Articles Posted in Car Accident

40-Email-06-24-19-pictureDetermining liability in any car accident is frequently a challenging endeavor. This is especially true if one of the vehicles is owned by a city, but a state employee was driving the vehicle. In one such case involving the City of DeRidder, Louisiana, numerous questions arose about who was the liable party after a car accident resulted in multiple injuries. 

Joseph Tatney was an inmate at the Vernon Parish Detention Center. Tatney was being transported as part of an Interagency Agreement between the State of Louisiana and the City of DeRidder, which required the City of DeRidder to provide vehicles to transport inmates to sites for labor. During this trip, Tatney injured his back and neck when the transportation van got into an automobile accident. The van was owned by the City of DeRidder and driven by a Louisiana state employee. 

Tatney first filed a lawsuit against the City of DeRidder, the sheriff of the Vernon Parish Detention Center, and the state employee driving the van at the time of the accident. He subsequently added the State of Louisiana into his claim. The City of DeRidder filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that under the terms of the agreement, the state was liable for its employees’ negligent acts. Neither the state or Tatney opposed the motion for summary judgment. Thus, the trial court granted the motion. 

retro-clock-1422611-1024x919If you are injured and think another party might be at fault, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. If you wait too long, your claim, and any chance of recovering damages could expire, leaving you with little recourse against the responsible party. In the law, this is referred to as prescription, and different claims have different time periods before they prescribe, i.e., expire. In Louisiana, the doctrine of prescription protects defendants from having to defend against stale claims by requiring plaintiffs to file suit in a court of competent jurisdiction and venue within a specified time period and to pursue that suit in a timely manner. There are additional rules determining what actions serve to interrupt the running of prescription, but generally, prescription begins to run from the day damage is sustained, La. C.C. art. 3492, and prescription can be interrupted by commencing an action against the other party in a court that has jurisdiction and where venue is proper. La. C.C. art. 3462. However, as with most everything in the law, there are some nuisances and exceptions to these rules.

The importance of proper and timely filing of a lawsuit is illustrated in Lee v. RTA, where a streetcar passenger was injured when the streetcar had to aggressively brake to avoid a car turning in front of it on Canal St. Although the plaintiff filed his claim before the prescriptive period ended, he filed the claim in First City Court, which lacks jurisdiction over the RTA as a political subdivision. Instead, the claim should have instead been filed in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court. The law states that when a claim is filed in an improper court, prescription is interrupted only by actual service of process within the prescriptive period. La. C.C. art. 3462. Service of process is procedure by which a party is informed of the lawsuit against them. In this case, the plaintiff’s claims had a prescriptive period of one year. By failing to properly serve the defendant within one year, and since his claim was not brought in a proper court, the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed with prejudice after being transferred to the proper court. This means that the plaintiff will have no opportunity to fix his mistakes and attempt to bring the claim again. The trial court’s dismissal was upheld on appeal. If he had originally filled his claim in the correct court, or made timely service on the defendant, his claims would have been able to proceed. This highlights the importance of not only prompt action in choosing an attorney when you have been injured, but also choosing an experienced and reputable firm. 

Additional Sources: Lee v. Regional Transit Authority of New Orleans

3-Email-05-14-1024x683In the legal world, establishing fault and determining liability is not always easy. In some situations, it may seem clear who is responsible for recovery, but in other cases the situation can become much more difficult than it initially seemed. This issue was explored after an automobile accident in Acadia Parish.

In the morning of December 16, 2011, Ronnie Myers was driving through heavy fog and headed north on Charlene Road. He came to a “T” intersection where Charlene Road met Prudhomme Road (Louisiana Highway 95) but the intersection’s stop sign was twisted and down so that Myers could not see it. Myers was also unfamiliar with the road, and resultantly drove his car across Prudhomme Road and into a ditch, causing injuries to himself and damage to his vehicle. On December 11, 2012, Myers filed a lawsuit in Fifteenth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Acadia against the Acadia Parish Police Jury (APPJ) and the State of Louisiana through the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), wanting personal injury and property damages. He claimed that APPJ and DOTD were responsible for the improper state of the stop sign at the intersection.

Nearly three years after Myers’s accident, APPJ and DOTD filed motions for summary judgment, asking for judgment as a matter of law rather than on the merits. A hearing was held on January 12, 2015, and the District Court granted the motions, finding that APPJ did not have custody and control of the stop sign and was not notified of the sign’s defective state. While DOTD was responsible for the stop sign, the District Court held that it also did not have notice of the sign’s problem. Both DOTD and APPJ were dismissed from the lawsuit. Myers appealed.

16-1024x768When car accidents happen, it seems natural that those who are injured are compensated by those who are at fault. Depending on the legal jurisdiction, the rules may differ surrounding how fault is assigned and how much recovery is permitted. These rules can be strict, such as no recovery if the injured person was even slightly at fault, or the party most at fault is liable for all damages. The rules can also be proportional, such as allocating recovery based on the percentage of fault each party contributed. This issue was explored in an appeal from an Orleans Parish lawsuit after a 2011 automobile accident.

