It’s an unfortunately familiar situation for many of us. You’re driving down the road when another car comes out of nowhere. Suddenly, you’ve been hit. Or maybe you slam on the brakes but can’t stop fast enough to avoid the other car.
In the best-case scenario, the worst thing that happens is some minor damage to one or both vehicles. But even accidents that don’t end with a totaled car can result in sprains, contusions, damage to the neck and spine, and other painful injuries that may take weeks or months to heal. And when you’ve been injured, you have big hospital bills you need to pay.
When your accident wasn’t your fault, you can get compensation through the at-fault driver’s insurance, but what happens when the other driver says the accident was your fault and not theirs?
Louisiana is a “Pure Comparative Negligence” State
Depending on which state your accident occurs in, different laws will dictate what happens next.
Louisiana follows a “pure comparative negligence” doctrine, which means that more than one person can be held at fault for an accident, and all parties are eligible for compensation for their damages and injuries. However, it is still very important to make sure that the correct percentage of fault is assigned, because each driver’s compensation is reduced according to their own percentage of fault.
For example, if a driver sustains $100,000 in damages, and is assigned 30% of the fault, their settlement will be reduced by 30% ($30,000) and they will receive only $70,000. But that doesn’t reduce the driver’s needs after an accident. Unless you want to come up $30,000 short of what you need to pay your bills after your crash, you will need an experienced Louisiana car accident lawyer to help you prove you were not at fault.
How Fault is Determined in an Auto Accident
After a car crash, insurance adjusters will conduct an investigation by reviewing the statements from the drivers, analyzing the police report, and inspecting the damage to the cars to determine who was at fault.
However, if you disagree with the assessment of the insurance adjuster, the burden of proof lies on you.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
If you’re able to do so after the crash, following these steps can help you and your lawyer prove you weren’t at fault for the accident:
- Take pictures at the crash scene right away, including any damage to the vehicles involved and any injuries you and your passengers suffered, so their severity and origin can’t be called into question.
- Take pictures of anything at the scene of the accident that may have contributed to the crash, such as a tree branch obscuring a stop sign or debris in the road.
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses. Impartial witnesses are best – the word of your spouse might be considered biased, but a bystander’s won’t be.
- If you receive a traffic ticket, you MUST dispute the ticket in traffic court. Paying the ticket means you are legally accepting fault.
- Ask for a copy of the police report. If the police report suggests you were at fault, write up your version of events and ask that it be added to the report as a supplement.
- If the insurance company assigns you fault, notify the insurance adjuster by phone and a follow-up letter that you dispute their ruling.
When insurance adjusters refuse to pay what you need or assign you an unfair percentage of the fault after a crash, you may need a lawyer to take the matter to court.
How an Auto Accident Lawyer Can Help
An experienced auto accident lawyer, like those at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers, will have seen many accidents similar to yours and know how insurance adjusters think. They will be able to bring in witness testimony, recreate the scene of the accident, and demonstrate precisely why you are not at fault, or why your percentage of fault should be reduced.
A lawyer will also be able to take care of the paperwork to make sure you don’t miss out on any important deadlines while you recover. They can also prepare a demand letter on your behalf that explains your side of events, refutes any arguments toward your fault, and explains the damages you are owed.
Unsure whether legal representation can help you after an accident where you were unfairly assigned some or all of the blame? Contact the team at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers. There is no charge for your initial consultation, and no obligation to hire us unless you are satisfied we can help.
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