Articles Posted in Car Accident

wrecked-1306594-1024x683Generally, when you have a car accident it is a fender bender, and it is clear to the police and the court what events took place. However, in some situations, the evidence can support different versions, and the parties do not agree on what occurred. Typically, when there are conflicting stories in a case, it is up to a fact finder to determine which version is the “truth.” A fact finder may be a judge or a jury. However, when the trial court’s determination of fact is appealed, the Louisiana Supreme Court has established a two-part test to determine if the trial courts finding was correct or must be overturned. First, the Louisiana Appellate Court must make the determination after reviewing if a reasonable factual basis exists for the finding of the trial court; second, the Louisiana Appellate Court must determine if the record establishes that the finding of the trial court is clearly wrong (manifestly erroneous). Purvis v. Grant Par. Sch. Bd., 144 So. 3d (La. 2014). In this case, the Louisiana Court of Appeals had to implement the above two-part test to determine if the trial courts accepted version of the accident was correct.

In 2013, the Plaintiff, Aisha Brown, and one of the Defendants, Kevin Fogg, were driving on Elysian Fields Ave. (“Elysian”) and Gentilly Boulevard (“Gentilly”) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ms. Brown contends that she was hit by Mr. Fogg while her daughter and her friend’s daughter were in the vehicle, leading her and her friend to sue Mr. Fogg, his employer, and his employer’s insurance, Travelers Insurance Company (“Travelers”).

At trial, Ms. Brown testified that she was traveling on Elysian, turned right onto Gentilly, and after merging into the left lane was struck in the rear passenger door by Mr. Fogg’s vehicle. Her testimony at trial differed from what she claimed occurred in her petition and discovery response, in which she alleged that the accident occurred when she was traveling on Elysian at Gentilly when Mr. Fogg rear-ended her. According to Mr. Fogg, at the time of the accident he was traveling in the right lane of Elysian, heading to perform a work-related inspection, and as he approached Gentilly, Ms. Brown attempted to turn right in front of him from the center lane of travel, causing the collision.

trucking-pics-1619675-1024x765You never know when a leisurely drive can turn into a lengthy lawsuit. Larry Dragna was on a drive in November, 2011, when his vehicle was hit by a driver for A&Z Transportation. KLLM Logistics hired A&Z to transport a freight load from Louisiana to Michigan. Before hiring A&Z, KLLM followed its internal selection policy by reviewing A&Z on a transportation industry review website, which showed that three of A&Z’s scores were at a point that indicated problems in certain categories. Although the indicators showed instances of unsafe driving, fatigued driving, and maintenance issues, there were no federal regulations that advised KLLM not to hire companies with scores like A&Z. KLLM, however, had an internal policy to not hire carriers with three troublesome scores until it had discussed the scores internally or with the carrier. There is no evidence if whether KLLM followed this policy when they hired A&Z.

The Dragnas sued KLLM, claiming that KLLM was liable under the theories of joint venture, vicarious liability, and negligent hiring of an independent contractor. The district court for the Middle District of Louisiana entered summary judgment in favor of KLLM on all three claims and the Dragnas appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided this case.

Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine dispute to any material fact in the case, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The court in this case first applied this requirement to the issue of joint venture liability, finding that the Dragnas’ evidence did not create a genuine dispute of material fact about a joint venture between KLLM and A&Z. Under Louisiana law, there are certain requirements that must be met in order for there to be a joint venture. There must be contributions between two or more persons in determinate proportions, a joint effort between the parties, a sharing of profits, and a mutual risk of losses. See Cajun Elec. Power Coop., Inc. v. McNamara, 452 So. 2d 212, 215 (La. Ct. App. 1984). Those requirements were not met, as A&Z used its own resources in transporting the load, KLLM placed all of the risk of loss on A&Z, A&Z did not share in any profits made, but was paid upon completion of performance, and A&Z alone determined how to move the load. Summary judgment, was, therefore proper in regards to the first issue of joint venture liability.

