- Wade Visconte
SO, YOU’VE BEEN INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT.YOU MAY BE WONDERING, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Updated: Jun 7, 2021
YOU PROBABLY HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS, SUCH AS:
WHO CAN I BLAME FOR THIS FIASCO? NOT ME, RIGHT?
CAN I GET ANY MONEY?
HOW MUCH MONEY? LIKE OWN A SMALL ISLAND MONEY, VACATION IN PARIS, TEXAS MONEY? WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT HERE?
Here’s the answer: We don’t know.
Now you may not be expected such a straightforward interpretation from a lawyer. After all, you were in a fender bender, your case should be worth, what? Like $2,000,000,000.00 right? Well, unlike the fictional character Dr. Evil, we shoot you straight. Your case MAY be worth $2,000,000,000.00 BUT it may also be worth $20.00.
But WHY you ask? Well, here is the thing, much like life, car accident settlements are dependent on several things. One day you are on top, buying lobster and steak for your neighbors, the next day, you are walking to your closest Circle K to buy a Schlitz to drown your sorrows.
Here is what we CAN guarantee: We WILL figure it out together. Much like a weighted blanket, All American is here to guide you through the murky waters that is the Louisiana legal system, while making you feel safe, warm and slightly weighed down to reality.
Let us explain, case valuation depends on many things:
FIRST, WHO IS AT FAULT FOR CAUSING THE CAR ACCIDENT, NOT YOU RIGHT? WE’LL SEE ABOUT THAT:
This next statement may seem unfair BUT if you are completely at fault for causing a car accident, then you may not have a claim against the other driver and the other driver’s insurance company. I know. Crazy, right? But the law has this funny concept called personal responsibility that is quite a nuisance.
HOWEVER, if you are partially at fault, meaning you may have been distracted by dropping your drink in your lap, or checking out that cute cow in the field, then your recovery is reduced according to your comparative fault, a.k.a. how much you screwed up. For example, if you go to trial and are awarded $100,000.00, but you are found to have 50% “comparative fault,” then your award at trial is reduced to $50,000.00. In other words, did you run that stop sign trying to beat a massive line at Whataburger or were you simply minding your own business when this jerk fell out of the cosmos and hit you? [DISCLAIMER: You should probably tell your attorney the truth, even if you can’t admit it to yourself. Life tends to work out better when you are not in active denial.]
There is an exception. I know. Of course, there is an exception?! After all this kind of a “serious” article about the law. If you suffer injury, death, or loss because you were “partly at fault and partly as a result of the fault of an intentional tortfeasor” (the guy that fell out of the sky to hit you), then your damages recovered are not reduced due to your comparative negligence. La. Civil Code Art. 2323. And if you did happen to suffer death, we probably are not talking to you at this point. Psychics are too expensive to keep on regular payroll, and I’ve found they are only moderately effective at communicating with the dead. If you know of a good psychic, please let me know. I need some stock tips so I can retire (or at least take a vacation in Paris, Texas).
If you are not at fault, you may think you have nothing to worry about in terms of the value of your personal injury case. Think again! Ah, look at you, you read this far feeling justified in your delusions, and I’ve gone and had the poor etiquette to disabuse of them. Spoiler alert . . . just because it is not your fault does not mean you will get rich because you were in a car accident (Orleans Parish excluded – that’s an inside joke to other attorneys).
Here’s why: According to Louisiana comparative fault law, the percentage of fault of all persons causing or contributing to the injury, death, or loss might affect the amount you can recover, regardless of whether the person is a party to your lawsuit or a “nonparty,” and regardless of the person's “insolvency, ability to pay, immunity by statute, . . . or that the other person's identity is not known or reasonably ascertainable.” La. Civil Code Art. 2323, see we know what we are talking about! Whew! So, what we want to convey here is that a lot of bad things can happen.
For example, if you are rear ended by two drivers and have two separate impacts that injure you, your recovery could be reduced if one of the drivers leaves the scene and that “person’s identity is not known.” This is why it is best to drive only in a foreign country where laws don’t matter.