On March 16, 2011, Hieu Phuong Hoang was driving on Chef Menteur Highway in eastern New Orleans and crashed into a garbage truck owned by Thornton Services, Inc. Injured from the collision, Hoang filed a lawsuit against the truck driver, Dwight K. Thornton, Jr. The jury ruled in favor of Hoang, finding that she was fifteen percent at fault for the collision and Thornton was eighty-five percent at fault. Hoang was awarded $754,000 in damages but this was reduced by fifteen percent (for the percentage which she was at fault), and she was left with a verdict of $640,900. Claims against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”) were dismissed.

Before judgment was signed on March 25, 2015, Hoang filed several motions: a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (“JNOV”), which is a claim that the jury did not follow proper instructions and their ruling was based on legally insufficient evidence; a Motion for Additur, which is a motion to evaluate damages or increase a jury award of damages found to be unreasonably low; and a Motion to Tax Costs, which is a motion to contest a claim for court costs. Hoang also filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss the remaining defendants, maintaining her claims against State Farm. With these motions, Hoang argued that the jury made a mistake when it found comparative fault, and the damages for pain and suffering and future loss of wages were too low. The Civil District Court for Orleans Parish denied the Motion for JNOV and the Motion for Additur. In response, Hoang appealed the dismissal of State Farm and the low award of damages.

50-Email-1024x683Sometimes it is easily apparent when one party is liable in a car accident, such as when the facts leave little room for dispute. However, it may not be as easy to determine the amount of damages the plaintiff should receive. How should pain and suffering be calculated? And how much of this pain and suffering is a result not of the accident but of natural course of aging or a preexisting condition? This issue of calculating damages was recently explored in a DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, lawsuit.

Following a three-vehicle accident, plaintiff, McLawrence Fuller, underwent a three-level lumbar fusion with instrumentation as a result of injuries and pain in his neck, lower back, and leg. However, at the time of the accident, Mr. Fuller was 70 years of age with pre-existing, asymptomatic, degenerative disc disease and congenital spinal stenosis. After treatment following the car accident, Mr. Fuller complained of pain and limitations to his mobility and ability to carry out day-to- day activities. Mr. Fuller tried to go as long as he could without having surgery, even after he had gotten a recommendation from several physicians to do so, but went through with it when he was no longer able to dress himself or participate in volunteer positions in his community.

 Mr. Fuller filed a tort action due to injuries on September 20, 2011. The defendants, D.L. Peterson Trust Company, it’s insurer National Union Fire Insurance of Pittsburgh, Adam Keys, and National Oil Well Varco all agreed to their liability. The only job for the jury as fact-finders was quantum, which is to calculate the amount of damages.

43-Email-1024x647When one is injured due to the negligence of another, it is reasonable to expect an award of damages. However, the plaintiff must first prove all the elements of negligence. Not only must a plaintiff prove the defendant had a duty of care which the defendant violated, but the plaintiff must also offer evidence that shows the defendant’s conduct was the factual and legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. For many cases, the causal connections can be difficult to prove and requires expert testimony. For these reasons, a good lawyer is essential for the successful outcome of a negligence suit.

Lloyd Richard was injured in Louisiana during an arrest for criminal charges when the police cruiser he was in backed into a ditch. Richard filed a lawsuit to seek recovery for his injuries. Richard testified that he was thrown forward into the bars of the vehicle, injuring his back and neck. Richard claims he told each officer he came in contact with that he was in need of medical attention. However, the officers that conducted Richards arrest testified otherwise.

The arresting officer testified that while he did back into a ditch there was no “forward and backward” or violent motions. He testified that he was driving “very slow” as he backed up from the street and entered the ditch. Furthermore, he contradicted Richard’s testimony claiming Richard did not communicate he had sustained neck and back injuries. Though Richard had a scratch underneath his eye, he offered conflicting testimony as to how he received the scratch.

image-for-post-70-from-email-5-14-19-1024x679The Louisiana Supreme Court has recognized that awarding damages for medical expenses without awarding pain and suffering damages, though seemingly inconsistent, is not invalid on its face. See Wainwright v. Fontenot, 774 So.2d 70 (La. 2000). Appellate courts afford juries great deference and disturb verdicts only when they are clearly and objectively unsupported by the evidence in the trial record. One such example of this can be seen in an auto accident case involving a “serial plaintiff.”

Joseph Wiltz was rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic by Maya Welch. Wiltz filed a petition in state court against Welch and her insurance company, State Farm, claiming he was injured in the accident. He sought damages for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering. The trial moved to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana by the defendants and the case proceeded to trial.