horse-1392212-1024x863While there are many steps that can be taken to prevent road accidents, accidents still happen. When accidents occur, we are left to determine who is at fault. For many people, automobile insurance is the only lifeline to help them recover from the accident. However, to automobile insurers, the question of who is at fault is incredibly important. Is there ever truly one party who is 100% at fault for a crash? How is a crash handled if it involves unconventional modes of transportation? Can someone be at fault if they are not legally negligible? These issues were explored in a case brought to the State of Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

In February 2012 on Dave Douglas Road in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, Cyril Prejean and Jessyca Steward were riding Prejean’s horse Mississippi. At approximately 6:25pm, Prejean and Steward were hit by a GMC Yukon driven by the defendant, Russell Horton. Cyril and Steward did not receive serious injuries, however, Mississippi died from a gunshot wound to ease his suffering from injuries sustained in the crash. Horton was insured by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance. Prejean and Steward filed a lawsuit against Horton in November 2012. Following a trial in September 2014, the trial court found Horton was 100% at fault for the accident and awarded Prejean $17,969.50 in total damages and Steward $6,962 in total damages.

Horton and Statement appealed this decision citing that Prejean should have outfitted Mississippi with lights as required by Louisiana law and therefore Prejean should be 100% at fault for the accident. See  La.R.S. 32:53, La.R.S. 32:301, and La.R.S. 32:124.

girls-playing-1564125-1024x768What happens when a plaintiff is injured, and damages are denied? How can a plaintiff prove they suffered injuries from an accident? According to Louisiana law, a plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his or her damages were the result of an injury caused by the defendant. Wainwright v. Fontenot, 74 So.2d 70, 77 (La. 2000).  The following Louisiana Fifth Circuit case demonstrates the plaintiff’s burden of proof needed for a Louisiana court to award damages.  

On March 5, 2013, Regina, and her minor children, Darren and Darinesha were traveling northward in the center lane of Williams Boulevard when their car was sideswiped by a car driven by Mr. Hashim on Williams Boulevard in Jefferson Parish. The airbags in both cars failed to deploy, and the cars only sustained minor headlight and paint damage. The plaintiffs, Regina Tezeno, and her minor children, Darren and Darinesha Tezeno filed a lawsuit against Mr. Joel Hashim and his insurer.  

The district court attributed 100% fault to Mr. Hashim and awarded Regina Tezeno special damages of $1,035.00 and general damages of $4,500.00. Yet, the trial court dismissed the award claims to her minor children with prejudice. The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s refusal to award damages to the children.

rack-of-tires-1187131-1024x768Caveat Emptor. This is a common consumer warning, more easily recognized in English as “Buyer Beware.” But what if a defective product wasn’t actually bought, but given away for free? Monroe resident Jason Falcon faced this issue. In April 2012, Falcon called several local tire stores looking for a new tire for his pickup truck. He spoke to the manager of Ink’s Firestone (“Firestone”) of Monroe, Emmett “Ink” Cobb, who said he had a tire meeting Falcon’s specifications in stock. However, when Falcon arrived at Firestone to purchase the tire, Cobb said he did not have a new tire in the correct size available. Instead, Cobb invited Falcon to select a used tire from one of the piles outside the store for free. Falcon declined Cobb’s offer to mount the tire for $8.00 because Falcon, a mechanic at a local car dealership, planned to do it himself.

A few days after he installed the used tire, Falcon and his fiancee were returning from a trip to Baton Rouge when the tread came off the replacement tire. The tread separation caused Falcon to lose control of his truck, ultimately steering the vehicle into the median where it flipped over, landing upright. Falcon wasn’t injured, but his fiancee sustained minor injuries. The truck, damaged significantly, was a total loss

After the accident, Falcon filed a lawsuit against Firestone claiming that the defective tire caused the crash. The trial court rejected Falcon’s claim, reasoning that the tire could not have been defective because Falcon, as a professional mechanic, would have recognized the defective condition when installing the tire on his truck. Falcon appealed this judgment, claiming the trial court made three errors:  first, in deciding that the tire was not defective; second, in holding that Firestone was not negligent; and third, in finding that there was no sale of the tire in question from Firestone to Falcon.

crashed-car-1308788-1024x768A party to a lawsuit may wish to appeal a court’s decision that they find unfavorable. But under Louisiana law, in most situations only final judgments can give the Court of Appeal jurisdiction to hear the case.

