When you’ve been involved in an accident or had a loved one taken unexpectedly, you’re understandably dealing with a lot of physical and emotional pain. It can be overwhelming to add the burden of filing a lawsuit, especially when you’re in the dark about how Louisiana personal injury laws work.
Below, we walk through a few of the most relevant laws that pertain to personal injuries and wrongful deaths. We hope the knowledge enables you to take better control of your situation as you start on the path to seeking justice.
4 Louisiana Personal Injury Laws
1. Liability For Acts Causing Damages
Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315, Liability for Acts Causing Damages, mandates that if someone harms you or your property, you have the right to be compensated for that harm. The person or entity responsible for causing the harm must repair it and return you to your pre-injury state as best as they can.
Some scenarios where this law could come into play:
- If someone runs over your motorcycle, they must pay to repair it.
- If a commercial vehicle damages your home’s driveway, the company must fix it or compensate you for that damage.
- If someone injures you in an auto accident, they must not only cover the costs of repairing your vehicle but also your medical bills. If the injury is serious and prevents you from working, they are liable for your loss of function, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life caused by your injuries. In addition, they are responsible for covering your lost wages and potentially your lost earning capacity beyond that point.
What do we mean by “lost earning capacity?” Let’s say you’re a refinery worker who’s planned out your career path. You’ve recently secured your role as a first-class welder, and you’re well on your way to becoming a supervisor and a foreman after that.
Each promotion presents higher earning potential and greater benefits for you and your family. But an unexpected, serious injury could take all those plans off the table. As a result, the person at fault may be on the line for the earnings you likely would have made over time—your earning capacity.
The same logic applies to other professions as well. For example, assume you’re a new surgeon at a hospital. You’ve only been working for two years, so you still have a mountain of debt from medical school. You plan to pay off your school loans as you gain experience and start earning more.
A truck driver crashes into your car, severely injuring most of your body and leaving your hands irreparably damaged. While you may still be able to practice medicine as a traditional doctor, your dreams of being a skilled surgeon in the operating room are gone—along with the earning capacity associated with that higher-paying role. Should they be deemed responsible, the truck driver and their employer are responsible for covering your:
- Short- and long-term medical expenses
- Vehicular repair or replacement costs
- Lost earning capacity
Understanding Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages
The above examples involve economic damages—line items that can be easily calculated by reviewing documentation such as hospital bills and pay stubs. But personal injury lawsuits also consider non-economic damages—sometimes called human damages—which include aspects such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other intangibles that require judgment and empathy to appropriately compensate the injured party.
It’s easy enough to figure out how much your medical treatments will cost in dollars, but what’s the mental cost of having to endure those treatments? Serious injuries often require numerous doctor visits, multiple surgeries, and a major (usually inconvenient) shift in daily habits.
The time and mental anguish involved in this new reality is difficult to put a number on. If your case goes to trial, it’s the jury’s job to decide on a fair and reasonable number based on your specific circumstances.
2. Survival Action
Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.1, Survival Action, dictates that, should an injured party die prior to being compensated for their injury, the party’s surviving family members have the right to seek that compensation within one year of the injured party’s death.
There are three important aspects to note about this code’s validity:
- The death of the injured party does not have to be related to the initial injury.
- The injured party does not have to have filed a lawsuit before their death.
- Family members do not have to be blood related—the code allows for relation by adoption.
However, the code does dictate the priority order of those who can claim the right to seek compensation, which is as follows:
- Spouse and children
So if the injured party—let’s call him Joe—dies and leaves behind a spouse, a father, and two siblings, the spouse would be given priority for a claim.
Or, if Joe has no spouse and leaves behind three children, two parents, and two siblings, the three children would be given the right to claim compensation. Whatever the amount recovered, it would be split equally among all who make the claim. In this case, if all three children seek to claim compensation, each child would receive one-third of the payout.
Absent a spouse, children, and parents, Joe’s siblings may make a claim in relation to Joe’s injury.
3. Wrongful Death Action
In the unfortunate event of a loved one’s death, Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.2, Wrongful Death Action, dictates that family members have the right to claim compensation for their loss in the same priority order as that outlined for the above survival action.
