Frequently Asked Car Accident Questions Attorney
When should I contact an attorney after an automobile accident?
You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after a wreck. You should certainly contact an attorney before making any claim with any auto insurance company. This is because car insurance companies (even your own) do not have your best interests at heart. Your attorney will. Your attorney will advise you on what you have to disclose and what you should not say. Further, your attorney will help coordinate your initial medical treatment after an accident. Receiving medical treatment after an accident with injury is extremely important for your case and health. Finally, it is my experience that car insurance companies offer more to settle cases when injured victims have attorneys.
Will my automobile insurance premiums increase after a car accident in Louisiana?
It is illegal for a Louisiana auto insurance company to raise your insurance premiums as the result of an accident that was not your fault. See La. R.S. 22:1284. However, your insurance company can raise your premiums if the accident was partially your fault. Also, insurance premiums typically go up each year regardless of whether you are involved in an accident.
How long do I have to file an injury claim after a Louisiana car accident?
You have one year from the date of accident to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit against the liability insurance company of the driver that caused your accident. If you have UM insurance, you have two years from the date of accident to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit. Once a lawsuit is filed your claim is preserved and you can litigate your case without fear that your right to make a claim will extinguish or become barred by time.
How much will a Louisiana car accident attorney cost?
Most Louisiana personal injury attorneys are only paid when they settle their clients’ claims or win money in court. If they do neither, clients are typically charged nothing and do not even have to pay their attorneys’ costs back. But if a settlement is achieved before a lawsuit is filed, most attorneys will charge 1/3 of the total amount recovered as their fee. For instance, if a case settled before a lawsuit was filed for $100,000.00, the attorney would be entitled to a $33,333.33 fee if his contract provided for a 1/3 fee. The attorney would also be entitled to be reimbursed for his costs in addition to receiving a fee.
If a lawsuit is filed, most attorneys’ agreements will provide that their fees increase. Good attorneys will explain their fee structure to clients at the beginning of representation. Good attorneys will also send their clients engagement letters that further explain how (1) the attorneys are paid and (2) their costs are reimbursed. Most attorneys will explain how they will be paid without charging anything for the information. So, ask the attorney you are consulting with plenty of questions about his services before signing a contract with him or her.
Who will pay my Louisiana car accident attorney?
Your attorney’s fee will be paid out of the settlement your attorney obtains for you. Your attorney’s fee will be a percentage of the total amount recovered. After the fee is taken from the total, the attorney will also reimburse himself or herself from the remaining amount for the costs he or she expended. Typically, a client will always walk away from the case with more money than the attorney earned. Most attorneys will explain how they will be paid without charging anything for the information. So, ask the attorney you are consulting with plenty of questions about his services before signing a contract with him or her.
Who will pay my property damage after a Louisiana car accident?
The insurance company of the driver that caused your accident is legally required to (1) fix your property damage, (2) provide you with a rental, and (3) pay the diminution of value to your vehicle. However, you can also require your own insurance company to fix your property damage if you purchased collision coverage on your automobile insurance policy. In such a case, your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the insurance company of the driver that caused your accident. It usually takes less time for your property damage to get fixed when going through your own insurance after an accident.
What are Louisiana’s automobile accident laws?
Louisiana’s laws regulating drivers on the road are primarily contained in Title 32 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes. Louisiana automobile insurance laws are contained in Title 22. And the justification for recovery in all accident cases comes from Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315, which requires anyone that causes damage to repair it. This damage includes personal injury and property damage.
When can I use my uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) insurance?
You can use your UM insurance for any accident if the driver that caused your accident was not insured at the time of the accident. You can use your UM insurance if you were hit by a “hit and run” driver in certain circumstances. You can also use your UM insurance as excess insurance if the driver that caused your accident did not have enough insurance to fully compensate you for your injuries. In certain cases, you can use multiple UM policies; this is called stacking insurance. Ask your attorney for more information.
When can I use my Med Pay coverage in Louisiana?
You and your vehicle’s passengers can use your Med Pay coverage anytime that you are involved in an automobile accident for medical treatment related to the accident. You simply have to submit your medical bills to the auto insurance carrier, and it will reimburse you for the amount of the medical bills up to the amount of the limits of your Med Pay coverage, which typically never exceeds $5,000.00. Your auto insurance carrier has 30 days after receipt of medical bills to pay your Med Pay claim.
