Articles Posted in Car Accident

money_finance_house_mortgage-1024x678What happens if you win a lawsuit but the other side moves to reduce the amount of money you were awarded? This is the situation Marcus Berry found himself in after he was awarded over a million dollars in damages due to injuries he suffered in a car accident. 

Following a car accident, Berry sued the driver of the car that hit him, Leon Berry, and his insurer, Auto-Owners Insurance Company. The other driver admitted liability but contested the nature and extent of the damage Berry suffered. 

At trial, the jury agreed Berry was injured as a result of the accident.  They awarded him a total of $1.29 million in damages.  This consisted of $900,000 for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life previously, presently, and in the future, as well as $390,000 for medical expenses.  Following this award, the defendants moved for a new trial or remittitur (a procedure where the court can reduce an excessive verdict), arguing that the jury had awarded excessive damages. 

coins_currency_investment_insurance_0-1024x683Auto insurance can be beneficial when you are in a car accident. However, it isn’t uncommon to have specific provisions in your insurance policy that can limit your coverage. A recent case out of Kenner, Louisiana, interpreted whether certain caveats in an insurance policy can limit a client’s uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM).

Denise Breaux was driving on Interstate 10 behind a truck driven by Jonathan Blum. When a ladder fell off the back of Blum’s truck, Breaux tried to dodge the ladder that fell right into her path. Unfortunately, Breaux’s vehicle collided with Danny Castille’s tractor/trailer while attempting to avoid the ladder. Castille and his wife filed a lawsuit against Breaux, her insurer, and Blum, and then later added Lloyds at Lloyd’s, London (Lloyds) as a defendant. The Castilles were seeking UM/UIM coverage from Lloyds under a surplus lines insurance policy that was issued to Mr. Castille.  

Lloyds asserted that the Castilles were not entitled to UM/UIM coverage because they specifically issued an insurance policy that applied when the tractor did not have the trailer attached, known as Bobtail Liability insurance. Further, they argued that liability insurance was only available when the tractor was bobtailing; therefore, UM/UIM coverage only applied in the same scenario. Since, at the time of the accident, the Castilles’ tractor had a trailer attached and was not bobtailing, Lloyds sought summary judgment. 

thirty_30_shield_mark-683x1024Once a case has been fully litigated, it has been established that the plaintiff cannot bring additional lawsuits against the same parties for the same cause of action. This principle, res judicata, promotes stability, efficiency, and fairness within our court systems. The following Ascension Parish case is decided based on this concept.   

Arthur Deal was involved in a motor vehicle accident with Billie Fortenberry on April 27, 2012. Following this accident, Deal filed a lawsuit against Mr. Fortenberry, Mr. Fortenberry’s insurer, Farm Bureau, and his uninsured/underinsured motorist insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Deal then settled his claims with Farm Bureau and State Farm and agreed to dismiss the lawsuit on October 14, 2015. 

For the claim against Farm Bureau, Deal settled for the insured policy limit of $25,000, which Farm Bureau issued to Deal and his attorney in the form of a check on October 24, 2013. This amount, however, was not negotiated by Deal or his attorney. Following this, Deal retained new legal counsel. On September 23, 2015, almost two years after Farm Bureau issued the settlement check, Deal’s new attorney wrote the company a letter stating, in part, that the old check was not cashed and asked how long it would take Farm Bureau to issue a new one. Farm Bureau responded that, upon receipt of the old check, it would issue a new check to Deal and his attorney. Deal forwarded the old check to Farm Bureau on October 15, 2015. The company received it on October 16, 2015, and issued a new check on October 26, 2015. Deal and his attorney negotiated this check. 

nyc_taxi_taxi_berlin-1024x768Often people are injured by a person who appears to be an employee of a company. However, just because someone seems to be working for a business doesn’t necessarily mean they are an employee. If you’re hurt by an employee of a company and want to seek damages, whether the person is an employee or an independent contractor could make a big difference in your case. The following case explains the difference between an employee and an independent contract for determining who will be liable for the injured party’s claims. 

In January 2013, a cab driver was involved in a crash in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the cab passenger, Ms. Franklin, was injured. The cab driver, Mr. Gary Dick, leased the taxicab from Crawford and Yellow Checker Cab Company each day for $85. However, Mr. Dick kept all proceeds from his driving, and the cab companies received the same $85 a day regardless of how much Mr. Dick made. As a result, Ms. Franklin filed a lawsuit against Dick, Crawford, and the Yellow Checker Cab. Filing a lawsuit against all the possible defendants who may be liable is customary after an auto accident, as before litigation Ms. Franklin would have no way of knowing whether or not Dick was an employee or an independent contractor.

