When you are involved in a car accident in New Orleans or anywhere in the state of Louisiana, the aftermath can be incredibly overwhelming. But understanding the car accident settlement process can make a world of difference in your journey to recovery. In this article, we explain how car accident settlements are paid out in New Orleans, and how an experienced New Orleans car accident attorney can help.
Understanding Louisiana’s “Fault” System
First off, you should know that Louisiana operates under a “fault” system when it comes to car accidents. What does that mean for you? If you are in an accident, and it is determined that the other party was at fault, their insurance company is responsible for covering your damages.
An experienced car accident attorney in New Orleans can help you understand the intricate web that is Louisiana’s fault system. When you are grappling with the repercussions of a car accident, the last thing you want to do is wrestle with insurance companies about who is to blame.
Your car accident attorney can gather evidence, speak with witnesses, and help you establish fault for the accident. An attorney is trained to present your case in the most favorable light, ensuring that fault is correctly assigned and that your rights are protected.
Insurance companies can sometimes act in bad faith, trying to shift more blame on you to reduce your compensation. An experienced attorney will recognize these tactics and fight against them, using their extensive knowledge of Louisiana’s fault laws to ensure you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Comparative Negligence in Louisiana
Louisiana follows the principle of “comparative negligence.” Simply put, if you are found to be partly at fault for an accident, you can still recover damages. But your settlement will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you are found to be 20% at fault and the other driver 80%, you can still recover damages. But your settlement will be reduced by your 20% fault. That means if you were to receive $10,000, you would actually get only $8,000.
Establishing degrees of fault can be tricky. But, by working with a knowledgeable car accident attorney, victims can break down the details of their accident, making sure that the degree of their negligence (if any) is fairly represented. An experienced car accident attorney will utilize experts, accident reconstruction specialists, and other resources to paint an accurate picture of the accident.
Furthermore, an attorney can help you present your side in a compelling manner during negotiations or court proceedings. Your attorney will challenge the opposing side’s narrative, ensuring that any assigned negligence on your part is fair and not inflated to diminish your settlement.
Minimum Insurance Requirements and the Direct Action Rule
Louisiana law mandates drivers to have minimum liability insurance coverage. These coverages are $15,000 for bodily injury to one person, $30,000 for bodily injury to more than one person in an accident, and $25,000 for property damage. If damages exceed these amounts, the at-fault driver might be held personally liable.
Louisiana also has a “Direct Action Rule.” This means you, the injured party, can include the at-fault driver’s insurance company as a defendant in a car accident lawsuit, and in some cases, you can sue the insurance company directly without necessarily naming the at-fault driver in the lawsuit.
Navigating the maze of insurance policies and legal rights can be complicated for car accident victims. An experienced New Orleans car accident attorneycan guide you through Louisiana’s minimum insurance requirements, ensuring the at-fault party’s insurance is held accountable.
Car accident attorneys are skilled in identifying all available insurance coverages, including umbrella policies, which can significantly impact the size of your settlement. In addition, your car accident attorney can help decide whether it is more advantageous for you to sue the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier directly, based on the specifics of your case.
How Settlements are Actually Paid Out in New Orleans
Once a settlement amount is agreed upon, there are multiple ways it can be paid out. The most common ways car accident settlements are paid out in New Orleans are as follows:
A lump-sum payment, the most common way car accident settlements are paid, is where you receive the entire agreed-upon amount in one go. This method is straightforward, and once you have the money, the case is typically considered closed.
The insurance company typically issues a check. Sometimes, if there are multiple injured parties, the lump-sum settlement might be divided amongst them based on their respective damages.
If you have unpaid medical bills, part of your lump-sum settlement might go directly to your medical providers. In other scenarios, if you were represented by an attorney, your attorney’s fees and any legal costs would be deducted, and you would get the remainder of the settlement proceeds.
With a structured settlement, rather than a single payment, you would receive smaller payments over a set period, whether that’s months or even years. This can be beneficial for tax purposes, or if you want a consistent income stream. An experienced attorney can advise you on which option is better suited for your situation and can negotiate the terms on your behalf.
Additionally, some settlements may come with stipulations, like confidentiality agreements. A skilled car accident attorney can help you navigate these terms, ensuring that you understand and are comfortable with the conditions attached to your settlement.
Can You Reject a Settlement Offer?
Absolutely. If you feel the insurance company’s offer is not fair, you can negotiate for a higher amount. Remember, insurance companies are in the business of paying out as little as possible. If negotiations stall, filing a lawsuit might be the next step.
A seasoned car accident attorney’s role is not just to advise you but also to empower you. The right car accident attorney will provide you with a clear picture of what a fair settlement looks like, based on their experience with similar cases and their knowledge of current laws and precedents. With this information, you can make an informed decision on whether to accept or reject an offer.
If negotiations break down and the offer on the table is not satisfactory, your attorney can take the case to court. A skilled Louisiana personal injury attorney will build a compelling case for compensation, gathering evidence, witnesses, and experts to ensure that your rights and interests are vigorously represented.
Let a New Orleans Car Accident Attorney from Dudley DeBosier Help You
Negotiating a car accident settlement in New Orleans without the help of an experienced car accident attorney can be complicated, unless you are familiar with establishing fault for a car accident in Louisiana, how comparative negligence can affect your settlement, the multiple ways a settlement can be paid out, and have the ability to negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company on your own.
But, because knowledge is power, and having someone in your corner who knows the ins and outs can make all the difference to your car accident settlement, it may be in your best interest to enlist the assistance of a skilled New Orleans car accident attorney, like those at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help. We offer a free consultation and charge no fee unless we win compensation for you.
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