Another example, just in case you need some more examples of the calamity that might befall you for minding your own business and NOT causing an accident, if one of the two divers who rear-ends is “insolvent,” has no “ability to pay,” and has no insurance, then your recovery would still be reduced by that driver’s fault. Hypothetically, if you go to trial and are awarded $100,000.00, but each of the two drivers that rear end you are found to have 50% “comparative fault,” then your award at trial is reduced to $50,000.00 because one driver has no insurance and can’t pay. FYI this is why you see so many car insurance commercials. You want to help yourself and others? Get some freaking insurance. And to make a further point, if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you may be able to make a claim against your policy to try and get that extra $50,000. Now I’m going to be serious. Don’t be cheap when it comes to insurance and make sure you buy bodily injury uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
To repeat for those of you that were held back in school (I’m not a genius either), I strongly recommend that you make sure that you have “bodily injury” uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage TODAY for the highest limits you can afford, but never for less your liability limits. If you are not convinced that minimum coverage sucks, read the paragraphs above again.
SECOND, HOW BADLY ARE YOU INJURED?
This is one of those categories where you need utilize the tangible aspects of reality. Are you really hurt? Don’t lie if you are, don’t lie if you are not. Either way, be honest, and I don’t mean over optimistically honest. Just simple honesty (now sound like an orange juice commercial). We are realists here. The severity of your injuries is very important when it comes to determining the value of your car accident settlement. If you have “whiplash” injuries or “soft tissue” injuries, then that type of injury is not considered as severe as someone who suffers broken bones or a spinal disc injury. So, on a scale of “I sprained my thumb” to “Oops, I’m dead,” consider where you land. A herniated disc settlement amount is usually higher than a “soft tissue” settlement amount. The reason is that “soft tissue” injuries tend to heal over time (although they can linger indefinitely), but a herniated disc may require surgery, injections, and may cause pain and other serious neurological problems. So, the longer you have to treat usually costs more, see where we are going with this…
Moreover, where you live also affects the value of your personal injury claim (see earlier inside joke about Orleans Parish). Location, location, location, it’s always the case. For example, in the Shreveport Bossier area, the court of appeals recently ruled that a “soft tissue” injuries case is worth a minimum of $3,333.33 per month relative to “general damages” like pain in suffering, but in New Orleans, the same type of case may be worth $5,000.00 (or more) per month. Generally speaking, North Louisiana courts and juries tend to be more conservative than those in Central and South Louisiana. Now don’t move to New Orleans and “not cause an accident.” Knowledge is power and all, but please don’t abuse it!
Experienced personal injury lawyers probably can tell you the value of your case, or a low to high range your case may have for settlement purposes. Lawyers also can do “quantum” research for reported cases that had facts similar to your case. Quantum research (unlike quantum physics – geek joke) looks at your case and compares it to other forsaken souls who found themselves in equally unfortunate situations to see how much those other folks recovered. This type of analysis is highly technical, and fact driven. You need to hire a lawyer due to the simple fact that an experienced lawyer will know how to evaluate your case based on your injuries and the “risk” of trial. Plus, who wants to read a bunch of boring ole’ cases? For example, some judges tend to be much more conservative in awarding damages. We avoid those guys. Just kidding. It is illegal to judge shop. We are all about the law.
THIRD, YOUR MEDICAL BILLS ARE IMPORTANT
Seems like common sense; however, it is surprising how many people do not equate their medical billing as being important to substantiating their medical injuries. An insurance company also considers the amount of your medical bills when evaluating the value of your car accident case. Medical bills are considered “special” damages. For example, if you have $20,000.00 in medical bills, and there is one at fault driver with $15,000 liability limits, the at fault driver’s insurer will usually pay its limits for a full release of it and its insured driver. No, you can’t go shake down the insurance company for the rest. On the other hand, if you have $2,000.00 in medical bills, that same insurance company will probably take your case to trial rather than pay the $15,000.00 policy limits. I hope you are starting to understand why medical bills are important. Generally speaking, the higher the amount of your medical bills, the higher the settlement value if you are free from fault in causing an accident. So, the higher the bills, the higher the settlement, EUREKA! This general rule is based on the fact that serious injuries require incredibly expensive medical treatment. If you have 3 months of chiropractic treatment, the total bill may be $5,000-$8,000, but if you need a multiple level fusion surgery for your neck or back, the total bills may exceed $200,000.00. Hopefully, for the majority of you, this is not your first time hearing that a broken finger is worth slightly less in settlement than having half your head cut off and surviving.
