Articles Posted in Car Accident

building-in-city-against-sky-256490-977x1024You lose your case. However, your lawyer tells you not to despair. She tells you that you can appeal the trial court’s judgment at the appellate court. However, it is not always that simple. Appellate courts, like trial courts, do not just accept every single case that comes their way. They must first have jurisdiction over a case, which simply means that they must meet certain requirements to hear the case. Without jurisdiction, an appellate court will be unable to take your case even if your claim may be legitimate. 

A multi-vehicle accident occurred on a highway in Jefferson Parish on December 25, 2014. The accident began when the vehicle driven by Max Beagle struck the vehicle driven by Elridge Thompson, Jr. Shadid Chaudry, who witnessed the collision between Beagle and Thompson, stopped his vehicle nearby to render assistance. Carrie Thiele was in the passenger seat of Chaudry’s vehicle. However, upon exiting the vehicle, Thiele was struck by a motorcycle driven by David Casse, who had swerved to avoid Chaudry’s vehicle. Upon hitting Thiele, Casse was thrown off his motorcycle while his motorcycle continued to move towards Thompson’s vehicle, eventually crashing into it. 

Thompson filed a lawsuit against both Beagle and Casse and their respective insurance companies. Casse in turn filed a lawsuit against Thiele. In Casse’s lawsuit, he claimed that his collision with Thiele caused him severe injuries. Thiele filed a motion, stating that Casse’s lawsuit was barred because Casse’s lawsuit was filed more than a year after the accident. The Trial Court, without giving any written opinion, agreed with Thiele and dismissed Casse’s lawsuit. 

black-train-on-rail-and-showing-smoke-72594-1024x727Everyone has experienced or knows about a situation in which a governmental body was liable for damages or injuries caused. When suing a city in Louisiana, there must be some evidentiary support for the elements required under La. R.S. 9:2800. Otherwise, cities would be getting sued for every crack in the sidewalk that someone tripped over. While the situation in this case was more serious than a crack in the sidewalk, there are limits, all the same, to ensure that the city is not liable for another’s wrongdoing. The question in this case is who is responsible for the failure to maintain proper signage at railroad tracks? And if the signage is not enough who is held responsible?

In this case, TG was working as an engineer on a Union Pacific train that was traveling north on a path that would cross Cedar Street in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. DA was driving a road grader traveling west of Cedar Street when he attempted to cross the train tracks. Unfortunately, DA was not able to drive across the train tracks and was subsequently struck by the train, causing his death. TG was allegedly injured and filed suit for damages against the Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”), Mr. DA and the Union Pacific Railroad Company, alleging the defendants were at fault for the injuries sustained when the train struck the road grader. DOTD claimed that it was not at fault, but instead that the Village of Grosse Tete was at fault for a number of reasons, including failure to maintain the roadway surface and warning devices.

As a result of DOTD’s claims, Goodmond filed an amended petition adding the Village of Grosse Tete as a defendant, for which it denied liability. The Village of Grosse Tete claimed that the plaintiff lacked sufficient support to establish the required elements to find it liable for the injuries Goodmond sustained. 

blue-and-silver-stetoscope-40568-1-1024x683To many who contemplate filing a lawsuit for an automobile accident, it may seem sufficient to show that the other driver was at fault – show he ran the red light, she failed to signal, and then it’s all downhill from there. But one element of all negligence cases is causation. You must prove that the injuries you have were caused by the accident itself. Normally this is pretty simple, but preexisting conditions can muddy the waters. Wayne Bouchon found out the hard way that proving causation was critical to his case. 

Wayne and his wife, Roberta, were driving down Highway 22 near Mandeville on their way to get lunch when their vehicle was struck from behind. The Bouchons told the officer who came to the scene that they were not hurt, but later that day, Wayne started experiencing lower back pain. Despite the pain, the Bouchons did not file a lawsuit until nearly twelve months after the accident. 

