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Injuries are the leading cause of death and permanent disabilities among people aged 44 and below in Louisiana and the United States. They can happen due to many factors, from motor vehicle accidents and medical malpractice to hazards caused by defective products. From January to November 2022, the Louisiana Department of Transportation recorded 768 vehicular accidents and 825 fatalities in total. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics documented 141 fatal injuries among workers in the state in 2021, with significant numbers being caused by transportation incidents and violence inflicted by other people.

To help residents prevent injuries and avoid incidents that can cause unwanted harm, the Louisiana DOT and the Department of Health and Hospitals continue to remind people to follow safety procedures when going about their daily activities. The state also has a variety of laws and guidelines that take effect in legal proceedings if a victim chooses to pursue compensation from a person who has injured them. This article aims to discuss some of these laws and statutes, which involve the amount of damages a victim can recover, the time given for them to take legal action, and the procedures that are taken into account when establishing a claim.

Louisiana’s Motor Vehicle Accident Laws

Motor vehicle accidents are common personal injury cases where a motorist is injured due to another person’s failure to follow traffic rules and drive safely. In Louisiana, those involved in an accident that leads to injury, death, or property damage worth more than $500 are required by law to report the crash to local authorities. If the accident occurred outside of an incorporated town or city, the report must be made at the nearest state police station or sheriff’s office.

Louisiana requires all motorists to have auto liability coverage, which they will use to pay for any resulting damages in a vehicular accident that they cause. The state’s minimum required amounts for liability coverage follow the 15/30/25 format, which translates to:

  • $15,000 for the bodily injuries of one person.

  • $30,000 for the bodily injuries of multiple people.

  • $25,000 for any property damage.

Those involved in an accident can also use other types of insurance coverage to pay for their losses, including:

  • Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage, which is used if the offending driver in the accident has insufficient or no insurance, respectively.

  • Collision coverage, which is used to pay for the damage that the insurance owner’s car has sustained.

  • Comprehensive coverage, which is used to pay for any damages caused by non-accident factors, such as inclement weather, falling objects, vandalism, and theft.

Louisiana’s Product Liability Law

Product liability cases involve people who suffer harm due to manufacturing or operational defects in a certain product. They can include instances where a brake malfunction causes a vehicle to crash or incidents where a person falls ill due to harmful substances, such as the presence of lead in a food or beverage item.

Under the Louisiana Products Liability Act, the manufacturer of a product that is deemed unreasonably dangerous and causes proximate harm to a person will be held liable for any resulting damages. A product can be considered unreasonably dangerous based on its design, construction, or composition. It can also be classified as such if it does not match the express warranty made by its manufacturer at any time. For cases concerning the latter, the erroneous warranty must be the direct reason why the victim used the product in the first place and subsequently suffered harm.

A product liability case can include the following theories of liability:

  • Design defects, wherein the hazards present in a manufacturer’s chosen design of a product outweigh its benefits.

  • Manufacturing defects, wherein a product’s design is deemed safe, but how it was manufactured makes it hazardous.

  • Failure to warn, wherein the manufacturer did not alert consumers sufficiently regarding a product’s potential hazards.

Legal Guidelines in Louisiana Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice is an area of personal injury where a victim suffers harm due to the negligence of a doctor or healthcare practitioner. It can stem from different types of cases, ranging from those concerning surgical and medication errors to those involving a doctor’s failure to diagnose a condition or relay vital information regarding a specific medical procedure before a patient’s treatment.

In Louisiana, a medical malpractice victim or their representative (in case the victim perished from their injuries) must first submit their complaint to a medical review panel, which will verify the validity of the plaintiff’s claim by determining whether the defendant did not meet the medical standard of care. They may also decide if a judge is needed in place of a healthcare expert to address a significant factual question regarding liability for the plaintiff’s injuries. They will base their findings and subsequent opinions on relevant medical reports and records, as well as transcripts of depositions.