You may also have a claim for other types of "special" damages like past lost wages and future loss of earning capacity. While surprising to some, you can only claim these special damages if you actually missed time from work or can’t work… Looking at you fender-bender guy with no injuries and six months of lost wage claims. These types of claims can be complicated and may require an accountant. Big surprise, any excuse to get math involved, really. If you have to take paid time off for treatment, you can recover for that use of that time. Your benefits are also part of your “damages.” So, if you actually have been forced to miss work or have been unable to work, this is “good news” for you!
However, it is important to remember that fools enter where angels fear to tread. We are really deep here at All American or maybe we’re just intentionally circumspect. Seriously, if you have a cash business or are paid cash wages and you have not paid income taxes, then you are opening the door to discovery of your income tax evasion by making a lost wages claim. I think we all know tax evasion is a “bad” thing; however, if you were on the fence, this one’s for you! Also, if any settlement is specified as being for lost wages, then you should consult an attorney as to whether or not you will owe taxes on the settlement.
These are only a few of the reasons why you need to hire a local personal injury lawyer who can tell you at the initial consultation what doctors you should treat with and what accountants you should consider hiring. Only a few, who are we kidding, there are A LOT of reasons but for those overconfident in their abilities. Just trust us because we know what we are talking about!
FOURTH, INSURANCE COMPANIES CONSIDER THE LENGTH OF TIME YOU TREAT
I am guessing the daily barrage of television advertising by personal injury attorneys is something you probably find about as appealing as undergoing a colonoscopy (unless you like that sort of thing). We are not here to judge what floats your boat. Side note, I recently went to an auto body shop to pick up my car and during the 15 minutes I was waiting I saw 18 attorney commercials. If I’m lying, then I’m dying. Snarky comments aside, there is a segment of the population in Louisiana that now believes a car accident case is worth a huge financial windfall. If you are one of those individuals but you have decent reading comprehension, I believe this article addresses why you might need to reconsider your expectations if you have a car accident. Regardless, in my opinion because of television advertising people still believe every accident is worth big bucks, even if they are not injured or have minor injuries.
Despite these arrogant rumors, I doubt you will find an attorney who can tell you that they know of a case where a client treats for a couple of weeks and then settles for six or seven figures (#sorrynotsorry). Generally speaking, if you are seriously injured, then you are going to require treatment for a longer period than someone who suffers “minor injuries” in a car accident. Remember how more treatment equals higher medical bills? If, for example, you fracture your hip in an accident and require a hip replacement surgery, you are going to be spending a significant amount of time undergoing treatment.
As long as you are suffering injury symptoms, it is in your best interest to continue treating. You should quit treating only after you and your doctor agree that you are ready for discharge. This echoes the sentiment above regarding being unabashedly truthful with yourself. Once you quit treating, the insurance adjuster will probably consider you to have “capped” your damages because adjusters think you are no longer injured if you quit treating. Yeah, they are sticklers for refusing to pay more for less.
Choosing the right personal injury lawyer for your case is a serious decision. By creating this informative article, you now know enough to be dangerous to yourself and others.
All joking aside, MY CLIENTS ALWAYS COME FIRST! All American Law Firm of LA, LLC is a small firm, and you will not be just another nameless client lost in the herd if you hire us. In other words, we want to help you if you’ve been injured in a car accident. So what are you waiting for? Don’t delay, call us today!