Articles Posted in Car Accident

a-guys-dream-1546422-1024x768When multiple auto insurance policies are involved after an auto accident it may be difficult to tell which one is controlling. When a mother’s car broke down she borrowed a car from a friend to take her children to daycare. While on the way to drop her kids off she accidentally rear-ended the car of another driver on Highway 139 in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. When the time came to determine whose car insurance was controlling a lawsuit was filed to resolve this question.

When Shannon Boyd’s Ford Taurus wouldn’t start, she borrowed Vicki Ellis’ Chrysler 300 to take her children to daycare and go to work. While one the way to daycare Boyd rear-ended Hugh and Janie Green’s Dodge Ram. While Boyd and her Taurus were insured by Safeway, Ellis and her Chrysler were insured by State Farm. After the accident State Farm paid $4,041.77 in property damages to the Greens and subsequently filed suit against Safeway for reimbursement.

The issue at trial was which insurance policy is primary. Both Safeway and State Farm filed motions for summary judgment alleging that the other was the primary policy. The Trial Court found that Safeway’s policy defined a “temporary substitute automobile” in a way that conflicted with the policy goals of La. R.S. 22:1296 which mandates that automobile insurance policies must extend to temporary substitute and rental vehicles. With this statutory context in mind, the Trial Court determined that Ellis’ Chrysler met the conditions of a “temporary substitute vehicle.” The Trial Court thus concluded that Safeway was the primary policy. Safeway appealed.

road-on-rear-view-mirror-1362231-1024x768When a driver is rear-ended, there is generally a presumption the rear driver is negligent. This is based on the principle that the following driver must maintain a prudent distance from the vehicle in front of them and concentrate on their speed as well as the traffic and general condition of the roadway. La. R.S. 32:81(A).This presumption of negligence when a driver rear-ends another can be overcome by showing that the driver in front was driving unpredictably and caused a sudden emergency which could not be anticipated by the rear driver. Cheairs v. State ex rel. Dept. of Transp. & Dev., 861 So.2d 536 (La. 2003).

In a recent case, the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals considered when the presumption could be overcome. This case involved a three-car accident in West Monroe, Louisiana. The accident occurred when Norma C. Alvarez merged onto the Interstate 20 after exiting the on-ramp. According to Officer Jacob May, who witnessed the accident, Alvarez wasn’t traveling as quickly as the other vehicles on the interstate and appeared “almost stopped” in the lane. Alvarez was rear-ended by a driver in the left lane of the interstate, Hazel Lee, and then Barbara Jewitt, the plaintiff, rear-ended Lee. Officer May believed that Alvarez’s slow speed caused the accident. Alvarez did not have a driver’s license and had been driving without a license for 15 years. At trial, Jewitt testified that at the time of the accident she was checking her mirrors as she was about to change lanes and when she looked ahead the car in front of her had stopped and she only had a few seconds to stop. Jewitt stated that it was impossible to avoid hitting the car in front of her.

The Trial Court found that Alvarez was 100% at fault for the damage to Jewitt’s car and Jewitt’s injuries, finding that there was nothing the plaintiff could do to avoid the accident. Alvarez appealed the finding and argued on appeal that the presumption of negligence against rear-ending drivers applies and that the accident only occurred because Lee and Jewitt were either not paying attention or were speeding.

horse-at-fence-1344364-1024x681Imagine going for a horseback ride to clear your head and take a time-out from the hectic everyday happenings of life. Now imagine that the relaxing ride comes abruptly to an end when both you and the horse are involved in a collision with an automobile. A similar situation occurred on Hano Road in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana when Taresa Graves and her horse were hit by a car driven by Andre Freeman. Aside from the injuries suffered during the accident, the real headache began for Ms. Graves once the trial began out of a lawsuit she filed against both Mr. Freeman and Safeway Insurance of Louisiana, the company having previously insured the car that Mr. Freeman was driving.

