Accidents are unexpected, unfortunate incidents that sometimes result in damage or injury. But what you do after an accident shouldn’t be left to chance or circumstance.
If you’ve been injured, the first step toward recovery is determining if you have a case. This step-by-step guide can help you weigh your options.
Below, the attorneys at Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson explain what makes a viable personal injury case.
Four Basic Questions
To get started, answer the four questions in the infographic below. If you answer ‘yes’ to all four questions, you may have a viable injury case.
The four questions above represent the foundation of most injury claims:
- The first question is about negligence. Negligence is a failure to exercise appropriate or expected care in a specific circumstance. In tort law, people are expected to exercise reasonable care in their actions. The failure to do so could result in a negligence claim.
- The second question is about damages. In order to bring a viable injury case forward a victim must prove that real damage was suffered. For example, if someone’s dog gets loose but the dog doesn’t damage any property or hurt anyone, no damage or injury can be claimed. Damage can include financial loss, injury, or death.
- The third question is about evidence. To successfully recover damages, victims typically need a record of the incident and related expenses (e.g., police report, medical bills, medical records, etc.).
- Lastly, the fourth question is about the extent of damages. It’s common for victims to accept an insurance settlement before they realize the full extent of their damage or injury. This is commonly referred to as short money, because it falls short of the total a victim would need to fully recover.
Louisiana Statutes of Limitations
In almost all Louisiana civil claims, the victim, also called the plaintiff, has one year to file a formal lawsuit—that’s not a lot of time. Louisiana’s one year limitation applies to car accidents, slips and falls, or any instance in which someone else’s negligence caused the harm.
There are, however, rare exceptions to this rule. For example, injuries resulting from a defective product may not be known to the victim at the time of injury. Moreover, minors involved in an accident may be able to step outside the one year time limit.
Louisiana’s statute of limitations also specifies how much compensation is available for certain types of injuries. Medical malpractice, for example, has a damage cap set at $500,000.
There is no damage cap for personal injury cases that do not involve medical malpractice.
Comparative Fault in Louisiana
Every state has its own way of dealing with injury cases when the claimant shares some responsibility for the accident, damage, or injury.
Louisiana follows pure comparative negligence, which allows an injured party to recover damages, even when he or she is primarily (more than 50 percent) at fault for the accident, damage, or injury.
Comparative fault laws only apply if the claim becomes a formal civil lawsuit. If this occurs, a Louisiana court will take into account who is responsible and to what extent and allocate damages accordingly.
For example, if the plaintiff is awarded $100,000 but he or she is found to be 60 percent at fault, the plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by 60 percent. The plaintiff’s compensation total is now $40,000.
However, most claims don’t go to trail; it’s much more likely that the case will settle in negotiations. And since there’s no specific way to allocate fault, compensation is generally determined by the victim’s negotiation skills.
Why Representation Matters
Picking a personal injury lawyer is one of the most important decisions you’ll make following an accident. Moreover, choosing to work with an attorney increases the likelihood of a comprehensive settlement amount.
If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, why go it alone when you don’t have to?
An attorney can help guide you through Louisiana’s complex legal system, negotiate with insurance adjusters and give you the space you need to focus on what really matters: recovery.
Our attorneys work on a contingent-fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything until we win your case!