestrian. Personal injury claims usually involve things such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of enjoyment of life for the things your injuries cause you to miss out on.
While an accident is usually caused by the negligence of one party there can be times where more than one person contributed to causing an accident. In that case, you would have a claim against each person responsible for causing the accident.
If you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, also known as UM coverage, you may be able to present a claim against your insurer. If the person that hit you only has a Louisiana state minimum insurance policy of $15,000, but your injuries are worth $20,000, you can ask your UM coverage to pay for the rest. You can also make a claim on your UM coverage if the person that hit you did not have car insurance. If you were a passenger in a vehicle that was hit by another driver that did not have insurance, or did not have enough insurance, your own UM coverage would also apply. With Louisiana’s low state minimum policy limits it is advisable for everyone to have UM coverage.
Product Liability Claims
If the accident was caused by a defective condition on an automobile, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer. This is not limited to just the car itself. For example, if a tire were to fail and cause an accident, you may have a claim against the manufacture and installer of the tire. If an accident was the result of a defective vehicle or defective part, your attorney might advise you to sue the car or car part manufacturer for damages related to the accident and injuries.
If an accident was caused by a defect in a vehicle or a component part of the vehicle, there may be other consumers having the same problem. In these cases, accident victims might find a class action lawsuit or mass tort litigation lawsuit to be the most effective way to seek compensation. An experienced vehicle accident attorney can help you decide the best course of action for your individual circumstances.
Claims Against the City, Parish or State
If an accident was caused by a poorly designed or improperly maintained roadway, then you may have a claim against the governmental entity responsible for road construction and maintenance. You would need to prove the government knew or should have known about the hazard. Claims against governmental entities often come with limitations on the amounts that you can recover. For example, most personal injury claims against the state of Louisiana are limited to a recovery of $500,000 not including medical expenses, property damage, or lost wages.
Wrongful Death Claims
If you have lost a loved in a car accident, you may have a wrongful death claim. Louisiana law entitles survivors of the victim to bring a claim against the party that caused the accident and also sets forth the order of who can bring the claim. For example, a surviving spouse or child has the right to bring a claim before a surviving parent or sibling. In the event of a parent being killed in an accident each child would have his or her own claim and each person’s claim may have a different value depending on his or relationship with the victim.
Property Damage Claims
The most common type of property damage claim is the claim for the repair or replacement of your car. The at-fault driver is responsible for paying for the repairs to your vehicle, or for the value of your vehicle if it is determined to be a total loss. Other types of property damage claims may include items in the car that were damaged and need to be replaced – such as a child’s car seat. If you have comprehensive coverage your insurer may pay for these damages initially and then recover the costs from the other driver’s insurance company.
Past and Future Medical Expenses
If you required medical treatment after your car accident, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying for your medical bills. If you have UM coverage you can also make a claim against your own insurer for costs not paid by the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company. The Louisiana state minimum policy limits of $15,000 apply to both bodily injury claims and medical bills so it can be easy to exceed the other driver’s available insurance with just a few months of treatment.
If you have health insurance, you should use it to help cover the costs of your medical treatment. Your health insurer may have negotiated better rates for care as opposed to just paying out of pocket. Your health care insurer may be able to subrogate to your claim and recover the costs that it paid from any money that you receive for your injury claims. If you receive your health insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security Disability, subrogation is mandatory and your attorney will put the payor on notice of the treatment for your injuries related to the accident.
Once you settle or resolve your claims from the accident it will also likely include any claims you have for future medical costs. It is very important to know if you will need long term medical care in the future or if your injuries from an accident will have long-term consequences causing you additional problems in the future. An experienced personal injury attorney will work with your doctors and other health care providers to determine what sort of long-term problems you may be facing and what sort of recovery may be available to cover expenses for future medical treatment.
Lost Wages and Lost Earning Capacity
If you miss work as a result of your injuries, you may have a claim for lost wages. Depending on the severity of your injuries and the type of work that you do, you may be unable to return to work for days, weeks, or even months. Establishing lost wages for more than just a couple of days will likely require the opinion of a doctor or other health care provider that you were or will be unable to work because of your injuries.
One crucial element of presenting a lost wage claim is to be able to prove how much you were making before the accident and how much you missed out on as a result of not being able to work. This is often done by presenting payroll records or tax returns but can be a problem for people who are self-employed or who have a fluctuating income. You may be able to use sick leave or short-term disability through your work to cover some of your lost wages. Doing so would not affect your ability to recover from the at-fault party because if you had not gotten into the accident you would have had those benefits available to use at another time.
If your injuries were severe, you may have a claim for loss of future wages or loss of future earning capacity. For example, if you work in the construction industry but are unable to return to work because of a severe back injury, you may be able to bring a claim for the wages you will lose because of not being able to return to work. If you are able to return to work, but only in a lower paying profession, you may have a claim for the amount that your income will decrease over time because of the change in your career. This can be problematic when the injuries were caused by a driver with low insurance policy coverage. Even if the other driver had a $100,000 policy it is unlikely to fully compensate an accident victim that was working as an operator in a chemical plant but is now unable to return to that occupation because of injuries caused in the accident. If your accident was caused by a defendant with high policy limits, such as an eighteen-wheeler or someone operating a company vehicle, an experienced injury attorney will be able to help you present the best case for getting the future wages you are entitled to.
Worker’s Compensation Benefits
If you were in the course and scope of your employment at the time of the accident, you will also likely be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. In Louisiana, worker’s compensation is supposed to cover your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages. You cannot recover for pain and suffering or emotional distress under worker’s compensation. You should also expect that your worker’s compensation carrier will subrogate to your claims against the at-fault driver in an effort to recover for any medical expenses or wages that it pays to you as a result of your injuries from the accident. You should also be aware that worker’s compensation will only pay a portion of your lost wages up to a maximum of just under $700 and not the full amount. This can result to a significant loss to high wage earner.
Rental Car Expenses
In Louisiana you are entitled to have the at-fault driver’s insurance company provide you with a rental car if you are deprived of the use of your vehicle for five days, not counting weekends and holidays. If you rent a car before that time you will have to pay the rental expenses out-of-pocket but can seek to recover the expenses from the other driver’s insurer. Your own insurance company may also provide rental car benefits in the event of an accident for which you were not at fault. You usually will not be entitled to a rental car if your vehicle is still safe to drive and spends less than five days in the shop.
Call an Experienced Accident Attorney
If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, you might have questions about what damages are recoverable. At Rusty Messer & Associates we have helped accident victims recover millions of dollars and we would be happy to discuss your case with you. Call at (225) 963-9638 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.