Motor vehicle crashes cost the citizens of Louisiana billions of dollars each year. A total of 2,251 crashes occurred in 2021, with an estimated cost of $9.6 billion or $3,107 for every licensed driver, according to the Louisiana Traffic Records Data Report published by the Center for Analytics & Research in Transportation (CARTS). The report also showed 887 fatal crashes, 972 deaths, 75,914 injuries, and 114,575 damages to properties.
In 2022, Louisiana launched its latest Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) to reduce motor vehicle-related fatalities and serious injuries. The plan outlines the state's "Destination Zero Deaths" (DZD) strategies, such as increasing community outreach programs and education efforts, enhancing accountability through enforcement, and strengthening legislation. It also includes identifying, creating, and implementing engineering solutions along corridors where drunk or distracted driving frequently leads to serious crashes.
Below are Louisiana’s laws, public policies, and other information that can help car accident victims with their cases:
Louisiana Seat Belt Law
Louisiana’s seat belt law requires all drivers must wear seat belts when operating motor vehicles. The law also stipulates that the failure to wear seat belts is not considered evidence of comparative negligence and is not admissible in mitigating damages. Furthermore, a seat belt law violation alone does not give law enforcement officers the right to inspect or search the driver, the passenger, or the car and its contents. This law does not apply to people with disabilities, drivers who operate motor vehicles manufactured without seat belts, or rural letter carriers in the U.S. Postal Service.
Penalties for violating seat belt laws:
First offense - $50
Second offense - $75
Third and any subsequent offense - $75 plus all court costs
Orleans Parish violations - $20 additional penalty for every violation
If you are injured in a car accident and are not wearing a seat belt, you can still obtain compensation for the damages. You should also not be held partially liable unless you committed other violations. The insurance company’s defense team may still attempt to use the fact that you violated the seat belt law to discredit you. To avoid this, you should consider hiring a qualified car accident lawyer to represent you against the at-fault driver and their insurance company.
Louisiana Distracted Driving Law
In 2021, CARTS recorded 308,939 drivers who got involved in crashes due to distracted driving, with 1,470 deaths, 90,360 injuries, and 217,109 incidents of damage to properties. The distracted driving law in Louisiana does not allow drivers to operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless telecommunication device to read, write, and send text-based communication, such as email, text messages, and instant messages. They are also not allowed to access any social media platform while driving.
Exceptions to distracted driving laws:
Calling emergency services
Reporting illegal activities
Preventing injury to a person or damage to a property
Law enforcement officers and emergency services personnel performing their duties
Doctors and healthcare providers who are addressing medical emergencies
Penalties for distracted driving:
First offense - a fine not exceeding $500
Subsequent offenses - a fine of not more than $1,000 and license suspension for 60 days
Offenses that involve crashes - a fine double the amount of the standard fines
If you are involved in a distracted driving accident, call the police and request an ambulance if needed, get the other driver’s contact information, do not move your car until the police have arrived, and do not talk about anything related to the accident with the other driver. In addition, you should take photos of the accident and write notes about how the other driver acted. You should also contact your insurance company, gather information from the police, and contact a car accident lawyer.
Louisiana Reckless Driving Law
Reckless driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle in a criminally negligent or reckless manner. This may include running red lights, failing to yield to pedestrians, crossing a double yellow line, changing lanes dangerously, and driving significantly below or above the speed limit.
Penalties for reckless driving:
In Louisiana, reckless driving is a misdemeanor, and the penalties are as follows:
First offense - a fine of not more than $200 and/or prison time of 90 days
Second and subsequent offenses - a fine of $25 to $500 and prison time of 10 days to six months
Three convictions within 12 months - two years of license suspension
"Wet reckless" or reckless driving charge involving alcohol - an additional fine of $100
Louisiana Hit-and-Run Law
Hit-and-run, which is considered a crime in Louisiana, occurs when a driver intentionally leaves the accident scene without exchanging information with the other driver or providing necessary assistance. Based on the 2021 Louisiana Traffic Records Data Report by CARTS, the average number of hit-and-run crash cases from 2016 to 2021 was 22,402 annually, with 18,034 damages to properties, 4,317 injuries, and 52 deaths.