Can I use my Med Pay coverage in Louisiana for an accident that was my fault?
Yes. Fault typically does not matter. But read the policy providing Med Pay coverage to be sure.
Can I use my Med Pay coverage in Louisiana for a work related accident?
No. Insurance policies typically exclude Med Pay coverage when the person seeking coverage qualifies for workers’ compensation coverage. But read the policy providing coverage to be sure.
When should I see a doctor after a car accident?
You should see a doctor as soon as possible after an accident to get checked out. Your safety and health are the most important things. If you are experiencing pain and you do not go to the doctor, the defendant insurance company will not believe that you are hurt and will not want to pay you for personal injury. If you wait too long to see a doctor after an accident with injury, it could severely hurt your case and jeopardize your health.
Who will pay my medical and doctor bills after a car accident?
The automobile insurance companies responsible for paying you for your bodily injury claim will provide money at settlement (i.e., a lump sum settlement) to pay your medical bills in addition to paying you for your pain and suffering and lost wages. Your attorney will use the lump sum settlement to pay your doctor bills and medical related liens. Your attorney, your doctors and you will be paid out of the lump sum settlement. Your attorney will distribute the money to everyone from his checking account (i.e., trust account) once the lump sum settlement check is deposited in and clears his trust account.
Will medical bills come out of my settlement or judgment at the end of the case?
Yes. Your attorney will use a portion of your total settlement (i.e., lump sum settlement) to pay accident related medical bills. Your attorney has an ethical obligation to do this. Accident related medical bills are privileged by law and must be paid out of a car accident settlement unless the medical providers waive the bills or agree to reductions.
Can attorneys obtain reductions on medical bills in Louisiana after a car accident?
Yes. Attorneys and injured victims can negotiate with medical providers to pay less on accident related medical bills. This will save injured victims money.
Will my case be worth more if I am hit by a SUV or truck?
Not necessarily. The value of your case will depend mostly on the extent of your injuries, how long it will take you to recover, and whether you suffered any lost wages as the result of your accident. The type of vehicle that caused your accident is not indicative of how much you can recover from its driver or how much your case is worth, but the size of the automobile insurance policy covering the vehicle is indicative of the total amount of exposure that the insurance company has relative to your claim for damages against it.
What does it mean if the vehicle that caused my accident was a company vehicle?
It means that the vehicle’s insurance policy will typically have a high policy limit. Most company vehicle insurance policies are $500,000.00 or more. This does not mean that your case is worth that much. Rather, it means that there will be more insurance available to you than if you were injured by a driver with Louisiana’s minimum liability limits. Company vehicles’ insurance policies will typically offer greater protection than private liability policies purchased by individuals for personal protection.
What will I be able to recover in Louisiana if the driver that hit me was drunk or otherwise intoxicated?
If you are hit by an intoxicated driver in Louisiana, you will be able to recover punitive (exemplar) damages from the driver. In other words, the driver will have to pay you a monetary penalty to deter other members of society from also driving while intoxicated. Punitive damages are meant to make an example out of the person forced to pay them and to penalize them for their criminal behavior. However, the driver’s automobile insurance carrier will not be responsible for paying this amount to you on the driver’s behalf because most Louisiana insurance policies exclude punitive damages.
How long should I go to the doctor after a Louisiana car accident?
You should go to the doctor until you recover from your injuries or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). You should not go to the doctor because you are trying to make your legal case better. Your doctor will discharge you once you are symptom free or have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). Your attorney will monitor your treatment and medical bills and advise you on the best time to settle your case or file a lawsuit. Your attorney will also help maximize your recover in light of the available insurance coverage available.
Will payment of property damage decrease the amount of personal injury money available to me after a car accident?
No. Louisiana and Mississippi automobile insurance policies designate separate policy limits for bodily injury and property damage. Therefore, the amount that is paid towards fixing your property damage will not decrease the amount available to you for bodily injury under the same policy.
How often should I speak with my attorney?
A good personal injury attorney will schedule periodic update meetings with you to keep you apprised of the status of your case and to obtain important information from you about your medical treatment, health, work status and damages. A good personal injury attorney will make himself available to you when you call especially in emergency situations. Also, you should inform your attorney before making major decisions that may affect your case like stopping medical treatment or undergoing surgery.