Of the evidence presented at trial, Wayne’s medical records showed he had been treated for a back injury a few years before after lifting a heavy box. Also, the Trial Court heard testimony that Wayne had taken a job at Office Depot a few months after the accident, which required standing for long periods and occasionally moving furniture. His doctor testified to a correlation between his Office Depot job and the worsening of his symptoms. As a result, the Trial Court found that the Bouchons had not proved the accident was the cause of Wayne’s injuries, and awarded only $5,000 in minimal pain and suffering. The Bouchons appealed. 

blur-car-cars-163945-1024x683Is uninsured/underinsured (“UM”) coverage an automatic component of commercial auto insurance policies?  Are there instances when an insured can reject UM coverage in its entirety or select lower limits of UM coverage for a commercial auto insurance policy?  Although La. R.S. 22:1295(1)(a)(i) indicates that all auto insurance policies issued within Louisiana must include UM coverage, subsection 1295(1)(a)(iii) allows for a named insured to either reject UM coverage in its entirety or select UM coverage with lower limits.  In a recent case out of Calctsieu Parish, Louisiana, an employee learned that while his employer carried a valid commercial auto insurance policy with at the time of his accident, the employer executed a valid UM rejection form prior to the accident that remained in full effect.  

On June 21, 2013, Lonny Hayes, an employee of O’Neal’s Feeder Supply, Inc., sustained severe injuries in an automobile accident after Diana Gonzales failed to adhere to a traffic sign and collided with Mr. Hayes’ work vehicle.  Following insufficient recovery for damages from Ms. Gonzales’ insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Mr. Hayes and his wife, Melissa Hayes sued their insurer, Progressive Security Insurance Company, and O’Neal’s insurer, Penn Millers Insurance Company.  Mr. and Mrs. Hayes claimed that both policies from Progressive and Penn Millers provided UM coverage from which they could secure additional funds from to cover their damages. Penn Millers denied Mr. and Mrs. Hayes’ claims, indicating that O’Neal’s executed a UM rejection form for the commercial auto insurance policy that was in full effect on the date of Mr. Hayes’ accident.  Therefore, Penn Millers argued that there was no UM coverage available for recovery. Shortly thereafter, Mr. and Mrs. Hayes filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of whether Penn Millers’ commercial auto insurance policy provided UM coverage. On January 21, 2016, the trial court granted Mr. and Mrs. Hayes’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, finding no valid UM rejection form existed for O’Neal’s commercial auto insurance policy in full effect on the date of Mr. Hayes’ accident and therefore, UM coverage was available for recovery.  

On appeal, Penn Millers asserted that the trial court erred in finding no valid UM rejection form existed for O’Neal’s commercial auto insurance policy in full effect on the date of Mr. Hayes’ accident.  Penn Millers argued that the UM rejection form executed by O’Neal’s on June 5, 2007, remained in full effect on June 21, 2013, because the same policy had been renewed annually from 2007 thru to 2013. Pursuant to La. R. S. 22:1295(1)(a)(ii), a UM rejection form that is executed by the insured or the insured’s legal representative and initially rejects UM coverage in its entirety or selects UM coverage with lower limits remains in full effective for the life of a policy, regardless of whether the policy is renewed, reinstated, substituted, or amended.  In support of this argument, Penn Millers produced seven declaration pages that corresponded to the commercial auto insurance policy initially issued to O’Neal’s in 2007 and subsequently renewed thru to 2013. Specifically, each declaration page after 2007 included the same identification number with an exception of changing the last two digits to signify the year the policy was in effect.    

close-up-photo-of-black-car-2470657-683x1024It is undisputed that it is always important to obtain a good lawyer to fight for you in court. But when exactly should that representation begin?

For Bobby Clay, the answer to that question was the moment her Jeep collided with Jefferia Washington’s Mercury Grand Marquis. In the city of Monroe on November 19, 2015, Ms. Clay was backing out of her driveway and hit the passenger door of Ms. Washington’s car. In order to avoid the headache of dealing with police reports and insurance claims, Ms. Clay offered to pay for the damage to Washington’s Mercury Grand Marquis. The next day, the repairs were estimated at $2,061.32. Although Ms. Clay believed this was a very high amount for the damages, she paid the full amount just three days after the accident. 

