Being involved in an auto accident can be a minor frustration or a major life event, depending on the severity of the crash. Whether you sustained property damage only or you sustained bodily injury in addition to property damage, understand the basics of auto accident laws in Louisiana can help you deal with the accident claim as efficiently and quickly as possible.
In this article, our New Orleans auto accident attorneys discuss the basics of an accident claim:
Establishing Negligence for Auto Accidents
Louisiana is a negligence-based or at-fault state for automobile accidents. All drivers in Louisiana owe a duty to everyone on the road to operate their vehicles in a manner that does not place others at risk of sustaining harm. Drivers must exercise reasonable care to avoid causing a traffic accident. When a driver fails to exercise reasonable care, the driver’s actions may be negligent.
For example, a driver who is impaired by alcohol or fails to yield the right could be considered negligent. Individuals are aware that drunk driving is illegal and dangerous. They are aware that if they operate a vehicle after drinking, they could cause a DUI accident. Therefore, they failed to use reasonable care to operate the vehicle and may be considered negligent. Likewise, failing to obey traffic laws designed to avoid crashes, such as yielding the right of way, may be considered negligent.
Proving Causation for Injuries and Damages
The second basic step in an auto accident claim is to prove causation. In other words, who caused the accident?
Under Louisiana’s personal injury laws, you must prove the other driver’s negligence or wrongdoing caused the crash to recover compensation for your claim. In some cases, this can be a difficult process. For example, in multi-vehicle accidents, one or more drivers might have contributed to the cause of the crash. In other cases, the drivers have vastly different versions of how the collision occurred, so fault is disputed.
A New Orleans accident attorney can be of great assistance during this step of the auto accident claims process. An attorney with experience investigating crashes understands how to gather evidence that proves causation and fault.
Some of the steps an attorney may take to gather evidence for an insurance claim include:
- Taking photographs or videos of the accident scene
- Gathering physical evidence from the vehicles and the accident scene
- Obtaining copies of police reports and accident reports
- Interviewing eyewitnesses
- Consulting experts, including accident reconstructionists
- Searching for videos that may show the accident, such as traffic cameras and nearby surveillance videos
- Preserving evidence that could be lost, such as notifying a truck company not to dispose of or destroy the information on the truck’s black box
- Issuing a subpoena for cell phone records
Depending on the circumstances, a NOLA accident attorney may take other steps when investigating a car accident claim.
Can I Help?
Accident victims can help by taking pictures and making videos of the accident scene immediately after the crash, including the position of the vehicles, damage to vehicles, skid marks, and the surrounding objects. Individuals can also ask eyewitnesses for their names and contact information. Eyewitness testimony can provide powerful and convincing evidence if fault or causation is disputed for an accident.
Documenting and Proving Damages
Once you prove that the other driver caused the auto accident, you must demonstrate that you suffered damages because of the crash. An accident victim may suffer physical injuries, emotional damages, and financial losses because of a traffic accident. Documenting your damages is crucial for recovering compensation in a car accident case.
For instance, it is always a wise choice to see a physician as soon as possible after an auto accident. In addition to protecting your health, you are documenting your physical injuries for an accident claim. Your medical records contain the information needed to prove that you suffered physical injuries because of the auto accident.
A delay in medical treatment can be used by an insurance company to argue your injuries were not a result of the crash. The company argues that had you been injured in the accident, you would have sought medical care immediately. With evidence, we can overcome this argument, but it is much easier to avoid it altogether by seeking prompt medical treatment.
Your financial damages are your expenses and losses related to the accident, your injuries, and your recovery. Documenting financial losses carefully increases the chance of receiving full compensation for your financial damages.
Examples of financial damages include:
- Medical and personal care costs
- Lost wages, commissions, bonuses, salary, and other forms of compensation
- Damage to your car and other personal property
- Medications, medical equipment, and medical supplies
- Physical therapy and other forms of therapy
- Travel expenses and assistance with household chores
Your attorney can help you identify financial losses and provide guidance for documenting these losses.
Pain & suffering damages or non-economic damages are also compensable in a car accident case. Your “pain and suffering” damages refer to the physical, mental, and emotional suffering you experience because of the crash and your injuries. Because there are no receipts or bills to substantiate your pain and suffering, it can help to keep a journal to record your daily pain level and how your injuries impact your life.
Contact a New Orleans Auto Accident Attorney for Help
The above basics of auto accident law do not encompass all of the laws that apply in motor vehicle accident claims. Insurance claims and accident claims can be difficult and involve complex laws and legal theories. It is always best to consult an experienced New Orleans auto accident lawyer as soon as possible after a traffic accident.
If you have questions or you were injured in an accident, we want to help. For a free consultation with a NOLA car accident attorney, call Attorney Fred Olinde of The Olinde Firm at (504) 587-1440 or 1-800-587-1889. It does not cost you anything to obtain a free case review from a trusted NOLA personal injury lawyer.