Can I use my health insurance to pay for accident related medical treatment?
Yes. But typically health insurance carriers will want to be reimbursed out of the settlement for monies paid for accident related medical treatment. This is called subrogation, and most health insurance policies require it. It is often smart to use health insurance to pay accident related medical bills. Check your health insurance policy to see if your insurer is contractually entitled to subrogation. Your attorney will contact your health insurance carrier to determine what the amount of subrogation, if any, is owed.
Should I make a workers’ compensation claim after a car accident?
Yes, usually. Workers’ compensation will pay for your medical treatment and lost wages (indemnity benefits) on a regular basis after your car accident. The car insurance companies will not pay these amounts until after the case settles. So, using workers’ compensation after a car accident when it is available is often a good idea. The workers’ compensation insurance companies will have a right to be reimbursed out of the car insurance settlement. But your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier will not be entitled to 100% of the money it paid on your behalf, only 66.6%. And remember: You are only entitled to workers’ compensation in Louisiana after a car accident, if you were working for your employer at the time of the accident.
Will I be able to recover for personal injury if I received a ticket after my automobile accident?
Yes. Getting a ticket after an accident for a non-moving violation (like expired brake tag or failure to wear a seatbelt) will not reduce the amount you are entitled to recover for an accident that was not your fault because non-moving violations typically do not mean that you were partly at fault for the accident. But if you received a ticket after an accident for a moving violation (like speeding or running a stop sign) your recovery may be reduced by the portion of fault attributable to you for the accident.
Will I be able to recover if I partly caused the Louisiana car accident that I was involved in?
Yes, but your recovery will be reduced by the degree of fault attributable to you for the accident. This is because Louisiana is a comparative fault state. Thus, if your case is worth $100,000.00 and you are attributed to be 25% at fault for the accident, you will only be entitled to collect $75,000.00 from the other responsible parties for the accident.
Will I be able to recover for personal injury if there was minor property damage?
Yes. Louisiana law does not allow severity of property damage to necessarily dictate that the severity of bodily injury was the same. Thus, just because there was minor property damage as the result of an accident, it does not mean that your body was not injured from the impact. A good attorney will use doctor testimony and other medical evidence to prove that an injury was sustained.
What happens if the driver that caused my accident did not have auto liability insurance?
You will have to rely on your UM insurance. Or, you will have to seek a personal judgment against the driver that caused your accident.
What happens if the driver that hit me was working for his employer when the accident occurred?
This means that you can make a claim against the driver’s employer for your damages. This is because Louisiana employers are responsible for the negligent acts of their employees. This is called the doctrine of respondeat superior. As long as the employee was performing a job function when he negligently committed the accident causing act, his or her employer will be responsible for the damages resulting from the act.
Should I call the police after a car accident?
Yes. Police and State Troopers do an excellent job documenting automobile accidents. They obtain important information needed to make insurance claims and give opinions regarding what parties caused the accidents. This information will be written in the investigating police officer’s accident report, which your attorney will purchase soon after an accident. Your attorney will use this information to prosecute your claim.
Should I give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company after a Louisiana car accident?
You are under no legal obligation to give a recorded statement after a Louisiana car accident. However, giving a recorded statement may increase the speed in which your claim is processed and lessen the time it takes an automobile insurance company to accept liability and pay a claim. You should check with your attorney before giving a recorded statement. And if your attorney allows you to give a recorded statement, your attorney should be present during your statement.
Do I have to give a recorded statement to my own insurance company after a Louisiana car accident?
You are under no legal obligation to give a recorded statement after a Louisiana car accident in most cases. However, if you are making a claim against your own insurance company for property damage or bodily injury (UM), the contract of insurance between you and your auto insurance carrier may require you to give a recorded statement as part of your insurance company’s investigation of your claim. The insurance company of the driver that caused your accident cannot legally require you to give a recorded statement. But giving a recorded statement may be a good idea in some cases because it may speed up the time it takes for the insurance company to pay your property damage or bodily injury claim. In any case, you should speak with your attorney before agreeing to give a recorded statement. And if your attorney allows you to give a recorded statement, your attorney should be present during your statement.
Does the defendant insurance company have to provide me with a rental car after a Louisiana accident?