In November of 2012, Jonathan Vince was the driver of a car in St. James Parish. Vince’s car crashed into a car driven by another person, Dale Koontz. Vince filed a lawsuit alleging that Koontz’s negligent actions caused the accident, which resulted in significant personal injury. Koontz denied the allegations and asserted that the collision was the sole responsibility of Vince or, that Vince’s driving was the reason for the accident. Koontz then filed a counter lawsuit within the lawsuit, a reconventional demand under La. C.C.P. art. 1060 alleging that Vince’s negligence caused the wreck. A reconventional demand is a claim filed against the plaintiff by the defendant in the same action.

At the trial, the parties agreed that Koontz’s reconventional demand would be decided by a judge should the jury find that Vince was liable for the accident. The jury returned a verdict in Koontz’s favor, determining that although Koontz was negligent, his negligence wasn’t the proximate cause of the car accident. The trial judge dismissed Vince’s complaint and deferred the reconventional demand ruling. Vince filed a motion seeking to get a new trial. He argued that the form used by the jury  to determined Koontz negligence was flawed as a matter of law. The trial judge agreed, finding the jury interrogatories were improperly written. Though he denied Vince’s motion for a JNOV, the judge granted a new trial.

that-hurt-1450455-1024x739Insurance policies can be varied, complex, and at times unintelligible.  Policies are generally purchased for a time of need. Yet in many cases, the insurance company worsens a stressful event by denying coverage. Coverage can be denied for many reasons including when the claimant is an “uninsured motorist.” In a recent case out of Pointe Coupee Parish, an employee faced this label and a denial of coverage.  

Chris Loudermilk was driving a vehicle owned by his employer, Environmental Safety and Health Consulting Services Inc. (“ES&H”), when he was injured in an accident.  Mr. Loudermilk filed a lawsuit against his employer and their insurance company, XL Speciality Insurance Company (“XL”). As Mr. Loudermilk was not the policyholder, XL filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the claim entirely. Prior to the accident, ES&H had executed a form expressly rejecting uninsured motorist coverage.  This essentially meant that because of the rejection form, no lawsuit could go forward against XL. ES&H had in fact executed a valid form rejecting coverage for uninsured motorists, but when ES&H renewed their policy with XL for the time period covering the accident, two entities owned by ES&H were added to the named insured section of the policy.  The question before the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal was whether this slight change to the policy caused the uninsured motorist coverage rejection to become invalid resulting in a proper grant of XL’s motion for summary judgment and dismissal of the lawsuit.

Summary judgment renders a judgment in favor of one party when there are no material facts in dispute and judgment is proper as a matter of law. Summary judgment for lack of coverage can be granted if there is no reasonable interpretation of the policy which would result in coverage. See Reynolds v. Select Properties, Ltd., 634 So.2d.1180, 1183 (La. 1994).  An insurance company can have a case dismissed at summary judgment if it can prove there is a policy provision which excludes coverage. See Simmons v. Weiymann, 943 So.2d 423, 425. (La. Ct. App. 2006). Louisiana Law allows an insured’s rejection of uninsured motorist coverage to remain valid for the life of the policy with no new rejection form needing to be executed unless there are changes to liability limits.  See La. R.S.22:1295.  The language of the statute also states however that the uninsured motorist rejection remains valid when a renewal is issued to the same named insured.  

crashed-car-1444299-768x1024Collision insurance covers car damages caused by driving-related accidents. For example, colliding into an object or another car, whether the insured driver caused this accident or not, are covered damages. Due to this breadth of possibilities, insurance companies write strict requirements into their policies, including the need to have a valid driver’s license on hand during an accident. A recent case in Louisiana involved Affirmative Insurance Company (“Affirmative”) denying collision coverage to an insured driver who did not have his license on him during a car accident on the intersection of Lapalco Blvd. and Ames Blvd. in Marrero, Louisiana.