A complaint must be submitted for review within one year, in line with Louisiana’s statute of limitations. However, a plaintiff does not need to do so if they have agreed with the defendant to bypass the process or if they have accepted the binding arbitration of any disputes with the latter. The review process may also be disregarded if the defendant is not eligible for the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund and does not meet the requirements involved in the review process.

Once a complaint has been submitted, the statute of limitations will be suspended for up to 90 days after one of the following occurs:

  • The panel relays its opinion regarding the plaintiff’s claim.

  • The panel notifies the plaintiff that the defendant does not qualify for the review process.

  • The panel dismisses the claim because an attorney chairman was not appointed for it within a year.

The suspension will not commence if the plaintiff fails to pay the fee for the review within 45 days of their request being confirmed or if they do not qualify for a fee waiver. The latter can occur if a court rules that the plaintiff cannot afford the waiver or if they submit an affidavit describing how a doctor has reviewed their medical records and concluded that those involved in the case failed to adhere to the medical standard of care.

Louisiana’s Pure Comparative Negligence Rule

Louisiana courts follow the rule of pure comparative negligence when determining the fault of all parties involved in a personal injury case and awarding damages according to each party’s fault. Under this legal principle, any plaintiff who shares part of the blame in a case will have their total awarded damages deducted by the percentage of their fault.

As a specific example, a car accident victim who is awarded $200,000 in damages but is also 25% liable for the crash for failing to yield the right-of-way will have their total damages reduced by 25%, leaving them with only $150,000.

Plaintiffs found partially at fault under the pure comparative negligence rule can still recover damages even if they share the majority of the blame in a case. This contrasts with the principle of modified comparative negligence, where a plaintiff is barred from recovering damages if their fault in a case reaches or exceeds a specified percentage.

Joint and Several Liability in Louisiana

Under Louisiana law, if there are multiple defendants in a personal injury case, each defendant will only be liable for their share of the victim’s damages based on their assigned blame in the case. Car accidents that involve more than two vehicles or medical malpractice incidents are examples of cases where there are multiple defendants.

However, if the defendants in a case conspired with one another to intentionally or willfully injure the victim, they will be jointly liable for the victim’s damages. This means that the victim can take legal action and pursue compensation from any or all of them.

Louisiana Business Liability Insurance Requirements

Though it is not explicitly required by state law, businesses in Louisiana are encouraged to obtain and maintain general liability insurance. This policy offers broad coverage that protects business owners financially by paying for the damages of an individual injured due to an accident or mishap at their establishment. It also covers a victim’s losses if an employee’s negligence is the cause of their injury, along with damages caused by libel, slander, or advertising.

No fixed minimum amount is required for general liability insurance since this depends on the type of business an owner is operating and the type of services or goods they provide. Generally, a policy worth $500,000 to $1 million is optimal for small businesses, though high-risk establishments and those that often interact with the public should consider obtaining higher coverage amounts.

On the other hand, Louisiana law requires all businesses with at least one full- or part-time employee with a minimum annual salary of $3,000 to have workers’ compensation insurance. This policy provides compensation for the financial losses of employees who suffer harm due to work-related hazards and mishaps. However, the state has limited exclusions on workers’ compensation insurance for specific employees and employers, such as:

  • Licensed real estate agents.

  • Domestic workers.

  • Directors of specific not-for-profits.

  • Undocumented aliens.

How Much Can Someone Sue for an Injury in Louisiana?

Louisiana does not have any sort of limitation on the total compensatory damages that injured individuals can recover in most personal injury cases. This means that the victims of vehicular accidents, defective products, and similar incidents may obtain maximum restitution from at-fault parties for their economic and non-economic losses. These can include medical expenses, repair or replacement costs, lost wages, as well as damages caused by pain and suffering.

One exception to the state’s lack of damage caps involves medical malpractice cases, where victims can only recover up to $500,000 in damages. However, this limitation does not apply to any subsequent losses from future medical expenditures. Additionally, any damages worth more than $100,000 will be covered by the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund, which applies to all state healthcare providers and eligible doctors and practitioners.

