Lake Charles Car Accident Lawyers
Serving All of the Lake Charles Metropolitan Area
Far too many car accidents occur due to the careless, reckless, or negligent mistakes of others. If you were involved in an accident, or if your loved one was killed in an auto collision, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Our Lake Charles car accident lawyers can help.
At Hinch & Associates PLC, we represent car accident victims throughout the Lake Charles Metropolitan Area, as well as the surviving family members of those wrongfully killed. We understand the immense impact a car accident can have on nearly every aspect of your life—and we are prepared to fight for the maximum compensation you are owed.
When Does Negligence Lead to Car Accidents?
Like most personal injury cases, car accident claims in Louisiana generally hinge on negligence; in other words, you will most likely need to prove that another person or party acted negligently and that this negligence led to an accident which caused you measurable damages. Examples of “measurable damages” include medical bills, lost wages, and even pain and suffering.
So, how can you tell if someone else’s negligence led to your accident?
Essentially, any time another person fails to follow traffic laws or acts in a careless, reckless, or unsafe manner while operating a motor vehicle, he or she may be considered “negligent.” If such actions led to an accident and/or your injuries, you can hold the responsible person/party liable.
Some common examples of how negligence can lead to car accidents include:
- Cell phone use (including texting) while driving
- Drunk and/or drugged driving
- Falling asleep at the wheel/fatigued driving
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Making unsafe turns
- Engaging in road rage, street racing, or other reckless driving behavior
- Unsafe or illegal lane changes/passing
- Defective automobile parts
- Dangerous/defective road design or construction
If you were involved in an accident caused by any of the above or similar situations, we encourage you to reach out to our Lake Charles car accident lawyers as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options.
Common Car Accident Injuries
A car accident is a devastating experience that can cause damage to nearly every part of the body. Even low-speed collisions can sometimes cause catastrophic injuries depending on the point of impact and the size and weight of the involved vehicles. Since some car accident injuries can have delayed symptoms masked by the adrenaline rush of the crash, it is crucial that victims seek a full medical evaluation within 24 hours of a crash to protect their health.
Some of the most common injuries caused by car accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Burn injuries
- Cuts and scrapes
- Broken bones
- Amputation / limb loss
- Cracked & broken ribs
- Neck and back injuries
What to Do After a Car Accident in Lake Charles
Being involved in a car accident is an undeniably stressful situation that can fluster even the most calm and collected individuals. While you may be feeling shaken up, it is crucial you remain mindful of your words and actions in the immediate aftermath as they can directly influence your ability to recover compensation through a subsequent insurance claim or lawsuit.
After a collision, be sure to do the following:
- Stay at the scene: Fleeing the scene of a car accident is a crime in the state of Louisiana and will make you ineligible to recover any compensation even if the other driver was at fault. Always pull over and render aid to any injured parties. If anyone appears seriously injured or is unresponsive, call for an ambulance immediately.
- Call the police: Louisiana law requires motorists involved in a crash to report the crash to the local police department whenever an injury or death occurs, or if the crash caused more than $500 in damage to property. Likewise, most auto insurance policies require you to call the police after any accident. Getting the police involved is not only required, but it can be beneficial to your personal injury case. The police will help you to control the accident scene, assess the damage, take insurance and personal information from all involved parties, and question any witnesses.
- Collect evidence: Your smartphone is your greatest asset at the scene of an accident. Get detailed photographic or video evidence of the damage to your vehicle, damage to the other involved vehicles, paint from other vehicles on your car, traffic patterns and signs, weather conditions, and any other relevant details that help explain what happened. If you can, get photographs of any injuries you or your passengers have suffered before they are treated.
- Do not discuss the crash: Remember, everything you say at the accident scene can potentially be used against you. As such, it is important you do not discuss the details of the crash with anyone but the police. Stick to the facts, tell the truth, but avoid making any unsure or speculative statements. Do not apologize to the other involved motorists. While it may seem innocent, even a simple "I'm sorry" can be seen as an admission of fault and can cause you to be held liable before an investigation has been performed.
- Seek medical attention: As soon as the police clear you to leave, see a doctor immediately to diagnose, treat, and document your injuries. Tell them you involved in a crash as well as any aches and pains you may be experiencing. Follow their treatment instructions carefully and continue to document your symptoms after.
- Get in touch with an attorney: Before you speak with an insurance adjuster, make sure you review your situation with an attorney so you can fully understand your legal rights and determine the most appropriate course of action. Insurance companies ultimately do not have your best interests at heart and will search for any way to limit, dispute, or even deny your claim. An attorney skilled in handling Lake Charles car accident cases can help protect you from mistreatment and maximize your chances of securing the full damages you are owed.