The trial court in Ms. Graves’ case determined that, because the car was not owned by Freeman and had not been insured by Safeway for years, Safeway was not liable for the damages that occurred as a result of the accident. Ms. Graves argued that although Safeway had not insured the car, the company was still liable to pay for the damage of the accident because Elaine Jackson (Freeman’s mother), had a separate policy which covered her as well as her relatives, with relatives being defined in the policy as a related person that lives on the same premises. Graves alleged that Freeman lived with his mother and was therefore under her Safeway policy, making Safeway partially liable.

During discovery, depositions of both Andre Freeman and his mother Ms. Jackson were taken. The crux of the legal issue, in this case, is that, on the day of the trial, neither Freeman nor Jackson appeared at the courtroom, despite having been subpoenaed by Safeway. The court sent Sheriff’s deputies to locate and retrieve Jackson and Freeman, but neither of the individuals could be found. Safeway then sought to offer the depositions as evidence in lieu of their testimony, and, over Ms. Graves’ objections, the trial court allowed the depositions to be submitted as evidence, citing the unavailability of Jackson and Freeman. The depositions stated that Freeman had not lived with his mother since he was twelve and that he had been living with elsewhere for some time. The trial court ruled that Freeman did not live with Jackson, and therefore Jackson’s policy with Safeway did not cover Freeman nor the car he was driving. Moreover, the court found Freeman 50% at fault for the accident, ruling in favor of Graves but dismissing the claim against Safeway.

burning-ambulance-1398173-1024x681We’ve all been in the situation where we’re sitting at a red light or approaching an intersection and all of a sudden we hear sirens and see flashing lights. Everyone knows to stop and yield to the oncoming ambulance. Sometimes, however, a driver might not yield for whatever reason. This is exactly what happened in this case, which involves an EMT who was injured on the job while riding in an ambulance.

Two volunteer firefighters with the Washington Parish Fire Department (WPFD) responded to a call in Varnado, Louisiana. When they arrived at the scene, they found a man lying on the ground and proceeded to provide CPR until an ambulance arrived. Once the ambulance arrived, the two firefighters loaded the man into the back of the ambulance and continued to tend to him, as is customary. The Defendant in the case agreed to drive the truck.

While en route to the hospital, the ambulance was struck in the right rear by a blue Honda at the intersection of Highway 21 and La. Highway 10. The ambulance slid and collided into another vehicle. The Plaintiff, who had been sitting in the back of the ambulance without a seatbelt, sustained injuries from being thrown around due to the force of the crash.

storm-over-barcelonetta-1463885-1024x679Automobile accidents can be terrifying experiences.  Severe automobile accidents that involve injuries can be truly devastating and life altering.  In the event one is injured in an automobile accident, he/she has several options available to him/her in obtaining compensation for his/her losses.  More specifically, one may have a claim against the other driver(s) who caused the automobile accident or have the ability to bring a claim against the other driver’s insurance company.  Depending on the circumstances of the automobile accident, one may also have the ability to bring a claim against his/her own insurance company for compensation.

An insurance company is required to act in good faith with any individual making a claim, regardless of whether he/she is a policyholder with said insurance company.  Generally, an insurance company has acted in bad faith if it fails to fulfill the obligations stipulated in the insurance policy language or if it fails to abide by the laws of the state where the claim has been filed.  Some examples of bad faith include but are not limited to: refusing to pay a claim owed; failing to timely pay a claim owed; requiring unreasonable unnecessary paperwork to process the claim filed; failing to deny a claim within a reasonable amount of time; and failing to explain the reasons(s) for why a claim is denied.  Consequently, having a great attorney who is competent in identifying bad faith can assist you pursuing a legal claim against the insurance company for its actions, while also assisting you with the original claim presented to the insurance company for the property damage and bodily injury you suffered in the automobile accident.