A similar cap of $500,000 applies to personal injury and wrongful death cases involving state agencies or political subdivisions. These cases can include accidents or incidents caused by the negligence of local government units or their employees.

In addition to compensatory damages, a victim may be awarded punitive damages if the court finds that the defendant in a case acted with grave misconduct or willfully disregarded the safety of others. However, Louisiana courts only authorize this type of damage award in personal injury cases where the defendant hails from another state that allows punitive damages and if their act of injury and injurious conduct occurred in that state. Drunk driving cases are an explicit exception to this rule.

The Statute of Limitations in Louisiana

According to the Louisiana State Legislature, plaintiffs in personal injury cases only have up to one year to take legal action, starting from when the injury was sustained. This limitation applies in cases concerning bodily injuries, property damage, and losses stemming from libel, slander, and fraud. Wrongful death cases are also subject to the same deadline but start from the victim’s date of death.

In addition, workers’ compensation claims must be filed within one year from the date of a worker’s injury or from when a disability develops and not later than two years from the date of the accident. In medical malpractice cases, taking legal action is no longer allowed if more than three years have elapsed since the date the malpractice in question took place.

It should be noted that Louisiana follows the discovery rule, wherein the one-year statute of limitations does not begin until the date when the victim of an incident has discovered or should have reasonably discovered their injury. An example of this exception concerns a 1996 products liability case where a victim who suffered an eye infection and subsequent vision damage from using extended-wear contact lenses read in a magazine article that these products could cause such harm. In this case, the statute only began when the victim found information about her injury and thus had cause for action against the manufacturer of the contact lenses by reading the aforementioned article.

Additionally, the duration of Louisiana’s statute of limitations will not start against plaintiffs who are under the age of eighteen in cases that concern permanent disability and are brought in line with the state’s Products Liability Act or any other state law governing products liability-related actions at the time of the injury. This means that the statute will only begin once the person in question turns eighteen, after which they will have until their nineteenth birthday to take legal action against the offending parties.

Legal Resources for Injured Folks in Louisiana

Louisiana State Bar Association

The Louisiana State Bar Association offers assistance to people who have inquiries concerning local laws and those who seek to take legal action. The Membership Directory is open to individuals who wish to find specific members of the state bar and their current contact information using their name and location. The website also has a list of legal terms and their definitions that people can access if they wish to understand the terminologies involved in their respective concerns. In addition, it provides information on how to submit complaints against certain attorneys regarding potential misconduct or fee-related disputes.

Louisiana Civil Legal Navigator

The Louisiana Civil Legal Navigator is an online resource that addresses various legal topics and areas for state residents, ranging from lawyer referrals to employment law. Visitors can find detailed information for their respective legal concerns based on the answers they provide on given questionnaires. Additionally, the website provides access to copies of legal aid and self-help forms, including one that low-income individuals can complete and submit to apply for free legal help.

Louisiana Emergency Response Network

The Louisiana Emergency Response Network is a state agency created in 2004 by state legislators to provide care coordination services for people who suffer traumatic injuries and sudden or time-sensitive illnesses, like heart attacks. State residents can visit the agency’s website to learn about the nine regions it covers and the Regional Commission members that oversee each location. LERN connects patients who meet major trauma criteria to hospitals or facilities that match their required level of care through its Communications Center, which can be reached at 1-866-320-8293 for additional queries and concerns.

InjuryLawRights - Louisiana

People involved in auto accidents within Louisiana can seek pro bono help through InjuryLawRights. This non-profit organization provides free legal assistance to individuals with personal injury-related concerns throughout the country. Its team communicates with auto accident victims to address their concerns and connect them with pro bono attorneys matching their legal situation and location. The organization’s website also offers basic details regarding relevant laws and guidelines in an accident case, including Louisiana’s discovery rule and statute of limitations. Those who wish to make further inquiries can contact the organization at 855-633-0888.

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