Although Louisiana has a population of only about 4.5 million people, the state’s Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism reported that over 28 million people visited Louisiana in the year 2014. Louisiana reports that about 10 million of these visitors traveled to New Orleans. In addition to those visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras, music, architecture, museums, antebellum home tours, swamp tours, the French Quarter experience, and conventions in the New Orleans area, many visitors travel to New Orleans for work related to the oil and gas industry and other businesses. Many Louisiana visitors travel to other parts of the state, some driving on Interstates 10, 12, 20, 49, 55, and other highways from Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas to visit casinos in Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and other towns. Others fly to Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria, and other cities for business or pleasure. Finally, many visit Louisiana to hunt or fish, on land, rivers and other inland waters, or offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
Unfortunately, some of the almost 30 million people that visit Louisiana each year will be involved in accidents, primarily automobile crashes, while visiting or just passing through here. We have represented numerous individuals from states as far apart as Florida, Delaware, Oregon, Iowa, California, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas, and we have learned that those injured while visiting Louisiana from other states often have similar concerns and questions. First, we advise our clients from out of state that they should do all of the same things that we recommend to our Louisiana clients who are injured here in automobile accidents and in other types of accidents. You should always contact police after an accident so that a record is made identifying everyone involved and names and addresses of any witnesses who are present. Seek medical attention if needed and take photographs of any damage to your vehicle and any other vehicle if you are able to do so. It is also usually a good idea to take a photograph of the license plate of any other vehicle involved in an accident with you, and of your vehicle’s license plate if it is a rental auto. Provide information to law enforcement as requested at the scene, but do not provide information to any other party involved in the accident other than the information the investigating officer requires you to provide. There is no advantage to you in providing information to any other driver’s insurance company, and we recommend that you avoid contact with them until you have consulted a Louisiana attorney experienced in representing individuals injured in automobile accidents. If you receive medical treatment in Louisiana, make note of the names of the facilities that you go to, since you may not be familiar with those names and may forget them by the time you return home. Also record the name of the company operating any ambulance that you are transported in. Typically, in most cities in Louisiana, Acadian Ambulance Service provides the only ambulance service available, although there are some exceptions such as the Emergency Medical Service, or EMS, in Baton Rouge. Please also note the name of any fire department that responds to your accident, since they will typically also make records which might include information that has not been recorded by anyone else.
If you are injured in an accident in Louisiana, or injured in any other way, Louisiana laws provide your legal rights as to negligent third parties. You are entitled to the same Louisiana legal protections as a citizen of Louisiana. In general, a person who is at fault or negligent owes you payment for any damage that he or she has caused. That person’s insurance company is also liable with its insured for any covered claim, up to the maximum liability limit of the policy. Unfortunately, Louisiana’s minimum automobile liability insurance limit is $15,000.00 per person and $30,000.00 per occurrence for bodily injury. This amount of insurance is often insufficient to pay all of your damages, and it may become necessary for you to seek additional compensation from your own automobile insurer if you have uninsured motorist insurance coverage and/or automobile medical payments coverage, if you wish to do so.
Whether you live in Louisiana or you are visiting from another state, if you are injured in an automobile accident in Louisiana we urge you to make use of your health insurance to pay for your treatment if you are covered by a health insurance plan. All health insurers obtain deep discounts from hospitals, doctors, MRI and other testing facilities, physical therapists, and other healthcare providers. When we assert your legal claims for injury, our law provides that this health insurance discount is for the benefit of the insured person. This rule, from our Louisiana Supreme Court, means that a negligent driver’s automobile insurer must pay the full amount of your medical bills, even if your health insurer obtained a discount. This legal rule simultaneously increases the total value of your injury claim, and preserves more of a limited automobile insurance policy so it can be used to pay other damages you might have sustained, such as lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, and other damages. While we may have to reimburse your health insurer from a settlement for all or part of the medical expenses it pays, at least the reimbursement amount will be significantly smaller because of their contracted discounts.
One very important fact for any visitor injured in Louisiana to know is that we have one of the shortest statutes of limitation, named “prescription” in Louisiana, for injury claims against others. While we are often able to reach satisfactory settlement agreements within a few months of an accident, if an injury requires extensive medical treatment, a lawsuit must be properly filed within one year of the occurrence of the accident, or you will lose all of your rights against the negligent third party and his insurer. For this reason, it is often advantageous for an injured person to promptly consult with a qualified attorney in Louisiana, well before the one year anniversary of the accident. The Louisiana lawyer must have adequate time to determine the basis of your claims, the proper location or “venue” in which to file your claims, the correct identity of any negligent third parties, the insurers of the third parties, and address information for service of process. Louisiana and only one other state, Wisconsin, have a “direct action” statute, which means that we can name an insurance company and its negligent driver as defendants in a lawsuit.
Even though we frequently have to file lawsuits because of the one year prescription deadline that applies to Louisiana injury claims, that does not mean that every lawsuit that we file results in a trial, or even court hearings. Probably 95% of the lawsuits we file for automobile accident victims still result in satisfactory settlements without our client ever having to enter a courtroom. Also, our out-of-state clients rarely have to travel to Louisiana at all for purposes of their case. The lawsuit does give us a vehicle for obtaining information from the negligent third party and his insurer, such as cell telephone records if they are talking on the telephone when the accident occurs, automobile liability insurance policy limits, the responsibility of any employer of a negligent third party who was on the job at the time of the accident, etc.
Many of our clients who are injured while visiting Louisiana receive some medical treatment in Louisiana, and then continue their treatment after returning to their home state. Under our laws, it is not necessary for your treating doctor or any other healthcare provider to come to Louisiana to give testimony. We typically obtain written reports and records from your doctors, and if those are not sufficient, we will make arrangements with your doctor to travel to your state and obtain a sworn deposition. We strive to avoid any inconvenience to your doctor or other healthcare providers, while securing the information that is needed to establish the value of your case.
If you have sustained injury in an automobile crash or any other type of accident which occurred in Louisiana, call Koederitz Law Firm for a free consultation. We serve clients throughout the country with Louisiana accident cases.