Penalties for hit-and-run violations:
Resulted in property damage only - a fine of not more than $500 and/or imprisonment from 10 days to six months
Resulted in injuries or death - a fine of not more than $5,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, with or without hard labor
If you are injured in a hit-and-run car accident, assess the situation carefully. Ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers, call the police, note the crash report number, take photos of the damages to your car, get statements from bystanders or other witnesses, and file an insurance claim. It is also important to consult a car accident lawyer to ensure the liable party fully pays for your damages.
Louisiana Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Louisiana law requires drivers to carry minimum auto insurance coverage of:
$15,000 for bodily injury to one person
$30,000 for bodily injury to more than one person in a single accident
$25,000 coverage for damage to someone else’s vehicle or other property
The liability limits may not be enough to cover damages, but vehicle owners may use additional coverages, such as the ones discussed below:
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) equal to the auto policy’s liability limits should be offered by insurance companies. The policyholder may opt to reduce the UM coverage by signing a waiver. This coverage pays for car accident victims who have been hit by another driver who has no or too little insurance. Hit-and-run drivers may also be classified as uninsured motorists.
UM/UIM economic-only coverage - Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, are not covered.
UM/UIM property damage coverage - This covers vehicle repairs and is not available if the auto policy includes collision insurance.
Personal injury protection (PIP)covers expenses when policyholders and the passengers in their car incur injuries from an accident.
Towing and labor coverage pays for towing and labor costs. This may not be available for older cars.
Comprehensive coverage protects against physical damages other than collisions, like those caused by fire, flooding, explosions, and falling objects.
Collision coverage pays for damages from collisions with another vehicle or fixed objects.
Loan/lease payoff, or “gap coverage," pays the difference between the depreciated value of the car and the balance on a loan if the vehicle is totaled.
Rental car reimbursement goes toward the cost of a rental car while the policyholder’s car is deemed undrivable and is undergoing repairs.
If you are hit by a driver who does not have insurance, the driver could be fined between $500 and $1,000 for being in an accident without insurance, driving a car without insurance on purpose, and lying about having auto insurance. You could also lose your license, have your registration taken away for 180 days, or have your car taken away.
Factors that affect insurance premiums:
Age - There are higher insurance costs for single male drivers under 25 and female drivers under 21.
Residence - Rates in urban areas tend to be higher due to higher incidents of auto theft and accidents.
Type of car - Higher rates are offered for sports, luxury, and high-performance vehicles.
Deductibles - There tend to be lower premiums if you choose a high deductible coverage.
Policyholder’s driving record - Insurance companies may offer discounts if you have a good driving record.
Louisiana is a Traditional Fault or Tort State for Insurance Claims
Louisiana uses the traditional fault or tort system for insurance claims. This means that the person claiming damages must show that the other driver was at fault before they can be compensated. The at-fault driver and their insurance company are responsible for paying damages related to the accident. While there is no maximum limit on damages in car accident cases, state law imposes a cap of $500,000 on the total amount that can be recovered if the collision involves a government agency. When a car accident victim’s injuries are aggravated by a medical professional, they can file a medical malpractice claim, which has a total recovery amount of up to $500,000. The $400,000 will be paid by the Patient’s Compensation Fund, and the remaining $100,000 will be paid by the medical professional.
In addition, the state has a compulsory coverage rule — also known as “pay to play” — which prevents uninsured car accident victims from recovering compensation for the first $15,000 of bodily injury and the first $25,000 of property damage. They should first exceed the aforementioned minimum limits before they can recover compensation.
The insurance company must pay claims “within 30 days after receipt of satisfactory proofs of loss from the insured or any party in interest” or “within 30 days after written agreement of settlement of the claim from any third-party claimant,” whichever applies.
Louisiana is a Pure Comparative Fault State for Car Accident Lawsuits
Louisiana law stipulates that a car accident victim who sustains injuries or property damage can still recover damages, regardless of fault. However, the amount is reduced in proportion to the extent of negligence assigned to the victim.