Yes. The insurance company of the driver that caused your accident must provide you with a rental vehicle at no charge to you. The insurance company will provide you with a rental vehicle as long as your vehicle is in the shop getting repaired. If your vehicle is not drivable after an accident, the insurance company will need to provide you with a rental vehicle until it is fixed. If your car is totaled, the insurance company will have to provide you with a rental until it pays you for the value of your vehicle immediately before the accident.
How do insurance companies determine the value to pay me after a Louisiana accident that totaled to my car?
They determine the value by entering the number of miles your vehicle had at the time of the accident and your vehicle’s year, make and model into Kelly Blue Book. The number that is generated will be the number that you are offered to compensate you for your totaled vehicle. You will get less if you keep the totaled vehicle because the auto insurance company will deduct the salvage value of the vehicle from the amount tendered to you. You will get the full Kelly Blue Book value if you give the auto insurance company the wrecked vehicle as part of the property damage settlement.
Does settling my Louisiana property damage claim mean that I cannot make a claim for personal injury?
No. A car accident usually gives rise to a property damage claim and a bodily injury claim. Settlement of your property damage claim usually takes place within 30 days after an accident. Settlement of your bodily injury claim will not occur until you have recovered from your injuries in most cases. Thus, it is okay for your property damage claim to settle before your personal injury claim. Settling your property damage claim will not prevent you from settling your personal injury claim as long as the documents that you sign to settle your property damage claim do not extinguish or “kill” your other claims (like for bodily injury). It is important that an attorney be involved before settlement of any claim to make sure the proper wording is used in any release or settlement check.
Will automobile insurance companies do surveillance of me after a Louisiana accident?
They may. Auto insurance companies conduct surveillance of injured victims on a case-by-case basis. Insurance adjusters will often conduct surveillance of injured accident victims that they believe are being dishonest about their injuries or magnifying the extent of their injuries. More seasoned adjusters will conduct surveillance of injured victims before a lawsuit is filed in big cases. But surveillance is not usually done in smaller cases because surveillance costs insurance companies money. Surveillance is usually done in cases where the insurance companies’ exposure is great. Insurance companies use surveillance to make their cases better by attacking the injured parties’ credibility.
Is it legal in Louisiana for insurance companies to do surveillance of accident victims?
Yes. However, they cannot invade your privacy or trespass on your property. It is legal for surveillance teams and private investigators to follow you while driving and video and picture you in public. But they cannot, however, go onto your property without your permission to video you or tap your phone lines. They can video you while you are in the grocery or gym or while you are walking in a park.
How long does the defendant insurance company have to settle after a car accident?
Typically, a liability insurance carrier will respond to your settlement demand within 30 days in Louisiana. This is because the liability carrier has a duty to reasonably settle claims to protect its insured, which in auto cases is likely the driver or owner of the vehicle that caused your accident. Your UM insurer has 30 days to pay an unconditional tender after you submit satisfactory proof of loss to it via mail or email. Your attorney should keep tracked of how much time has elapsed after a settlement demand is sent to any insurance company. If an insurance company does not respond timely, it may mean that the insurance company is in Bad Faith, which may entitle the injured victim to penalties and attorney fees.
When should I file a lawsuit after a Louisiana car wreck?
The timing for filing a lawsuit should be determined on a case by case basis. At the very least, a lawsuit against the defendant driver must be filed within one year of the date of accident. If your claim is against your UM carrier and no unconditional tenders have been made, a lawsuit should be filed within two years of the date of accident.
Who will pay for court costs in a Louisiana auto accident case?
The defendants will pay your court costs if you win at trial. However, your attorney can negotiate that the defendants also pay your court costs (e.g., lawsuit filing fees) as part of the terms of a pre-trial settlement. If a plaintiff loses his or her case at trial, his or her attorney will likely be responsible for any court costs pursuant to the attorney-client agreement signed at the beginning of the case.
How much are court costs in Louisiana?
The costs to file a lawsuit in an automobile accident in Louisiana range from $400.00 to $800.00. Factors that determine the cost to file a lawsuit include the Parish that the court house is in, the number of defendants named in the lawsuit, and how each defendant needs to be served. Other court costs include pre-trial motions, which range from $100.00 to $200.00 to file inclusive of service costs. Your attorney will often be able to choose a court to file your lawsuit in that will reduce the amount of court cost you will incur. In other words, some Parishes are cheaper to litigate in than others. For instance, it is cheaper to file a lawsuit in a Louisiana federal court than it is to file a lawsuit in Orleans Parish. Your attorney should help you decide when and where to file your lawsuit.