The following case out of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana is an example of an insurance company acting in bad faith and being legally penalized for doing so.  On May 20, 2010, the plaintiffs, Dedra and Sheddrick Griffin filed a petition for damages against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company as a result of an automobile accident that occurred on January 13, 2010.  On January 13, 2010, Jacob P. Savoy driving a 2001 Mitsubishi Spyder struck Mr. and Mrs. Griffin driving a 2000 Infiniti I30 from behind while traveling eastbound on U.S. Highway 190 in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The accident caused extensive property damage and personal injuries to Mr. and Mrs. Griffin.  More specifically, Mrs. Griffin, the driver of the Infiniti sustained injuries to her shoulder, neck, and chest wall, in addition to aggravating pre-existing injuries to her neck, back, and legs, while Mr. Griffin sustained injuries to his left knee, chest wall, and back.  Mr. and Mrs. Griffin were both treated by Dr. David Wyatt, an orthopedic surgeon.  At the time of the accident, Allstate Insurance Company insured Mr. Savoy with liability limits of $10,000.00/$20,000.00, while State Farm insured Mr. and Mrs. Griffin.

crash-1181707-1024x685After someone has been through six, separate car accidents, it might be difficult to keep track of which injuries and treating physicians stemmed from which accident. Nevertheless, if you find yourself before a court you must present a detailed and accurate record of everything. The following case, in which one Baton Rouge woman claimed that the Trial Court considered the wrong evidence in deciding her case, illustrates this point.

Linda Williams has had the bad luck of being involved in six car accidents in the last 40 years. Her most recent accident, a collision on Perkins Road in East Baton Rouge Parish in 2008, was the subject of a recent Court of Appeal decision. The initial trial began in 2009 with Williams bringing a lawsuit against her insurance company, Liberty Mutual. Williams asserted that her injuries from the 2008 crash were severe enough to warrant additional money damages under her insurance policy. However, as Williams had an extraordinarily unfortunate personal history of being injured in car accidents, the Trial Court was faced with the difficult task of determining which injuries were the products of the 2008 crash and which injuries were the lingering effects of Williams’s five prior accidents. Since even a single car accident can give rise to multiple injuries with multiple courses of treatment overseen by multiple doctors, the lawyers for both sides had plenty of opportunities to argue about which doctors were connected to the 2008 accident and thus, relevant to the case at hand.

At trial, the jury awarded $14,800 in damages to Williams for past medical expenses, the past and future physical pain and suffering, the past and future mental suffering and distress, and the past and future enjoyment of life. However, Williams felt that the Trial Court made some errors that reduced the amount of damages she received and so she appealed. In her appeal, Williams alleged that the Trial Court incorrectly admitted evidence on two instances that were related to her prior accidents and also improperly allowed Liberty Mutual to remove a juror based on race. The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, referring to the Trial Court’s record and hefty body of medical evidence therein, considered these issues in turn.

parking-lot-d-1234500-1024x587Parents love their children very much. It is always a difficult experience to involve a child in a lawsuit. Such an emotionally difficult experience can be soothed by having the best attorney possible. Losing a lawsuit on behalf of one’s child is a traumatic experience, especially after an accident. This is exactly what happened in a recent case of the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.

In January 2011, the Gaspards were leaving a Winn-Dixie store in Covington, Louisiana walking with their son in a baby carrier through a marked pedestrian zone. Suddenly, they were struck by a vehicle. In May 2011, they filed a lawsuit on behalf of their son against the driver of the vehicle, Anna Lewis; Safeway Insurance Company, the liability company that insured Lewis’ vehicle; and Geico General Insurance Company, the Gaspards’ uninsured or underinsured motorist carrier. Later, the Gaspards added Winn-Dixie Louisiana, Inc., Winn-Dixie Montgomery Leasing, LLC, and Gordon Konrad, the owner of the parking lot, and his insurers as additional defendants. The Gaspards alleged that these additional defendants had been negligent in the parking lot’s maintenance and design. The Gaspards further alleged that the Winn-Dixie and Konrad knew or should have known of the danger to pedestrians in the parking lot and had failed to take the appropriate measures to protect pedestrians.

