Car accidents occur way too frequently in Louisiana. If you’ve been in a car accident, what do you need to do? How do you navigate to a successful settlement of your car accident claim?
The settlement process begins with establishing fault, proving your losses, and negotiating a settlement amount with an insurance company. If this fails, you have to prove your damages in court.
To obtain a proper settlement, you must establish liability and damages. The process needs to begin soon after the accident happened. Settlements of claims are preferable to the unpredictable nature of trials.
Establishing fault is essential to negotiating a settlement. The other party has to be responsible for paying your damages. If the other party is not at fault for causing the accident, they have no duty to pay for your losses.
If there is a question of which driver is at fault for the accident, you need to take steps to establish the fault of the other driver. So how do you tackle this task?
Your first step in proving the fault of the other driver is to ensure the investigating officer obtains the correct information at the scene. Next, get a copy of the accident report, collect the names and addresses of the witnesses, and review the law.
At the Scene of the Wreck
If you’ve sustained damages in an automobile wreck, call the police. The investigating officer fills out an accident report. In his report, he documents traffic conditions, time of the accident, weather conditions, and other crucial details.
An essential task of the investigating officer is taking statements of not only the parties but also any witnesses. He should include in the report witnesses’ names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
If necessary the officer takes pictures of the accident scene and provides a narrative description based on the information he gathered. The report may document skid mark length, traffic law violations, and condition of the driver.
Get the name of the investigating officer, and witnesses while you are at the scene. Find out how to obtain a copy of the report.
Legal Basis for Fault
Check local, state, and federal laws; if the other driver violated driving laws, it will help to establish his responsibility to pay for your losses. Use the internet and search city and parish laws. Check specifically for the right of ways and speed limits.
If a witness didn’t give an account to the officer at the scene or their explanation wasn’t clear, ask the witnesses to provide a more detailed version in writing to you.
When Fault is Clear
The insurance company should, in cases of presumed negligence accept responsibility. Left turning vehicles and rear-end instances are the most common accidents that the presumption applies.
Louisiana is a comparative negligence state. Comparative negligence means a party is not barred from recovery of damages because they are partially at fault for causing an accident. The parties are responsible for paying damages based on their percentage of fault. This means that a party is only responsible to pay the damages based on their percentage of fault.
Proving Your Losses
To negotiate a settlement, you need a firm grip on the numbers.
Medical Bills and Records
Obtain a copy of all medical records and bills and forward it to the insurance company. Make sure they have all the information on your injury. If you have any physical limitation or disability because of the damage suffered in the accident, you want to make sure it is documented and provided to the insurance adjuster.
If you expect any future medical treatment ask your doctor to note this in your records. Also, call the medical providers’ offices and get a price for future medical treatment. Forward all information concerning future medical treatment to the insurance company.
Once your car has been repaired forward the documentation to the insurance company. If your vehicle was a total loss, gather information on similar car values, and pass this along to the adjuster.
If your car decreased in value because of the wreck, get a statement from a reputable car salesperson or search the internet for information to support your claim.
Louisiana allows for a variety of losses to be recovered because of the negligence of another. For example, an injured party can recover for future pain and suffering and future wage loss. A detailed article on damages in Louisiana law is covered in a separate article.
Negotiating With the Insurance Company
A settlement of your claim has advantages and must be given value. Judges and juries are unpredictable and could award you less than what the insurance company offers. However, there are times when a settlement of the claim is impossible.
Some insurance companies legitimately evaluate claims and make fair settlement offers. While other insurance company’s business practice is to try and trick and deceive claimants.
Ask for copies of their insured insurance declaration page. In Louisiana, the law requires a minimum liability amount of $15,000 for bodily injury or death to one person, $30,000 for bodily injury or death to two or more people in a single accident and $25,000 for damage to someone else’s vehicle or other property.
Don’t accept the adjusters’ word for their clients’ coverage amounts; request a copy of the policy declaration page.
When does a Lawsuit have to be filed?
Mark your calendar on the date of your accident. In Louisiana, a suit must be filed within one year for both personal injury and property damage. This period starts on the day of your accident.
Don’t lose track of the date and get caught trying to file suit at the last minute. Plan to file a lawsuit a couple of months early. If you haven’t settled by then, it is unlikely you will get it worked without a suit filed.
Settlement negotiations continue after suit is filed. You can still settle your claim at any time before a ruling by the court. If you fail to file your claim within one year, Louisiana courts can deny your case no matter how strong your position.
We know negotiating a settlement is hard if you need assistance contact our office. We have over 18 years of representing injured clients. We have extensive knowledge calculating damages and can help you recover the settlement amount you deserve. And if your case has to be tried, we can do that as well.