Ms. Clay proceeded to file a lawsuit for fraud, per La. C.C. art. 1953. Ms. Washington countered with a suit of her own for defamation and harassment. Both parties appeared without lawyers and both cases were dismissed. Ms. Clay appealed, this time with representation. 

close-up-photography-of-silver-sports-car-1236809-683x1024Exceptions exist everywhere in law. Although people in their normal and daily lives are expected to stop at a red light and follow the speed limit, police officers need not do so when responding to emergencies. Of course, this exception makes sense. Imagine what would happen if a police officer has to respond to a shooting but has to sit in traffic. But should police officers be free from any liability for the damages they may cause while responding to an emergency? 

Near a convenience store situated on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, Kim White met a man she knew from the neighborhood. The man asked White whether she could help him purchase heroin. White agreed and got into the man’s car, and the two drove around in search for heroin. Little did White know, the man’s car was stolen. A short while later, White and the man noticed that a police car was tailing them. Rather than stopping, the man accelerated, and a high speed chase ensued. Eventually, the man stopped the car at a parking lot. Though the man ran away, White was struck by a police cruiser. White filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. At trial, White testified that, upon exiting the vehicle, she had her hands up and surrendered to the police. On cross-examination, however, a prior deposition revealed that White had not raised her hands at the time of crash. 

Deputy Paul Gegenheimer was the officer whose vehicle crashed into White. He testified that White appeared to be running away and that he did not intentionally run his vehicle into White. He stated that he was going around five to ten miles per hour when he hit White. Deputy Johnnie Petit, Jr., another officer who was involved in the chase, testified that he did not see Deputy Gegenheimer’s vehicle strike White. Deputy Mike Tisdale arrived at the scene two minutes after the crash and noted that White was in considerable amounts of pain. However, he did not notice any error in Deputy Gegenheimer’s driving. Major Kerry Najolia, director of training for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, testified that officers were immune under La. R.S. 32:24 from liability for any accidents they cause during pursuits of a stolen vehicle. The Trial Court denied relief for White. White appealed, arguing that La. R.S. 32:24 did not apply in her case. 

blur-car-caution-dash-163945-1024x683When a loved one is injured or dies at the hands of another, the fictitious reality that exists in movies and television often shows the protagonists immediately going to court to ensure justice is served. In real life, however, not everyone makes it to court, even when it seems like justice demands it. Sometimes parties settle, other times the case is dropped, and many times, it is decided that there just isn’t enough there to require a trial.  This was the case for a 2015 medical malpractice lawsuit filed in the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. 

In May of 2010, MH—while pregnant with twins—was in a severe motor vehicle accident. She was first taken to a hospital from the scene of the accident. Tragically, MH died at the hospital on August 25, 2010. She was survived by her three minor children, RH, Jr., AH, and DH. On behalf of these three, their tutor, SS, filed a malpractice lawsuit on March 2, 2015 against the State of Louisiana, through the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, doing business as Earl K. Long Medical Center.

The plaintiff claimed that Ms. MH died of an overdose of meperidine while at Earl K. Long Medical Center. On December 16, 2015, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment—a motion for judgment as a matter of law rather than on the merits—and the District Court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The plaintiff appealed the ruling by the trial court.

close-up-photo-of-man-wearing-black-suit-jacket-doing-thumbs-684385-1024x678Being allowed to use an employer owned vehicle is a nice benefit to have. When there is an accident there may be questions of who pays for the damage or injuries.  In this case, any accident and insurance policy questions were completely in favor of the insurance company and backed up by both state statutes and case law guidance. But, poor customer service by the insurance company turned a complete legal victory into costly litigation. 

Naddia Melder was employed by Grimes Industrial Supply. One of the benefits of her employment was the use of a pickup truck owned by Grimes. In March 2007, Mrs. Melder was involved in an accident with one other vehicle. It turned out that the other vehicle was underinsured and Mrs. Melder’s uninsured motorist insurance claim against her personal insurer was denied. Mrs. Melder brought a lawsuit against her personal insurance carrier, Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, in order to find a way for insurance to cover the accident.