In 2014, Winn-Dixie and Konrad filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the case should be thrown out because the Gaspards were unable to show a connection between the parking lot and their injury. Later, the Trial Court dismissed Gaspards’ claims were dismissed. The Gaspards appealed.

find-money-1182912-1024x768Louisiana law awards damages awarded for injuries caused by the intentional, negligent or reckless act of another. These damages are determined by the finder of fact – a jury or judge – after hearing the evidence presented at trial. Even if the factfinder finds that the defendant is at fault, sometimes it is not clear cut what type of damages should be awarded and what amount is proper. A recent case out of Livingston Parish demonstrates how courts in Louisiana allocate damages in personal injury cases.

Vandi McMurry was involved in a motor vehicle accident with James Commander, who was insured by Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company. The Trial Court awarded McMurry a $25,000 lump sum award in general and special damages. General and special damages are the most common types of damages awarded in personal injury cases. General damages are the natural result of the defendant’s wrongful actions. Special damages compensate an injured party for actual financial losses. McMurry appealed the judgment to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing the Trial Court erred in granting a lump sum and the award should have been higher.

In Louisiana, the factfinder has discretion when it awards damages because it can best evaluate witness credibility and examine the evidence. See La. C.C. art. 2324.1. A court of appeal will normally not a modify a trial court’s damage awards. See O’Connor v. Litchfield, 864 So.2d 234, 237 (La. Ct. App. 2003). A lump sum judgment generally awards all claimed damages. In Louisiana, a trial court is not required to itemize the damages and does not err by granting a lump sum award.

train-sign-1445304-683x1024When a driver fails to satisfy the standard of care, the driver’s negligence during an automobile accident may be considered in a lawsuit. The standard of care is the amount of caution that must be exercised by a person who is under a duty of care. A case out of Ouachita Parish demonstrates the special rules that a left-turning driver must follow and the presumption of negligence that attaches to a left-turning driver.

On the evening of November 11, 2011, while attempting to turn left, Cheryl Baker collided into Eloise Square’s vehicle at the intersection of Winnsboro Road and Highway 165 in Monroe, Louisiana. The traffic light was green in both directions. Baker’s vehicle was damaged across the front. Square’s vehicle was damaged along the front driver’s side.

On March 13, 2012, Baker filed a lawsuit against Square and her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance. On March 26, 2012, Square filed a lawsuit against Baker and her insurer, USAgencies. On May 12, 2012, these lawsuits were consolidated. On December 14, 2012, Square’s lawsuit was settled and dismissed.

us-highway-1-1631163-1024x683In recent years, many have reported on America’s crumbling infrastructure. Reports show roads, bridges, and dams in disrepair, and raise significant questions about whether governments are applying appropriate modern standards when it comes to our infrastructure. In a recent case, the plaintiffs alleged that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development contributed to the death of a teenager in failing to apply appropriate standards in the Highway 923 overlay project. In this case, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal discusses some of the evidentiary issues involved in establishing legal liability.

Two cousins, Weston Brown and Dustin Brown were traveling on Louisiana Highway 923 in Catahoula, Louisiana. Weston was fifteen years old at the time, and Dustin was seventeen. Dustin was driving. He passed a vehicle in the other lane before returning to his lane. He then saw a white car stopped in the middle of the road and tried to pass it in the other lane. Amanda Coleman was driving in the other lane and began to turn left. Dustin reacted and swerved to the left. His wheels hit the asphalt near the road’s shoulder. He tried to correct by swerving right. But he overcorrected. Dustin’s truck fell into a ditch, striking solid concrete. It flipped into the air, sending Weston Brown flying to his death.

All parties agreed that Dustin was driving at an excessive speed, but there was an issue of whether Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”) contributed to the accident by failing to apply appropriate and modern standards in maintaining Highway 923. Built in the 1950s, the highway uses 1948 standards. An overlay project was conducted on the highway in 1988, expanding the travel lanes and decreasing the width of the shoulders. While DODT contended that the 1948 standards were appropriate in conducting the overlay project, and no modern updates were needed, the Plaintiffs argued that the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials requires conformity with modern standards.