Darryl Parker bought an Affirmative auto insurance policy for his 2001 BMW in 2013 with a $500 collision coverage deductible. At the time, Mr. Parker told the Affirmative agent that he had no valid driver’s license; however, the agent assured Mr. Parker that he could still purchase the policy without one. Mr. Parker was subsequently involved in a collision. Affirmative denied covering Mr. Parker due to his not having a license at the time of the accident, and Mr. Parker filed a lawsuit against Affirmative. Affirmative argued that a clause in the insurance contract barred coverage, while Mr. Parker argued that this provision should be void because Affirmative sold him insurance knowing that he was unlicensed at the time.

The Louisiana trial court granted Affirmative’s motion to dismiss the case; Mr. Parker appealed, and the issue before the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal (“the Court”) was whether the “barring” clause in the insurance policy was enforceable.

police-car-1414442-1-1024x683Car accidents can have long-lasting effects that are not immediately apparent at the time of the accident. Victims may initially report that they do not suffer from pain, only to be struck with it days, weeks, or even months later. This pain can have debilitating effects on one’s current and future career, as well as on one’s mental well-being and relationships with others. If a victim is not careful with the doctor he or she chooses or the actions he or she takes, a jury may dispute the damages (money) a victim may be entitled to.  If a personal injury case makes it to court, it is best to reach the ideal verdict at the trial court level, rather than at the appeals level. The following case illustrate this.

Sheila Tate and her friend Joyce Lee were driving down an intersection on Scenic Highway and 68th Avenue, when Baton Rouge Police Officer Kenney (operating a vehicle owned by the City of Baton Rouge) collided with Tate’s vehicle. Tate’s child, Jordan, and Lee’s child, Imiricle, were also in the car during the collision. The collision resulted in multiple injuries.

The initial emergency room assessments for the Tate and Lee each reported no (or minimal) pain. Yet, Tate’s treatment involved a variety of doctors, where she underwent a series of medications and physical therapies before ultimately being given a “pass” by one of her last doctors to resume work.  The same was said of Lee, who went through a series of doctors before she eventually stopped complaining of pain. Tate and Lee filed a lawsuit, and on behalf of their respective children, seeking damages stemming from the car collision.

a-child-1431845-1024x768If you are at school or work and notice several people who are soaking wet and wearing rain jackets, you would not have to be a detective or even a good lawyer to confidently make the judgment that it’s raining outside. Similarly, the legal concept of summary judgment used by courts is when the undisputed facts surrounding a claim lead to a court concluding the lawsuit as a matter of law, not facts. When that concept is applied to only certain elements or portions of a case or claim, it is called partial summary judgment. Partial summary judgment and its effects were of primary importance for a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, woman’s case.

Jennifer R. Hayes was carefully driving westbound along Louisiana Highway 724 on a rainy day with her friend Mayola Casais (owner of the car) and Casais’ foster child Geneva Marie Fils in 2006. Out of nowhere an eastbound truck veered into her lane and hit head-on. As a result of the collision, Geneva sustained a fractured skull, an intracerebral hematoma, and a traumatic brain injury.

Geneva’s biological parents, John and Demitria Fils, filed a lawsuit against multiple parties when they found out about the accident. One of those parties included the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, which the Fils claimed should be liable because Geneva was under the custody and control of a foster parent which the Department assigned. The Fils sought monetary damages for Geneva’s injuries as well as loss of consortium, which is compensation for their familial loss for what Geneva’s injuries did to their health or family relationships. In 2011, Demitria Fils passed away and Geneva’s biological maternal aunt, Calvemia Reed replaced her in the lawsuit.