Farm Bureau asked the Trial Court to grant summary judgment in favor of denying coverage for the accident and the Trial Court agreed. Mrs. Melder then appealed. Mrs. Medler’s appeal was based on her view that the Trial Court incorrectly determined that she was driving a vehicle that was owned or furnished by someone else and that her insurance policy did not extend to cover this vehicle. There was an exclusion in her policy which stated that coverage would not be extended to vehicles furnished to her, but she believed it should not apply because it conflicted with a Louisiana law. She also argued that the insurance payments she received were received late.

close-up-court-courthouse-534204-1024x569The jury trial is an infamously complicated process. From the trials of OJ Simpson to Paul Manafort, the jury’s role is to determine the truth behind the legal jargon, and to serve and protect justice. Juries rely on the information presented to them by experienced lawyers and judges to navigate the complexities of the courtroom. However, sometimes there are mistakes made. Despite some inaccurately presented technicalities, the Fifth Circuit Court has ruled to uphold the sanctity of the juror’s role as a fact-finder. 

On the afternoon of November 11, 2012, Mr. Vince, an operator at an aluminum plant in Gramercy, was travelling home on U.S. Highway 61 after his work shift. The road, known by locals as “Airline Highway,” stretched over a bridge which merged with an entrance ramp from a boat club in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Mr. Koontz, owner of a Denali and its attached yacht, stopped for several minutes at the ramp and decided to merge only when he felt that Mr. Vince’s car was at such a distance that it had not yet reached the bridge. He proceeded to merge onto the highway as Mr. Vince’s truck approached. As Mr. Vince drove onto the bridge, he looked down to check a fantasy football score on his phone. When he looked up, he was immediately confronted with the sight of a 27-foot yacht attached to a GMC Yukon XL Denali. The car collided with the boat, and Mr. Vince was knocked unconscious. 

Although the crash caused merely aesthetic damage to the car, Mr. Vince filed a lawsuit against State Farm Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”) claiming a loss of consortium. 

photography-of-police-car-during-night-time-1098663-1024x683High speed police chases are sometimes dangerous, even for those not involved.  The Louisiana Emergency Vehicles Statute essentially excuses emergency vehicle drivers, such as police vehicles, from obeying certain traffic laws while responding to a call or pursuing a suspect.  This applies unless the emergency response driver endangers life or property with “reckless disregard”. La. R.S.32:24. Of course, the question remains of what  types of behavior would make the difference.  The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal recently answered this question in an unpublished opinion.

In April 2012, Gwendolyn Martin was a passenger in a car driven by her son at about 1:00 AM in the town of Eunice, Louisiana.  When their car proceeded under a green light into an intersection, a police car driven by Officer Jacob Hanks collided with them. The officer had been responding to an emergency call that then developed into a high speed chase. The suspect, with officers in pursuit, had been driving over 90 miles per hour.  As a result of the collision, Ms. Martin was injured. She thus sued the city and Officer Hanks. In 2016, the trial court found in favor of the defendants pursuant to the Louisiana Emergency Vehicles Statute. Ms. Martin appealed.

In order to determine whether or not the trial court had ruled correctly in this case, the Third Circuit considered the facts in accordance with the statute’s requirements.  The statute specifically allows for emergency vehicles to proceed through red lights or stop signs, to exceed speed limits, and to disregard regulations regarding proper movement direction.  These exceptions only apply when the emergency vehicle uses signals to warn others, such as lights or sirens. The statute also requires that the driver of the emergency vehicle drive in a relatively safe manner.  La. R.S.32:24.  The court considered testimony from other police officers that had responded to the emergency call.  These statements showed both that the call had been legitimate and that all the responding officers, including Officer Hanks, used sirens and lights during the high speed chase.  Officer Hanks also testified that he had attempted to stop at the red light in question, and he had ultimately slowed to about 10 miles per hour when the accident occurred. Officer Hanks stated that he had attempted an evasive maneuver when he saw the other vehicle driven by Ms. Martin’s son.   In its decision, the Third Circuit considered other cases with similar situations including Lemonia v. Lafayette Parish Consolidated Government, 893 So.2d 925 (La. Ct. App. 2005).  Based on facts similar to the ones in Ms. Martin’s case, the Third Circuit held that the exceptions in the statute had been satisfied.