The cab companies filed a partial summary judgment motion arguing that there was no employee/employer relationship between themselves and Mr. Dick. Therefore, if successful, the cab companies would not be liable to Franklin for any of her injuries caused by the car accident, only Dick would. The trial court granted the motion in favor of the cab companies, and Franklin appealed the ruling.

wreck_shattered_broken_accident-768x1024Injury and negligence alone cannot support a personal injury claim. There must be causation or a link connecting a negligent act and the related injury to succeed at trial. A consistent medical history and a plaintiff’s credibility can enormously impact whether a jury decides that a negligent act caused an alleged injury. This principle was affirmed by the Calcasieu District Court when plaintiff Treima Williams was unsuccessful in her claim for damages arising from a road traffic accident. The case below shows how contradictory medical history can affect the outcome of your injury lawsuit.

A truck driven by Marvin Gainous rear-ended Williams’ vehicle. Gainous had been stopped behind Williams. However, his truck moved forward and struck her vehicle when his foot slipped off the break. Williams claimed that her head, neck, and left shoulder started hurting immediately after the incident. Following the accident, she called an ambulance, which arrived shortly afterward. Williams complained of pain in her left shoulder and back at the hospital, and she was prescribed pain medication. X-rays of her back were interpreted as normal. 

Williams had prior back injuries from a motor vehicle incident in 2006, another motor vehicle injury in 2011, and an injury she sustained at work in 2011. Williams had also complained of back pain during her pregnancy in 2012. Williams received treatment for neck and back strain from 2013 to 2015. In 2016, an independent medical exam was conducted by an orthopedic surgeon who testified that while he believed Williams suffered neck and back strain based on a subjective assessment, there was no objective evidence. He deduced that the MRI could be that of a completely asymptomatic patient. 

What do the movie, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and final judgments have in common?  Both require a “golden ticket” to succeed in the next phase.  In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, each contestant must have a golden ticket to gain access to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  In trial-level court cases, judgments must include clear, specific language that makes them valid and disputable.  Although the chances of Charlie discovering one of the five golden tickets were rare, the chances of an appeal being heard are less likely without a valid, disputable judgment.  

What language is required to make a judgment valid and disputable?  How does a court correct a judgment that does not include clear and specific language?  A recent case out of Lafayette addressed these questions and offered preventative measures to avoid future occurrences of the same dilemma.   

Curley Mouton lost his life in an automobile accident on April 24, 2014, after a tire on a tractor-trailer failed and burst, causing debris to fly into the roadway.  Mouton’s surviving spouse and oldest son filed lawsuits against the truck driver, Arthur Huguley, Huguley’s employer, AAA Cooper Transportation, Inc. (ACT), and the insurance company, Ace American Insurance Company (ACE).  After a jury trial, a decision favoring Mouton’s spouse and son was made.  The jury found Huguley and ACT responsible for the accident, with 10% of the responsibility allocated to Huguley and the remaining 90% allocated to ACT.  The jury awarded the Mouton family damages for the survival action and wrongful death damages.  

headlights_roads_night_highways-1024x683Insurance claims can be complex, even for the courts. Lawsuits involving multiple plaintiffs and defendants are just as complicated. Claims, cross-claims, and counterclaims can arise from a single accident. Questions can arise during litigation, such as; can you appeal a partial summary judgment in Louisiana? A recent motorcycle accident in Arnaudville, Louisiana, demonstrates how convoluted insurance claims can become, as shown in the court’s opinion below. 

 The Colomb Foundation, Inc. (“Colomb”) was a property owner with a building erected along Louisiana Highway 93. As Erik Moran (hereafter “Moran”) drove by Colomb’s property at night, a flood light came on that Moran mistook for the headlight of an oncoming car. Moran alleged he was blinded by the light, which caused him to wreck his motorcycle into a gate located on Colomb’s property. 

