Fun fact: Louisiana is home to more than 3 million licensed drivers.
Unfortunately, it’s also the site of around 45,000 injurious car crashes each year.
With numbers like these, there’s a chance you may one day find yourself trying to negotiate a car accident settlement. Where do you start? Do you really need a lawyer, or can you handle the insurance claim by yourself?
While you are able to represent yourself in settlement negotiations or a car accident injury lawsuit, it’s usually more beneficial to hire a lawyer.
On this page we’ll share details of the car accident settlement process so you know what to expect and how to settle a case in New Orleans. Let’s start with some basics.
Table of Contents
In order to pursue compensation after you get hurt in an accident, you have to prove that the other driver was at fault. When determining liability in a car accident case, there are four main facts you must prove:
- Duty of care: The other driver owed a duty of care to everyone with whom they shared the road. This means they were expected to behave reasonably and rationally behind the wheel in order to protect the wellbeing of those around them.
- Breach of duty: The at-fault party violated the duty of care by behaving recklessly or negligently (for example, speeding or driving while drunk or distracted.)
- Causation: The negligent behavior caused someone else to get hurt.
- Damages: The injured victim(s) suffered losses as a result of the breach of the duty of care.
Note: The “burden of proof” is on the injured victim, also known as the plaintiff. This means it’s up to the victim (and their lawyer) to prove all four elements of negligence by presenting supporting evidence.
5 Steps to Take After A Car Accident
The aftermath of a car accident is stressful and often chaotic, but there are some important steps you need to take in order to protect your rights and increase your chances of collecting compensation.
Here’s what our New Orleans car accident lawyers recommend:
- Call 911. You should always prioritize health and safety. After moving away from oncoming traffic, check all drivers and passengers for injuries and call 911. Even if you don’t think you need emergency care, you still want to call the police and have them create an accident report. Additionally, Louisiana law requires you to report any accident that results in injury, death, or more than $500 of property damage.
- Exchange information. Take note of the date, time, location, drivers’ names, drivers license info, car insurance info, license plate numbers, and make and model of all vehicles involved.
- Collect evidence. This is the most important step! Use your phone to take photos of all vehicles, damage, street signs, lights, road debris, tire marks, injuries, etc. If there are witnesses, get their contact info. Their testimony could help you later.
- Call your car insurance company. Tell them you’ve been in an accident and provide them with the information you collected. Give them nothing but the facts. Don’t try to guess or speculate.
- Consult a local car accident lawyer. To get informed about your legal options, set up a free case evaluation from a New Orleans car accident lawyer. Whether you hire them or not, their input during this consultation can be a great help as you plan your next steps!
When handling a car accident insurance claim, one wrong move could prevent you from collecting compensation. Here’s what you need to avoid:
- Never filing a claim. Maybe you don’t want to deal with all the paperwork, or maybe you’re just a very forgiving person and don’t want the other driver to get in trouble. We get it. However, you should always call your car insurance company and the other driver’s car insurance company to report an accident and start a claim. If you don’t, you could miss out on thousands of dollars you and your family need.
- Missing deadlines. Did you know there are deadlines for filing car accident lawsuits? According to Louisiana Civil Code Art. 3492, the Louisiana statute of limitations for car accidents is one year from the date of the accident. If you miss this deadline, your case may be dismissed entirely.
- Missing evidence. We know it’s easy to overlook the little things in the chaos that follows a car crash, but you need to support your claims with strong evidence from multiple sources. Aside from photos, you need to keep track of medical records, receipts, lost income, accident reports, and more.
- Giving a recorded statement. Never give a recorded statement to the insurance company! You are under no legal obligation to provide a recorded statement about your car accident or your injuries, and they’re only asking because they’re hoping to weaponize your words against you in order to reduce your settlement. They ‘ll even try to blame you for your own injuries! Watch what you say in other spaces, too. When doctors, therapists, lawyers, or insurance adjusters ask you about your pain levels, be transparent. Don’t vent on social media or other public forums about your accident.
- Going without legal representation. After a wreck, the other driver or their insurance company may try convincing you that involving a lawyer is a bad move. They’ll claim a lawyer is too expensive or will only complicate the process. Don’t get taken advantage of! Strong legal advocacy is what you need, and we are here to provide it. Even if you don’t hire a lawyer, you should at least get a free case evaluation to learn about the options available to you.
Every year, Louisiana car accident injuries cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many injured victims are also feeling stressed out, dealing with auto repairs and missing time from work.
All of these losses and expenses are known as “damages,” and car accident settlements exist to compensate victims for their damages.
What expenses can you include in a car accident claim?
Economic damages, also referred to as monetary damages, are expenses you can easily quantify and prove with copies of bills, receipts, invoices, etc.
Typical car accident settlement amounts include some or all of these economic damages:
- Medical expenses including surgery, physical therapy, medication, x-rays, and much more.
- Lost wages if you missed time from work going to doctor appointments or recovering from your accident injuries.
- Lost earning capacity if you’re no longer able to perform the same job.
- Property damage to your car or other belongings.
- Funeral and burial costs in the event of a fatal New Orleans car accident and a wrongful death claim.
In a car accident settlement, pain and suffering matters, too. While these hardships are more “abstract” and difficult to document, they can still be included in your final car accident settlement. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disability, scarring, and disfigurement
- Distress, depression, anxiety, and other PTSD symptoms
There are a few different methods used to calculate pain and suffering for a car accident. In Louisiana, the “daily rate method” is most popular.
Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are meant to punish and penalize the reckless driver who caused your accident. Think of them as a fine.
Punitive damages aren’t available in every case. They will only apply to cases involving extreme negligence and willful endangerment. For example, in accordance with Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.4, Louisiana drunk driving accident victims may be eligible to collect punitive damages.
Once they’re all added up, these damages will represent what is a fair settlement for a car accident claim.
Keep in mind every case will be different. For example, there will be a big difference in the settlement for whiplash from a car accident versus a traumatic brain injury or amputation.
Can Passengers Collect Car Accident Damages?
Absolutely. Passengers are often eligible to collect compensation after a car accident, even if the driver of the vehicle they were riding in was at fault.
Here’s a rhyme to remember: The first offer is usually the worst offer.
Insurance companies are not on your side. They want to guard their profits and avoid paying you the money you need. In fact, they use numerous sneaky tricks to diminish, devalue, or dismiss claims from car accident victims. It depends on which car insurance company you’re dealing with. They may dodge your calls and stall, adopt a harsh “take it or leave it” attitude to intimidate you, or pressure you to settle prematurely.
You might not know how much money you’re entitled to, but it’s our job to find out!
Here are three common ways to settle a car accident claim.
Negotiating A Car Accident Settlement
After a car accident, an insurance adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company will investigate your claim to assess your damages.
After you file a claim and complete your medical treatments, you must submit a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance. A demand letter declares how much money you are demanding from the car accident settlement. This number should reflect the total of all the damages mentioned above. Photos, medical records, bills, pay stubs, witness testimony, and more can be used as supporting evidence.
Next, the at-fault party’s insurance will accept your demands and give you the money you asked for, or more commonly, they’ll reject your demands and make a counteroffer. At this point, you can negotiate with them. You will submit a settlement package to the insurance company. A settlement package includes evidence and proof of your suffering as well as a summary of your expenses. If liability is disputed, you will have to provide more proof that the accident wasn’t your fault.
If you accept an offer, you are required to sign a release preventing you from any future compensation. This is how most car accident claims settle. However, many victims are tricked into settling for offers that are far too low. It’s a good idea to have a car accident lawyer review any offer you receive.
While a lawyer can negotiate on your behalf, the final choice to accept or reject an offer is always left up to you.
If negotiations are at a stubborn standstill, an unbiased mediator or arbitrator can be brought in to help you reach a compromise. What’s the difference between mediation and arbitration? An arbitrator’s decisions may be legally-binding, but a mediator’s advice is not.
Litigation is the process of taking your claim to court. You can do this by filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. At this point their insurance company will enlist the help of lawyers, so why shouldn’t you?
A car accident lawsuit begins with a written complaint. The complaint identifies the plaintiff (the victim) and the defendant (the at-fault driver) and outlines the claim. The complaint also includes a demand for judgment, demanding that the defendant pay for the plaintiff’s damages. When the defendant receives a court summons, they have to respond to the complaint with another document known as an answer, wherein they’ll admit or deny fault.
After both sides collect and present evidence during the trial, the jury reaches a verdict.
Lawsuits can drag on for months or years, but luckily, most car accident cases settle out of court.
Obviously, navigating the insurance claims process can be frustrating. A personal injury lawyer can be your greatest ally during this time, boosting your average payout considerably. Still not convinced? Here are a few ways a New Orleans car accident lawyer can help:
- Scheduling doctor appointments
- Handling repairs to your vehicle
- Providing you with a rental car if necessary
- Collecting evidence
- Tracking expenses and estimating your damages
- Determining liability and proving fault
- Calculating the value of a car accident injury claim
- Writing demand letters and compiling settlement packages
- Negotiating with the insurance adjusters
- Meeting deadlines such as the statute of limitations
- Filing a lawsuit and representing you in court
- Settling your claim and paying off your liens
Our firm handles it all. If you’re still on the fence wondering “should I get an attorney after a car accident?” get your free case evaluation right now by calling 800-898-4877. There’s no risk and no obligation.
How Much Does A New Orleans Car Accident Attorney Cost?
We understand you need help immediately. That’s why car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means you pay nothing up front. The attorney will only get paid after they help you win your case and settle your claim. Even then, you won’t pay anything out of pocket. Your New Orleans car accident attorney will deduct their fees from a portion of your settlement before you receive your disbursement check.
If you’re worried about missing out on any money, remember: the professional guidance of a lawyer can net you a settlement double or triple the amount you would’ve obtained on your own. We see it happen every day!
Can you settle a car accident without a lawyer? Technically, yes. However, even the most straightforward insurance claim can be frustrating. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, it’s easy to overlook plenty of things. You may miss out on evidence and receive less compensation, or none at all.
Is the insurance company avoiding your calls? Are they pressuring you to give a recorded statement? Are they trying to access old medical records and blame your injuries on a pre-existing condition? Are their offers too low to cover your losses?
If you’re feeling frustrated or discouraged, we’re here for you.
Even if you’re equipped with the knowledge found on this page, a car accident case is no time to take chances. There could be a life-changing amount of money on the line. You may think you’re saving money by avoiding legal fees and neglecting to hire a lawyer, but in many cases, a lawyer can increase your final settlement amount exponentially.
For best results, contact a New Orleans car accident lawyer now.
Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers are available 24/7. With over 20 years of experience handling catastrophic injury cases, we are prepared to fight for you. If you’ve been injured in New Orleans, call 800-898-4877 or visit our contact page for a free case evaluation.
Know your worth. We do.
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