Understanding Louisiana Car Accident Laws
Louisiana follows what is known as “pure comparative negligence” in car accident claims. Under this rule, your total recovery may be reduced if you are found by a jury to be partially at fault for the accident. In other words, if a jury determines you were 10% to blame, your total reward will be reduced by 10%.
Furthermore, the state of Louisiana imposes a one-year statute of limitations on most car accident claims. This means you have one year from the date of the accident to bring your claim (with some exceptions).
It is always in your best interests to discuss your legal rights with an experienced personal injury attorney. Hinch & Associates PLC can help guide you through the legal process and advocate for your best interests. Our legal team truly cares about our clients; we are prepared to go above and beyond in our efforts to secure maximum compensation on your behalf.
Schedule your free consultation with Hinch & Associates PLC today by calling (337) 222-3434.
Louisiana Car Accident FAQ
How much is my car accident claim worth?
It is impossible for your attorney to predict how much your car accident claim will be worth due to the fact that every car accident case is different. With that being said, factors that will influence the value of your car accident claim include the amount of available insurance coverage, the extent and severity of your injuries, the strength of the evidence proving the other driver's fault, and the quality of your legal representation.
Is there a limit to what compensation I can recover?
No. While many other states limit the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover after a motor vehicle accident, Louisiana has no caps on car accident damages. The only exception to this involves claims that are brought in small claims court, which must be valued at less than $3,000.
How long do I have to file a car accident claim?
Under Louisiana Civil Code (CC) Article 3492, car accident lawsuits in Louisiana must be filed within one year of the date of the accident. This deadline applies to both personal injury claims as well as property damage claims. Wrongful death claims related to car accidents must be filed by surviving family members within one year of the deceased person's death. If this legal deadline expires and you have not yet filed a claim, you will essentially lose your right to take legal action and will be unable to recover compensation for your injuries.
Do I really need an attorney after a car accident?
Most likely, yes. You may be able to get away with handling your own car accident claim with your insurance if your collision resulted in little more than minor bruises and cosmetic damage to your vehicle. However, it is in your best interests to hire an attorney if any of the following apply to your situation:
- Anyone involved was severely injured or killed
- Your injuries force you to miss work
- The insurance company is delaying or disputing your claim
- The other driver does not have insurance
- You were a victim of a hit and run
- You were hit by a drunk driver
- You for any reason do not feel comfortable handling your own claim
If I hire a car accident lawyer, does that mean I will have to go to court?
Not necessarily. While it is impossible to predict whether or not your case will ultimately go to trial, most auto accident cases end up being resolved through out-of-court negotiations. You will only need to go to court if these efforts fail to yield a settlement between you and the involved insurance company. This can happen if the insurance company does not offer you a fair amount or if there is a disagreement over who was at fault for the accident.
What happens if the driver that hit me doesn't have insurance?
Unfortunately, not all drivers follow Louisiana's mandatory auto insurance coverage laws. If you were hit by a driver that does not have insurance, or if you were the victim of a hit and run accident, you may still be able to pursue compensation under your own insurance policy if you have elected to purchase uninsured motorist coverage. Louisiana law requires every auto insurance policy to include uninsured motorist coverage unless the policyholder opts out of this coverage in writing.
I was hit while driving without insurance. What are my options?
Unfortunately, your options are very limited. As a matter of public policy to dissuade people from driving without insurance, Louisiana has a "No Pay, No Play" law which prevents uninsured drivers from recovering a certain amount of damages if they are hit by a negligent driver. Uninsured motorists in Louisiana may not recover any compensation for the first $15,000 of bodily injury damages or the first $25,000 in property damage, with limited exceptions.
Exceptions to the "No Pay, No Play" law in Louisiana include:
- Injuries to non-owner passengers
- Cars hit while parked legally
- Accidents caused by out-of-state drivers whose state did not require liability insurance at the time of the accident
- Victims of drunk driving accidents
- Victims of hit-and-run accidents
- The at-fault driver intentionally caused the accident
The insurance company has already offered me a settlement. Should I accept?
No. Do not accept any settlement offer from the insurance company until you have had a chance to discuss your situation with a skilled attorney. Many initial settlement offers are made with the goal of resolving your case as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Insurance companies know that many accident victims may be desperate for financial relief and will be willing to accept a low settlement. Your attorney will be able to evaluate your case and pursue a sum that fully compensates you for your injuries.