But the wrongful death action has distinctions in three areas in particular:
- Income and other economic damages. This code considers the deceased’s total income over their projected work life minus any amount spent for their personal consumption. The type of work makes a difference here—a welder may retire at 60 while a lawyer often works well past that age. Other economic aspects include, for example, the cost of hiring someone for household services the deceased performed such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the house.
- Non-economic damages. The focus of this code is on the suffering of the surviving party rather than the deceased, so there is consideration for aspects such as the loss of love and affection, and parental guidance and emotional support.
- Payout. Unlike with the survival action, compensation is not always doled out equally. Non-economic damages often differ between surviving parties—one sibling may be more impacted than another, for example. The jury will determine how compensation should be split among those making claims.
4. Comparative Fault
Not all accidents can be wholly attributed to a single person or entity. So Louisiana personal injury cases abide by Civil Code Article 2323, Comparative Fault, which allows for multiple parties to have varying degrees or percentages of fault—including the injured party.
Comparative fault dictates that at-fault parties do not:
- …have to be directly involved in the event
- …have to be able to pay
- …have to be known
These aspects can sometimes add frustration and complexity to cases. For example, in the case of a car accident, you may be considered partially at fault if you were speeding, even though the defendant ran a red light. If a jury awards a total compensation of $100,000 but finds that you are 25% responsible for the accident, you would receive that amount reduced by 25%, or $75,000.
In a case where you have no fault but there are multiple defendants, the jury will evaluate each defendant’s impact on the injury and assign appropriate percentages. Also, certain cases may have what’s called an empty chair, where the jury assigns some level of fault to a party that isn’t actually a defendant—say a motorist who played a part in an accident but couldn’t be identified.
3 Common Mistakes In Filing A Louisiana Personal Injury Lawsuit
There’s a clear right and wrong way to file personal injury lawsuits in Louisiana. To ensure you file yours correctly, be sure you’re aware of the common mistakes people make below.
1. Not knowing the time limitation associated with personal injury lawsuits.
For the vast majority of personal injury cases, the statute of limitations (prescription) for filing a lawsuit in Louisiana is one year. One common exception to this rule is when a case has an unknown defendant. For example, say you’re involved in a multi-car accident but the first driver in the chain drives off. You identify the driver three months later. The statute of limitations then starts from that point of identification.
2. Not suing the right people.
Guesswork isn’t a good approach with legal matters. That’s why it’s key to get names, addresses, and contact information. Without the right name, you won’t be suing the person who injured you, and you’ll have no case. Without the right address, you won’t be able to properly serve the notice of your lawsuit, which will stall your case.
3. Not giving fair, clear notice of your claim.
Did you know that in Louisiana you can’t put a dollar amount in your lawsuit? You can ask the jury for an amount during trial, but you can’t include it in your lawsuit. What you must include is a clear description of what you’re claiming compensation for—and you must also notify the defendant in a fair manner .
How To Choose An Attorney For Louisiana Personal Injury Lawsuits
It’s important to choose the right attorney so your case is handled properly and doesn’t end up collecting dust on someone’s desk. Here’s what you should look for:
- Experience in the type of case you have, such as a truck accident or offshore incident.
- Willingness to go to trial, as firms ready for the courtroom typically command better compensation at trial or in pre-trial settlements.
- History of big wins, as firms with larger recoveries know how to properly handle complexity. Defendants are also typically more likely to settle earlier.
- Comfort and good rapport with the lawyer handling your case, as you’ll be working together closely for some time.
Nobody Knows Louisiana Personal Injury Laws Like Broussard Injury Lawyers
For 30 years, Broussard Injury Lawyers has been fighting the good fight in Louisiana. We’ve handled personal injury cases large and small. We’ve also argued on both the defense and plaintiff sides of the table, so we know exactly how the defense operates and the tactics they use to try and give your case the runaround.
But two of our core values are accountability and speed. We stay on top of your case and keep it moving toward a win as quickly as possible—regardless of what curveballs the defense tries to throw.
We can recite Louisiana personal injury laws in our sleep. So if you’re ready to file your lawsuit—or just want to learn more about how we can help you and your family—reach out to us here.