For example, if a victim is to receive $100,000 in damages as a result of an accident and the court determines that they are 30% to blame, the other party, who is 70% at fault, must pay the victim $70,000 in damages.
Louisiana Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
Louisiana is one of the three states with the shortest statute of limitations for car accidents. Also called "Prescription" in Louisiana, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of the accident.
Individuals injured in a car accident should file a lawsuit within a year from the date of the collision.
Family members or personal representatives of people who died in a car accident should file a wrongful death claim within one year from the date of the accident.
If you make a claim against a third party insurance company, you have one year from the date of the accident to file. However, if you are making a claim against your own insurance company, this is called a"first party claim," and the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident.
Factors that affect the statute of limitations:
The injured victim is a minor - The statute of limitation clock begins when the victim turns 18.
Multiple-car collisions - The plaintiff should file a lawsuit against at least one at-fault driver within one year. They may file an additional claim against another negligent party after the deadline expires.
The discovery rule - The deadline begins when the root cause of the accident is discovered. This may include mechanical failure or defective auto parts later found to be the true cause of the accident. It also applies to injuries that are not evident immediately after the accident or within the statute of limitations.
If the at-fault driver moved out of the state.
Average Settlements for Louisiana Car Accident Lawsuits
Louisiana has no cap on the damages a car accident victim can potentially obtain. It is crucial to consult with a car accident lawyer to receive fair compensation. The settlement amount may be computed by adding up economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include lost wages and employment opportunities, property damage, and medical expenses. On the other hand, lawyers and insurance companies calculate non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and PTSD symptoms, in several ways:
Multiplier method - Monetary losses are added and multiplied with a factor between one and five.
Daily rate method - The value of the victim’s daily cost of living or daily earnings multiplied by the number of days that the accident has affected their lives.
Jurisprudential method - A car accident lawyer, judge, or jury looks for similar cases that occurred in the past and uses these cases as the foundation to determine the non-economic damages.
Car accident lawyers can also help prove damages for pain and suffering by gathering evidence like pictures of the accident and injuries, medical records, bills, and lab tests. Other possible evidence includes doctors’ testimonies and notes, witness testimonies, and the police report or 911 audio of the accident.
Based on actual car accident lawsuits filed in Louisiana courts, the average settlement amount in Louisiana is $6,624 for minor injuries, $23,136 for moderate injuries, and $126,919 for serious injuries. Below is the payout range for different types of car accidents:
Rear-end collisions - $6,152 - $281,922
Side-impact collisions - $2,525 - $649,780
Head-on collisions - $36,225 - $138,548
Payout amounts may vary based on several factors, including the severity and scope of injuries, the shared fault of the parties involved, multiple vehicle collisions, wrongful death, and the available insurance limits of the at-fault party.
Legal Resources for Louisiana Car Accident Victims
Individuals involved in a car accident on non-toll roads can request a report number through this link or by phone at (225) 925-6006.
This guide, published by the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV), outlines the education requirements for different types of drivers and the rules and regulations for operating a motor vehicle. Other helpful links from OMV include the Class D & E Driver’s Guide and the Louisiana OMV Public Safety Services contact page.
The LSBA’s “Find Legal Help” portal is designed to help car accident victims with limited resources determine their legal options, find an attorney or legal aid organization, and access resources or services that can help resolve their issues. You may also contact (800) 421-LSBA(5722) / (504) 566-1600.
This resource by the LADB provides instructions on how to report lawyers who have engaged in unethical behavior.
The LDI allows insurance policyholders who are dissatisfied with their personal auto damage claims to file a complaint virtually. It can provide consumer information and investigate complaints against companies, adjusters, and agents. You may also use this link to report insurance fraud.
This is the last option for drivers in Louisiana who can't get auto insurance on the private market. You may reach the office at (866) 989-9902 or its fax number, (401) 528-1361.
This resource, published by United Policyholders, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, outlines different insurance resources that car accident victims can use as a reference. Take note that this is not a substitute for legal help.
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Justin Chopin is an experienced car accident attorney as well as the owner/managing attorney of The Chopin Law Firm, LLC. The firm represents individuals and their families when they have suffered personal injuries due to the negligence of another entity.