After the accident, Moran filed a lawsuit against Colomb and its alleged liability insurer, United Specialty Insurance Company (“USI”). Shortly after, USI contacted Colomb to explain that they would not cover Moran’s claims under their insurance because Colomb’s insurance policy had been canceled six months earlier. The cancellation occurred due to a failure to pay the insurance premium. Colomb challenged this cancellation by filing a cross-claim against USI. Then, to make matters even more complicated, Colomb filed third-party demands against four additional parties, including Standard Lines Brokerage, Inc. (“SLB”), which is the entity in charge of the collection and cancelation of insurance policies for USI. 

tax_forms_income_business-1024x683If you’re in a car wreck, you expect, or hope, to be covered for UM Bodily injury (UMBI) up to certain policy limits. However, when signing up for insurance, you must carefully review the coverages. The law in Louisiana has strict requirements when it comes to selecting or rejecting Uninsured motorist coverage. If you aren’t careful, you may unknowingly reject or limit the coverage you thought you had. New Orleans citizen Zachary Addison learned this lesson the hard way after being involved in a car incident in 2013. 

After his car accident, Mr. Addison filed a lawsuit against the other party involved and his insurance company LM General Insurance. Mr. Addison sued his insurance company to ensure they would provide adequate coverage for his injuries. In a motion for summary judgment, LM General Insurance argued to the trial court that Addison was not covered for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and bodily injury coverage and that he only selected UMBI coverage for his economic damages. LM General filed the motion based on the fact that Mr. Addison electronically selected economic-only UMBI coverage. 

When obtaining insurance, Addison received a quote via telephone and was given the option to send documents by mail, fax, or electronically. He chose to submit the documents electronically; the electronic documents had selections of coverage pre-made based on the quote he received. The pre-selected information could not be changed. Mr. Addison electronically signed the documents. 

chalmette1972stbernardhwy-1024x664Car accidents are common and complicated. Wrecks can involve company cars, ride shares, and large commercial vehicles, all with different types of insurance. Impacts can occur while driving on a work errand. All these different types of accidents invoke numerous insurance questions. Questions such as; If you are out driving on a work errand, will your business’s uninsured motorist insurance provide coverage? The Louisiana Court of Appeals grappled with these issues in a recent appeal. 

Dr. Kenneth Allan, a Chalmette based veterinarian, is the sole member of Chalmette Pet Wellness Clinic and Hospital. Dr. Allan was transporting a dog to his clinic when he was rear-ended. Dr. Allan was driving a vehicle in his wife’s name and sustained injuries from the car accident. Dr. Allan sued his uninsured motorist insurance carrier, Bankers, which provided coverage for his work vehicle to recover compensation for his injuries. 

Bankers balked at paying his claim. Bankers and Dr. Allan asked the court to settle the coverage issue by filing summary judgment motions. They asked the court to determine if the Bankers policy provided uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage for vehicles not owned by the pet clinic. The trial court ruled in favor of Dr. Allan, stating that Bankers should cover his claim. An appeal of the decision followed.

police_baltimore_police_officer-1024x648Despite stringent rules and regulations designed to keep unlicensed drivers off the road, minors often find their way behind the wheel. Police in Gonzales, Louisiana, were forced to reckon with the seriousness of such a driver when a high-speed police chase on Interstate 10 turned deadly in May of 2004. The outcome of this chase became the subject of a lawsuit left unsettled until 2017—a case which pondered: to what standard should police be held when engaged in an active car chase?

Just before eight o’clock in the evening, a Gonzales city police officer noticed an Oldsmobile without its headlights activated. The car, failing to stop or slow down, was pursued onto Interstate 10 by Louisiana State Police. The chase continued for nearly twenty minutes despite attempts to stop the vehicle with a spike strip. Then, the Oldsmobile’s fourteen-year-old driver lost control of the car and spun into a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction, driven by the Bristols. The Oldsmobile driver died on impact, while all seven passengers in the other car were severely injured, prompting a lawsuit against the Louisiana State Police. At trial, a jury found no liability for the Bristols’ injuries on the part of the department, and an appeal followed.

The Louisiana Highway Regulatory Act is excepted by La R.S. 32:24—which provides, under certain circumstances, statutory immunity to drivers of emergency vehicles. As such, police officers are allowed to exceed maximum speed limits and disregard other road rules so long as they maintain regard for the safety of others and have their audible or visual signals activated. However, this exception is not absolute: juries are allowed to determine, based on the circumstances and after being instructed on the law, whether a standard of ordinary negligence or a heightened reckless disregard standard should gauge the standard of care for an emergency vehicle driver. Lenard v. Dilley, 784 So.2d 706 (La. Ct. App. 2001).

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