This article looks at a few key Louisiana laws related to car accident claims and settlements, including time limits for filing a lawsuit, and how your claim might be affected if you’re found to be partially at fault for causing the accident. Read on for the details. (Note: If you’re looking for more in-depth information on car accident settlements and valuing a claim, visit our Car Accident Settlements section.)
Like every state, Louisiana has enacted laws that limit the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after suffering harm. These laws are usually called “statutes of limitations,” though Louisiana refers to them as “liberative prescriptions.” Different kinds of cases have different time limits. Louisiana has some of the shortest time limits for filing a civil claim. Here are the relevant deadlines you’ll likely face if you’re thinking about file a lawsuit over a car accident in Louisiana:
These time limits pertain to the filing of a lawsuit after a car accident -- they have no bearing on filing an insurance claim. However, you should make sure that any insurance claim is filed well before these deadlines for filing a lawsuit expire. If negotiations do not get you the result you want, you’ll want to have plenty of time to be able to file a personal injury lawsuit in court. To protect your rights (and to make sure you have leverage in settlement negotiations), you should file your insurance claim as soon as possible after an accident.
You should know that if your car accident involved the government in any way (a city bus rear-ended you, or the accident happened on government property, for example) you’ll need to follow a different set of rules in filing a claim or suit. One of the government’s advantages is short claim filing deadlines, so you have to be careful about getting in your paperwork as quickly as possible. Learn more about claims against the government in Accidents Involving the Government: Claim Basics (link takes you to our companion site, www.personalinjurylawyer.com).
“Comparative fault” refers to the situation in which more than one party is at-fault for a car accident. In Louisiana, you can recover compensation from any other at-fault party, regardless of the degree of your own fault. However, the percentage of your own fault will reduce the amount that you can recover. In legalese, this means Louisiana is a “pure comparative negligence” state.
Of course, this law binds Louisiana judges and juries in a formal lawsuit (if you get to that stage of dispute), but any insurance claim adjuster will also consider these fault rules when evaluating your case, because adjusters often try to anticipate what would happen should the dispute go to court. Also remember that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claim adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.
An example will help explain how Louisiana’s comparative fault rules work in real life. Let’s say that another driver swerves into your lane and sideswipes you while you are driving a few miles over the speed limit. After a civil trial, the jury determines that the other driver is 80% at fault, but that because you were speeding you are also 20% at fault for the accident. For the ease of math, we’ll say that your total damages are $10,000 (including property damage, medical bills, lost work, etc.). Under Louisiana’s comparative fault rules, you are entitled to recover $8,000 from the other driver (your $10,000 damages less your own 20% liability).
Louisiana laws on car insurance may also come into play after a car accident. For everything you need to know about car insurance in Louisiana -- including the minimum amounts of coverage required for registered vehicles in operation in the state -- check out our companion article Car Insurance Laws in Louisiana.