Who will pay my medical and doctor bills before my injury case settles in Louisiana?
You can use your health insurance. You can use workers’ compensation if you were injured in an automobile accident while working for your employer. If you do not have any avenues of insurance to pay for your medical treatment, your car accident attorney can pay your medical bills while your case is pending. The amounts that he pays, guarantees, or agrees to protect will be taken out of your settlement at the end of your case.
Can Louisiana car accident attorneys give loans to their clients?
Yes, Louisiana attorneys can give their clients loans for necessities of living. The requests for loans must be in writing. The client will pay back his attorney at the end of the case out of the settlement. Necessities of living include utility bills and insurance premiums. Louisiana car accident attorneys can also reimburse plaintiffs for medical bills that plaintiffs have paid while their cases are pending. The attorneys will be reimbursed out of settlement of the case.
Will I have to give a deposition in a car accident case?
You will only have to give a deposition if a lawsuit is filed in your case. A deposition is question and answering session where a plaintiff gives answers to the defendants’ attorney while under oath. A court reporter transcribes the questions and answers. In some cases, an attorney can settle a lawsuit after a lawsuit is filed but before a deposition is given.
Will my car accident case likely go to trial in Louisiana?
No. The vast majority of car accident cases will not go to trial in Louisiana. Many cases also settle before a lawsuit is even filed. However, when a lawsuit is filed, your case should be prepared as if it is going to trial. Your attorney should work up your case and prepare it for trial so that the defendants know that you are in a great position to make a great case to a jury or judge. Extensive preparation will likely result in your case settling for a higher amount.
If my Louisiana car accident case goes to trial, will a jury or judge decide my case?
If your claim for damages exceeds $50,000.00 either you or the defendants can request trial by jury. If you stipulate (agree) that your case is worth less than $50,000.00, a judge will hear your case and make decisions on liability (fault) and the amount of money damages that you are entitled to.
Can I sue an auto insurance adjuster in Louisiana for bad faith?
Yes. A plaintiff (accident victim) can recover penalties and attorney fees for Bad Faith in Louisiana. Louisiana’s Bad Faith statutes are established in La. R.S. 22:1892 and 22:1973. A Bad Faith claim is made against the insurance company that the adjuster works for. The claim for Bad Faith is not made against the adjuster personally. Examples of bad faith include (1) failing to conduct an estimate of claimant’s car within 14 days after a report of loss and (2) failure to pay an unconditional tender by a UM carrier within 30 days of receiving satisfactory proof of loss.
Can I fire my Louisiana car accident attorney and hire a new one?
Yes. A client can terminate/discharge his relationship with his attorney at any point. However, the discharged attorney will be entitled to recover for the work that he has done on the file before his termination; this recovery is based on the legal principle called quantum meruit. The discharged attorney will be paid out of the settlement or judgement award. After being discharged, the discharged attorney will submit a lien to the defendant insurance company. The lien will prevent the client from receiving settlement proceeds until the discharged attorney’s lien is satisfied. The client’s new attorney will likely help negotiate what the discharged attorney will receive out of the settlement.
Will it cost anything to consult with a Louisiana car accident attorney?
Not typically. Most Louisiana auto wreck and personal injury attorneys give free consultations. Therefore, speaking with one about your case over the phone or meeting with one in his office will generally not cost you anything unless you sign an attorney-client agreement and the attorney begins working on your case. An attorney cannot start giving you legal advice and working on your case until an attorney-client agreement is signed. Most car accident attorneys will be happy to initially meet with you for free because they want to build a good rapport with you so that you retain them to handle your case.
Types of Accident
- Head-On Wrecks and Collisions
- Rear-End and Tailgating Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Uninsured Motorist (UM) Accidents
- Construction Zone Accidents
- Interstate and Highway Collisions
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Distracted Driver and Texting Accidents
- T-Bone Accidents
- Pileups and Mutlit Vehicle Accidents
- Collisions with Animals and Livestock
- Frequently Asked Auto Accident Questions