The defendants admitted Welch’s fault in the accident, leaving the main issue whether Welch’s negligence was the cause of Wiltz’s injuries. Discovery revealed that Wiltz was a “serial plaintiff” with pre-existing injuries that he failed to disclose to the doctors that treated him following the collision. Between 1991 and 2011, Wiltz had four different accidents and incidents that resulted in injuries to his neck, back, and shoulders. Furthermore, Wiltz told doctors that he’d never experienced back or neck pain previously and answered discovery in a similarly untruthful and incomplete manner. Even with the information concerning the pre-existing injuries, the jury still returned a verdict in favor of Wiltz; however, the jury awarded him compensation for past medical expenses only. Wiltz filed a motion for a new trial or an amendment to the judgment, contending the verdict amounted to an abuse of discretion by the jury. The district court denied the motion because Wiltz failed to prove he endured any compensable pain and suffering.

action-business-cargo-2449454-1024x683Christmas is usually a busy time for families, especially those traveling to visit loved ones. For many businesses it is also a time for increased sales and higher profits. For this reason, it is common for companies to set strict targets and deadlines for employees to meet in order to capitalize on the opportunity. Such deadlines, however, can be dangerous if they push employees beyond their capacities for safety.

On the night of December 25, 2008, Tammy Westbrook, an employee of Western Star Transportation, was driving a truck carrying plants belonging to Nurserymen, Inc. on Interstate 10 near Laplace, Louisiana. Westbrook collided with a GMC Yukon, the impact of which caused the GMC to strike the rear of a Lincoln sedan. The occupants of the vehicles suffered major injuries and a fatality. At the time of the accident, Westbrook had been driving for 33 the prior 36 hours. 

The victims of the accident filed a lawsuit for personal injuries and wrongful death against Westbrook, Westerm Star, and Nurserymen. After the jury concluded that Westbrook was not within the scope of a master-servant relationship with Nurserymen at the time of the accident, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded damages against Westbrook and Western Star. The plaintiffs appealed the judgment to Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

blur-car-drive-451590-1024x665Have you ever been in an accident where you were found at fault, but you know in your heart it wasn’t your fault? In this case, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants because the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence that the driver of the car, in which they were passengers,  was not at fault for the accident. The issue addressed by the Louisiana Court of Appeal in this case was the appropriate time for summary judgment.

A motion for summary judgment may only be granted when there is no genuine issue of material fact, and it is used to avoid the cost of a full-scale trial. Johnson v. Evan Hall Sugar Co-op, Inc, 836 So.2d 484 (La. Ct. App. 2002). Moreover, a motion for summary judgment is properly granted only when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the mover (i.e., the party moving for summary judgment) is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La. C.C.P. art. 966(B)(2).

In this case, Lachona Charles, Tranika Charles, and Qu’Von Charles (collectively “the Charles”) were passengers in Latrica Robinson’s (“Ms. Robinson”) car, when she entered the center lane of traffic through a gap between cars, colliding with John Guidry (“Mr. Guidry”). Mr. Guidry was making a delivery for Cintas Corporation (“Cintas”). The police were called, and Ms. Robinson was found to be at fault for failing to yield, although she was not issued a citation. See La. R.S. 32:123. The Charles family filed a lawsuit against Cintas for personal injuries sustained during the accident. Cintas moved for summary judgment providing that Ms. Robinson was at fault, regardless of whose version of events was accepted, because she failed to yield when entering the center lane. In support of its motion for summary judgment, Cintas submitted the deposition of the on-scene officer, excerpts from Mr. Guidry’s and Ms. Robinson’s depositions, and an aerial image of the intersection where the accident occurred. In response to the Cintas motion for summary judgment, the Charles family faxed their opposition memorandum, using essentially the same evidence Cintas used in their motion.

beauty-body-hands-56884-1024x683An automobile accident is not a lottery ticket. It is not an opportunity to take a negligent party to court and “sue their pants off” in an effort to win a hefty money judgment sufficient to pay for a bed-and-breakfast getaway in Natchitoches. But it should not leave the plaintiff in the lurch, either, without enough money to even cover medical bills. And sometimes, when you strive for one, you end up missing out on the other. One Louisiana couple learned the limits of revenue-generating potential for automobile accidents the hard way.

Eureka Ellis was driving up the onramp to the I-20 in East Monroe when she was sideswiped by Gregory Brown’s vehicle. Ellis also had her three children in the car with her. Brown apparently merged into Ellis’ lane prematurely. Brown did not deny he was at fault, but he asserted that the impact was minimal, reportedly asking after the collision if they even needed to call the police. The resultant “tap” of Brown’s vehicle left a few scratches on the driver’s side quarter panel of Ellis’ Charger; whether or not there was even a dent was a matter of dispute. When police arrived at the scene, none of the parties reported injuries, and no ticket was issued.

Despite the mild nature of the collision, 12 days later, Ellis and her children all went to see a chiropractor. This chiropractor, Dr. Holt, diagnosed them with neck and back pain. Over the course of the next three months, Dr. Holt saw Ms. Ellis and her three children twice a week, over 20 times each, billing them in excess of $15,000. The Ellises then filed a lawsuit against Brown and his insurer for general damages, special damages arising from the chiropractor visits, loss of consortium, and lost wages. Though the Trial Court denied a few of the claims, it determined that some damages were in order, and awarded the Ellis family a grand total of $7,692.50. This figure was far below their total claim requested and barely half of what they owed the chiropractor.